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Looking at the Brock Lesnar/USADA situation



Some interesting news has surfaced about former WWE and UFC champion Brock Lesnar, who fought last weekend at the historic UFC 200 card, defeating Mark Hunt via unanimous decision.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency, the same organization that handles the testing for the Olympics, has flagged Lesnar for a possible violation from an out-of-competition on June 28th prior to his return to the octagon after a five year absence. The ramifications of this violation remain to be seen, but this could have a devastating effect on his WWE status and his ability to fight in the cage again. The unprecedented experiment that allowed Brock to compete in mixed martial arts while still under WWE contract could backfire and bring press negative press to everyone involved in the deal. The WWE released a very generic statement, only saying that Lesnar hasn’t competed for the company since WrestleMania and isn’t scheduled again until next month.

As of this writing, nothing official has been made public about the substance that Lesnar tested positive for and the Nevada State Athletic Commission meeting to make a decision must take place before anything can be made official about his UFC status. A rumor surfaced online that an inhaler could’ve caused the flagged test, but it was posted from an unconfirmed source; considering that Lesnar passed the previous tests before UFC 200, it’s doubtful that something he was prescribed didn’t show up on those results. Plus, fighters are required to disclose any medication that they are prescribed to the athletic commission before an event.

From a PR stand point, it’s negative toward everyone involved, but it has varying levels of consequences for each company. For Brock, obviously this is a completely embarrassing situation and it taints his UFC victory if the results are confirmed after the “B sample” is processed. In many ways, Lesnar looks like a fool because he claimed his motivation to return to the UFC was to prove he was still a “legitimate” fighter, but a PED violation tarnishes his credibility across the board.

A failed test would prove that he couldn’t get it done in the octagon without performance enhancers and he wouldn’t be the first athlete to leave money on the table after a failed drug test. You have to wonder, if Brock knowingly took a banned substance, how did he expect to get around the test? Is it possible that he took something without knowing it? Sure, but the more logical scenario could be that he was looking for an insurance policy to ensure that he didn’t get embarrassed in MMA the way that he had previously.

The WWE is getting the worst side of all this for a few different reasons, but most importantly, they are the ones that stand to lose the most from these test results because they didn’t get a chance to generate the revenue from Summer Slam, which was the entire point of the deal for them. The negative press alone could affect their bottom line for Summer Slam because instead of potentially garnering some of the MMA fans to watch Brock on the network, he will be categorized as “just another pro wrestler on steroids.”

The stereotype is again perpetuated from this failed test and it puts the WWE wellness policy and their testing process under a microscope. Obviously, if Roman Reigns, the performer the WWE tried to protect the most, was suspended for a violation, it’s a safe bet that WWE’s wellness policy is legitimate, but to the causal observer that might not be aware of Reigns, they read the headline that a Brock failed a test and make the general assumption towards pro wrestling. As much as the Roman violation made the plan to continuously push him despite the fan hostility even more illogical than before, the Lesnar test probably does more to damage the WWE public perception because Brock is a much bigger star.

As mentioned, a failed test tarnishes Brock’s credibility as the “legitimate” athlete in the WWE and that’s something that management spent the past four years establishing on their shows. The justification for ending the streak was that in theory, Lesnar was the one that could do it because he was the most legitimate athlete from competitive sports on the roster. The two decades of the history and the emotional invest of the WM streak were scarified to build Brock as the ultimate monster.

The perception of a PED violation for Brock is much different from the standard WWE wellness violation because Lesnar as the “legitimate athlete” is viewed in a different light than his sports entertainment peers. Technically, the time and money that the WWE invested into Brock since his return in 2012 are at risk since it could sour fans on him if he gets labeled as “just another pro wrestler that does steroids.”

The WWE is a publicly traded company and just a few months after they touted the record numbers for Wrestlemania 32, two of the top performers that were on the card failed drug tests. It was acknowledged on Raw that Roman will finish the 30 days suspension in time to work the Battleground pay-per-view. Considering that USADA is one of the most well known testing agencies in sports, if Lesnar failed for PEDs, the WWE is put into a corner where they have to suspend him for at least 30 days if they want to maintain the public image of a clean roster. There’s much speculation about the entire situation, but unless some reasonable explanation surfaces, the damage could be done in terms of public perception.

The UFC already generated over a million pay-per-view buys for UFC 200 and Lesnar was one of the main reasons for it so from a business perspective, the Lesnar deal was a success for them. However, Brock’s MMA career could be in jeopardy depending on the decision rendered from the Nevada commission. Without a reasonable explanation for the positive test, Lesnar could be banned from competition for two years and he will be 41 when he could return. Considering his age, if Brock is banned for an extended period of time, it’s doubtful that he would fight in the cage again.

As mentioned, at this point there’s a lot of speculation and the official decision made after the Nevada commission process could affect how this situation is viewed publicly. If an inhaler did actually cause the flagged test and it’s deemed not to be a PED then Lesnar won’t be subject to the negative publicity. However, if Brock doesn’t have a reasonable explanation for the positive test, his credibility and drawing power could be damaged for his WWE run.

-Jim LaMotta


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