Brock Lesnar (left) and Alistair Overeem (right) still compete under a cloud of suspicion of steroid abuse. UFC 141 and strict drug testing from the NSAC, hopefully, put and end to the speculation once and for all.
On one side of the cage is Brock Lesnar, the 266-pound mammoth of a man who formerly held the UFC heavyweight championship and is the undisputed biggest box office draw in the history of mixed martial arts (MMA).
On the other side is Alistair Overeem, an equally large beast who feasts on horse meat and tomato cans the world over. He's a Strikforce, DREAM and K-1 champion with two of the most dangerous hands in the world.
And then, somewhere off to the side, is the 800-pound elephant.
The issue of steroids in sports is nothing new. Athletes strive to get bigger, stronger and faster in an effort to get the edge on their opponents in a competitive landscape of contests that are so physically taxing. In many ways, it's difficult to blame them. Their job demands that they be in tip-top shape at all times, no easy task for mere mortals like you and I.
But, there's always been something different about Lesnar and Overeem.
In Brock's case, he's had to fend off allegations his entire career. That's due, in no small part, to the fact that he was arrested in 2001 for possession of what was described as "a large amount of steroids." But, as it turned out, he was later cleared because what he had was not illegal at that time.
What he had was growth hormones or, as his attorney described them, "some type of vitamin thing."
Indeed, this was right around the time Lesnar was making his way into the dark world of professional wrestling, where steroids are as common as daily meals. And considering his unbelievable size -- he was billed at 6'5'' and 320-pounds -- there was no way he was going to waltz around without common folks wondering how he got to be so big.
Naturally, asking him about it is no easy task.
In an ESPN E:60 feature back in 2008, an interviewer simply said, "You're just so big," which prompted Lesnar to rip his microphone off and abruptly end the interview by storming off the set. He was later caught on camera saying, "I know where he was going. I've never failed a drug test."
Which is an interesting way to answer a question like that, really. And it only served to further fans suspicions that Lesnar was using chemical means to attain his God-like body.
This isn't to say he's never directly answered the allegations. He did so in a 2009 interview with Maxim magazine, actually, and his response at that time was controversial to say the least.
"I bet you I've taken over 60 steroid tests," Brock told Maxim. "In college I had 15 random drug tests in two years. I've taken drug tests for the NFL, the WWE, the UFC. I must be pretty good at masking steroids. God gave me this body: Are you jealous of it or what? Give me a break. I got the genetics of -- not to get into racism or anything -- but I'm built like a black man. Would you say so?"
No, I would not say so, but to each his own, I suppose.
To this day, Lesnar can't escape the allegations. And he probably never will. But the lead-up to his UFC 141 fight against Alistair Overeem has been fascinating if, for no other reason, than for the first time in his life, his opponent is the focus of even more steroid allegations.
Indeed, "The Reem" will make his debut fighting inside the Octagon, but he's no stranger to the spotlight, especially pertaining to questions about his ever-growing musculature. Unlike Lesnar, who has always had a rather thick build, Overeem used to be a scrawny light heavyweight getting shoved around by Mauricio Rua over in Pride FC.
And then, over the course of several years, he grew. Massively. Incredibly. Impossibly.
Here's a handy dandy picture to illustrate:
From 2003 to around 2009, Overeem put on some 40 pounds worth of muscle. While that's probably possible without the aid of illegal substances, try convincing anyone in your local gym that they can pull off such a feat just by the sweat of their brows and the strength of their backs.
Not unlike Lesnar, Overeem has found himself in situations that have only served to strength suspicion of him. The most recent, of course, was his apparently leaving the country when he was supposed to submit a random drug test to the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). To make a long story short, "Demolition Man" was told to have a test back in two days, he promptly left the country and didn't end up getting his test back to the proper parties until nearly a month after.
The ensuing hearing with the NSAC was a debacle, to put it nicely. He was ultimately granted a temporary license despite the odd circumstances surrounding the situation and given strict orders for testing over the next six months or so.
It should be pointed out that Overeem tested clean, just like he always has, just like Lesnar always has. They have both never failed a drug test. And while that hasn't stopped speculation from running rampant, it's the only evidence they need. It's the Ace up their sleeve.
Overeem isn't as bullish as Lesnar when it comes to answering questions about the sometimes touchy subject. Not unlike his counterpart, the Dutchman chalks up his body to good genetics.
"People have accused me of steroid use since I was 17," Overeem replied when asked about it. "17 was my first fight. I was weighing in at 84 kilos, I don't know how much that is in pounds, but I was already looking like an animal then. It is a genetic thing. My body just doesn't hold any fat. My fat percentage is really low and that's why my muscles jump out. My brother is the same. ... My brother always looked good, as well. He always was ripped, always had big muscles, no fat. That's one of the amazing things. He doesn't eat that healthy, and especially a couple years back he didn't eat healthy at all, but he still was ripped. No fat. So I think that's a little bit of our secret, we have good genes. Thanks mom and dad, thanks somebody else maybe up there. We're lucky."
Maybe these two monsters really do just have good genetics. Maybe they're clean as can be and the fans and pundits alike should just back off and let them be the Goliaths they already are.
Of course, none of it will matter tomorrow night when they climb inside the Octagon to do battle against one another. The fans, if only for a short time, will forget about steroids and growth hormone and all that other chemical nonsense. Instead, they'll focus on two beasts charging at each other until one of them falls.
Maybe that's how it should be, after all: Innocent until proven guilty.
Post-fight drug tests pending.