The fallout from Brock Lesnar’s potential drug violation

July 18, 2016

On Friday, Brock Lesnar was flagged by the United States Anti-Doping Association (USADA) of a potential violation of the UFC anti-doping policy due to an out of competition test from June 28, 2016.  Although testing results of Lesnar’s “B” sample are yet to be revealed, the fallout from Lesnar’s appearance hurts the UFC and possibly the WWE.

On June 5, 2016, it was announced that Lesnar would fight at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016.  The signing was unprecedented because he was under contract with the WWE.  Yet, the WWE granted Lesnar the chance to fight in the Octagon once again.  Despite the fact that the WWE has its own drug testing policy (known as the Wellness Policy – Lesnar has never been flagged for a violation), Lesnar was tested by USADA eight times in just the month lead-up to his fight against Mark Hunt.  He took 5 tests in the first two weeks after it was announced he was returning.  Multiple tests came up clean.

Despite the tests, the UFC policy handled by USADA dictated that a returning athlete to the UFC most give the company four months written notice so that USADA can put the athlete in the pool of those it may selectively test.  But, the UFC anti-doping policy allows an exemption for a returning athlete that may be subject to drug testing.  Per 5.7.1 of the UFC anti-doping policy:

An Athlete who gives notice of retirement to UFC, or has otherwise ceased to have a contractual relationship with UFC, may not resume competing in UFC Bouts until he/she has given UFC written notice of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of four months before returning to competition. UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.

The key sentence here is the last sentence:  “UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.”

Since the UFC Anti-Doping Policy did not begin until July 1, 2015 and Lesnar’s last fight in the UFC prior to UFC 200 was December 2011, he was considered a new athlete.  There has not been an official statement as to whether the UFC granted the 4-month exemption due to an “exceptional circumstance” or if it was “manifestly unfair to an Athlete.”  Of course, either waiver could be easily explained.

But, one has to think that Lesnar and the UFC had contemplated his return as he had been training prior to the June announcement of his return to the Octagon.  One might suggest that Lesnar could have notified the UFC of his return in the requisite 4 months to allow for the proper testing to occur.

However, it would seem that the parties wanted the Lesnar announcement to be a surprise.  Recall, that Ariel Helwani and others from MMA Fighting were thrown out of a UFC event and Helwani was banned for life due to his report of Lesnar’s return prior to the UFC’s opportunity to make it themselves.  Helwani along with his colleagues were reinstated a couple days later.

Notwithstanding the notice issue, let’s take a look at what Lesnar could face as a result of testing positive for a banned substance.  First, Lesnar’s “B” sample, a second sample taken to determine the validity of the finding in the first sample, must confirm the initial finding of a banned substance.  If this happens, Lesnar will face discipline from Nevada and the UFC per the anti-doping policy.

Since the infraction took place in Nevada, Lesnar will have to appear before the Nevada State Athletic Commission to address the drug test failure.  At that time, we should know what drug(s) Lesnar tested positive for in his out-of-competition sample.  In 2015, Nevada adopted guidelines for combat sports which included a 36-month suspension and 50-75% of the purse for a first-time offender for someone taking anabolic steroids.

In addition, the UFC anti-doping policy would discipline Lesnar.

Under Section 10 for Sanctions on Individuals, Section 10.1 specifically states:

An Anti-Doping Policy Violation occurring during, or in connection with, a Bout may, upon the decision of UFC, lead to Disqualification of all of the Athlete’s results obtained in that Bout with all Consequences, including, without limitation, forfeiture of title, ranking, purse or other compensation, except as provided in Article 10.1.1.

Read broadly, under the UFC-USADA Anti-Doping Guidelines, Lesnar could have his purse for the bout and “other compensation” taken from him.  It would hurt enough that Lesnar would lose out on his $2.5 million reported purse but “other compensation” could mean money he makes from his PPV “upside.”

Not only could that happen, but the section further states that UFC could fine Lesnar up to $500,000 per Section 10.10 of the UFC-USADA Anti-Doping Guidelines.  In addition, he could have his win against Mark Hunt overturned to a no decision per discretion of the Nevada State Athletic Commission according to section 467.850.  This would not sting as much since Lesnar did not have a win bonus to forfeit.  Regardless, he still could have a substantial amount of money taken away.

The monetary fine would be the hardest penalty for Lesnar.  The $2.5 million is the largest reported payout for a UFC fighter in its history.  But, Lesnar was going to make more from his PPV guarantee.  It is being reported that the UFC 200 PPV drew 1.1 to 1.2 million PPV buys.  In most markets, the PPV for UFC 200 was $59.99 HD and $49.99 SD.  Lesnar was projected to make $3-5 million in addition to his $2.5 million.

Mark Hunt, Lesnar’s opponent has demanded that he receive half of Lesnar’s $2.5 million or else he is requesting his release from his UFC contract.  Hunt, who made $700,000 for taking on Lesnar, will be disappointed to learn that under the UFC-USADA guidelines, any money forfeited by an athlete would be under the UFC’s discretion “to be applied to offset the costs of the Program or given to anti-doping research.”

The UFC could also fine Lesnar pursuant to its Code of Conduct which imposes discipline based on misconduct.  Under its Code, “misconduct” may include, “Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the UFC.”  A violation of its drug program could fall under this.

There is precedent for a fine as Jon Jones was docked $25,000 for failing a drug test in December 2014.  Of course, Jones’ drug test failure was for cocaine use.  We note that the detection of this drug was done out of competition and should have not been tested for according to the rules.

Lesnar’s only statement related to Friday’s news of his potential violation was a vague “we’ll get to the bottom of this.”

The WWE does not seem to be concerned with the potential violation and has indicated his next appearance will be at its big event Summerslam, August 21st.  They have not addressed the potential violation.  From its perspective, its an MMA matter, that a WWE matter.

However, the question looms as to whether a Nevada State Athletic Commission suspension would affect his wrestling career.  Some state athletic commissions oversee professional wrestling.  Most commissions honor suspensions of an athlete in other states.  Would a suspension in combat sports carry over to professional wrestling?  We will see.

5 Responses to “The fallout from Brock Lesnar’s potential drug violation”

  1. Fight Fan on July 18th, 2016 7:51 AM

    Nice article and uncharted territory for wrestling mma, wwe I feel will not adress this at all

  2. tops E on July 18th, 2016 2:36 PM

    Good article…finally its discussing the ufc/brock plan before the announcement..people at his training center would know…also why tell hunt to prepare for an unspecified fight in 200?

  3. Wil on July 19th, 2016 9:24 AM

    what??? another UFC fighter pissed hot? say it aint so….

  4. Sports Law Links – The Sports Esquires on July 25th, 2016 4:57 AM

    […] Cruz discusses the fallout from Brock Lesnar’s potential drug […]

  5. UFC Fighter Mark Hunt sues Zuffa, Dana White and Brock Lesnar over UFC200 Doping on January 11th, 2017 3:30 PM

    […] an inactive athlete must avail himself to testing prior to a return fight. However, the UFC’s policy allows an exemption to this rule. The UFC has not cited this exemption as reason for waiving Lesnar’s testing period. […]

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