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The UFC's tolerance of disgraced fighters like Stephan Bonnar is holding the company back

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

Stephan Bonnar disgraced himself when, after his loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 153 in Brazil last month, he tested positive for the anabolic steroid drostanolone.

It was the second time in Bonnar's mixed martial arts career that he tested positive.

Bonnar announced his retirement Tuesday, so in a way he'll get away with cheating for a second time. The UFC released the results of its testing from the Brazil show on Friday. Bonnar failed for drostanolone and heavyweight Dave Herman tested positive for marijuana metabolites.

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Stephan Bonnar announced his retirement from mixed martial arts on Tuesday. (AP)

Marc Ratner, the UFC's vice president of regulatory affairs and the man who administered the tests at the Oct. 13 event in Rio de Janeiro, said Bonnar would be penalized despite having announced his retirement.

He was suspended for nine months and fined $5,000 in Nevada in 2006 for failing his test at UFC 62, so it's almost certain that Bonnar will get a year from Ratner, who said he follows Nevada rules. Nevada rules don't allow for a suspension of more than a year, so expect the UFC to give Bonnar the maximum punishment.

But given he's retired, a suspension is meaningless, so Bonnar got a chance to thumb his nose at the establishment as he walked away from the sport.

This, though, isn't really a Bonnar issue. He showed a lack of class and an even greater lack of character by so blatantly cheating, but that's beside the point. The real issue is what the UFC will do to stem the cheating that is clearly so rampant in this sport.

[Also: Stephan Bonnar, Dave Herman test positive for banned substances]

UFC president Dana White did not respond to requests for comment about Bonnar's positive test, though he did call it "crazy" in a one-word text message.

Ratner, the highly regarded former executive director of the Nevada commission, expressed concern at Bonnar's positive result but ultimately doesn't have the power or the authority to affect change. In the UFC, only White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta have the ability to attempt to rid performance-enhancing drugs from their sport.

"I'm concerned when people test positive," Ratner said Friday. "It's bad, no question about it. We want to get this under control and make this sport drug-free."

The real issue here is one that no one wants to talk about it, or that the faux tough guys like to mock when it's brought up. And that is, what happens when a steroid-enhanced fighter seriously injures or, worse, kills an opponent?

There hasn't been a long-term, traumatic injury or death in the UFC in its nearly 20-year history. Under current management, fighter care has increased substantially and safety measures have been taken to make the competition as safe as possible for the athletes.

That's how it should be.

The sad truth is this, however: In a combat sport, all it takes is one blow at the wrong time in the wrong place and disaster could occur.

To be sure, there is a certain segment, perhaps even a large segment, of the UFC audience that prefers to see the fighters enhanced. To those people, chemically aided fighters put on a better show.

Appeasing that crowd and turning a blind eye to steroid use would, however, essentially turn the sport into what Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) so infamously called it more than a decade ago: “human cockfighting.”

[Also: UFC gets political with Georges St-Pierre, Carlos Condit UFC 154 ads]

This is not a video game. These are human beings with families and real lives. The honest athletes need to be protected from those who take shortcuts in a misguided effort to win.

As MMA attempts to overcome the many stereotypes and misconceptions that exist, it’s important that the audience doesn't get the notion that those who run the sport tacitly condone the usage of steroids or any performance-enhancing drugs.

MMA is a wonderful sport filled with intelligent, fascinating, highly ethical people.

But it still has its rogues and cheaters like Bonnar, who disgrace those attempting to compete cleanly and drive the sport totally into the mainstream.

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Alistair Overeem is in the midst of serving a one-year ban after testing positive for high testosterone. (AP)

Bonnar was engaged in perhaps the most significant fight in the sport's history when he battled Griffin in an epic slugfest in the Season 1 finale of "The Ultimate Fighter." It was that fight which turned the UFC's fortunes around and, essentially, saved the sport.

When he announced his retirement, there was a debate whether he deserved to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. Given now that he is a two-time drug cheat, that's a laughable thought. He disgraced himself, the sport and the company that gave him a chance.

He's done work as an analyst on UFC broadcasts, and has a promising career in that realm. As much as it would seem like justice for Fox to fire him as a result of his second positive test for an anabolic steroid, the penalty he receives should be measured.

[Video: Watch UFC 154 live on Yahoo! Sports]

If Fox chooses to dump Bonnar from its broadcasts, it is within its rights to do so.

The best choice, though, would be to ban him for the duration of his fight-imposed suspension.

White has always promised Bonnar a job for life, given what he did to help save the UFC with his epic 2005 fight. And while Bonnar needs to be able to make a living to support his family, it would appear a little unseemly if the UFC were to start issuing Bonnar a check now, knowing about the positive steroid test.

Clearly, what Bonnar did was despicable. But so, too, was what Mike Tyson did to Evander Holyfield in 1997, when he bit the tip of Holyfield's ear off. Tyson, though, was allowed to return to fight 18 months later.

White and Fertitta should guarantee fans they won't employ Bonnar for the duration of his steroid suspension. Fox should do the same and keep him off of its broadcasts.

More significantly, though, is that for the flood of positive tests to stop, White and Fertitta need to step up. They should support random, unannounced testing of their fighters on a year-round basis so that when Bonnar's suspension does end, the sport is very different than the one he left.

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