COMMENTARY | Usually when you think about a professional athlete rallying against performance enhancing drugs, it is in the context of trying to rid his or her sport of any competitors using the drugs to get an unfair advantage. The common story involves an openly clean player at least implicitly suggesting that opponents are used PEDs and calling for increased testing and/or harsher penalties to help level the playing field.
That is why there is an irony in former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre's recent claim that a big part of the reason he is taking a hiatus from fighting is that he was bothered by the UFC not having strong enough PED testing standards. St. Pierre insisting on a tougher stance against PEDs is ironic because, from an outside observer, it flips the normal script: instead of someone seeking to rid the sport of other cheaters, one of the top athletes in the game seeks instead to use enhanced testing to help clear his name and stop unfounded talk about him being a cheater.
This is not because there is some history or any proof whatsoever that St. Pierre has used PEDs in the past, as none exists. There has never been a credible report of St. Pierre taking PEDs or failing any kind of drug test in connection with his MMA career. However, in two of his most high-profile fights, St. Pierre's opponent went out of his way to openly and bluntly accuse him of being on steroids at every opportunity he got.
First it was in connection with his famed "Champion vs. Champion" bout against B.J. Penn at UFC 94 in early 2009. St. Pierre controlled the smaller Penn on the mat en route to a one-sided stoppage win. Penn, commenting on the superior physical condition of St. Pierre, would go on to bluntly say, "It's just my opinion that he uses steroids. That's it. My opinion. I do believe it. I can't hand you any proof, but that's my opinion."
Prior to his title defense against Nick Diaz at UFC 158 last March, the talk only intensified, if for no other reason than Diaz' inclination to speak his mind with trash talk at every opportunity he gets. In addition to constant similar jabs at press conferences, Diaz told a Toronto radio station, "I believe that [St. Pierre] is on plenty of steroids and I don't believe they've tested him as well." Like Penn before him, Diaz did not claim to have any proof of St. Pierre using banned substances, but rather had just some kind of unsubstantiated belief.
Even his final challenger, Johny Hendricks, alluded to St. Pierre possibly having been on steroids in a less blunt fashion during the lead up to their fight late last year. And, throughout all of the suggestions two things remained true: no proof was presented to suggest St. Pierre may not actually be on PEDs and the UFC did not make a definitive stand against the baseless comments.
So that is why it makes sense that GSP would want greater steroid testing in the UFC. While he surely does not want to face opponents who are juicing, his concern seems more personal, in that stronger testing would give him more ammo in his quest to leave no doubt to the world that he is clean. If the UFC implemented stronger testing, or at the very least more strongly supported the fact that claims suggesting St. Pierre is on steroids have all been unfounded, the former champion's reputation would not take the needless jabs that it seems to take before each one of his big fights. Hopefully, the UFC will do what it has to in order to support St. Pierre in proving that he is a clean fighter, as him getting back in the octagon is the best result for everyone, especially the fans.
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