Does Leben’s Failed Test Say Anything About U.S. Athletic Commissions?
Over the weekend, the UFC announced that middleweight fighter Chris Leben had been suspended for a year due to testing positive for prescription painkillers oxycodone and oxymorphone. This is the second time that Leben has gone to the UK, lost a fight, and then been suspended due to a failed test. Previously, Leben lost a decision to Michael Bisping at UFC 89, and was then suspended after testing positive for Stanozolol, a banned steroid.
Leben has fought nineteen times in the UFC, but the only times he has tested positive are the two times he has fought overseas. Keep in mind that when the UFC heads off of American soil to hold events in the UK, they bring their own American testing representatives. So there goes the UK conspiracy theory that Leben slept with the UK Athletic Commissioner’s daughter.
So what does this say about the testing that is taking place within the confines of America? When holding events in the US, the UFC defers its testing to the various athletic commissions of the states they are fighting in. If Leben has fought seventeen times in America, and twice in the UK, but never failed a test stateside, does that indicate more about state athletic commissions and their testing, the UFC’s independent testing agency, or just Chris Leben himself?
To date, Leben has fought in Las Vegas fourteen times, and fought once in Oregon, Ohio, and Virginia. Yet not once did he test positive for any illegal steroid or painkiller. Of course the easiest assessment is that Leben only used banned substances twice in his UFC career, and coincidentally happened to occur prior to his two career fights in the UK. But for a fighter to have fought seventeen times in the US, and only twice in the UK, and tested positive for banned substances both times, it does make me wonder just how credible the testing stateside is.
Do Leben’s positive tests in the UK presume that the testing within the states with official athletic commissions is inferior to the UFC’s independent testers? No. But it does shed some doubt. UFC President Dana White has spoken of his issues with Athletic Commissions and their testing in the past, most famously when both Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca failed tests after their Lightweight title fight at UFC 73.
One thing with MMA and boxing that other major organizations, such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL don’t have to worry about is inconsistencies across the country with various athletic commissions. When holding events across the country, the UFC always has to work alongside those states commissions, and defer to their rules and guidelines. Drug testing is one of the facets that falls under the athletic commissions guidelines, and is an area that needs consistency across the board. If we knew for a fact that Leben had only used banned substances twice in his UFC career, this wouldn’t raise any flags. But it seems to be too much of a coincidence that Leben has now been tested twice by the UFC’s independent testing organization, and tested positive both times.