Why has T.J. Dillashaw's doping case instantly incurred our anger, but others haven't?

At Friday’s UFC news conference, there was audible dismay and disappointment from the fans in attendance when they heard UFC President Dana White say that Brock Lesnar might not be returning any time soon to fight for the heavyweight title. You know, now that his doping suspension is over.

And UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, whose drug tests continue to pulse with picograms of turinabol? We were very sorry that he was too sick to make it to the stage Friday, but we’re still very much looking forward to his next title defense in July.

Meanwhile, in New York this week, Bellator had a press conference of its own to hype a bout between Lyoto Machida and Chael Sonnen, a man who was run out of the UFC after multiple doping infractions. This required Sonnen to take a brief break from his other job as a talking head on ESPN, where his expertise as a former EPO user came in handy this week.

That’s because, you see, that villain T.J. Dillashaw was on the very same stuff. After vacating his bantamweight belt following news of an “adverse finding” on a drug test, we learned this week that what triggered it was his use of recombinant human erythropoietin. Dillashaw has since owned up to it and accepted a two-year suspension, but still the MMA world is very, very angry at him.

Longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan called Dillashaw a cheater, insisting that his entire legacy as a UFC champ is tainted now. On the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast, Matt Serra blasted Dillashaw’s EPO use as “downright disgusting.” Everywhere you turn this week, fighters and fans and commentators alike are experiencing a rare moment of unity – we can all agree that Dillashaw is bad and wrong.

And sure, I’ll go along with that. By his own admission, he used a banned substance in order to get an edge over his opponents. He did something that he knew was against the rules, and in so doing he gained an unfair advantage in a cage fight with serious consequences.

But then, didn’t Sonnen do the same thing? He was known to have used and tested positive for a range of banned substances during his time in the UFC, everything from synthetic testosterone to clomiphene to EPO and human growth hormone. He was suspended, released from the UFC, and even fired from his broadcasting role on FOX Sports after appearing on the network in an initial attempt to frame his drug use as harmless fertility treatments.

And now? Now he’s a beloved figure in MMA, a Bellator fighter who is somehow also the face of ESPN’s UFC coverage. If people were ever as mad at him as they are at Dillashaw, and I doubt they were, they sure seem to have gotten over it now. Clean fighters should be so lucky as to have a post-UFC career as profitable as Sonnen’s.

It’s not just him, either. The fan base seems to be salivating for a Lesnar return, and one that would see him vault directly into a heavyweight title fight after having his last win overturned for a doping violation. And even after Anderson Silva’s “Thai sex juice” defense following his own drug test failure, fans moved past it quickly.

So why is Dillashaw so immediately hated while plenty of others have been treated like lovable rogues who blundered into a relatively common mistake?

Part of it is probably personality. Dillashaw wasn’t exactly beloved before this. He had that public breakup with Team Alpha Male, then gleefully announced his intention to kill the flyweight division. He didn’t have a ton of goodwill built up when he needed it, and maybe now he’s feeling it.

There’s also the issue of how this substance meshes with Dillashaw’s style and achievements. He’s a high-paced fighter who used constant pressure to break opponents and claim a UFC title. We were wondering if he might be one of the best bantamweights to ever do it. Then we found out there might have been a reason he was able to do all that, and it went beyond simple hard work in the gym.

Maybe most importantly? This is the rare MMA doping case in which there is a complete lack of doubt.

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You don’t get a little EPO mixed in with your creatine by accident. You inject it, on purpose, and you know exactly what you’re doing. Plus, he’s since admitted to it. Case closed. Dillashaw really did this, and we can be sure of that, which means we can unload the full force of our anger and frustration at him in a way we couldn’t with others.

But if that’s really part of it, what are we admitting? What, that we believed in Lesnar’s contaminated foot cream or Silva’s sex juice? Or would we just prefer to be lied to than have someone actually tell us the truth and admit that he knowingly cheated in an effort to win?

It shouldn’t be so difficult to understand, after all. This is a tough sport, involving great personal risk, and there’s so much riding on every contest. Who wouldn’t be tempted to try for an edge? Who couldn’t talk themselves into it, especially when you don’t know which of your opponents might be doing it and getting away with it?

Whatever you do, don’t get caught using something that might really help. And if you do, don’t admit to it. And if you must admit to it, you better be someone we already like or at least want to keep around. Then who knows what we might be willing to overlook. We even surprise ourselves sometimes.

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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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