Jeff Novitzky may have the glorified title of Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance for Ultimate Fight Championship (UFC) but everyone knows he could care less about the mixed martial artist (MMA) fighters. He was hired by the UFC for one reason and one reason only – to catch steroid users (or at least convince the public that the UFC is committed to stopping steroid users in the sport).
Novitzky’s position is more appropriately titled as the Chief Anti-Doping Officer for the UFC. Catching and grilling celebrity steroid users is Novtizky’s forte. His fame and notoriety (and appeal to the UFC) is the fact the Novitzky had a hand in practically every one of the government’s prosecutions involving famous athletes suspected of using steroids.
Novitzky headlined the investigation of Barry Bonds and his association with the BALCO cast of characters including owner Victor Conte and chemist Patrick Arnold. He also doggedly pursued many of the top names in the world of sports. The more famous the athlete, the more likely Novitzky was on their case. From Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin to Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong, Novitzky was there.
With Novitzky’s vast experience in chasing steroid users and his strong connections to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Novitzky finally thinks he has the answer to stopping steroid use in sports. And he’s applying that expertise in his new UFC job.
Novitzky wants to eliminate random drug testing of athletes and start discriminating against athletes who are particularly muscular. In other words, Novitzky believes targeting athletes who look like they use steroids is the way to go. This is the UFC’s new secret weapon to put an end to the steroid era in MMA.
“It’s not random testing; it’s intelligent testing,” according to Novitzky. “USADA’s not going to say, ‘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.”
Muscle profiling assumes that overly-muscular people can’t be trusted. They must be lying about not using steroids otherwise how could they explain their muscularity. Either way, Novitzky makes no effort to hide his bias against muscular athletes. Novitzky considers hypermuscular individuals to be “freaks” – they are freaks who use steroids or freaks who are “natural”.
“If I was that athlete, that freak, I would be like, ‘Hey, test me more, because people are accusing me of it, so it will be cool at the end of the year, everybody will look at my stats on the webpage and I was tested 10 times and no positive tests,’” Novitzky said.
Whether this type of discrimination or “muscle profiling” is fair is irrelevant to the UFC and USADA. They just hope they can find a way to catch more steroid users. As it stands, anti-doping organizations are only detecting 1-2 percent of PED users while estimates of PED use in elite sports are generally estimated to be between 30 and 40 percent.
The end result of Novitzky’s new approach is that muscular fighters will be tested 10-12 times per year while other fighters will only be tested 2-3 times per year. Like it or not, it appears muscle profiling is here to stay.