Steroids in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

I have tried to mull over my thoughts and feelings about the hotly debated topic of steroid use lately, and I have been waiting and waiting to write hoping the right time would show.  But as of late I am not sure if there ever is a right time.  Steroids have crept into pretty much every aspect of athletic life, without regard for age, sport, social status etc.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is no exception, and high level competitors are starting to speak out.  Caio Terra’s comments at the Pan Am’s:

Coupled with Rodrigo Comprido Medeiros letter via

“I am proud to say that I conquered the most important title in BJJ, the Absolute in the Mundial twice and to own the record of fastest submission in a Black Belt final. I conquered all those titles without steroids. In the 2000 Mundial , minutes before I was to fight one of the most difficult matches of my life, I had to assist in removing an athlete from the competition area. Unfortunately that athlete died inside the stadium due to an overdose of steroids.
I am reaching out because there seems to be a pact of silence between the Federation, the competitors and especially the press, who ultimately has the obligation to denounce these irregularities. “It is well known the use of steroids by athletes of various teams. And in may cases by Champions of our sport, I am not going to name names because I’ve not personally witnessed anyone taking them, however it is pretty noticeable the extremely rapid gain of muscle mass and abnormal reduction of fat percentage by some athletes.”

imageAn athlete using steroids gains more than just physical benefits, they also have technical gains, because they can train 4 times a day and still feel well, while an athlete that is clean trains twice a day and needs to rest to recover naturally. The majority of athletes also have other duties such as being instructors and as such we have to preserve the values like: “Loyalty, honesty and the spirit of sports fairness”.We know that is no sport steroids are tolerated and in many Countries it is even a crime to use them except for strict health issues. Of course this is not the first generation to use this type of drug, but it is time we face this issue with seriousness it deserves and we need to set the example for others to come.I want to make it very clear that in my opinion ANYONE THAT USES ANABOLIC STEROIDS TO BETTER THEIR PERFORMANCE IS CHEATING AND DO NOT GIAN ANY GLORY WITH THEIR CONQUESTS.”Thanks for your timeSincerely,Rodrigo Comprido MedeirosSince my first foray into the competitive world of BJJ I too have noticed and commented on what seems (as Rodrigo states above, I have never witnessed anyone take roids) to be an amazing amount of bulk and muscle gain, in a very short amount of time with many of the top competitors.  The argument of whether they are being used is moot now days.  They are here, they will stay, we all need to learn to live with those facts.  The IBJJF will never be in a position to afford to pay for random drug screens at IBJJF events.  This is just not practical on any front.
So what this all boils down to is personal opinion regarding taking something (a drug in this case) to gain an edge, and whether or not that is “cheating.”  Now to “cheat” is really a matter of perspective and justification.  For instance if a polar bear is fucking your shit up one Christmas Eve, I am willing to bet you will not mull over the moral ramifications of whether or not using a rifle to shoot him dead is “cheating,” even though the bear does not have access, nor the physical / mental capacity to operate a firearm!  This is not considered “cheating” because we justify using the weapon because a bear is “wild” and the size of a city bus!Humans are analytical beings that have risen to the top of the food chain over hundreds of thousands of years, and in general we have have clawed our way to the top by any means necessary.  Their is no “rule” book to evolution.  So is it really a bad thing to want to get stronger?  To recover faster?  Again a matter of perspective…As I creep up to 35 short years on this earth I am starting to realize I am no longer “young” and am starting to feel it.  Though I am in the best shape of my life I have noticed I am taking longer and longer to recover both from dings and dents, as well as in general after a strong workout (of which I have at least 6-7 a week).  Now if you were to tell me that I could take something that would make my recovery time cut in half would I do it?  Number of factors are calculated, but overall… hell’s yes I would!  imageI am working hard at competing all year in some major events so the faster I can recover the quicker I can get back on the mat and train more.   So is that bad, or wrong, or cheating?  I don’t know.  To me no.  But that is a skewed perspective!
One thing everyone needs to get over is the massive amount of misinformation out there on steroids and health.  Lets get one thing straight; steroids (in general) are safe to use in prescribed quantities from trained professionals (that would be an MD, not a MMA coach!).  Thousands of doctors worldwide are prescribing some sort of steroid as you read this!   If your child has ever had a rash and went to the doctor and got a “booster” shot… they have had steroids injected into them!
Unfortunately the mass-dis-media clings onto certain ideas and perpetuates opinion not fact.  For a great expose on roids that is produced from a purely objective point of view I highly encourage you to watch “Bigger Stronger Faster.”    I am not sure this was the ideal post, nor am I sure it ever will be.  In the end we all make personal choices as to how important certain goals are.  And in the end the only person we need to answer to is ourselves.  The competitive martial arts are meant to pit two warriors against each other in a battle that as closely replicates war as we can safely do in civilized society, and the most skilled man is supposed to win.  When skill levels are equal the bigger, stronger will almost always win.  This is the rule of nature and whether you think about it or not your DNA knows this and will take any and every opportunity to “cheat” that it can to gain the advantage!  As much as I would like to think of grappling competitions as being “pure” and “fair” the simple fact of the matter is if it involves humans, those two words are most likely not going to be appropriate in any context.  And who am I to say they should or shouldn’t be!?  I know when I won the world No Gi in 09 I did so purely on skill and perhaps a smidgen of luck.  Nothing else.  And that feeling is like no other in the world.  I cannot say for sure but I do not think I would feel the same if I was juicing.  But then again, my crazy frantic mind would find a way to justify it and make my self feel better about my choices, much like killing the bear.

As with all choices we have consequences.  Many focus on the physical ramifications of illicit steroid use (hormone deficiencies, testicular shrinkage, brain damage causing rage issues, moobs etc.), but mentally what are the consequences?  Could you really call yourself a world champion in MMA, BJJ, Sambo, Judo, Karate, hell… anything, when you are juicing?  Did you really pit your TRUE self against the best in the world who brought their pure, true selves to the fight!?

I know with me there would always be a little bird in the back of my mind reminding me of just how I won, and I would question it for the rest of my life.

I hope you choose wisely.Jake