15 for 15: No. 4 UFC enlists USADA for anti-doping program

December 30, 2015

After failed drug tests by Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Nick Diaz and Hector Lombard, the UFC decided to revamp its stance on drug testing and established an anti-doping policy of its own.  In conjunction with USADA, the UFC anti-doping policy went into effect on July 1st of this year.

In February, Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White and Laurence Epstein presided over a news conference where it announced a “Call to Action.”  The anti-doping policy would require all UFC contracted fighters to be subject to random performance-enhancing drug testing.  When announced, it did not name a third-party administrator although we know now that it is USADA.

Call to Action

In an effort to provide transparency, the UFC-USADA policy was posted its policy online. The new policy would suspend fighters a minimum of 2 years for violating the anti-doping policy and harsher penalties for subsequent violations.  Of the new responsibilities of the UFC contracted fighters was to provide “whereabouts” information so that USADA officials would know where to contact a fighter if they were selected to be tested.  In addition, if a fighter would like to appeal a failed drug test, he or she would go through an appeal process with a third party organization.  The cost of the appeal for the fighter would be $2,700 although a fighter could petition to receive a waiver of the fee.

Despite its attempts to ensure that loopholes were tied up, there are still issues with the handling of certain issues.  For instance, there seemed to be ambiguity when a fighter requests a Therapeutic Use Exemption as in the case of Frank Mir.

The other big issue would be whether commissions and other fight organizations adhere to a fighter’s suspension.

One of the more controversial decisions by USADA was the elimination of the use of IVs to rehydrate from cutting weight.  The ban on IVs went into effect on October 1st.

USADA posts the names of the fighters it tests on its website.  In its first reporting period, Ronda Rousey was the fighter tested the most by USADA.  At the end of 2015, USADA reports 81 fighters tested with 28 “in-competition” and 53 “out of competition.”  So far, 2 fighters have been flagged for failing tests.

Mirko Cro Cop was the first UFC fighter flagged by USADA as having failed a test under the new UFC-USADA anti-doping program.  Cro Cop was suspended 2 years although he had announced his retirement from the UFC prior to the punishment.  He admitted to using hGH.  Gleison Tibau was the second fighter flagged.  Tibau was provisionally suspended although he has indicated that he would appeal the decision.

If Tibau appeals, it would be the first test for the new policy and its appeal procedures.

The cost of this program likely came as an unscheduled expense at a time of the year in which it was unknown how well financially the UFC would do.  The UFC needed the program as it was suffering from a PR disaster.  While Jones’ drug test was non-PED related, it still left a bad perception on the company.  Moreover, the fact that both main event fighters of UFC 183 tested positive for banned substances led the company to do something.

We shall see if more fighters will be tested and how many will be flagged in 2016.

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