Traditional BJJ is considered a gentle and sacred art. It is a martial art that emphasizes ground grappling and submission holds. As with any sport, especially martial art, practitioners strive to gain a competitive edge, and unfortunately, some turn to PEDs to achieve their goals. The use of PEDs in BJJ has seen a significant increase in recent years, and it has become a cause for concern.
Table of Contents
- 1. Why Do BJJ Practitioners Use PEDs?
- 2. The Alarming Use of PED in BJJ
- 3. A Deep Dive Into the Factors Contributing to the Spike in PED Usage
- 3.1. Fast-Paced Success
- 3.2. Injury Recovery
- 3.3. Competition Among Practitioners
- 3.4. The Culture of Winning at All Costs
- 3.5. Influence of Social Media on Fighter’s Perception
- 3.6. Desire to Gain a Competitive Edge
- 3.7. Psychological & Emotional Toll on Fighters
- 3.8. More Money
- 4. Link Between BJJ PED Usage & Performance Enhancement
- 5. Revolution In BJJ - PED Tests
- 6. Role of BJJ Institutes
- 7. BJJ PED Bust: What Does It Mean for the Sport & Its Future
- 8. BJJ PED Testing: Protocols, Procedures, and Limitations
- 9. Measures Taken to Put an End to BJJ PED Use
- 9.1. Suspension of BJJ PED Users
- 9.2. Education and Awareness Programs
- 9.3. Strict Testing and Penalties
- 9.4. Promoting Clean Sports & Ethics in BJJ
- 9.5. Role of Coaches in the Prevention of PED Usage
- 10. Penalties Faced By BJJ Fighters Due to PED
- 11. BJJ Practitioners Who Tested Positive For PED Test
- 12. Carlos Gracie Jr.’s Thoughts on Anti-Doping
- 13. Recent PED Bust of Elite BJJ Fighters
- 13.1. Roberto Cyborg
- 13.2. Jonnatas Gracie
- 13.3. Igor Feliz
- 13.4. Henrique Ceconi
- 13.5. Vagner Rocha
- 13.6. On 5 April 2023, Mica Galvao Tested Positive for PEDs
- 14. FAQs
- 14.1. What is the Role of the BJJ Community in Addressing PED Usage?
- 14.2. What are the Consequences of a PED Bust in BJJ?
- 14.3. Does Paulo Miyao Test Positive for PED?
- 15. Conclusion
1. Why Do BJJ Practitioners Use PEDs?
PEDs are Performance Enhancing Drugs used by athletes to improve and speed up their performance during tournaments and championships. PEDs are basically steroids that make you feel strong and enhance your performance on the mats. They are responsible for building muscles and boosting athletic performance.
2. The Alarming Use of PED in BJJ
One of the main reasons for the rise in PED use is the increasing level of competition in the sport. In the past decade, BJJ has exploded in popularity, and the stakes are higher than ever before.
“Practitioners are under immense pressure to win, and for some, the temptation to use PEDs to gain an edge becomes too great to resist.”
The sudden urge and so-called justification of PED usage is the perception that it is widespread, everybody is doing it. Many fighters may feel that their opponents are using PEDs, and they have no choice but to use them as well to remain competitive. This creates a dangerous cycle, as more and more practitioners begin using PEDs, and the problem grows.
3. A Deep Dive Into the Factors Contributing to the Spike in PED Usage
The sudden surge in the usage of PEDs directly depends on those practitioners who have made it a common thing.
3.1. Fast-Paced Success
Why has the use of PEDs become so popular and no one objects to it? It is because PEDs ensure a very high success rate. When a practitioner’s athleticism boosts, he/she becomes more active and they are more likely to win the fight. It doesn’t mean one can not win without using PEDs. It means that it only becomes easy to win a fight.
3.2. Injury Recovery
With the use of PED, practitioners do not get injured easily. Even if they suffer from any injury, the healing process is faster.
3.3. Competition Among Practitioners
BJJ is a highly competitive sport. There is constant peer pressure that makes fighters stay active and focused on their fighting skills.
3.4. The Culture of Winning at All Costs
In today’s competitive combat sports culture, winning is everything. This has led to a “win at all costs” mentality among fighters. This mentality encourages fighters to use PEDs in order to gain an advantage over their opponents. However, the use of PEDs is not only illegal but also unethical and can lead to serious health consequences.
3.5. Influence of Social Media on Fighter’s Perception
Social media has had a profound impact on the way fighters view themselves and their competition. Fighters are constantly bombarded with images of other fighters who appear to be stronger, decorated, faster, and more successful. This can lead some fighters to feel inadequate and can push them to use PEDs in order to keep up with their peers.
3.6. Desire to Gain a Competitive Edge
Fighters who compete at the highest levels are always looking for ways to gain a competitive edge. For example, UFC championships are one of the biggest opportunities for BJJ fighters. And competing in these championships is a lot more challenging.
Whether it is improving their strength, speed, or endurance, the desire to be the best can lead some athletes to use PEDs. Unfortunately, the use of PEDs can have serious health consequences and can lead to long-term body damage.
3.7. Psychological & Emotional Toll on Fighters
Competing at UFC or ONE championship can take a toll on a fighter's mental and emotional health. Fighters may experience feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression as they try to balance the demands of training and competition with other aspects of their lives. This can lead some fighters to turn to PEDs as a way to cope with the pressures they face.
3.8. More Money
Other than IBJJF, some organizations conduct BJJ tournaments. The prize money in these tournaments is higher than the IBJJF. There is also little to no concept of PED testing. These tournaments are one of the reasons for the sudden surge of PEDs in the BJJ community.
These fighters can claim that they never used PEDs whereas the reality is different. In some cases, practitioners openly admit that they use PEDs because there is no rule for its prohibition in BJJ tournaments.
4. Link Between BJJ PED Usage & Performance Enhancement
There is a direct link between PED and fighters' performance. That is why these steroids are called performance-enhancing drugs. They boost your metabolism, thus your performance in tournaments enhances many folds.
“On the other hand, PEDs are a big health hazard. Making you vulnerable to many diseases. It can even make the users a victim of depression.”
PEDs can provide various benefits, including increased muscle mass, strength, endurance, and recovery time. These benefits can translate into improved performance in competitions, as fighters who use PEDs may be able to train harder and longer than their clean peers. This gives them an edge in terms of physical fitness and stamina during matches.
They can help practitioners to recover more quickly from injuries, allowing them to return to training and competition sooner than they would be able to otherwise. They are able to maintain their training regimen even when dealing with injuries.
5. Revolution In BJJ - PED Tests
Back in the days, BJJ practitioners used PED before their main championships. Also, it was hard to decipher the use of PEDs which is why many practitioners got away with it. Today with the revolution in technology, the detection of PEDs has become easy.
The introduction of PED testing in BJJ has helped to eliminate this major challenge. Fighters are now subjected to surprise drug tests, which can be conducted at any time, both in and out of competition. This has made it much harder for fighters to use PEDs without getting caught.
The impact of PED testing on BJJ has been significant. It has created a more level playing field, allowing fighters to compete based only on skill and talent. It has also helped to improve the overall safety of the sport, as fighters are no longer putting their health at risk by using dangerous substances.
But perhaps the most important impact of PED testing on BJJ has been on the culture of the sport. BJJ has always been known as a sport that values integrity, respect, and sportsmanship. The introduction of PED testing has helped to reinforce these values by making it clear that cheating will not be tolerated.
6. Role of BJJ Institutes
There are still many BJJ tournaments where PED tests are not conducted, for example, the invite-only tournaments where the prize money is higher. The winning rate in those tournaments is significantly higher than IBJJF or ADCC.
6.1. ADCC Drug Testing
The Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) is one of the most prestigious grappling tournaments in the world. It features some of the best grapplers from around the world, competing for the title of ADCC champion. There is no PED testing procedure for ADCC competitions.
ADCC does not test its competitors for PEDs. They believe that using PEDs makes fighters slow and less flexible.
6.2. IBJJF Drug Testing
According to the IBJJF Anti-Doping Code, the use of any substance or method that is included on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List is strictly prohibited. This includes anabolic agents, hormones and related substances, beta-2 agonists, diuretics, and other substances that can enhance performance.
Fighters who participate in IBJJF competitions are subjected to PED testing. The process of testing can be conducted using urine, blood, or both, and practitioners may be tested at any time, without prior notice.
7. BJJ PED Bust: What Does It Mean for the Sport & Its Future
PED bust in BJJ is a blow to the BJJ integrity. A PED bust goes against these values and can damage the reputation of the sport as a whole.
PED bust can have a significant impact on a fighter's career. They may face a suspension from competition, lose sponsorship deals, and have their reputation damaged. This can be especially devastating for fighters who have worked hard to build their careers and reputations in the sport.
It can create a culture of suspicion and mistrust in the sport. Other fighters may start to wonder if their competitors are also using PEDs, which can create a sense of unfairness and distrust. This can be detrimental to the health and growth of the sport as well as can tarnish the image of fighters. It can serve as a wake-up call for practitioners, reminding them that the use of PEDs is not acceptable and that there are consequences for cheating in any way, shape, or form.
Or we can throw this testing out of competitive premises. It is kind of unjust that there is only a minority of BJJ fighters who face the consequences of using PEDs while a significant majority get away despite the fact that they use PEDs.
As a community, we must devise a rule, where;
“Everybody must be held accountable, not only selected ones at lower levels”.
The rule must be the same for all. We need to normalize the rules hence, not making them specific for some champions only. But it is a long way to go.
8. BJJ PED Testing: Protocols, Procedures, and Limitations
BJJ drug testing typically involves a urine sample, which is collected under observation by a testing official. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Fighters are selected for testing randomly, or they may be targeted based on suspicion of PED use.
Testing officials follow strict protocols to ensure the integrity of the testing process. This includes observing the fighter during the urine sample collection to prevent tampering with the sample. The sample is then sealed and shipped to a laboratory for analysis. The laboratory follows specific procedures to ensure accurate and reliable results.
While drug testing is an essential element for detecting PED use, it does have limitations. The detection window for some PEDs is short, meaning that fighters may be able to use these substances without detection. Additionally, some PEDs may be difficult to detect using standard testing methods. This means that some athletes may be able to cheat the system and gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.
9. Measures Taken to Put an End to BJJ PED Use
9.1. Suspension of BJJ PED Users
Nowadays, the rules for drug tests have become very strict. There are many examples in BJJ where practitioners tested positive for PEDs and were suspended from the championships straight away.
9.2. Education and Awareness Programs
Stricter testing and penalties are important because they send a clear message that PED use is not tolerated in the sport.
“This helps to discourage them from using these substances and helps to level the playing field for those who compete cleanly.”
These programs are designed to inform practitioners and coaches about the risks associated with PEDs and to encourage clean behavior. Education and awareness programs can take different forms, including seminars, workshops, and online resources.
9.3. Strict Testing and Penalties
The implementation of strict testing and penalties is designed to detect PEDs in fighters, while penalties are intended to discourage fighters from using these substances in the first place.
9.4. Promoting Clean Sports & Ethics in BJJ
Enforcing steps that can ban the usage of PED creates a culture in which clean and ethical behavior is valued and rewarded, while the use of PEDs is stigmatized and discouraged. It helps to preserve the integrity of the sport, ensuring that it remains a fair and honest competition.
9.5. Role of Coaches in the Prevention of PED Usage
Coaches and gym owners play a crucial role in preventing PED use in BJJ. They talk about the risks associated with PED. It is important to solve the issue at its root level. In this way, it can be stopped permanently. That is why coaches and gym owners play a crucial role in creating a culture where PED is considered a disrespectful taboo. They can work with testing programs and encourage fighters to compete cleanly.
10. Penalties Faced By BJJ Fighters Due to PED
Following are the penalties faced by fighters upon testing positive for the PED test:
Disqualification: Fighters who test positive for PEDs may be immediately disqualified from the competition in which they are competing. This means that they will be unable to continue in the tournament and won’t be eligible for any prizes or awards they may have earned.
Suspension: In addition to disqualification, fighters also face suspension from future competitions. The length of the suspension can vary depending on the severity of the offense, but it may range from a few months to several years.
Stripped of Titles and Awards: Fighters can also be stripped of any titles, awards, or rankings they may have earned in the competition or organization.
Fines: BJJ PED users may also be required to pay fines as part of their penalty. These fines can vary depending on the specific rules and regulations of the competition or organization.
Legal Consequences: In addition to the penalties imposed by the competition or organization, fighters may also face legal consequences. In some cases, the use of PEDs may be considered a criminal offense, resulting in fines, imprisonment, or other legal penalties.
11. BJJ Practitioners Who Tested Positive For PED Test
Vagner Rocha, a 6th-degree BJJ Black Belt under Pablo Popovitch, and Roberto Cyborg Abreu, a 4th-degree BJJ Black Belt under Francisco Albuquerque, refused to submit samples for the test at the 2022 IBJJF No-Gi World Championship. Both of them faced a 3-year suspension from IBJJF competitions.
12. Carlos Gracie Jr.’s Thoughts on Anti-Doping
The President of IBJJF, Carlos Gracie Jr. has a different perspective on PED usage.
“We initially wanted to increase the level of professionalism in the sport, but we realized that a substantial portion of our clientele uses performance-enhancing drugs. The smart ones are able to cycle off before competition to test clean, so why should the others be punished?”
(Carlos Gracie Jr.)
He gave examples of other institutions that do not indulge in the testing process at all.
“ADCC doesn’t test, Who’s Number One, and other pro organizations don’t test, why should we carry this burden? Who among us hasn’t taken a bit of bomba? Jesus himself said ‘he that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”
13. Recent PED Bust of Elite BJJ Fighters
13.1. Roberto Cyborg
The 4th-degree BJJ Black Belt and founder of Fight Sports Academy were tested for PED substances at the 2022 IBJJF No-Gi World Championship. Cyborg has always been a role model for young BJJ athletes, and his positive influence on the community cannot be overstated. He faced a 3-year suspension from IBJJF competitions.
“In my opinion, if IBJJF wants to take it seriously and wants to make it professional as they say, it’s ok, test everyone, adults and master division. Make it fair to everyone and start paying to make it professional. I feel The greatest I’ve ever been and it’s a shame I won’t be able to continue to perform and break records at IBJJF. But Life goes on!!”
13.2. Jonnatas Gracie
Jonnatas Gracie is a BJJ Black Belt under Andre Galvao. At the 2022 World No-Gi World Championship, urine samples of Jonnatas were collected by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Jonnatas was suspended from practicing in any IBJJF competitions starting from 25 January 2023.
13.3. Igor Feliz
Igor Feliz is a BJJ Black Belt under Thaisio Feliz. His urine samples were taken on 11 December 2022. The IBJJF suspended him from competing in any IBJJF competitions for 3 years starting from 24 January 2023. His 0PED tests were conducted at the 2022 World No-Gi World Championship.
13.4. Henrique Ceconi
Henrique Ceconi is a BJJ Black Belt under Alexandro Ceconi. He was also suspended from competing in any IBJJF competition just like the other 4 fighters. He accepted the suspension that was applicable from 1st February 2023 for 3 years.
13.5. Vagner Rocha
The 6th-degree BJJ Black Belt was also suspended from the IBJJF after testing positive for the PED test. He was also suspended at the 2022 World No-Gi World Championship. His ban was applicable from 11 January 2023.
13.6. On 5 April 2023, Mica Galvao Tested Positive for PEDs
Mica Galvão, a BJJ Black Belt under Melquisedeque Galvão was the youngest World Champion before he tested positive for the PED test at the 2022 IBJJF World Championship, Mica defeated Tye Ruotolo and became the youngest World Champion at the age of 19. PED drug testing was conducted by USADA in June 2022.
As a result of the positive PED test, Mica Galvao is stripped of his “Youngest World Champion” title. He also faced a reduced one-year suspension after proving that these drugs were prescribed by his prescription.
14.1. What is the Role of the BJJ Community in Addressing PED Usage?
The BJJ community has recently become vigilant in terms of PED testing. There are different parameters through which the authenticity of practitioners’ drug intake can be tested by USADA.
14.2. What are the Consequences of a PED Bust in BJJ?
A BJJ PED bust can tarnish a fighter’s image forever. They can be suspended from the championships and also stripped from their previous titles. They can also be fined. But these days fighters don’t take much offense to PED busts.
14.3. Does Paulo Miyao Test Positive for PED?
Paulo Miyao tested positive for the PED test in 2016 at the IBJJF World Championship. He was banned from the BJJ competition for 2 years. He even apologized to his fans, coaches, and opponents on his social media. After his suspension period, he proved that a comeback is always stronger than a setback.
Lately, there’s been a sudden surge in the usage of PED. These are performance-enhancing drugs that strengthen your muscles and make you perform better during BJJ championships. Due to better performance and fast injury recovery, BJJ fighters use PEDs. No doubt, PED usage becomes unjustifiable as it is directly proportional to cheating.
Fighters who use PEDs risk being caught by anti-doping agencies, which can result in disqualification, suspension, or even criminal charges. Several measures are taken to stop this culture and compete in a fair manner. Awareness through seminars and online courses is provided to practitioners.