Steroids in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Official Policies of Prominent BJJ Organizations

by Caleb on April 6, 2011

UPDATE April 16, 2011: Gracie Barra’s response has been added below.

On Sunday’s episode of The FightWorks Podcast we interviewed the 2011 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship light featherweight gold medalist Caio Terra and discussed his claim that a significant percentage of elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu athletes use performance-enhancing drugs.

We have no way of knowing whether his claims are true. Only the BJJ competitors themselves know whether they’ve used steroids to gain a competitive edge over their opponents. But what we can do is inquire to prominent groups in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and ask whether they have a policy on the matter.

It was obvious we needed to speak with the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation. In deciding which BJJ teams to approach, we thought it fair to ask the teams who have been most successful in recent World Championships. Alliance, Gracie Barra, and CheckMat won the 1rst, 2nd, and 3rd place adult team medals respectively for the past two years, so we thought they would be a good start.


black belt training network bjj

Question sent to the IBJJF: Do the IBJJF and its member bodies like the USBJJF have any rules or regulations that prohibit performance enhancing drugs and / or steroids? If there are no such rules or regulations, do you think there will be anytime soon?

IBJJF Spokesperson Mike Buckels promptly responded:

The IBJJF does not currently have a steroid testing policy in place. It has been discussed and is still being discussed. As this would be a major change the IBJJF will take as much time as it deems necessary to research and possibly implement such a policy.


We sent this inquiry to senior representatives in Alliance, Gracie Barra, and CheckMat on March 30th:

Does your team have a policy regarding the use of steroids and / or performance enhancing drugs (including human growth hormome) for its athletes? If yes, what is the policy? If not, does your team plan on implementing such a policy in the future?

Alliance

Alliance’s Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti quickly responded by email:

We don’t have any policy on steroids or performance enhancing drugs, we try to advice our athletes about the danger of taking these drugs for their health, however we have no way to know if there is anybody using anything, I personally think is very hard to find out or prove unless you ask this or that guy to test.

We have no plans to implementing a plan, the best way in our opinion is just to tell people once in a while about the dangers of taking any drugs in general, we believe our schools are drugs free environment but we have no way to know what people do outside the school.

PS. This subject was brought up by Caio Terra trying to say that there are guys in Jiu Jitsu using steroids, well if you are accusing someone you have to prove, don’t just trow things in the air because this can bring you problems, he is always crying about this or that, always trying to blame a referee or because he didn’t do well is because he has some injure, etc.. just shut up and fight, he is a good fighter but he need to just fight and talk less.


Gracie Barra

On April 16, 2011 we received this response:

Gracie Barra does not condone the use of performance enhancing drugs. Furthermore, P.E.D.’s are illegal and could potentially have a negative effect in our schools. At Gracie Barra our goal is to provide a safe, clean, drug free environment for our students and families.

Sincerely,
Gracie Barra Association Staff




CheckMat BJJ

(Despite multiple inquiries, CheckMat did not respond back as of this writing.)






For the record, if we hear from CheckMat we will promptly update this page with their response. We are also more than happy to hear from other teams if they would like to formally state their position on steroid use.

Image of CheckMat Jiu-Jitsu patch provided by AliciaPhotos.com.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sebastian April 6, 2011 at 11:41 am

“We have no way of knowing whether his claims are true.”

Why not? There are many physical signs associated with steroids (e.g., acne on the back) that are unusually common among high-level Jiu-Jitsu fighters. It would not be hard to find a doctor who could give you a reliable indication just by looking at these guys’ physiques and skin when they take their gi tops off. It would not be hard to find veteran MMA/Jiu-Jitsu reporters who have been close to various camps and could confirm rampant steroid use. And it would not be hard to find dozens of JJ athletes who would off-the-record confirm what Terra said.

One part of the story that wouldn’t be hard to find documentation on was the time, I believe in the first ever Worlds’ Absolute, where the Federation announced they’d be testing for steroids and some huge percentage of the fighters dropped out.

If a journalist pursues the evidence, he will almost certainly find that the vast majority of high-level black belt competitors use steroids, and that many of the top-level teams not only sanction it but encourage and supervise it. The reason is obvious: it’s a competitive advantage that their competitors are already taking advantage of.

Hopefully Terra’s statement can lead to a rational discussion about “performance-enhancing-drugs”–one that does not deny the rampant role of steroids in Jiu-Jitsu, but one that also does not hysterically demonize “steroids” without looking objectively at their real risks and benefits.

Logan April 8, 2011 at 9:40 am

With all due respect to Professor Cavalcanti, I simply don’t buy that he wasn’t aware that some of his top fighters were/are using steroids. It’s completely implausible and frankly a bit patronizing to the fans of jiu jitsu.

And what is with the ad-hominem attack on Caio Terra? Caio called for the IBJJF to institute testing, that would be the proof. Being that Cavalcanti is seemingly against such a test, or even simply testing on his team, he is a barrier to such a revelation. I’m not sure what Caio allegedly being a whiner has to do with any of this.

Greg April 8, 2011 at 11:37 am

I find it telling that Alliance who has one of the most notable suspects for steroid use Gabi Garcia (who in a rapid 3 month period had huge fat loss, and equally large muscle growth as can be seen on her Face book page with dated photos) is saying Caio is a baby for calling out what many already see.

Those against steroid testing are the ones using steroids.

I commend Terra for using his victory speech to shine a light on something that is being talked about on the mats across the world. It is something that should have been brought forward by our governing body and not by one individual fighter who is fed up.

darren April 11, 2011 at 12:11 am

All of those teams will need to change their programs quickly if their recommended nutritional suppliments include PEDs. It would be a shame if a Brazillian did not place highly in the Oylmpics, or due to wide useage of PEDs amongst Brazillian athletes they did not include BJJ as an Olympic sport at all :(. They and the sport of BJJ would loose a tremendous amount of credibility and acceptance.

Acne is not the best indication of PED use, its an IOC drug test.

Jarred April 13, 2011 at 8:03 am

Whenever I hear an athlete in a sport claim that steroids are rampant, I’m curious about the validity of the claim. Is it that everyone is doing steroids, or that a small specific group are doing steroids (big hitters in baseball for example)? Either we believe Terra’s claim that 75%-99% of top BJJ guys are on steroids, he is looking only at a small group of steroid users and extrapolating to the whole, or he is just wrong. While I don’t doubt that there is a significant number of top level guys using steroids, I find it extremely unlikely that the vast majority of top BJJ athletes are using steroids given how much many of these guys value overall health and nutrition. Who knows, maybe it could be just like cycling afterall and everyone is on PEDs.

Terra’s claim that no one else gets hurt or sick as much as him just sounds like whining to me. People differ vastly in how much they are injured or sick based on genetics, injury prevention/treatment techniques, diet, amount of rest, etc. If he is using the fact that some people don’t get sick or injured often and are able to maintain an unusually strong physique, then he might simply be complaining about genetics (I’m rarely sick or injured and always surprise people with my strength, I’ve got genetics, diet, and yoga to thank for those things).

Either way, I agree that they need to start testing if they want to be considered “professional athletes/fighters” simply because there is always going to be someone whining for one reason or another. Take away the whining about PEDs (legitimate or not) by testing for them.

pat April 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Caio is my coach and the guy definately isnt a whiner.

Alex May 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Steroid tests cost approximately $150 per person. Over the counter pee on the stick type tests for anything produce false positives you can’t make the situation any better using them.

Testing just the people on the winners bracket for pan ams would cost somewhere around $36k. and thats assuming a lab did them for $100 each. Individual teams it would cost probably 3-5k for the larger teams. Just because the team is larger doesn’t mean it would be able to pay that.

Now think about early registration being $188 dollars. You can probably just eliminate any bracket without a cash prize.

George Patricio May 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm

steroid will. Change a person
Will take their feelings away … Will give then very good edge
But for a good friend or relationship can be scary …I Lost friend and he frickin hit me , when I was trying to help the guy i was sponsoring thousensds of Dollars … Sad… I end up paying for the drugs and had no idea that would happen…
What they should do is to come up with some kind of health insurance / salaries and MORE for the fighters
So they can do what they are born to do, without having to worry who is gonna help then if they get sick…. Who is gonna pay for their tests and treatments or to take care of their bodies … Trainning every day full time can make the give the infections and muscle problems
Fighter health insurance NOW !
Love good fight

George Patricio May 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Who cares about it… I do …
Fighters are taking steroids andpet have the inside knowlovyof the biggest names in the jiujitsu world are doing it … So why not
I don’t like it …
But go tell a young fighter that … He would not care because their wanna be like their idols …
Saddens me …. I dont love to know the fighters I support, use my sponsor money to get steroids … I see the change on then
They lose their sweet spirit, but they gain the animal prime edge …
Triste eu to . Fighters can you all stop ?

Cha October 24, 2012 at 12:16 am

Jiu Jitsu is about the weaker man fighting the bigger, stronger man. How do you honor the art if you use steroids? You disregard the techniques, the training, the sacrifices and the pain, you disregard the whole essence of Jiu Jitsu.

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