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Former UFC champ Fabricio Werdum's 2-year doping ban effectively ends his MMA career

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Fabricio Werdum has been suspended two years for testing positive for a banned substance. (Getty Images)

One wouldn’t expect that Fabricio Werdum was using any kind of performance-enhancing drug by taking a glance at him with his shirt off.

Werdum, a former UFC heavyweight champion, is an incredible fighter who can do things few others can.

“Look at his body,” Werdum’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, said. “He has the body of a 50-year-old woman.”

Abdelaziz was trying to defend Werdum against allegations that he’d used performance-enhancing drugs. On Tuesday, the United States Anti-Doping Agency suspended the 41-year-old Werdum for two years, effectively ending his MMA career.

Werdum tested positive for the anabolic steroid Trenbolone in an out-of-competition test on April 25. It was discovered on May 22 after test results were analyzed and he was temporarily suspended.

Trenbolone is a steroid of choice for many who are attempting to build lean muscle. According to steroid.com, Trenbolone “is an extremely powerful anabolic steroid and is considered the single greatest anabolic steroid by many performance enhancing athletes. This is one of the most versatile anabolic steroids on the market and can provide benefits quite unlike any other steroid.”

Describing the effects of Trenbolone, it notes, “During the cutting phase there is no anabolic steroid on earth as beneficial or as valuable as Trenbolone Acetate. This is one of the most powerful anabolic steroids available when it comes to the cutting phase and preserving lean tissue.”

For a fighter, it would almost be like a miracle drug, were it legal.

Alas, it is not and Werdum is paying a severe price for having it in his system. When news of his positive test became failure, Werdum called it a misunderstanding in an Instagram post.

“I got up this morning to the news that one of my urine samples from April tested positive for a prohibited substance,” Werdum wrote. “I am working with my team, the UFC and USADA to understand what happened. I’ve always been careful with everything I take and I’ve always supported a clean sport. We will work hard to solve this misunderstanding and I hope soon to be able to go back to the Octagon and do what I love.”

That does not look like it will happen again. Abdelaziz was at a loss. He said Werdum had been in Bolivia and speculated a drink could have been spiked.

He defended Werdum but admitted he wasn’t sure how Trenbolone, of all drugs, wound up in the ex-champion’s system.

“Anyone who knows this guy knows that’s the last thing he’d do,” Abdelaziz said. “But what can we do? We don’t have any options.”

The next-to-last thing anyone wants to see is an innocent man convicted of a crime he did not commit.

Fabricio Werdum last fought on March 17, 2018 and lost via KO to Alexander Volkov at the O2 Arena in London. (Reuters)

The last thing anyone wants to see in an MMA fight is for an athlete to suffer serious, life-altering injuries as a result of a beating from an artificially enhanced opponent. And that’s why the UFC’s USADA program is so critical.

High-level MMA fighters are among the best-conditioned athletes in the world. They’re fearsome fighting machines when doing everything by the book, but they’re more than that when they skirt the rules looking for an edge.

Fighters freely accept the risks that come with their sport. It’s unlikely that one would die in a fight, but it has happened and, sadly, it will happen again. I have been ringside for seven boxing matches in which a fighter has died. Fortunately, in none of those cases was the opponent suspected of performance-enhancing drug usage, though many of them came before testing was common.

The testing isn’t always perfect, and even when it detects a banned substance in a fighter’s system, it doesn’t necessarily mean the fighter was consciously cheating. Junior dos Santos, another ex-UFC heavyweight champion, was ultimate cleared after he failed an anti-doping test last year.

It turned out he was taking legal supplements prescribed to him by a doctor that were made at a compounding pharmacy in Brazil. They were contaminated with a banned substance that triggered dos Santos’ positive test.

But the random, unannounced testing is critical to catching those who knowingly cheat and to punish those who will take every available edge, even if it is illegal and/or unethical.

There is little to explain what happened in Werdum’s case, though USADA clearly didn’t buy his explanation.

The harsh bottom line, though, is that his career is most likely over and it’s going to cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.

It’s a harsh price to pay if he is truly innocent.

But it’s no harsher than those many fighters over the years, including some in MMA, who have given their lives while in the ring or the cage. It’s easy to feel sympathy for a favorite fighter and curse the testing.

The next time a fighter happens to be caught with banned substances, ask yourself this question: Would you rather he or she get a two-year suspension, or would you rather the juiced-up fighter seriously injure your favorite fighter.

When looked at from that perspective, the choice is easy.

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