Interview with Rosi Sexton

After what has been a long 12-16 weeks for Rosi Sexton, we get to have a chat about what has happened.
1. You were recently planned to fight Sheila Gaff in Cage Warriors, what happened?
I got a phone call from Ian Dean, the Cagewarriors matchmaker a week before the fight telling me that Sheila had pulled out of the fight, claiming illness.

2. Why did you want to get the VADA testing, obviously you thought your opponent might have been using performance enhancing drugs?

I think there’s a big problem with performance enhancing drugs in MMA. Whatever your views about anabolic steroids, under the rules we currently fight under, they’re a banned substance. Unfortunately the standard of drug testing isn’t very high at the moment, which effectively means that this rule isn’t being enforced. It leaves fighters in a difficult position – if you choose to play by the rules, then it puts you at a big disadvantage against anyone who isn’t. Honesty is penalised under the current system.
In getting VADA testing for this fight, I wanted to make a statement, that I was willing to prove that I’m clean. And if I’m honest, yes, there was a degree of suspicion based on Sheila’s recent performances, and comments made privately by several people who’ve competed against her.  The advice I took from my coaches (and other people I consulted who have experience on the issue of PEDs) was that I shouldn’t agree to that fight without full, effective drug testing in place.
3. Who funded the VADA testing? 
I funded it myself, with the help of donations from friends and fans (for which I’m extremely grateful).
4. What was the reason for her withdrawal from the fight? And do you believe this?
The news I was given was that she’d had tonsillitis several weeks earlier from which she “hadn’t fully recovered” and that she was suffering from a lack of energy in training. Her doctor ran a series of tests, which apparently showed no reason for the fatigue, and he could give no diagnosis that was supported by the test results. The conclusion was that it was “probably a virus”.
I can’t say for certain what’s going on here, but the circumstances are suspicious. Not only are there photos on Facebook of Sheila posing with her sparring partner from the very period that she was supposedly unwell and collapsing in training; but I’m also aware that her symptoms of fatigue and lack of energy are precisely those commonly experienced by fighters when they stop taking anabolic steroids. There’s always the possibility that this might all be an unfortunate coincidence – but looking at all the evidence together, I can’t help being skeptical – especially since several people warned me beforehand that this situation was likely to happen.
5. You prepared hard for this fight and sacrificed a lot. How does this make you feel when you know other fighters are using PED’s both male and female to reach the top of their game?
I think it makes a mockery of the sport. A rule that isn’t enforced isn’t a rule – either the decision needs to be taken not to ban performance enhancing drugs and to openly allow fighters to use whatever PEDs they wish, or else more effective testing needs to be a priority. It’s not just about winning and losing; fighters with a significant strength advantage due to steroid use are a serious risk to the safety of their opponents. This is particularly true in women’s MMA. Women have a much lower level of testosterone naturally, so artificially increasing this can make a huge difference in terms of strength and power. In some cases – for example, with Cyborg prior to her positive drug test – you’ve effectively got a woman fighting a man (in hormonal terms). Weight categories and gender categories exist for a reason.

6. What would you like to see in MMA in regards to drug testing?

I’d like to see effective testing as standard throughout the sport. VADA have an excellent model, and probably run the toughest anti-
doping program in sport at the moment. But unless all fighters are subject to this kind of random, out of competition testing (both blood and urine), then there will always be wriggle room for those fighters who are determined to avoid having to compete clean.
7. A victory in this fight could have seen you be named the number 1 in the 125lbs division, as this is not the case now, where do you go from here in terms of MMA?
I think I’ve already done everything I set out to do in MMA. I’ve proved what I wanted to prove to myself, and I know what I’m capable of. For me, it’s always been about being the best I can be, and learning as much as I can from the experience. Anything else is just a bonus. Credit from other people is nice, but chasing after it is a dead end. It’s precisely that mentality that encourages fighters to cheat in the first place.

8. If the MMA federations are not going to help with the funding of drug testing, would you think of retiring from the sport and consider taking up wrestling or ju jitsu on a more serious level?

I’m sure I’ll be involved in some form of competition for a while yet. Jiu-jitsu as a sport may not be any cleaner than MMA, but there’s also a lower risk of serious injury when facing an opponent with that kind of “artificial” strength advantage. I’d also like to do some more freestyle wrestling competitions. I’ve been really enjoying my BJJ and wrestling recently, and I’d like to put some more time and focus into this aspect of my training.

9. If the Sheila Gaff fight was offered to you again would you take it?

Sheila’s camp have stated that they hope for the fight to be rescheduled in 3 months time. They’ve made no mention of any drug testing, and are well aware that we can’t afford to fund it a second time. I’d be a fool to accept the fight under those circumstances. Of course, if they were offering to raise the money for another round of VADA testing, I’d be only too happy to prove my point in the cage.

Thanks very much to Rosi for doing this interview.

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Interview with Karl Niamatali – Great Britain Inline Hockey Player

Inline Hockey is a sport which is slowly gaining popularity in the UK. Inline Hockey is played the same as Ice Hockey except it is played wearing roller blades and obviously not on ice. Here’s a short interview with Karl Niamatali, GB Player, about the sport.

How did you get involved in the sport? And how long have you been playing?

I got involved in the sport when I always saw groups of kids playing the sport at the back of my house by Kwik save loading bay. At first my mum was reluctant to by the expensive equipment because she knew how I was with sport and how often I changed my mind so my brother and I had to make do with what we had. I had a pair of quad roller skates and an old wooden walking stick and my brother had a cheap pair of inline skates and a grass hockey stick. Once my mum realised I was sticking to this random sport she happily bought me the basic kit required and I never looked back.

What keeps you motivated to play a sport which gets no real coverage or funding?

I guess I just want to keep improving myself and help the team I play for win. The chance to represent your country as well is a huge motivation as there is no better feeling really than putting the jersey on for a big international game.

How do you prepare for Inline Hockey, including both the technical training sessions and the weight room work?

My preparation for the sport itself is limited, for example I can only really train Wednesday and Friday nights and that would be on a sports hall and not a purpose built rink. In a ideal world I would love to be able to train 4-5 times a week. The advantage I do have though is the gym I joined nearly 2 years ago, Strength and Performance in Stockport. From the moment I stepped in the gym I realised the years before in the gym counted for nothing and that this was the place to go to and get educated on how I should be using my time in the weight room. I do a mixture of power work including lots of jump and throw variations. This is then followed up by total body strength work.  I do lots of tempo and high rep medicine ball work, as well as using sledgehammers, ropes and sandbags, and of course lots of bodyweight exercises. No gimmicks in this gym, just hard work.

What is your next goal in the sport? Do you have any competitions coming up?

My next tournament will be at the end of the November when I go to Paris to play in the Champions Cup. The big goal is to make team GB again and get back into pool A for the World Championships next year.

When you play in the world championships, you play against athletes who play this as a career, what is this like?

Playing in the Championships means you do come up against players that do get paid to play the sport in their own or other countries, you also come up against a lot of pro ice hockey players including some from the NHL. Playing against players from the pro ice leagues is great as I want to challenge myself every time I step onto a rink to be the best I can be, and there is no one better to test yourself against than them. When I reflect on tournaments like these it does get me down knowing many of them guys will go back to playing hockey for a living where as I will go back to my night shifts in a call centre.

What would you like to see happen in the sport over the next few years?

In the next few years I would like to see a Governing Body put together in the sport which would help the sport get funding from the Government. In addition to this it would raise the profile and awareness of the sport as many do not even know it exists. I really think with a proper set up our players would reach great heights.

Thanks very much to Karl for doing this short interview, but I hope a few can take home the message no matter how big or small your sport is, the love and dedication for the sport always shines through.

Unleash Your Inner Athlete

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TeamSandP Twitter – @SandP_GYM