Cyborg Justino Is Out of Excuses
Late last month, it was announced that Cris “Cyborg” Justino had a potential drug test failure administered by the US Anti-Doping Agency. Just days earlier, there had been a great deal of controversy in the UFC announcing a new women’s featherweight division. However, the inaugural title fight would happen without Cyborg. This was strange because Cyborg had practically been demanding this weight class be made by the UFC, who currently holds her fight contract. On the UFC’s side, they proclaimed they’d offered Cyborg multiple opportunities to fight for a new 145 pound women’s title. On Cyborg’s end, she claimed she turned down those fights because she was still recovering from her debilitating weight cut to make 140 pounds at UFC Fight Night 95 last December when she fought Lina Lansberg. While Cyborg is highly acclaimed as one of, if not the most, dominant female MMA fighters of all time, the reaction to her failing a drug test was hardly one of surprise. In fact, the widespread reaction across the board was a complete and utter lack of shock. Cyborg has an established history with PEDs, going back to her career as the 145-pound champion Strikeforce. Whether the MMA world likes it or not, it’s time to fess up to the fact that Cyborg is out of excuses this time, and her entire record is suspect at this point.
With regards to PED testing, there is a very basic one that’s more intangible. It’s called the smell test, aka the eye test. This basically means you are judging if a fighter is on PEDs based on how they look. Is this legitimate? According to UFC VP of Athlete Health and Performance, Jeff Novitzky, it is. Speaking to Joe Rogan on his podcast, Novitzky said USADA would be using the so-called smell test as a tool to how fighters would be tested. He stated: “Hey, we’re going roll the dice and whoever comes up …’ They’re going to look on everything, from tips that they may get – hell, they’ll even look at physical appearances of athletes. Does this athlete pass kind of the physical appearance ‘smell test,’ and if they don’t, hey, maybe we need to test that person a little bit more.”
The reason I bring up the smell test is because for all intents and purposes, Cyborg has been failing the smell test for years. It’s hard to look at Cyborg, and hear her voice, and ignore how she exhibits the telltale signs of what happens to a female through longtime steroid and PED use. I’m not going to say Cyborg is untalented and un-athletic. She clearly is a talented mixed martial artist and fighter. She’s clearly dedicated, but that doesn’t mean she’s free of guilt and not taking things she shouldn’t.
So let’s go back to January 2012. After her knockout win over Hiroko Yamanaka at Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal, Cyborg tested positive for Stanozolol, which is a synthetic anabolic steroid. It was really to the surprise of no one at the time either. At the time, Cyborg claimed it was a contaminated dietary supplement used while she was cutting weight. That seems to be a rather convenient excuse whenever these issues come up. You think fighters would be more diligent or discerning about the substances they put in their body if this is a potential issue and supplements don’t fall under FDA regulation.
Cyborg released her own statement on this latest issue on her Facebook page. She wrote: “It has been brought to my attention that my recent sample contained a banned substance known as Spironolactone. The substance is part of a therapeutic treatment being administered to me by doctor that started the 26th of September and is suppose to last for a period of no less than 90 days, requiring blood exams at the completion. In addition to the treatment administered to me by Dr Ulyssea M Da C O Pinto. I was given a medical suspension by her not to enter into competition style training or weight cutting practices during the period of recovery. It is for those reasons why I declined the UFC fight Feb. 11th 2016 for the first 145lbs belt.”
So here’s the WADA 2016 prohibited substance list. It took less than a minute to locate this via Google. It took even less time to find the substance Cyborg was allegedly prescribed by her doctor, “Spironolactone,” on the list. This list went into effect on January 1, 2016. So, it was readily available. Spironolactone is also called a “water pill” and used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. It’s banned by USADA because it’s a potential masking agent. What are masking agents? They are used to mask other illegal PEDs or banned substances an athlete could be using. I’ve heard Adam Hunter complain on MMA Roasted before about punishing a fighter for using a diuretic because diuretics don’t enhance performance. Well, the reason diuretics are banned is because fighters may not be just using them to help a bad weight cut. They could be using them to clean out other PEDs and steroids from their system.
Justino has no excuse here. The banned substance list was readily available to her. Does anyone honestly believe her doctor prescribed this to her, and neither of them had any inkling at all to check and see if this “medicine” was safe for her to take? Here’s another thing, USADA does offer therapeutic use exemptions. Justino and her doctor actually could’ve applied for a TUE for her to use Spironolactone. Some of Cyborg’s supports believe she could receive a TUE retroactively. USADA does offer retroactive TUEs, but only if she really needed it under the following conditions (Straight from USADA):
“a. Emergency treatment or treatment of an acute medical condition was necessary; or
b. Due to other exceptional circumstances, there was insufficient time or opportunity for the Athlete to submit, or for the TUEC to consider, an application for the TUE prior to Sample collection; or
c. It is agreed, by WADA and by the Anti-Doping Organization to whom the application for a retroactive TUE is or would be made, that fairness requires the grant of a retroactive TUE.”
I’m just an MMA reporter and writer. Fighting for a living is not my career or livelihood. All this information was easy to find. “So easy a caveman can do it” and all that. So, how could a fighter or his/her management team, where this is the fighter’s livelihood not be able to check on this information or have people invested into their careers do it for them? They know they are going to be tested out-of-competition by USADA. Why is it so hard to think? OK, you are saying I should take this and it will help me recover. Let me just take my handy smartphone and check the USADA list. Wait, I just entered the substance, and it’s on the banned list! Should I really take this? Can’t we ask USADA first and request a TUE or maybe find an alternative means of treatment? Why wouldn’t a fighter who has to get drug tested so heavily not have those concerns? Why are those questions not getting asked? None of the excuses or statements made by Cyborg or her camp really fall under these circumstances. Not to mention, she started taking this drug in September according to her, and she didn’t fail her drug test until months later. Not long after she turned down title fights to fight for the 145-pound title, she also shared a gym video on her Instagram account, showing her deadlifting 300 pound weights. Considering how she almost killed herself to make 140 pounds to fight in the UFC, why is she dead lifting 300 pound weights? Maybe instead of adding on extra muscle, Cyborg should be focused more on shedding muscle and bulk to help ease her weight cuts. Cyborg has showed pictures of her on a scale days after cutting down to 145 pounds, and she was walking around at 175 pounds. So shedding 30 pounds before a fight is still not going to be easy for her to do. Is Cyborg doing all this power-lifting when she’s supposed to be recovering from debilitating weight cuts suspicious? You’re damn right it is.
When people started discussing how suspicious it was that she’s deadlifting 300 pounds. Cyborg responded with the following tweet. She said it’s part of an offseason workout and said the Patriots probably do similar weight lifting in the offseason. But are the Patriots trying to stay at an optimal weight and later preparing to cut 30 pounds of weight they weren’t really meant to lose before a football season?
— Cris Cyborg (@criscyborg) December 18, 2016
The reality is obvious. Cyborg is a habitual PED user, and she’s been abusing PEDs for years. People always talk about Cyborg’s dominance, but it’s dominance that she was able to attain in thanks to steroid use. But more than anything, it’s just seemed strange that Cyborg has always seemed intent on getting bigger and bigger when all of the big fights for her were always at lighter weight classes. Now, she’s at a point where even 145 pounds might still be too small for her. The Cyborg phenomenon has always been strange to me. Fans and analysts would frequently complain about PED use, the lack of out-of-competition drug testing, but then still ignore Cyborg’s indiscretions, even after she was exposed the first time.
None of Cyborg’s excuses hold water. If her doctor is familiar with USADA procedures, the doctor would’ve checked with USADA about the substance Cyborg apparently need to take. Or Cyborg could’ve checked about the substance itself. It would’ve taken her a very short amount of time and minimal effort to actually research the substance and find out if it was OK to take. But the fact of the matter is she didn’t. Even if it was pure ignorance, that’s still not an excuse. All the information is out there and readily available. But, I highly doubt it was ignorance. I believe Cyborg knew exactly what she was doing because she’s probably been juiced to the gills on PEDs for years.
Obviously, there’s still some measure of due process here that has to take its course. Cyborg might get off with a minimal punishment. Could it turn out to be six months or a year? Possibly. My feelings on PEDs are thus. You either allow all of it, or no tolerance at all. You can’t have a grey area. And if you want to “clean up the sport,” then that means fighters can’t be lazy or ignorant about what they are putting in their bodies either. However, it’s time to acknowledge the reality with Cyborg. She has no feasible excuses left, and none of them are believable.
Jeffrey Harris is 411mania’s resident Jack of All Trades and has covered MMA for the site since 2008. You can shoot him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit him up on Facebook. He also co-hosts the 411 Ground & Pound Radio podcast along with Robert Winfree. You can listen to the latest episode of the podcast in the player below.