Doping in BJJ: Steroid Abuse Cases in Grappling

Doping in BJJ: Steroid Abuse Cases in Grappling

Performance-enhancing drugs have been a hotly debated subject in the world of professional sports. Many top BJJ athletes have been accused of using steroids and PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs), but how true are these allegations? Should Jiu-Jitsu test athletes at all? This article will provide all the information you need to understand how steroids and PEDs relate to BJJ.

1. What’s Doping in BJJ Means

Doping is the measures to boost physical or mental performance that are outside the scope of regular exercise. More particularly, its medical procedures whose application is forbidden in BJJ by the law of all regulatory authorities. Doping enables athletes to reach results that are far superior to those obtained through natural training alone. Of course, using steroids has a cost because it can be unhealthy for your health, cause disabilities, and in severe circumstances, or in case of overdose can even result in death.

2. Types of Doping In BJJ

2.1 Gene Doping

BJJ practitioners use gene doping to improve performance during fights. In this type of doping specific genes are introduced into the athletes ' bodies that trigger the growth hormones.

It is used to boost muscle growth, blood production, endurance, oxygen dispersal, and decrease pain perception.

2.2 Steroids Doping

The main aim of steroid doping is to stimulate specific chemical processes in your body by introducing biologically active compounds. The most common anabolic steroids used in BJJ are tetrahydrogestrinone hormone and testosterone.

BJJ athletes used steroids to boost their performance. Now you are thinking about how these chemicals can boost someone's performance on mats. Keep reading, we are describing the chemistry behind steroids.

Steroids enter the body and increase the production of hormones that are responsible for muscle growth and increase body mass. These drugs may also lessen the muscular damage caused by a strenuous workout, allowing athletes to recover more rapidly and train more frequently and intensely.

2.3 Blood Doping

Blood doping can be performed in two ways, either Homologous (own blood) or Autologous (blood of selected donor) blood doping. Its main purpose is to boost red blood cell mass, which will therefore allow more oxygen to reach the muscles and increase the aerobic capacity and endurance of BJJ athletes. This will also improve the recovery process of BJJ fighters.

Blood doping can be performed by introducing EPO and other biochemicals to infuse the additional volume of red blood cells into the athlete's body.

How it Can Be Done

One to four units of a person's blood are taken out of the body. After that, the red blood cells are isolated and kept in a cold environment after centrifugation. Then, the blood is infused into the athlete’s body before going to the mat.

2.4 Insulin Doping

Insulin doping has a detrimental effect on cognitive function, and brain, liver, and kidney health. Insulin promotes glucose absorption into the muscle and assists in the production and storage of muscle glycogen. These stored glycogen provide extra energy to BJJ practitioners on the mat.

2.5 Narcotics

These drugs have an effect on the central nervous system, which reduces pain. The usage of narcotics gives BJJ fighters a sense of false well-being, making them unaware of potentially critical organ damage or injury. However, this practice puts the life of BJJ fighters at higher risk.

3. List of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Drugs in BJJ

The most commonly used Steroids, PED responsible for strengthening the muscles and enhancing overall performance in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Are:

  • Erythropoietin (EPO)
  • Testosterone
  • Human Chorionic Gonadotropin
  • HGH (Human Growth Hormones)
  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Amphetamines and other Stimulants
  • Steroid Precursors
  • Adrenocorticotrophin
  • Corticosteroids
  • Tetrahydrogestrinone

4. Negative Impact of Doping

What possible negative effects could there be from abusing anabolic steroids? Doping comes with a lot of dangers. From severe effects on physical and mental well-being to loss of endorsement or prize money to lifelong harm to an athlete's reputation and Kudos. It is essential to consider and analyze all impacts of doping before taking any step. Here we list some of the negative consequences of doping on one’s mental and physical health.

5. Effect of Doping on Physical Health

All performance-enhancing drugs have short and long-term effects on athletes' physical health. Most physical and mental damage is irreversible. Common health issues related to physical health are;

  • Liver Damage
  • Acne
  • Severe Headaches
  • Loss of Vision
  • Heart Attack
  • Strokes
  • Anemia
  • Thyroid Problem
  • Diabetes
  • Tumors
  • Muscles Cramps
  • Dehydration
  • Cardiac Arrhythmia
  • Weight Loss
  • Insomnia
  • Blood Clotting
  • Respiratory Disorders
  • Sleeping Disorders

6. Potential Mental Risks of Doping

In addition to physical damage, doping can drastically affect your mental health. Common mental illnesses associated with doping are;

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Aggressiveness
  • Stress
  • Obsessive Disorders
  • Mood instability
  • Impaired Thinking
  • Impaired short-term Memory
  • Reduce ability to Concentrate

7. Why Are Steroids Banned In BJJ?

The use of performance-enhancing drugs or other forms of doping is morally repugnant and has a negative effect on sports as a whole. Drug abuse can be hazardous to an athlete's health as well as other competitors participating in the sport. Whether or not using drugs is done to enhance performance, significantly undermines the integrity, image, and worth of sport. That's why IBJJF and other regulatory authorities took a wise step to ban all stimulants and steroids in BJJ and took exemplary steps against those who were caught in the act.

8. Aims of Anti-Doping Policy By IBJJF 2013

IBJJF decided to set rules against doping in 2013. USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) is a governmental body responsible for controlling doping at IBJJF tournaments. USADA, collect samples of athletes and analyze them. IBJJF allot complete rights of action against the prohibited act of athletes. USADA manages the adjudication procedure for every positive test by following the rules that ensure the complete judicial process for the athlete. In most situations, athletes who test positive will be temporarily forbidden from participating in IBJJF events.

The main purposes of the IBJJF Anti-Doping Policy are;

  • Maintain the Physical and Mental Health of BJJ Practitioners
  • Provide Equal Opportunity to all Fighters
  • Maintain and Protect Sports Ethics
  • Encouraging Affiliate Organisations to Implement Similar Regulations for Their Athletes
  • Making Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a Drug-Free Sport.

9. Can BJJ Athletes Use CBD?

CBD (cannabidiol), is a naturally occurring substance, commonly used to treat inflammation and reduce pain. Reducing pain is an excellent aspect for BJJ players because of expected injuries during practice. The pain can distract and reduce the capacity to focus at work.

Thanks to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for removing CBD from the prohibited substances in 2018. Now all BJJ practitioners can use CBD to get rid of inflammation.

10. History Of Steroids In BJJ

Doping cases in BJJ history are not rare. Many big names undergo penalties because of positive doping tests. However, everyone is not on the same page in this regard, Like Jena Bishop who proved her sincerity and love for BJJ with a negative doping test. She breaks the taboo that every BJJ achievement is fueled by steroids.

10.1 Jena Bishop Breaking The Steroid Taboo in Jiu-Jitsu

Jena Bishop is a well-known figure on the worldwide submission-grappling circuit. She decided to break the taboo that doping fuels the success of all high-level fighters. Jena underwent an anti-doping test and came out clean before going on the mat.

“I could care less if someone uses[s]/abuses steroids,” Bishop wrote on Instagram, “but I think there is a lot of false information and poor understanding of what that really looks like.”
(Jena Bishop)


Bishop believes her anti-doping testing results demonstrate that drugs are not required to succeed as a world champion. And, while everyone else is on steroids, Bishop isn't. She strongly condemned any type of assertion that doping requires to become a world champion.

Bishop obviously spent a significant amount of money and made a considerable effort to let the world know that she is a steroid-free BJJ Champion.

10.2 Kaynan Duarte Fails USADA Test and Loses His Title

2019 IBJJF World Championship winner Kayanan Durate failed the PED test in 2020. USADA banned him for 1 year by taking strict action against his violation.

10.3 Paulo Miyao Positive Doping Test

Paulo Miyao tested positive for clomiphene on June 5, 2016, at the International IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Long Beach, California. Despite the fact that the IBJJF is not a member of the World Anti-Doping Code, the IBJJF contracted USADA to perform testing for the tournament, and Miyao's sample was collected in compliance with the WADA International Organization for standardization for Testing and Investigations.

IBJJF imposed sanctions on Paulo Miyo and USADA disqualified him for two years. He agreed to not participate in any event or contest organized by IBJJF or any other signatory to the Code. Furthermore, Miyao has been banned from all competitive results obtained in events sanctioned by the IBJJF including the forfeiture of all medals, points, and awards.

Paulo Miyao Apologize to his fans by taking full responsibility for his actions in an emotional Instagram post;

“I would like to apologize to all who accompany me and support me, as many know I ended up failing the USADA anti-doping test made during the 2016 World Championship, I take full responsibility, without excuses. I am sorry to my training partners and my teachers and secondly, for my opponents with whom I fought in this world. My punishment will be two years. My heartfelt apologies to everyone. “Living in the past paralyzes the present and ruins the future” -
(Paulo Miyao)

11. FAQs

11.1 What is the Best Way to Eliminate Doping in Sports?

Doping can be eliminated properly in sports by conducting doping tests with strict sanctions before going to the mat. The doping test should be done randomly to make a clear decision at the end.

11.2 What are the Side Effects of Prolonged Steroids Usage?

Steroids have a strong detrimental effect on the quality of life and mental health. Prolonged usage leads to the deterioration of the brain, liver, heart, and kidney functioning.

11.3 Are Steroids Allowed in BJJ?

Steroids and any type of performance-enhancing drugs are strongly prohibited in BJJ. When a fighter decides to take steroids, testosterone, peptides, or anything else prohibited by USADA they undergo strict sanction by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

11.4 Is BJJ Tested?

Yes, BJJ athletes undergo random testing against prohibited drugs by USADA. They mainly conduct tests for performance-enhancing drugs like testosterone, blood doping, and steroids.

12. Conclusion

BJJ Athletes are tempted to use anabolic steroids and stimulants to increase their physiological and physical ability during matches. These drugs help them to perform and compete at the highest level by lowering fatigue and recovery time. USADA has the right by IBJJF to impose sanctions on athletes that use prohibited drugs.

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