20 UFC Fighters That Have Been Caught Using Steroids

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: May 10, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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The fact that numerous athletes have been forced to pay hefty fines, face suspension, or worse, a lifelong ban from the league, raised my concerns as an MMA fighter and athletic trainer about the use of performance enhancing drugs.

I investigated the experience of twenty top UFC fighters who tested positive for steroid use to understand why someone would risk their reputation, title, or entire career over an illegal substance.

Looking at the individual cases, I discovered that not everyone who tested positive for steroids violated the law. A few even claimed that they did not intentionally take performance enhancers.

Find out what lies beyond the controversy, and the story behind the fighters.

List Of UFC Fighters Who Tested Positive On PEDS

The 20 UFC fighters listed here faced doping scandals after testing positive for prohibited substances. While not all were steroids, each athlete had traces of one or more banned agents in their system.

1 - Alistair Overeem

Alistair Overeem, the first to clinch world titles in both MMA and K-1 kickboxing, transitioned from middleweight to heavyweight in 2007.

His rapid muscle gain, paired with his retained agility, left many puzzled, yet Overeem attributed some of his physique to his fondness for horse meat.

However, in 2012, along with his spectacular TKO of former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, Alistair Overeem was found to have high levels of testosterone, which resulted in a nine-month suspension from the sport.

2 - Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva is one of the most notable combat sports fighters, whose unique fighting style earned him the Cage Rage and UFC Middleweight titles.

Silva defended his title eight times over four years, steadily rising through the ranks to put himself to the test.

However, after a severe leg injury against Chris Weidman, he faced doping allegations, testing positive for steroids and diuretics. This revelation raised questions about the legitimacy of some of his victories and whether PEDs influenced the outcomes.

3 - Brock Lesnar

Having trained various athletes, I've always emphasized the importance of adaptability, and Brock Lesnar's transition from WWE to MMA was the topic of many discussions among us trainers.

He had great results, but unfortunately, he was forced to retire from MMA twice due to diverticulitis [1].

In his second return, he defeated Mark Hunt; however, his victory was revoked after Lesnar yielded a positive test for Clomiphene, a prohibited substance under the UFC's anti-doping policy. Although it is not a steroid, it is frequently used to boost natural testosterone levels.

Regardless, this case highlighted the stark differences in drug regulations between professional wrestling and MMA.

4 - Cris Cyborg

Cris Cyborg is regarded as the best female mixed martial artist globally, having won four world championships in four separate mixed martial arts promotions, a feat unsurpassed in MMA history.

Unfortunately, at one point, Cyborg failed the rigorous USADA drug test.

The Grand Slam Champion tested positive for an anabolic steroid called Stanozolol after defending his title against Hiroko Yamanaka, which resulted in her victory being declared a no-contest.

Cyborg also received a one-year suspension from the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), a $2,500 fine, and removal from promotion, providing clear evidence that a single failed test ended her illustrious career.

5 - Dan Henderson

Dan "Hendo" Henderson is one of the most fearless fighters in MMA who holds titles in two weight classes simultaneously.

Hendo debuted in professional MMA at the age of 26, when most fighters had already reached the midpoint of their careers.

But he remained in active competition by using Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), a banned substance classified as a steroid by anti-doping agencies like USADA [2]. By claiming to have hypogonadism, he increased testosterone levels in the body and competed at a high level during the latter stages of his career.

 

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6 - Frank Mir

Frank Mir is a former two-time UFC heavyweight champion who holds the record for the longest unbroken streak in UFC history.

Following multiple losses, including one by Mark Hunt, he underwent in-competition test resampling.

It was discovered that his previously taken samples contained a banned substance called Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, also known as "oral turinabol." The former champion was dissatisfied with the doping scandal and demanded that the UFC terminate his contract early, which was eventually granted.

 

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A post shared by Frank Mir (@thefrankmir)

7 - Gleison Tibau

Gleison Tibau Portrait

Gleison Tibau is a veteran who has fought in more than 25 UFC fights. He had a strong career record despite having victories overturned due to failed drug tests.

Like Brock Lesnar, he failed both out-of-competition and in-competition tests. In one of his controversies, he admits to using Erythropoietin (EPO) for the first time outside of competition, but he assumed it wouldn't be a problem.

He added that the UFC has repeatedly demonstrated that rescheduling a fight is preferable to releasing drug test results in time to cancel one, which is why people are beginning to notice that the show's continuation takes precedence over the fighters' safety.

8 - Hector Lombard

Hector Lombard is a former Olympic judoka who competed in the UFC in the middleweight and welterweight weight classes.

After testing positive for Desoxymethyltestosterone (DMT), Lombard was suspended for a year during his unanimous decision victory over Josh Burkman.

He claims he did not intentionally use prohibited substances. It was suggested before his fight, so he chose a product he thought would be acceptable. He also stated that he accepts full responsibility for not gathering more information about this supplement before using it.

 

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A post shared by Hector Lombard (@hectorlombard)

9 - Jon Jones

Jon Jones is considered the most skilled fighter in the world. He set multiple UFC records in the light heavyweight division and became the youngest UFC champion at 23.

Yet, his legacy is somewhat tainted by controversies, especially his failed drug tests, which stand as some of the most high-profile cases in the sport's history.

Jones had his title stripped several times during his MMA career, including when he handed it over to his former opponent, Daniel Cormier, following a hit-and-run incident.

When they were set to fight again to see who deserved the 205-pound title more, Jon Jones tested positive for banned substances and was given a one-year suspension as well as the loss of his titles, making him the first fighter in history to have two UFC titles stripped from him.

 

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10 - Josh Barnett

Josh Barnett, also known as "The Babyfaced Assassin," has competed in almost every major promotion in his nearly two-decade fighting career.

Aside from his achievements, Josh is well-known for his multiple doping-related offenses, for which he has received numerous warnings and suspensions.

In 2001, he won the UFC Heavyweight Championship by defeating Randy Couture, but a post-fight urine test revealed that he had used Boldenone, Nandrolone, and Fluoxymesterone. The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) revoked his UFC championship and suspended him for six months due to this violation.

11 - Wanderlei Silva

Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva is a former UFC warrior banned from competing for life by the Nevada Athletic Commission for neglecting an out-of-competition drug test.

"When you run from a test, that's about the worst thing you can do."

- Francisco Aguilar, Chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC)

The issue began in May 2014, when Silva refused a random drug test before his scheduled fight with Chael Sonnen.

Silva's attorney, Ross Goodman, confirmed that Silva began taking diuretics to rehab his injured wrist and was concerned that the diuretics would raise a red flag during a drug test.

Still, NSAC voted unanimously to bar Silva from ever competing in the state again and imposed a $70,000 fine on the 38-year-old Brazilian.

 

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A post shared by Wanderlei Silva (@wandfc)

12 - Kimo Leopoldo

Kimo Leopoldo was known for his impressive physique and ability to fight in the octagon, even during his early years in the UFC.

But after a string of defeats, Kimo left the UFC. He came back in 2003 and astounded many MMA fans with his incredible strength and ability.

As many predicted, Kimo tested positive for AAS during his fight with Ken Shamrock, and he admitted to using PEDs after being suspended by the NSAC.

Unfortunately, the incident that resulted in his $5,000 fine and the six-month suspension was followed by another positive test for the same substance, so he was never offered prestigious fights again.

13 - Royce Gracie

A UFC Hall of Famer, Royce Gracie, is considered one of the most influential fighters in MMA history. Royce requested to fight Sakuraba in 2000 to avenge his brother Royler's crushing defeat against the Japanese fighter.

But Sakuraba defeated the former three-time UFC tournament winner in only 90 minutes, marking the lowest point in Royce's career.

In May 2007, seven years after their first match, Royce won a rematch by a unanimous decision.

However, CSAC revealed that Gracie yielded a positive test for Nandrolone in both pre- and post-fight drug tests. As a result, Royce was given a one-year suspension and a fine of $2,500, but his victory remained on record.

 

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A post shared by Royce Gracie (@realroyce)

14 - Sean Sherk

Sean Sherk Portrait

Sean Sherk, nicknamed "The Muscle Shark" by his fans, is a former UFC lightweight champion known for packing a lot of muscle into his small frame.

Sherk won the title by defeating Kenny Florian, and to defend his title, he needed to face Hermes Franca, who also tested positive for banned substances.

While Franca tested positive for Drostanolone, the substance she claimed she used to help her knee heal, Sherk tested positive for Nandrolone.

As a result, Sherk was given a 12-month suspension, which he strongly opposed, so he presented more evidence to the commission, including the results of a lab test on his tainted supplements.

In the end, his suspension was reduced from twelve months to six months. But he was stripped of his lightweight title.

15 - Thiago Silva

Thiago Silva is a professional light heavyweight fighter who evaded testing by providing a fictitious urine sample.

The NSAC, however, discovered that Silva's sample was inconsistent with human urine and concluded that the fighter submitted an adulterated or substituted sample for drug testing.

Thiago admitted in a hearing that he was injecting steroids 30 to 45 days out of competition, which cost him $33,750 in fines, a one-year suspension, and a victory overruled. In late 2012, Silva tested positive for marijuana metabolites, costing him another victory and a six-month suspension from the sport.

 

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16 - Tim Sylvia

Tim Sylvia is regarded as one of the most popular fighters to have held the UFC heavyweight title twice and fought sixteen times in two years and nine months, which can be considered a lot.

He won his first title defense against Gan McGee via first-round TKO. However, he yielded a positive test for Stanozolol, a banned anabolic steroid that he admitted to using to improve his physical appearance.

He graciously relinquished his title and voluntarily accepted a six-month suspension and a $10,000 fine along with his admission.

17 - TJ Dillashaw

TJ Dillashaw was considered a bantamweight standout when he knocked out Renan Barao, a fighter who had not lost in nine years and thirty-three straight fights, winning the 135-pound title and Performance of the Night.

He did, however, lose his title in a fight against Dominick Cruz, but he reclaimed it for the second time in a fight against Cody Garbrandt.

TJ was not content with just one title, so he challenged Henry Cejudo for the flyweight title, which he needed to lose another 10 pounds to reach.

He was defeated in half a minute, and to make matters worse, he tested positive for recombinant human erythropoietin, a banned performance-enhancing drug. As a result, his title was stripped, he was suspended for two years, and he was fined $10,000 for failing the post-fight drug test.

 

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A post shared by TJ Dillashaw (@tjdillashaw)

18 - Vitor Belfort

Vitor Belfort is a true combat sports legend known for his explosive knockout power and quick hands.

However, because he didn't weigh as much as other fighters, he fought as low as a middleweight, then expanded his career into many divisions, winning championships in UFC Light Heavyweight, Heavyweight Tournament, and Cage Rage Light Heavyweight.

As his career progressed, Vitor faced numerous trials, beginning with his first steroid controversy, in which he yielded a positive test for illicit anabolic steroids after defeating Dan Henderson.

Vitor clarified that his doctor administered injections to aid in his rehabilitation. Nevertheless, he was given a nine-month suspension and a $10,000 fine.

19 - Ken Shamrock

Ken Shamrock, dubbed "The World's Most Dangerous Man," is a UFC Hall of Famer and one of the all-time great MMA fighters.

Even when he was starting, Ken had a bodybuilder's physique, explaining why he was never caught cheating. However, his adoptive brother, Frank Shamrock, accused him of using banned substances at the time.

In one of his fights, Ken and Kimbo Slice proved to be using prohibited substances after positive tests were found for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing compound.

Shamrock received a one-year suspension and a $5,000 fine, prompting the 52-year-old fighter to retire from the sport after immersing himself in it for so many years.

 

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A post shared by Ken Shamrock (@kenshamrockofficial)

20 - Yoel Romero

With my experience in training, I've always stressed the importance of clean supplementation to my clients. And Yoel Romero's case served as a real-life example.

That's why it didn't surprise me that, after providing evidence that his supplements were tainted with dangerous substances, Romero quickly cleared his name of any lawbreaking.

The discovery prompted the 'Soldier of God' to sue Gold Star Performance Products, and Romero was awarded a staggering $27.45 million in compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, and reputational damage.

 

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A post shared by Yoel Romero (@yoelromeromma)

 


References:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diverticulitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20371758
  2. https://www.usada.org/spirit-of-sport/education/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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