May 2011 BJJ in My Eyes: William Vandry on Athletes, Steroids, Risk, Drugs and the Cause and Effect

Hmmm. This is a mighty touchy subject. Everyone knows about them, everyone hears about them, and we live in a society of sports where they are rampant, and many people take them.

Thanks to
In 2002, the Nevada State Athletic Commission began testing MMA fighters for performance-enhancing drugs.
Athletics has always been man’s attempt to outperform man. We have practiced competition since the BC era, and our desire to leap higher, run faster or become stronger is only surpassed by our desires and dreams to possess superhuman abilities we admire when viewing fictional movies or super hero comics.
Steroids and drugs are a subject matter that I personally have seen very little overall coverage on. Sure, we have some big news like Olympians or the baseball issue with congress, but are there in fact any types of scrutiny or microscoping on steroids, drugs and athletes? How does this even have a cause and effect regarding martial artists? Let’s start this sad story with our own pro martial arts athletes, namely fighters in MMA.
Here is the face the music results…read them. And there are a lot more and I could fill this article with a ton, but I wanted to just highlight these athletes from mma:

(Pt. 1)
Caught: 4/22/02, following his TKO victory over Randy Couture at UFC 36.
Tested positive for: Boldenone, Nandrolone, and Fluoxymesterone
Punishment: A six-month suspension from the NSAC and the loss of his UFC heavyweight title. Barnett fought the steroid charge, and didn’t compete again in the U.S. until PRIDE 32, four and a half years later. (See: Belfort, Nastula)
In his own words: “I am a fighter, not a lawyer. I am innocent, and I should be fighting right now.”
Repeat offender: Barnett actually tested positive once before, for two different anabolic steroids, following his submission via strikes victory over Bobby Hoffman at UFC 34 in November 2001. Josh was let off with a warning (which went unheeded, apparently) and the incident was never officially reported — but according to Sherdog’s Mike Sloan, Barnett’s first positive steroid test is what inspired Nevada to begin regularly testing UFC fighters for performance enhancing drugs.

Caught: 11/3/06, following his second unanimous decision loss to Forrest Griffin at UFC 62.
Tested positive for: Boldenone
Punishment: $5,000 fine and a nine-month suspension from the NSAC.
In his own words: “I was desperate. My right elbow had been bad for a while, and I hurt it bad getting ready for Rashad [Evans on June 28]. Right after that fight, I thought I’d have some time off to do some therapy, rehab and heal. And five days later, I get a call to fight Forrest in a month and a half. I was worried. I was looking for something to speed up the healing. I just was worried I was not going to be able to fight, and they needed me. This wasn’t an undercard fight; it was the main event. Pulling out was not an option.

Caught: 6/14/07, following his unanimous decision win over Kazushi Sakuraba at Dynamite!! USA
Tested positive for: Nandrolone
Punishment: $2,500 fine and a one-year suspension from the CSAC. Gracie hasn’t competed since.
In his own words: “I have no idea what they’re talking about. Look at my first UFC. 178 [pounds]. Look at my last fight. 180. For accusing me of using drugs…I never gained a pound in my life. It’s not like I went from 178 to 200 pounds. It’s ridiculous.”

Caught: 3/11/09, following his submission win over super-heavyweight tubbaguts Ross Clifton at WarGods: Valentine’s Eve Massacre.
Tested positive for: 19-Norandrosterone, 19-Noretiocholanolone, and Stanozolol
Punishment: $2,500 fine and a one-year suspension from the CSAC.
In his manager’s words: “Ken was taking legal over-the-counter products, and based upon our preliminary research, I’m investigating if those products were the result of these findings,” said Rod Donohoo.
In his brother’s words: “Ken did [steroids] his whole life. Why do you think that his mind is so fried? Why do you think he crumbles before the big fights? He’s got no psyche. He let steroids give him a false sense of security and the moment that stuff is gone he’s no longer superman.”

Caught: 9/18/10, following his submission loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 117.
Tested positive for: Originally dubbed a “natural steroid,” Sonnen was flagged by the California State Athletic Commission after his T/E (testosterone/epitestosterone) ratio came in at over four times the legal threshold.
Punishment: $2,500 fine and a one-year suspension from the CSAC, which was reduced to six months after an appeal on December 3rd
In his own words: “I was found not guilty on the substance issue. You used the term ‘steroids’ which is a pretty big catchword. It’s really not fair. With that said, testosterone falls under the category of steroids. But that’s like saying that mouthwash falls in the category of alcohol. Or cough syrup is alcohol. It’s not exactly the same thing and it’s not what we’re talking about. One is a medicine versus an illegal substance. I was never accused or suspected of [using] an illegal substance. That was an online rumor that was started and perpetuated and I never did anything to step in to stop it, but I was accused of taking testosterone without the proper disclosure.
“Still to this moment, I don’t know what the proper disclosure they were looking for was. I walked straight up to the [CSAC] commissioner and told him, ‘This is what I’m on.’ When they put their case forward, I didn’t disagree with any of it. I went up and told him, ‘This is gonna test positive tomorrow. What do you want me to do? Do you want me to write it down?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, come here; let’s write it down. He came out and used it against me, like, ‘Chael even told me he was on something.’ Right, I told you. That’s what disclosure means. In the state of California, they don’t have a form that needs filled out. They don’t have anybody higher up to go to. They just simply use the word, ‘disclose,’ and that’s what we did.”

Ouch again. To add insult to injury, Chael faced felony charges of money laundering in a mortgage fraud scheme. reveals more details about the case. “Specifically, Sonnen allegedly arranged for a title company to pay $69,000 to a plumbing company for repairs to a Portland home, which Sonnen was involved in the sale. The release states that Sonnen knew that no repairs would be made to the home. Once the loan was funded, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the plumbing company was directed by Sonnen to pay $65,000 to the homebuyer as a cash incentive for purchasing the home.”
UFC fighter Cheick Kongo stated that he believes 50% or more of fighters are on steroids.
“50 percent [of MMA fighters take steroids], if not more…. Stay away from the needles. You can succeed without them.”
– Cheick Kongo

Reflecting upon the above athletes, whatever happened to accounting for your actions? We have a community that we influence. For instance, I have an academy and 10 association schools in Texas that I develop curriculum, course outline, lineage, philosophy and development for their potential in Jiu-jitsu that affects their personal life. I teach techniques that are designed from what I learned from my instructors The Machado brothers, and tweak, update and develop newer ideas. I have talented students that have done well in competition but more importantly as a martial artist. I do weight training and physical development outside of Jiu-jitsu. I research nutrition and have since I was 13 years of age, and if there are medical journals that discuss nutrition or how it can have value to a person I enjoy posting that information.
My physical development is based on my life of weight training, physical fitness, nutrition, injuries, correcting injuries and I have competed in sports since I was in sixth grade. I have never felt there is a need for steroids or drugs for that matter and athletes. Let’s look at an even bigger area of athletes:

Sports Figures Whose Careers are Tarnished by Steroids

Since the beginning of time sports and competition have been a foundation in all societies. From the Roman gladiators to the modern day sports heroes one thing is constant. Children and adults alike look up to these men and woman. With the epidemic of steroids, human growth hormone, and performance enhancing drugs in sports the last 25 years what example are we setting. Some of the most prolific football, baseball, and Olympians of our time have cheated. They took their checks, fame, metals, and rings, but what about being a good role model for the next generation. This list consists of some of the most prolific sports figures that have used or been accused of using performance enhancing drugs and will always suffer the consequences from it, at least in my eyes. Note that a few of the athletes on this list have denied steroid use and have not been confirmed users.

5. Ben Johnson, Canadian Olympic Sprinter
On September 27 three days after winning the 1988 Olympic Gold he tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol and was ripped of his gold medal and 1987 World Championship title. Canada was horrified and Johnson was never the same again. The rest of his career was riddled with injuries, which is the case for a lot of steroid users who become more injury prone later in their careers.

4. Barry Bonds, MLB (1986-Present)
Bonds became part of a steroid scandal when Greg Anderson of BALCO was indicted by the federal grand jury and charged with supplying anabolic steroids to athletes. The federal government on perjury and obstruction of justice charges on November 15, 2007 indicted Barry Bonds. He is currently a free agent and has complained that no team will pick him up even for the league minimum salary.

3. Alex Rodriguez, MLB (1994-Present)
On February 9, 2009 Alex Rodriguez admitted to using banned anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs during the 2001-2003 seasons. Major league baseball didn’t have a steroid policy in place until the 2004 season, so Alex is not subject to punishment from the league. He tested positive during a 2003 league survey test in which 104 major league players tested positive for steroids. Alex Rodriguez is by far the highest paid player in baseball. In December 2007 Rodriguez and the Yankees agreed to a 10 year 275 Million dollar contract. He also gets a bonus of $30 million if he breaks the all time home run record of 762.

2. Marion Jones, U.S. Olympian
Marion Jones is a United States track star that has won numerous medals in international competition. She won 5 medals at the 2000 Olympic Games excelling at the 100m, 200m, and high jump. After much speculation and controversy in October 2007 Jones admitted that she used anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs before the 2000 Olympics. She was stripped of all of her medals since the year 2000, including all Olympic medals. Since high school Marion had been accused of doping directly and indirectly because of her size and ability. When she competed Marion Jones was huge and she towered over her competition. Jones admitted lying to friends, press, and 2 grand juries about using steroids. She was suspended from competition for 2 years and retired on October 5, 2007. She also was arrested and given a 6-month prison term, which she started serving March 7, 2008 and was released September 5, 2008. Marion Jones used to be one of the most decorated and admired American athletes. Now she is looked at as a cheat, someone who needed drugs to get that edge over her competition.

1. Roger Clemens, MLB (1984-2007) 
On February 13, 2008 Roger Clemens appeared in front of the Congressional Committee along with McNamee and swore under oath that he never injected steroids into his body. McNamee proclaimed the exact opposite and one of the men was lying. In my opinion it is clear that Clemens has more to lose and has fabricated stories. He will get his day in court just like Barry Bonds and Marion Jones. Roger Clemens is one of the most recognizable sports figures in the world and his decisions influence children of all ages.
Viewing athletes in the public eye
What can we say or view of the potential results these athletes may have? Children admire athletes. Adults admire athletes. They become icons of admiration, and desire to imitate, aspire and even one day become.
When they do steroids, it just washes all of these emotional attachments fans have with the athlete.
BJJ Champion Rodrigo Medeiros made a public statement about Jiu-jitsu athletes and steroid use:
In the 2000 Mundial, minutes before I was to fight one of the most difficult matches of my life, I had to assist in removing an athlete from the competition area. Unfortunately that athlete died inside the stadium due to an overdose of steroids.
. “It is well known the use of steroids by athletes of various teams. And in many cases by Champions of our sport, I am not going to name names because I’ve not personally witnessed anyone taking them, however it is pretty noticeable the extremely rapid gain of muscle mass and abnormal reduction of fat percentage by some athletes.”
An athlete using steroids gains more than just physical benefits, they also have technical gains, because they can train 4 times a day and still feel well, while an athlete that is clean trains twice a day and needs to rest to recover naturally. The majority of athletes also have other duties such as being instructors and as such we have to preserve the values like: “Loyalty, Honesty and the Spirit of Sports Fairness”.

Thanks for your time
Rodrigo Comprido Medeiros

Caio bravely stands against steroids in BJJ and the IBJJF
“I came here today to prove technique can beat steroids. They should start tests now.”
– Caio Terra over the P.A. during his interview after winning his Black Belt Division at the 2011 Pan-Ams

This story really blows the lid off. This subject has been a sensitive one, yet we do not directly attack the problem—the drugs!
World champion Caio Terra had some controversial, yet truthful points that he courageously stated in an interview. Here are some interesting, and eye opening comments on the Pan Am, Mundial, IBJJF concerning steroids and drug testing from Fightworkds Podcast:
Caio Terra: Basically, since last year, I have been complaining to the IBJJF, that they should do some kind of testing for steroids.
Last year, they (IBJJF) told me “you know, I think we will get at least one to three guys at the Worlds, and we’re going to test them, we’re going to start testing.”
Jiu jitsu is about technique. We should be able to compete without steroids. A lot of these guys never get injured, never get sick. Then I ask myself, “how? How do these guys not get hurt, how do these guys not get sick?” At least eight months of the year, I am hurt or sick, there is something going on with me. Even though it might be a little thing, but I’m hurt or sick.
I know a lot of people, and they used to tell me that they would take steroids.
It’s unbelievable that there is more than seventy five percent of the people, in the top black belts, the top black belt guys, seventy five percent of them do steroids. And I’m saying a low number, because I don’t want to say ninety nine, but it’s very close to a very high percentage number.
It is very sad for our sport. We all know that the guys from UFC, the guys that do Strikeforce, a lot of them, most of them, do steroids so they can be able to train more, train and not get hurt. We know that, we know. But UFC is not a traditional martial art. UFC is just a fight. If you’re fighting MMA, sure, go ahead, there is no respect, everybody is calling out the other.
– Caio Terra statements from podcast

Bravo to Caio for his brave and very compelling points. We need more Caios in this world of athletics. Jiu-jitsu, as popular as it is, is just a drop in the bucket for athletics and athletes. Compare BJJ and MMMA again:
UFC Competitor Shane Carwin named in steroids case last year
In a federal court in Mobile, Ala. on Friday, U.S. Attorney Donna Dobbins revealed the names of several athletes whose orders of performance enhancing drugs included the signature of J. Michael Bennett. Bennett, who was supervising pharmacist at Applied Pharmacy Services, was sentenced to four years in prison.

Relson Gracie, one of Helio Gracie’s sons made some controversial comments on steroids, athletes and the IBJJF regarding the Pan Am and Mundials:
Relson laments, “Regular people don’t have a place in modern day competition. If you work at a bank or doctor’s office, how are you going to train twice a day for six days a week? Many of these athletes are on steroids. How are you supposed to compete with this? Helio did not approve of this!”
“Some people are making a lot of money.” That’s what Relson says when referring to the thousands of competitors who sign up each year at IBJJF events. There were over a thousand competitors at the World’s Jiu-Jitsu Championship and Pan American tournament. The IBJJF charges $100 per competitor on average depending on when you sign up. Spectators are charged an entrance fee. Sponsorship is everywhere inside the building.”
When we look at a sport that started in 1962 formally by Helio Gracie, where have we evolved?
Where is direction for athletes?
Let’s see. We don’t have athletes that do charitable works (not on a large scale publicly anyway), we need more public statements against drugs, period.We have children and adults that take part in our martial art and our sports.When I was a teen, I admired the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding world championship. As a child, I admired Lee Haney and Dorian Yates.

Fightnetworks sent out emails to the larger organizations and BJJ tournaments. They sent one to the IBJJF:
Question sent to the IBJJF: Do the IBJJF and its member bodies like the USBJJF have any rules or regulations that prohibit performance enhancing drugs and / or steroids? If there are no such rules or regulations, do you think there will be anytime soon?
IBJJF Spokesperson Mike Buckels promptly responded:
“The IBJJF does not currently have a steroid testing policy in place.”
In an online interview with Gracie Barra Professor Marcio Fetosa, Fetosa discussed steroids:
However when we influence on other people such as impressionable children, then we forgot our reason as athletes, coaches, competitors and the like that forgot the Rocky Maricano days and the high public esteem they were crowned with. When we look at some of the worst of drugs and athletics, we also look at these talented, gifted athletes whose careers were derailed:

Dwight Gooden (baseball player): Tested positive for cocaine in 1987 and entered rehab in order to avoid suspension by Major League Baseball. In 1994, he again tested postitive and was suspended for 60 days.

Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson (football player): In his 1988 autobiography, admitted to snorting cocaine out of a nasal inhaler while playing in Super Bowl XIII in 1979. He was kicked off of the team two years later in part because of his drug habit.

Martina Hingis (tennis player): In 2007, during the Wimbledon tennis tournament, tested positive for cocaine and was banned from tennis for two years. She retired shortly after the results were announced.

Diego Maradona (soccer player): Was suspended from soccer for 15 months in 1991 for testing positive for cocaine.

Michael Irvin (football player): Was arrested in 1996 for cocaine possession and sentenced to four years’ probation. The National Football League for five games suspended him.

Darryl Strawberry (baseball player): In 1995, tested positive for cocaine and was suspended by Major League Baseball for 60 days. Arrested in 1999 for cocaine possession, sentenced to 18 months’ probation and received a 120-day suspension from baseball. Tested positive again for cocaine in 2000 and was suspended for a year.

Lawrence Taylor (football player): Tested positive in 1988 and was suspended by the National Football League for 30 days. In his 2003 autobiography, admitted to being high on cocaine during games and borrowing teammates’ urine to fool drug tests.

Mary Decker (track athlete): A 1996 urine test revealed a level of testosterone over the allowed maximum. Although she argued that Decker the test is unreliable for older women (she was 37) taking birth control pills, she was stripped of a silver medal she won at the 1997 World Indoor Championships.

Justin Gatlin (track athlete): In 2006, tested positive for a steroid, believed to be testosterone, and received a four-year ban from track and field, avoiding a lifetime ban by cooperating with authorities.

Jason Giambi (baseball player): In 2003, admitted to a federal grand jury that he took testosterone, HGH and other steroids from 2001 to 2003. He was not disciplined.

Floyd Landis (cyclist): After winning the Tour de France in 2006, his urine test came back with an unusually high level of testosterone. After providing a number of excuses and defenses, Landis was stripped of his title and banned from cycling for two years.

Chris Benoit (professional wrestler): In June 2007, killed his wife and son before hanging himself. Although there was no substantial evidence to tie the wrester’s drug usage to the murders, it was later revealed that he’d received shipments of nondrolone and the drug anastrozole (used to counter side effects of steroid use) through a ring of disreputable health care professionals.

Back in 2003, The Miami Herald reported that Marcus ‘Conan’ Silveira (former Extreme Fighting Heavyweight champion, and BJJ black belt under the American Top team camp) and fourteen others were arrested Friday by federal agents, who said that they “were members of a smuggling ring that imported one million pills of the party drug Ecstasy into Miami from Spain between Nov. 2000 and July 2001.
Silveira was sentenced to 3 years in prison. It turned out the DEA was already investigating him for a couple of years before they had enough evidence to arrest him, including videotaping the sale of ecstasy.
Today, Silveira runs one of the most succesful camps in MMA, American Top Team in Florida. He can be seen all the time cornering fighters like Thiago Alves and Thiago Silva.
Conan was a BJJ black belt that helped with MMA promotions in the late 90’s. He has been coaching fighters, and seems to be on the right track. I hope so, I wish him luck, and and hope he can somehow turn this into a positive thing, perhaps even to aid younger, more impressionable fighters on errors he made.
Athletes in sports have a duty. When I read the autobiography of Muhammad Ali when I was a teen, I remember reading of his first influence, which was a police officer when some kids stole his bike. That officer averted his anger at revenge against other kids, and steered Ali in to boxing.
Athletes are under constant pressure to perform. Plain and simple.

Sports in general needs a change. But we as members of the BJJ and MMA community need to really look at the view on things like this. Many athletes obviously take steroids or even other drugs. That itself is an issue. Yet the callus and lack of any responsibility for the cause and effect on their community is what they need to work on.

Absorb, and think.

Professor William Vandry, (3rd degree Black belt BJJ)

Vandry BJJ Academy: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Muay Thai Boxing & Judo – Austin, Texas


Submitted by William Vandry on Wed, 05/04/2011 – 11:50