Remember back in late July when UFC featherweight champion José Aldo told reporters in Brazil that he wouldn't be complying with the UFC's policy banning IV rehydration after weigh-ins, the one that had just been announced by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency? Remember the way he taunted the USADA, saying they'd have to put a security guard on him 24 hours a day if they wanted to stop him, that they were "ninjas," and "stupid" ninjas at that? "I will do it anyway or someone else will do it for me," Aldo said at the time. "I will go to a friend's house, to a different hotel room. I don't fucking care about them."
One month later Aldo was singing a different tune. After a visit from the UFC's Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance, Jeff Novitzky, Aldo claimed that the media had gotten it all wrong, that he was never actually going to defy the ban, that it was all a misunderstanding, a problem in the translation, that he was joking all along, that we should have known by the smile on his face. "Sometimes I say something to the journalists of Brazil, and the moment the guys translate that, my interview is almost totally wrong," Aldo said. "Everyone knows if you have the rules you need to follow the rules and do exactly what you need to do."
Of course, blaming a controversy on media misunderstanding is a common politician's trick, a ploy as old as the media itself, a bit of PR magic, so it's impossible to believe Aldo's explanation. But if a problem with the translation wasn't the issue, what was? What spooked José Aldo?
Was it Novitsky's threat a few days earlier that violators of the IV ban could face a two-year suspension? Probably not: Aldo always knew there would be consequences for defying the ban. Was it the realization that the UFC's muscular new enforcer, the USADA, was responsible for cleaning up the American Olympic team and busting Lance Armstrong? Somehow I can't imagine the world's best pound-for-pound cage-fighter getting rattled by what you do to a bicyclist or a couple of synchronized swimmers. So maybe it was something more sinister, something more cinematic, that got to Aldo? Did Jeff Novitzky get the featherweight champion alone, sit him down, and quietly remind him just how powerful and terrifying the USADA can be when it wants to be, Godfather-style? Did he, perhaps, give Aldo a hint of what was to come this week?
On Tuesday the Drug Enforcement Agency announced that based on "actionable intelligence" from the USADA and its international partner, the World Anti-Doping Agency, a DEA-led operation had completed a major "global takedown" of anabolic steroid and performance-enhancing drug rings stretching from the U.S. all the way to China. According to a DEA press release, the bust, named "Operation Cyber Juice," was made up of more than 30 different U.S. investigations in 20 states, and resulted in the arrest of more than 90 people and the seizure of 16 underground steroid labs, approximately 134,000 steroid dosage units, 636 kilograms of raw steroid powder, 8,200 liters of raw steroid injectable liquid, and over $2 million in U.S. currency and assets. The DEA and its partners, including the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, also assisted in foreign steroid investigations in four countries coordinated by Europol.
In Arizona alone, the investigation led to the seizure of four underground steroid-conversion labs, nearly 150,000 dosage units of finished product, 121 pounds of raw steroid powder, 22 liters of raw steroid injectable liquid, and more than $300,000 in U.S. currency and assets. Authorities say they also seized conversion kits and lab equipment commonly obtained online from "Chinese chemical manufacturing companies and underground labs."
In other words, the USADA is at fucking war with performance-enhancing drugs. They team up with Europol and the DEA and go after Chinese chemical manufacturers. They take part in sprawling investigations with exotic code names. They produce "actionable intelligence," and based on that intelligence international drug-smuggling operations are smashed and their masterminds sent to federal prison. What would they care about banning a cage-fighter from competing for two years? They wouldn't even blink an eye. The UFC and MMA and IV bans and world featherweight champions are tiny potatoes to them.
So who knows that Jeff Novitzky didn't just calmly point out that fact to José Aldo over coffee in a room somewhere in Brazil? That he didn't remind him that there's a new sheriff in town, a sheriff capable of great and terrible things and deaf to pleas of mercy or misunderstanding? That he didn't just give his champion a little friendly advice, something like ...
It would probably be best not to upset the USADA, José.
It would be shame if you were to mess with the USADA, José.
Do. Not. Fuck. With. The. USADA. José.