Inside IBJJF with Marcelo Siriema: a short excerpt on anti-doping

Fabio: A few years ago, I can’t remember exactly when, I think about 5 or 6 years ago the IBJJF entered into contract with USADA (US anti-doping agency). It was something everyone was asking for, at least those that defended the idea of a clean sport, and clean competition. Every year the same issue came up, regarding the guy in second place who wins a title by default (but isn’t tested) because the winner was caught by doping.

How will this relationship work with the IBJJF and USADA and where will it go? What can we expect in the next few years regarding this issue of doping?

Marcelo: Doping is a lot more complicated than we can ever imagine. It’s my intention to understand it better and to know what we can do about it.

A long time ago I started to look for information about this, and to talk to people who were better informed. For us to be linked to USADA was luck, it was the best thing that could have happened. The other solution involving private laboratories would have been really bad. Today, I’ve learned that if we had gone with that first solution (private laboratories) there would have been many problems. Those labs exist here in the USA that can do the testing, but the IBJJF would need to analyse and judge the results, and but we’re not ready for that. We were moving towards that route and it was just luck that we didn’t. We’d been trying to get hold of USADA for a long time and at the last possible moment they picked up the phone. If we had gone down the previous route we probably wouldn’t have continued, there would have been many problems — we’re not sufficiently equipped to make those kinds of decisions.

Doping is a really complex problem. Somebody told me this… that doping is like ‘pulling on an elephant’s tail,’— you’re trying to tackle a really big problem.

Fabio: I imagine one of the problems as well is you end up potentially with a legal problem because there’s always the contestation of the guy who gets caught, and the pursuing legal fight

Marcelo: Here in the USA… I don’t know if there would be that much worldwide, but here in the USA I don’t understand it completely because a private company could provide the same service for Alliance. If you wanted, you could do anti-doping within Alliance. You could kick out whoever you wanted. Here, there is a foundation that already exists. Schools, for example can contract a company, but the problem is we don’t know how to do the judgement of those results. Taking a result and analysing it correctly is something completely different.

With USADA that process is done by a scientist within a university laboratory and handed to a lawyer. I think without that we were potentially getting entangled in a big problem, so it was good we ended up getting lucky with USADA. We had tried to go to WADA, and they said, we’re not an Olympic sport so we’re not under that umbrella of organisations. I think USADA was already in communication with the UFC and they opened up for us. We were the only non-Olympic sport that they worked with at that time. USADA takes care of everything, absolutely everything to do with anti-doping. I sign a contract with them, and I have to follow absolutely everything they tell me to do — that is in our contract.

Fabio: If they want to test an athlete outside of the world championships, can they?

Marcelo: Yes they can. What happened is we’re now with the team that works with the UFC. It changed hands when we entered. At that moment of coming aboard, they were in the middle of the Tour de France scandal. I don’t know what level of involvement they had — they’re Americans, but they were on top of Lance Armstrong so we entered at a really busy time and everyone was focused on that one thing. We signed that first contract we had, and we did a post on FaceBook explaining everything. We received a call and they said, “did you post that?” We said, “yes.” They asked, “did you read the contract?” The problem was, if you’ve signed the contract you can’t say anything.

Fabio: So how does that work if you can’t clarify anything? I know you’ve had a number of meetings for the athletes etc. but if you can’t clarify new actions that you’re implementing, don’t you think the athletes would feel a little “unprotected” in the sense of not knowing the rules of the game?

Marcelo: During the Pan-American we put on a seminar that was open for the athletes. When we did the seminar for the first time, there was hardly anyone there. I turned to people and said there was going to be a seminar with USADA, and they turned to me and said, “why are you telling me that!?”

So, I had to explain that if for example, they wanted to take a headache medicine they needed to understand the rules. It’s much broader than people think, it’s not just about steroids, that’s not how it works.

Fabio: It’s also about the number of athletes that they will test right?

Marcelo: That’s in the contract so I can’t talk about that. The only thing I can say is that we’ve found a team that’s been around for more time, we’ve changed from team to team and this relationship will only grow. They have an idea about working with Jiu Jitsu but the world No-Gi is also strong, so there will be more work to do.

The idea is one day if you’re ranked, you’ll need to tell them where you’re going because someone from USADA may come and knock on your door to be tested. That would be within the regulations.

Fabio: It’s a big move forward

Marcelo: I’m not wanting to implement that right now because I think there has to be a period of adaptation and to understand the process. Right at the beginning when people were saying, there needs to be anti-doping I knew it would be difficult.The athlete needs to have a doctor he trusts, he has to have a laboratory that tests what he takes, and we don’t have that.

Fabio: And it costs the athlete, right?

It’s not like the UFC where he’ll fight and earn millions of dollars afterwards. It’s very costly for the amateur athlete.



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