Porter Fischer, the whistle-blower who exposed several major league baseball players for allegedly using performance enhancement drugs, now tells ESPN’s Outside the Lines that athletes from other sports also cheated, including mixed martial arts.
Unless it’s involving the sport’s two best fighters, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre or UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones, the UFC can handle and survive a drug cheating scandal.
Fischer, a former employee of Miami clinic Biogenesis, turned over documents to the media last year that led to the suspension of Ryan Braun. Now he says the cheating includes athletes in MMA, NBA, boxing, tennis and other sports.
Cheating in sports is a betrayal of the public trust. We see our athletes as role models, heroes and people who are bigger and better than we are. But this feeling goes hand-in-hand with the nature of the sport and the history and tradition behind it. With baseball rooted in our culture, from Babe Ruth and Bobby Thomson to Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, America, all of it, cares about what happens with America’s pastime.
MMA is different. It’s fighting. Even though it is a Pay-Per-View juggernaut, it’s not rooted deep in our culture. It’s not even as popular as it was three years ago. The athletes in mixed martial arts are among the best athletes in the world and certainly the best fighters on the planet. But their road to mainstream is still full of potholes. MMA isn’t even allowed in the most important city and state in the world, New York.
Most people on an American street can’t name an MMA fighter, and it’s just harder to relate to the MMA experience for most observers and young children. When Lance Armstrong cheats, every kid on a bicycle feels betrayed. When Ryan Braun is accused of cheating, every kid who swings a bat feels the pain. It’s different with MMA. The idea that an MMA fighter might be using performance enhancing drugs is a bummer, but not a betrayal.
The sport is not yet rooted deeply enough into our culture to understand how significant an MMA fighter cheating would be. Although it’s by far not the same thing, there’s already a significant number of fighters who take part in testosterone replacement therapy who fight and no one seems to care about that.
MMA is a sport on the rise and it will be hit by scandals of all types as it battles for an equal spot at the table with MLB, NBA, NFL and professional boxing. If MMA fighters are involved in the Biogenesis scandal, the sport will survive and the controversy will just be part of its growth and maturity.