Athlete health and safety is a priority of IFMA, and mandate of the IFMA Medical Commission.
Through the years we have seen that many athletes engage in extreme flash weight cutting methods to pass the weigh in check for their desired weight category. Weight reduction is not something that should be done in short term. To be done safely, it should be evaluated as a proper and planned weight management and considered as part of the competition itself. It’s a challenge outside the ring but it’s the check point in the rules of our sport that if you fail you cannot compete. Therefore, it must be planned strategically and executed over several months before the competition date.
Sport is about competing with yourself goaling the top of your own capabilities and limits, the rivals we compete are only to measure where we are.
Competition starts before, outside the field of play, fighting for correct weight management and understanding and obeying the international rules of athletes’ health and anti-doping rules.
What is needed before the competition? First you must be sure that you are in the correct age of your category. This is controlled by the referees per date of birth from your passport. You must fill in an IFMA medical form signed by yourself, your coach and a doctor from your home country . In this form you declare about your past and present medical condition and then your doctor at home approves that you are fit to compete in the ring sports. Your doctor also checks your weight and writes his opinion about what your competition weight should be and gives his comment about your dehydration level when you make your recorded weight. On arrival to competition, we check in this form that you shouldn’t be 10% over the weight category advised by your home doctor.
Below this form the athlete and the coach signs the document stating that they fully understand the risk of weight cut in short term and dehydration and the athlete’s urine can be checked anytime by urine spectrometer and if the controlled urine is very dense, can lead to disqualification. This method is now followed in many professional events too.
Every athlete is controlled by the competition doctors before the competition to find out if there are any medical findings incompatible with competing that day.
IFMA delivers education about doping control with a particular focus on use of diuretics. Diuretics are banned substances which intentionally cheating athletes use to mask possible other banned substances by forcing water to pass out of the body via urine. It is particularly dangerous in three ways.
First of all it makes the athlete feel very weak and drops their performance level in the ring.
Secondly it could lead to kidney failure as not only is the body losing water, but also vital minerals. Athletes already lose a high volume of water and minerals from sweat.
The third danger is the high possibility of an anti-doping rule violation which can lead to a ban from sport of up to 4 years. Such an offence is not to be taken lightly and cannot be excused or explained away for example by saying that the substance was given by your coach or a chemist just to get rid of your oedema (swelling) on your ankles, or that you did not know. Diuretics are considered as doping and there is no excuse for it.
Many athletes believe that since diuretics can cause them to feel down and lethargic it can’t be considered as doping. The fact is that diuretics are considered as a masking agent that may be used to hide another banned substance, and is therefore in itself , a banned substance just like the more commonly known “no-no” such as steroids.
IFMA recently established another measure to fight against short term weight cutting and deter use of diuretics as a quick-fix weight loss method. This was in the form of a new rule with regards to weight control, designed to prevent weight cut by dehydration.
The Pre-Contest Weigh-In may be conducted at any time prior to the Athletes contest by an appointed Jury member of the contest. If the Athletes pre-contest weight is found 5% above their qualified weight classification, or equal to the next weight classification they will be disqualified.
Short-term weight-cutting is when a fighter severely dehydrates their body in order to meet the required weight for an upcoming bout.
The practice which is common in boxing, Muaythai, wrestling, MMA is potentially LIFE-THREATENING. In 2017, Jessica Lindsay died at age of 18 when extreme weigh-cutting led to fatal kidney failure and heart arrythmia.
IFMA acknowledges that weight cutting by means of dehydration, loss of water and minerals from the body may pose a dangerous and life-threatening result, even in amateur sports and young athletes. At IFMA we support weight control by fat loss, NOT BY water loss. We therefore urge all athletes, entourage and stakeholders to take responsibility in this process for the health and safety of the athletes.