Now comes the news that Anderson Silva, widely regarded as the greatest MMA fighter ever, tested positive for two different anabolic steroids in pre fight testing prior to his most recent fight. According to news articles, his win will likely be converted into a “no decision.” Whether the positive results means that this was the first time that he used PEDs or was just the first time he was caught isn’t really relevant. His legacy is likely tarnished forever as a result of his decision.

Intellectually, I can understand his decision to resort to PEDs, at the very least, for his comeback fight against Nick Diaz. He will be pushing 40 soon and is in a sport where 39 or 40 year old have a tough time. The body is worn down from years of training and fights. He’s facing competitors who are likely resorting to PEDs in order to gain an edge. Money can be a great motivator as well. There are millions at stake. The temptation to use PEDs in this sport is difficult to resist.

Are shortcuts really worth it? Look at the list of now disgraced athletes such as Lance Armstrong, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Marion Jones, and dozens of others. Their reputations are utterly ruined and their titles vacated. Is it really worth it? Let’s step away from the sports world and look at the issue of shortcuts and look at this through the prism of every day personal or professional life. Are the short cuts really worth throwing dirt on your own name and reputation? 

Taking short cuts entails a risk of being caught and forever ruining your name. Being in a position where taking a shortcut is tempting can result from three things:

(1) Taking shortcuts as a matter of habit;

(2) A series of poor decisions putting you in a position where taking a shortcut seems tempting; or

(3) The person becomes too attached to an identity.

Let’s get (1) out of the way. There are folks who have no integrity and will do anything to get their way. Greed would fall under this category.

With respect to a series of decisions that can make shortcuts tempting, let’s go back to Anderson Silva as an example. Let’s assume that through his UFC bouts and endorsements, Silva earned millions. It may be that, like many professional athletes, he blew through all his earnings over the years. Facing Father Time, a depleted bank account, and having a family to look after, he may have decided that he needed to prolong his career in order to secure more paydays. In a sport that favors the younger fighters and coming off a serious injury, he may have decided to turn to steroids in order to prolong his career. Would his decision have been the same if he had millions saved? Maybe, maybe not. If this is the scenario under which he decided to use PEDs, then it would appear that a series of poor decisions can put one in this position.

Or it could  be (3) where he may have become attached to the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) label. That alone can be a burden, particularly since Silva will be turning 40 soon. He may have felt pressure to look like the G.O.A.T. of the old at age 39 and leave the ring on his own terms. Being labeled as a G.O.A.T and being regarded as “a god” can surely warp one’s perspective and enhance the pressure to live up to that label. In that scenario, it can become tempting to turn to PEDs in order to sustain a certain level of performance and look like the Anderson Silva that everyone expects to see in the ring.

Do you, as a human being or as a martial artist, put yourself in positions where taking shortcuts seem tempting? Does it result from attachment to a part of yourself, an identity, or to living up the expectations of others? Or does it spring from a series of poor decisions over a period of time? Or does it stem from the fact that “doing the right thing” can seem exhausting at times?


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2 thoughts on “Anderson Silva and Shortcuts

  • February 5, 2015 at 10:51 am

    I suspect that the use of PEDs in professional AND amateur sport is more widespread than anyone is willing to admit or realize. The only way to get the title/money is to outperform everyone else, and if everyone else is using then….. These guys wouldn’t have the reputation if they hadn’t won and hadn’t used. So it’s a serious catch-22. It’s human nature to want to win and “nobility” be damned. If there are ways to enhance performance then they will be used no matter what. I don’t think you can call it a failing of any one individual’s personal morality; it’s much more systemic than that.

  • February 16, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Not so sure if in these cases PEDs are really so much a “short cut” as they are the ‘only cut’. I suspect often PEDs are the only way to be as great as some of these guys are because such achievements just can’t be done naturally. So in fact the question of whether PEDs are worthwhile risking one’s reputation for, is mute, because many/most/all would never have achieved the reputation in the first place without the PEDs. Now whether using PEDs to obtain such fame/status/money in the first place is ‘worthwhile’, that is a completely different question.


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