14 for 14: No. 13 Cung Le drug testing suspension overturned

December 25, 2014

After losing his match against Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 48, the UFC determined that UFC middleweight Cung Le had failed a post-fight drug test.  As a result, Le was suspended by the UFC for one year.  However, Le’s representatives noted the faulty drug testing methods and requested arbitration.

The suspicions about Le using PEDs occurred after an Instagram pic showed the 42 year old more chiseled than he had ever been.  A drug test after his fight with Bisping showed elevated levels hGH in his system.  However, Le and his representatives denied his PED use citing a faulty drug testing policy.  The UFC acted as the commission in Macau as the country had no regulating authority to administer the drug tests.  However, the UFC did not use a WADA-approved lab to examine Le’s tests.  Even if the lab had used the same procedures as WADA, Le’s reps pointed out that there was a lab that was accessible to take the results.  There was also the contention that taking the sample after the fight may not prove an accurate test for elevated levels of hGH.

In addition, it was not clear what the appeal process was for Le.  Based on some of the speculation of the grounds for appeal, it was clear that an appeal process when the UFC is the acting regulator for a failed drug test was not readily spelled out.  It turns out that the arbitration would be under AAA rules which meant that there would be an evidentiary hearing as well as evidence submitted prior to the actual hearing.

Soon after the request for an appeal of the suspension and arbitration was made, the UFC rescinded the suspension of Le.  In a release, the UFC indicated that “based on the lack of conclusive laboratory results” UFC officials determined to rescind the suspension.  Backtracking on the suspension  could be seen as a PR hit by the UFC as one might infer that it did not want to go through a hearing and reveal its drug policy, or lack thereof.

Payout Perspective:

As we pointed out back in October, the UFC did not want to go to arbitration as it would have likely exposed the UFC’s drug testing policy (or lack thereof).  Rescinding the suspension did not mean that Le was not guilty of taking illegal substances; it’s just that the process for testing was faulty.  Regardless, this episode shows that the UFC drug testing policy must be retooled to address issues in its testing and appeal process.  As the company continues to expand in new countries and regions, it must have a concrete drug policy or work with the local commissions.

We will see what 2015 holds for this particular issue.

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