Opinion by:Â Perry Lefko
Cristiane (Cyborg) Santos has picked an interesting time to issue a public service announcement about the evils of steroid use — the very thing that has put her career and life on hold — and you have to wonder if she is truly sincere or merely trying to find a way to get back into the good graces of her sport.
Cyborg is currently serving a one-year suspension after testing positive for stanozolol metabolites following her 16-second-victory over Hiroko Yamanaka in a fight in December. The positive test immediately tarnished her career, which to that point had seen her win 10 consecutive fights since opening her pro career with a loss. She became the Strikeforce women’s featherweight champion in December of 2009 by beating Gina Carano and then defending the title twice leading up to the fight against Yamanaka.
At that point, Cyborg had established herself as the most dominant woman of all time in professional mixed martial arts, but all that changed because of the positive test for the synthetic anabolic steroid. Stanozolol became infamously popularized when Canadian Ben Johnson tested positive for it following his victory in the 100-metre final in the 1988 Summer Olympics.
“I do not condone the use of steroids as an athlete and it is a horrible thing,” Santos began in her video PSA. “I made a mistake in trusting someone in my camp and it has cost me my belt and made me look like a cheater. I am not a cheater. I have passed every test and never used steroids knowingly…People say the only way I have gotten to where I am today is through the use of drugs. I just made the mistake of taking something to help me lose weight. I did not know it was a steroid.”
This version of the facts is only slightly more of a personal admission of guilt than her comment following the revelation of the positive test, which she claimed resulted from a weight-loss supplement and did not know it contained any banned substances.
She added that she has apologized to Yamanaka, Strikeforce, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) and her fans, has eliminated “certain people” from her training camp and is now taking monthly drug tests that CSAC uses to show she does not take steroids.
“Everything I take and put in my body is my full responsibility,” she added. “I take full responsibility for the results … I am publicly acknowledging my responsibility and want to educate other fighters and the general public on the dangers of steroid use.
“I believed that everything I did in the MMA can be deleted by one mistake and now is the time to press through the problem and work to make sure it never happens again. If people have the wrong impression that steroids is going to help with the fight, give you more strength, more aggressiveness, this is not true. You have aggressiveness. You are born with that. You can’t take steroids and hope that will help you. You need to train hard.”
She concludes her message, which is close to three minutes in length, by indicating she still plans to fight aggressively and that her next fight will be “shocking.”
It will be no sooner than December unless her suspension is commuted, which is unlikely to happen, although issuing a PSA may be part of the plan to seek reinstatement.
We’ve all heard about the dangers of doing drugs, in particular athletes who have used steroids or some kind of performance-enhancing substances, only to be caught and face the consequences. Santos is only the latest high-profile athlete to learn the hard way that the ends don’t justify the means. It has often been said that the crime is not doing it, but in getting caught.
Because of her overt masculine build, Santos had been suspected by many people of using drugs, but there was no proof. That career-defining day in December that she became identified as a drug user effectively tarnished her for life and all that she had done. Even her moniker Cyborg now seems artificial and fake.
It is interesting how women’s professional MMA has moved along quite well without her, which again may be one of the reasons Santos has suddenly gone public. Ronda Rousey is now the queen of the cage, following her dramatic bantamweight victory over champion Miesha Tate earlier this month. Rousey dropped down from the 145-pound featherweight division to 135 because it gave her the most immediate path to fight for a championship. She created hype by challenging and trash talking Tate, which created the most interest in a women’s fight since Santos defeated Carano three years ago. It was Carano’s first loss after seven wins. She hasn’t fought since, choosing to pursue a career as a big-screen action star.
It must have been particularly upsetting for Santos to see Carano go on to bigger and better things, while also watching Rousey claim the glory that was once hers. Additionally, next month there will be an all-women’s card presented by the upstart Invicta Fighting Championships. It’s all starting to come together for the women — and all without Santos, the defrocked and disgraced champion who is now seeking to restore her damaged career.
Later this year, Rousey will face onetime bantamweight champion Sarah Kaufman, who beat fellow Canadian Alexis Davis by a majority decision on the same card Rousey beat Tate. The winner of the Rousey-Kaufman match would presumably face Tate, who wants a rematch against Rousey.
There are some people who believe Rousey could be the greatest professional women’s MMA fighter of all time. At some point, Rousey may clash with Santos, who would have to drop 10 pounds to fight at the bantamweight level. If she had problems making weight before, then you have to wonder how much more of an issue it will be in the future.