Dave Mandel for Sherdog.com
Josh Koscheck is never at a loss for words, but there's a fine line between fight hype and slander.
There is an unfortunate side effect of success: It is the very human tendency to want to destroy what others have created. For high-profile athletes or actors, that can mean scandals about drugs, affairs, cheating, tantrums or boorishness. (There's a big German word for taking pleasure in the misery of others, but I don't feel like looking it up; be my guest.) The media got more mileage out of the Tiger Woods situation than it did from some wars.
There are few people in MMA who have created what Georges St. Pierre has since his UFC career began seven years ago. In addition to being the most dominant champion in the promotion's history -- we exclude Anderson Silva because he appears to have cracked -- St. Pierre has polished a reputation and civility that have earned him endorsement deals from blue-chip sponsors such as Gatorade and Under Armour. He is highly paid, consistently trained and one of maybe a half dozen mixed martial artists who can make a radical difference in viewership. Naturally, some people aren't going to be satisfied with GSP's elevated status.
Whether it's envy or an unfortunate method for hyping their fight, Josh Koscheck took the low road in an MMAjunkie.com interview Monday, at first flirting with and eventually making outright accusations that St. Pierre uses performance enhancers. "From what I've heard from other fighters in other camps, yeah, [St. Pierre] has done steroids and HGH, possibly," Koscheck said. "I don't know. This is just on hearsay information I've gotten."
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It's a lawyer-friendly quote, but Koscheck messed up with the follow-through: "We've just got to pray to God that he doesn't grease up and he gets off that juice so that we can equal things about it."
I somehow doubt Koscheck sat down and premeditated what amounts to a giant plate of slander. Just the opposite: His cavalier way of hinting that St. Pierre cuts corners or expedites his recovery is a telltale sign that he really has no idea how heavy that statement is.
On one level, St. Pierre should almost be flattered by the accusation: You are so impressive, Koscheck seems to be saying, that I can't fathom your results without injectables. But there's another, more sinister, effect, which is the damage to St. Pierre's reputation -- the rep he has worked for seven years to construct, the one that lends him sponsorship opportunities and the one that should be respected until there's credible evidence to the contrary.
Koscheck's support seems to consist of conversations with B.J. Penn's camp (already regarded as being something less than a pro-GSP contingent) and maybe some campfire talk. Because no one has come forward to admit bearing witness to St. Pierre's using or buying steroids, and because St. Pierre has yet to fail a drug test, we can conclude -- regardless of whether he's actually clean -- that there is zero support behind the statement. It's simple character assassination. (If not assassination, a solid flesh wound.)
Using an eyeball examination to determine whether someone is using steroids is absurd, and it's especially prevalent in the assessment of athletes with low levels of body fat. (As if the demands of training wouldn't siphon off every available ounce of nonessential body weight.) St. Pierre is built more like a racehorse than a truck and hasn't budged from his weight class since his debut in 2002. His cardio is impressive, but so is Clay Guida's. Yet no one accuses Guida of anything. GSP wins too often? So does Fedor Emelianenko. It's a condition of being that much better than everyone else. Happens in every sport.
Steroids are, unquestionably, an ongoing issue in sports: Too many athletes can cheat the weak test protocol for the subject not to linger. Koscheck is advocating for "Olympic-style" drug testing, which calls for random tests and drawing blood, both of which are significantly better measures of PED use than prescheduled urine tests.
This is something MMA desperately needs, but not on a random basis. Why should Koscheck and GSP be the beneficiaries of that kind of comprehensive auditing when other main-event fighters are not? If blood tests are going to be implemented, the system needs to be uniform and at the commission level, not because that's how a fighter decided to create controversy. If Koscheck knows anything, it's that he knows better.