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Comment: Serious questions hang over Overeem

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The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t directly call Alistair Overeem a cheat when they denied him a license yesterday, but his employer pretty much did when he appeared on the Jim Rome radio show to discuss recent happenings in the UFC.

Dana White was ostensibly on-air to talk about light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ latest title retention. But talk quickly turned to Overeem, who spent his Tuesday afternoon being grilled by the Nevada State Athletic Commission before being denied a license to fight at UFC 146 next month.

“He lied to me. I don’t like it,” said White, who has been left with considerable egg on his face after telling all and sundry over recent months that Overeem had personally assured him he was not using steroids or other performance-enhancing substances.

That said, the language Overeem apparently used isn’t exactly a strict denial of using any performance-enhancing substances. “Before he went in [to the hearing] he sat down at a lunch with me and my partner [Lorenzo Fertitta], looked us in the face and said ‘I’m the most tested athlete in all of sports, they can test me whenever they want to,’” White recounted.

A person who was confident they had timed their dosing right might also tell people they could test him “whenever they want to” - but that could be because they were confident their cycle was properly planned, rather than that there was nothing in their system of interest to regulatory bodies.

Of course, we know now that Overeem’s system was full of something of interest. He scored a testosterone ratio of 14:1 in his March urine test. The upper ratio allowed by NSAC is 6:1, which is itself ridiculously high when one considers that the average male would rarely score 2:1, let alone anything above that.

Overeem told NSAC that he had been prescribed an anti-inflammatory by a doctor in Texas. The anti-inflammatory was a clear liquid, the doctor’s own concoction, and contained testosterone. Overeem claimed he was unaware of this. He produced the bottle - it had a handwritten white label on it. An NSAC member had to choke back laughter as he asked Overeem if he had made the label himself - it looked that ridiculous.

It turned out that Overeem’s physician, Doctor Melina, has a long and inglorious history of irregular practice. He has been specifically prohibited from prescribing medicines to patients he has not met in person after a legal ruling that he was abusing an online prescription service to provide drugs to ‘patients’ who were more likely to be looking for access to controlled substances than seeking genuine medical assistance.

And so we must ask - why was it that Overeem, who hails from Holland and has recently moved to Florida, found himself consulting a blacklisted doctor in Texas regarding treatment for a routine and far from unusual rib injury? It requires a flight across the Gulf of Mexico or a drive through Alabama and Louisiana - is Melina really the only physician in the whole region who can be consulted? Or to put it another way, why the strong desire to consult Melina over other more proximate physicians?

Overeem was already under a cloud of suspicion with NSAC for his decamping to Holland one day before he received notification of a drug test ahead of his fight with Brock Lesnar at UFC 141. He was able to show NSAC that he bought his ticket home the day before he was notified of the test. According to Overeem, his mother was ill and needed his care. He escaped serious censure, but there is no doubt that NSAC wasn’t entirely convinced.

Their suspicions were further raised by Overeem’s actions on the day they sprang a surprise test on attendees at the UFC 146 promotional press conference held March 27 in Las Vegas. Overeem, according to NSAC director Keith Kizer, was the only fighter who left the building after being told he needed to give a urine sample.

“The UFC informed these fighters just before the press conference that I would be coming to collect samples. As soon as the conference was over, Mr. Overeem speeded out of the building and took off. I told him he would be treated as a positive test unless he came back and he came back,” Kizer said yesterday.

Overeem’s team told Kizer that he had been worried a female fan was going to appear and cause a public spectacle. Given Overeem’s recent conviction on an assault charge stemming from a nightclub incident in Las Vegas in December, that was a reasonably plausible line - but is it true? Ultimately, we will never know. But people are not stupid, and the remarkable string of coincidences and improbabilities that has accompanied Overeem’s brief tenure of the UFC roster has not gone unnoticed.

NSAC doesn’t seemed convinced; neither does Dana White. On the message boards, fans are divided. If Overeem is entirely innocent of steroid use, he has been very, very unlucky. If Overeem has been using steroids, he has been very, very lucky. But things have come to a head so publicly now that there is no more room for error - Overeem must exercise extreme caution in his medicinal and supplementary practices from now on, and he cannot presume on the fans’ goodwill any further.