Adding to this site’s archived combat sports safety studies, research was recently published finding that MMA athletes who were found doping in competition had improved measurable physical variables in their bouts compared to their non-doping peers.
In the study, titled “Exploratory study on illegal pharmacologic agents in mixed martial arts performance” the authors identified bouts where MMA athletes were found to have been doping and then compared the motor actions of the athletes against athletes without a doping presence. The study found that “athletes who tested positive presented higher performance in the physical variables” compared to athletes who did not have a doping presence.
The study’s abstract reads as follows:
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport that requires maximum physical effort during competitions. In this context, some athletes can use illicit substances in order to improve their performance. By means of paired analysis, the present study compared the motor actions of athletes who had failed an anti-doping test versus their performance in combat against a winner or loser without doping presence. For this, 267 rounds (male and female) were analyzed in professional matches. The rounds were paired by athletes in the conditions: doping, winning and losing. Motor actions were analyzed through a specific and previously-validated protocol. Of the substances detected, anabolic androgenic steroids represented 55% (p≤0.001). Doped athletes had lower pause time (83.4±68.3 vs. 131.7±95.2, p≤0.001) and longer time at high-intensity (85.2±86.6 vs. 51.2±73.3, p=0.002) compared to the losing condition. Regarding the technical-tactical analysis in standing combat, winning presented a higher mean compared to doping in all variables except for Knockdowns (p=0.08), single body strikes landed (p=0.15), single leg strikes landed (p=0.25) and single strike attempts (p=0.4). In conclusion, athletes who tested positive presented higher performance in the physical variables (effort and pause time) in comparison to the losing condition; however, doping did not reflect in better technical-tactical performance.