Ben Askren said he had no intention of criticizing Bellator MMA when he tweeted Monday that he’d only been drug tested once in eight bouts with the tournament-based promotion.
That job, he said, falls principally to athletic commissions tasked with overseeing the promotions.
“It’s not really Bellator’s job, per se,” Askren today told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “They could hire outside testing. But they’re a newer organization, so it’s going to cost a lot of money.
“So it’s more the commission’s job than anything. For whatever reason, I just happened to have fought in a lot of places where the commission just didn’t take the time to test.”
The Bellator champion’s comments come at a time of increasing scrutiny around drug testing and performance-enhancer use in MMA. Several high-profile UFC fighters have tested positive for banned substances this year and been suspended or released by the promotion. Meanwhile, debate persists over the use of doctor-prescribed testosterone; Saturday’s UFC on FX 8 headliner between Vitor Belfort and Luke Rockhold has been dominated by headlines about Belfort’s use of testosterone-replacement therapy.
Askren, who was subject to extensive drug testing as a collegiate and Olympic wrestler, said steroid use is “everywhere in MMA” and speculated that some of his previous opponents could have been using performance-enhancers. He declined to offer any names of suspected users, however.
“I know in the back of my mind that some people who have been fighting for certain gyms are known for their steroid use, so it does kind of bother me that they weren’t tested,” he said. “But I figure you’ve got to go in there and beat a guy up, no matter what.”
Askren, who is expected to defend his belt this fall against Season 7 tourney winner Andrey Koreshkov, admitted he may have been mistaken in saying he’d been commission-tested just once, but believed the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission was the only one to screen him for performance-enhancers and drugs of abuse. He won the Bellator welterweight championship belt in a bout held in October 2010 at Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. (PSAC Executive Director Greg Sirb said it’s the commission’s policy to test all title fights, but he said drug testing results for the event had been archived and weren’t immediately accessible. A Bellator official said Askren was tested and passed.)
Following his title win, Askren defended his belt three times in bouts held in Kansas; Ontario, Canada; and, most recently, Oklahoma. MMAjunkie.com was unable to verify whether he’d been tested in Kansas or in Ontario, which lets promoters decide whether or not to test.
His most recent title defense came on tribal land, which isn’t subject to the regulations of the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission. However, he volunteered to participate in an independent testing program led by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) and passed.
The champ’s Bellator career began with three non-title bouts overseen by state athletic commissions. MMAjunkie.com couldn’t immediately verify whether testing had taken place, but similar fights frequently elude scrutiny.
Bellator could order independent-laboratory testing, which the UFC uses in jurisdictions without formal athletic commissions, or strike a promotion-wide deal with VADA, which has offered out-of-competition blood and urine testing for the UFC. As of yet, the promotion hasn’t announced any plans to do either.
A Bellator official did not comment on the possibility of independent testing but noted that all fighters were tested and passed following Bellator 92, which took place in Temecula, Calif., and was overseen by the California State Athletic Commission.
“The UFC does it at international events,” Askren offered. “If they want to take an increased role, that would be cool. And if they don’t, I think commissions will get better and better.”
In response to an inquiry about additional testing, Bellator Director of Public Relations Anthony Mazzuca wrote via email, “Testing by state athletic commissions is discretionary by each commission, and Bellator is held to exactly the same standard drug-testing rules and regulations as is the UFC. Bellator conducted 11 events from January through April 2013, and each and every one of those events were fully controlled and regulated ABC-sanctioned events.”
Askren, though, wishes that the regulatory bodies didn’t have to test at all.
“I wish people were just honest and just compete fairly, but some people, they’re chicken s–ts, and they’re scared they can’t win on their own,” he said.
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