Legal Ramifications for Using PEDs in MMA?

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drugsIn case there are not enough reasons for you to avoid illegal Performance Enhancing Drugs, their use may also open the door to civil or criminal repercussions following otherwise lawful MMA bouts.

You need look no further than the aftermath of the McSorley/Brashear altercation or the Bertuzzi/Moore incident to recognize that Canadian law sets limits to consent of harm in sports.


With Bill S-209 likely to soon become law giving MMA a legal framework in Canada, a question that will arise is when will consent be exceeded in MMA?   This is a live issue because while Bill S-209 will protect sanctioned bouts from criminal ‘prize-fight’ status,  it does not work to cease the operation of the assault provisions of the Criminal Code.

The most likely first issue up for consideration will relate to illegal Performance Enhancing Drugs.  There is no shortage of PED misuse in many sports and MMA is no exception.  What separates PED abuse in MMA from other sports, however, is the risk of harm to fellow competitors.  Lance Armstrong’s PED fueled cycling feats did not expose his opponents to risk of physical harm.  The same cannot be said when one man gains physical advantage over another involved in a striking or grappling contest.  When athletes consent to an MMA bout there is an agreement that the rules of engagement will be abided by.  If a competitor uses illegal PED’s and fails to disclose this prior to the match that will arguably trigger the Assault provisions of the Criminal Code.

Consent is a recognized defence to criminal charges of assault.  One limit to this defence is that consent cannot be obtained by fraud.  If an athlete uses and fails to disclose the use of illegal PED’s, consent is arguably stripped away opening the door to not only criminal assault charges but also to civil suits for damages.

So what factors would a Court look at in deciding whether consent is obtained by fraud?  The leading decision in this field of law (R v. Mabior) was recently released by the Supreme Court of Canada.  While Mabior dealt with consent to sexual contact where an HIV positive status was not disclosed, its analysis can equally be applied to consent to MMA.  The Court held that consent to contact which would otherwise be valid can be taken away if a participant

  1. Fails to disclose a key fact
  2. The other participant would not have participated had that fact been known
  3. The activity consented to poses ‘a significant risk of or causes actual serious bodily harm’ by virtue of the non-disclosed fact.

Where an athlete gains physical advantage over an opponent in MMA through the use of illegal PED’s all of the above factors are arguably met.

Fraud can delay the operation of limitation periods exposing cheaters to legal repercussions years after the fact.   A quick look at Lance Armstrong gives a striking example of how serious the legal consequences can be after one achieves all they desire through cheating in sport.  If you are an MMA athlete stay clear of illegal PED’s.  Don’t gamble with your livelihood.  You won’t want to be on the wrong end of the test case on this issue.

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Erik Magraken is a personal injury litigator and Partner with the British Columbia law-firm MacIsaac & Company. You can follow his BC Injury Law Blog here: http://bc-injury-law.com/blog/

5 Responses to “ Legal Ramifications for Using PEDs in MMA? ”

  1. t.r.o.n says:

    As the Edmonton MMA community goes silent…. haha

    Honestly i think its a great idea :)

    Well-loved! Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  2. Zach B says:

    Oh I believe every mma community has PED abuse .

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

  3. Josh Machan says:

    Good article. Hopefully commissions will start drug testing.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. K.Rasmuss says:

    Lot’s of testing and random testing because this is a life and limb business ! Cheaters can get their ass kicked to the curb . The MMA gyms should do the same with juicers !

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. t.r.o.n says:

    I completely agree with K.Ras! Its like the elephant in the room when speaking about steroids. If you have trained in a MMA gym in Edmonton i’m sure you’ve thought wow how is that guy who fights at 135 bench pressing 1000lbs??? jk but really we all know who’s on the juice. Gym owners/coaches call your guys on this shit man.For the preservation of the sport, his opponents body, and his own body!

    Will this happen? Very doubtful, but its time for some accountability people

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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