Diego Sanchez believes ’80-percent’ of fighters were cheating prior to USADA drug testing

Diego Sanchez discusses the changes in the sport since USADA arrived

Diego Sanchez isn’t pointing the finger at anybody in particular but the veteran UFC fighter knows that cheating ran rampant in mixed martial arts before extensive drug testing was introduced.

Sanchez, who returns to welterweight to fight Matt Brown this Saturday night, says there’s no question that fighters would routinely cheat to get ahead by using all sorts of performance enhancing drugs.

The size and power of opponents is part of the reason Sanchez eventually ventured down to the lightweight division after finding a lot of success in the first part of his career while competing at 170 pounds.

“The whole reason why I dropped down to 155 [pounds] was because I had my first loss to Josh Koscheck and Josh is a pretty big dude. Then the next loss was to Jon Fitch and he was an even bigger dude. He towered over me. This was pre-USADA days,” Sanchez said in an exclusive interview. “I’m not going to bare false witness for any of these guys who were on juice or stuff like that. If they were, that’s their own thing, I don’t know.

“I know I would say that 80-percent of all the guys were on juice.”

Sanchez also points to testosterone replacement therapy, which was previously allowed in the UFC until it was banned in 2014, and human growth hormone as two major problems that permeated the sport prior to the UFC introducing an extensive anti-doping program headed up by USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency).

“In these days pre-USADA, these guys they were allowed to be on TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) exemptions and not only that, they were allowed to use IV bags. On top of that, they didn’t even have a test for human growth hormone so if you could get you fingers on it and you didn’t have the moral integrity to not do it, you were on it,” Sanchez added.

“So let me tell you, 80-percent. I’m talking even from knowing teammates that were on it. 80-percent pre-USADA were on human growth hormone and TRT and everybody used IV bags. I used IV bags.”

The introduction of USADA has not only resulted in numerous fighters facing lengthy suspensions after testing positive for banned substances but the threat of getting caught is so great now that many athletes have been scared away from even attempting to use illegal substances.

Sanchez has faced his ups and downs during a UFC career that started all the way back with the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter”. He had some dramatic wins and some crushing losses, but the one thing Sanchez can hold his head high about is that he already did it the right now.

Sanchez knows he never cheated and when his career is finally finished, he’ll be satisfied with the body of work he put together because it was built on blood, sweat and tears.

“I’ve been a naturalist my entire career. From the moment I was on “The Ultimate Fighter”. I was absorbing energy from the lightning storm. Nature and God is my strength,” Sanchez said. “I would never do juice. Especially human growth hormone because if you have a cancer cell or something and you take human growth hormone, you’re going to activate that cancer cell to grow, too. I was always like no, I’m not even going to play with that.

“I was a naturalist and my strength comes from God and moral integrity.”

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.