by Irvin Muchnick
In raising questions about the integrity of U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) testing of UFC fighters, in light of the announcement of the snap return of WWE’s Brock Lesnar to UFC 200 next month, Concussion Inc. is in a familliar position, which can summarized thusly: While others whisper or mumble, we speak out loud.
Lesnar’s signing for a “one-off” match against Mark Hunt, without the four-month unretirement notice and availability for drug-testing that are required by UFC’s much-ballyhooed USADA-driven policy, is a classic case of money talking and regulation walking. And everyone knows it.
I’m told that Jeff Novitsky, USADA’s UFC point person, hasn’t responded to other journalists’ questions regarding all this. Novitsky is the former Food and Drug Administration agent who made his name busting the designer growth hormone abuse of disgraced baseball home run king Barry Bonds. If he cares, Novitsky has to know that his credibility is on the line in explaining any exemption from the UFC policy for Lesnar.
The argument that an exemption is justified by the fact that Lesnar is employed by WWE — which purports to do comprehensive performance-enhancing drug testing of its own — doesn’t wash. For starters, while WWE does farm out its talent’s pee-pee samples to an outside lab, the task of adjudicating violations remains in the sole discretion of potentate Vince McMahon. There is no independent agency such as USADA. (I believe calling USADA itself an independent agency is malarkey, but am willing to concede the point for purposes of debunking the equation of WWE, an entertainment company whose objective is to simulate combat, with UFC. a sports company whose objective is to promote real fights.)
The loan of Lesnar to UFC is actually analogous to the loan of movie star Dwayne Johnson to WWE. Johnson, aka The Rock, has taken hiatuses from film projects to wrestle again in WWE, which even re-anointed him as “champion.” Even older than Lesnar’s current nearly 39, Johnson invariably looks huge and chiseled. Does anyone seriously believe that he was subjected to the WWE wellness policy, such as it is?
There’s more coming on the Lesnar-UFC-USADA story. The first two parties, at least, don’t give a damn. Lesnar stands to make “a boatload of money.” And UFC — as is obvious from the events of recent days — has a positively Trumpian attitude toward legitimate questions and scrutiny.