Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Steroid use vs. weight cutting - let's talk hypocrisy

Today,'s Ben Fowlkes said that we have to make up our mind about steroids in MMA.  In the question about steroids, for me there's an interesting artifact that already exists inside MMA - and all combat sports that are divided into weight classes - and that's weight cutting.

The problem people have with steroids, I find, is often vague.  It's cheating.  In the sense of the term that there are rules against steroids, this is absolutely true, of course.  But let us be clear, in most jurisdictions, cutting weight is illegal.  Let's look at New Jersey, for instance!  Here's what New Jersey law says about weight cutting from the New Jersey Administrative Code 13:46-1A.3 Weighing of Boxers (which also applies to MMA as per the NJAC):
(a) Weighing of all boxers for all shows must take place not later than one o'clock on the day of the show in which said boxers are to take part.
(b) Weights must be determined by a representative of the Commissioner with the matchmaker concerned present.
(c) Opponents should be weighed in the presence of each other.
(d) Members of the press, in addition to the responsible handlers of the boxers, shall be permitted to attend the weighing of principals.
(e) All weights stripped.
(f) No boxer shall be permitted to lose more than one percent of his body weight on the day of the boxing contest in an attempt to make the weight required by his boxing contract and by N.J.A.C. 13:46-1A.3.
To me, this is pretty clear.  There are no provisions in the law for doing weight cuts on any day other than the fight, the law clearly expects weigh-ins to be on the day of the fight, though they can't be later than 1pm, and fighters have a one percent leeway.  I suspect, in practice, is that if your weight at the fight is more than one percent over the maximum weight of the class, you'd be cheating.

Regardless, in New Jersey law, weight cutting is illegal.  It's clearly, definitely and I think unambiguously cheating.  And, yet, in no MMA contest I've seen held in New Jersey has this law been followed.  Weight cutting, by which I mean cheating, is absolutely ubitquitous in MMA and boxing, everyone knows it and no one is doing anything about it.

Weight cutting is also dangerous.  People die from it.  And even when they don't die, it's brutal on your body.  It saps them of health and vigor - of strength and endurance - right before a rigorous athletic contest.

How is this permitted?  Why do we ignore this one rule that is easy to enforce and good for the fighters while freaking the fuck out whenever anyone's testosterone ratios are out of whack?

The only defense is . . . everyone does it.  Everyone does this unhealthy thing to cheat, so it's okay.  This is so legally and morally vapid that it doesn't deserve comment.

But we have a problem with steroids.  I think that all this fuss about steroid is looking for a speck in your neighbor's eye while ignoring the plank in your own.

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