UFC announces changes to UFC Anti-Doping Policy

November 26, 2019

On Monday, the UFC announced changes to its UFC Anti-Doping Policy as it looks to address issues with contaminated samples.  In addition, it announced Thorne as a certified supplement maker.

The new policy also advises that athletes use only supplements that have been certified by USADA’s approved list of five different certification agencies.  If an athlete tests positive and its proved that the offending substance came from one of the certified supplements, no sanctions will be given to the athlete.

Now, instances of banned substances being found in contaminated supplements will be treated as “atypical” provided the levels sit below the stated thresholds on the UFC prohibited list.  It also validates IV infusions/injections over 100 mL which are now only permitted if they are determined to be medically justified and within the standard of care by a licensed physician and administered by a licensed medical professional.

Also of note, they’ve added a rule in which USADA, in its sole discretion, may elect not to impose an “enhanced sanction” for an athlete that has multiple violations.  The pertinent language is that “USADA’s sole and unreviewable discretion it was unlikely that one or more of the Athlete’s violations was intentional and/or based upon the Athlete’s provision of significant Substantial Assistance or Fulle and Complete Cooperation as determined by USADA.”  The section is screengrabbed below:

Notably, this rule seems to help those like Jon Jones that have had multiple violations in which those violators, under the prior UFC Anti-Doping Policy would have had an immediate suspension (according to the rules) of 2-4 years (dependent on specified or non-specified substance) based upon a second violation.  Obviously, in the past, the finders of fact have mitigated suspensions based on a number of factors but the standard was doubled for at least a second violation.

There may also be a Brock Lesnar rule as now athletes must disclose if they have used the fertility drug, clomiphene, prior to signing a contract with the UFC.  The drug is sometimes used for “off label” purposes as a male fertility drug or for use post-cycle following anabolic steroid use.  It also addresses issues with low testosterone.

The new policy adjustments also spell out that athletes cannot return to compete or start to compete with the UFC until they have been available to testing for 6 months or 1 year after using clomiphene.

Payout Perspective:

The good news is that the updated policy changes seem to take into account issues it has had with its previous iteration of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.  Most importantly, it addresses the issues with contaminated supplements and recognizes the issues that occur.  Of course, one would have thought there would have been this foresight originally.  Yet, with the Nate Diaz and Jon Jones issues, the UFC needed to recalibrate its policy and balance it with atypical findings.

The only problem is that time is still needed from the time an adverse finding is discovered to when a finding can be made by USADA.  There does not seem to be a policy regarding imminent or emergent circumstances where an athlete has a fight upcoming.

Thorne Research, Inc. is a dietary supplement maker out of Sandpoint, Idaho.  It’s been around since 1984 but is relatively small with only 54 employees.  According to Crunchbase, their estimated revenue range is between $10M-$50M.  In comparison, its competitors in its industry have estimated revenues of $105.3M (Xymogen)and $345M (Metagenics) respectively. It has gone through just one venture funding round with Japanese company Mitsui & Co. as its sole investor.  The new agreement with the UFC, should boost the profile of the company (you may recall it sponsored UFC 244’s Embedded series and was talked about during the lead up to Diaz-Masvidal).

One would hope that the changes to the policy continue to evolve in order to correct issues related to tainting while effectively policing the athletes for performance enhancing drugs.

Three PFL fighters in playoffs fail NAC drug tests

November 21, 2019

ESPN reports that Glaico Franca, Luis Rafael Laurentino and Ramsey Nijem failed drug tests and could be disciplined by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.  All 3 participated in the PFL playoffs.

Franca and Laurentino tested positive for the banned steroid stnozolol and Nijem tested positive for marijuana.  The fighters had their temporary suspensions extended by the NSAC at its monthly meeting and are expected to have full disciplinary hearings December 18th.

Fortunately for the organization, none of the athletes flagged advanced to the New Year’s Eve Finale for the promotion in New York.

Franca and Laurentino believe that supplements that they took may have been contaminated leading to the drug test failure.  Franca reached the PFL welterweight semifinals on October 11th in Las Vegas before losing to David Michaud.  Laurentino lost in the PFL featherweight quarterfinals to Jeremy Kennedy on October 17 and Nijem lost to Natan Schulte in the PFL lightweight quarterfinals.

Payout Perspective:

This is one of the potential issues with a tournament format for the PFL – the potential of a fighter failing a drug test.  Regardless of whether it’s the fighter’s fault or a tainted supplement as Franca and Laurentino claim, the investigation regarding the testing failure would detour the tournament.  Fortunately, these three would not have impacted the final for $1 million on December 31st.

PFL finalist Pineda fails NAC drug test

November 14, 2019

MMA Junkie reports that PFL featherweight finalist Daniel Pineda has failed a Nevada Athletic Commission-administered-test.  The news could knock Pineda out of a chance for $1 million in the final against Lance Palmer on December 31st.

At this point, the NAC and the promotion have not made an official statement although Junkie reached out to Pineda’s manager who issued the following statement:

“Right now we’re in the process of researching what could have led to a positive test.  We plan on appealing the decision once all information is gathered.”

Pineda was an injury replacement in the PFL Playoffs for Damon Jackson.  Pineda won two fights in the same night to make the final which is set for December 31st at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Payout Perspective:

 It’s unlikely that Pineda will be given the Nate Diaz treatment when it comes to the adjudication of this drug test.  Hopefully, the NAC will be mindful that this could be a tainted supplement scenario although its likely too soon to speculate.  But, since we are, Pineda could be deprived of a chance to fight for $1 million although the test may prove to be a tainted supplement.  The PFL has yet to make a statement which likely means they are trying to work on possible alternatives to Pineda fighting and/or helping to clarify the test.

Brazilian strawweight accepts 2 year USADA sanction

October 27, 2019

USADA announced that Istela Iane Nunes Souza has accepted a two-year sanction for a violation of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy after testing positive for stanozolol metabolites.

The Brazilian fighter tested positive for multiple stanozolol metabolites as the result of an out-of-competition urine sample on July 22, 2019.  The Brazilian was scheduled to make her promotional debut with a fight against Angela Hill at UFC Mexico City this past September.  Instead, the she will have to serve a two-year suspension which will be up in July 2021.

USADA clears Diaz to fight at UFC 244

October 25, 2019

Nate Diaz will fight at UFC 244 next Saturday as USADA has cleared the Stockton-native of a drug test which found elevated levels of a banned substance.  Diaz tweeted about the adverse finding and that he would be out of the bout next week.  But, Dana White said on Friday via twitter that the fight was on.

Diaz’s levels of Ligandrol, a banned substance known as LGD-4033 which stimulates muscle growth, was detected at a “double picogram/mL” level.  The source of the substance was traced back to a legal supplement Diaz ingested, which was categorized as an organic, vegan, plant-based daily vitamin.

The lengthy statement from the UFC can be found via Ariel Helwani’s tweet below:

The UFC emphasized that Diaz had not committed an anti-doping policy violation and has not been provisionally suspended and is not subject to any sanctions.  Similar to what we hear from Jon Jones’ exoneration last year, the UFC stated that there was no “appreciable performance enhancing or therapeutic benefit from the significantly limited amount of LGD-4033 that may be present in his system…”

Diaz should be facing Masvidal next week in the main event of UFC 244.

Payout Perspective:

Clearly the news that Diaz may have had an adverse finding from a USADA test was an alarm to the UFC as it was anticipating a huge payday from its annual New York event.  One has to infer that the expedited nature of these findings were done in order to save the main event and a fighter from having to serve the standard provisional suspension which occurs with an adverse finding.  Many athletes have had their careers and livelihoods put on hold due to a contaminated supplement.  Josh Barnett noted this on social media Friday night.  While its great news that fans get to see Diaz fight, its also shows that there is a process for which USADA can determine these findings without having athletes being put on prolonged suspensions.  Hopefully, the policy changes for the better soon.

Report: Diaz not yet provisionally suspended by USADA

October 25, 2019

ESPN reports that Nate Diaz has not been provisionally suspended by USADA despite his tweet that a USADA drug test found a potential banned substance in his system.

The report quotes a USADA spokesperson that the, “UFC and USADA are gathering information and will issue a statement as soon as possible.”  The ESPN report nots that Diaz tested positive for trace amounts of a prohibited selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM).

According to another report by Bloody Elbow’s Nick Baldwin, USADA would have a statement about the situation on Friday.

Payout Perspective:

If it is true that Diaz failed a USADA drug test, then per the current rules, he should be out of next Saturday’s fight.  If USADA determines that Diaz can fight under some sort of clarification, you have to think that the UFC influenced it into making this decision.  Certainly, its unfortunate that Diaz had an adverse finding which may be due to a tainted supplement (according to Diaz).  But, if USADA allows him to fight Saturday, one has to wonder what went on in making the decision.  Also, it would bring into question cases where fighters had been provisionally suspended due to similar situations.

UFC Heavyweight suspended two years by USADA

October 25, 2019

UFC Giacomo Lemos has accepted a two-year sanction for testing positive for drostanolone and its metabolite according to a statement from USADA.

The heavyweight has yet to fight in the UFC but a drug test was flagged by USADA from July 9, 2019.

Via USADA release Lemos the 30 year old Brazilian tested positive for drostanolone and its metabolite 2α-methyl-5α-androstan-3α-ol-17-one as the result of an out-of-competition urine sample.  It is an anabolic steroid that helps performance enhancement.

The announcement was issued on Thursday prior to Nate Diaz’s tweet that he would not be fighting at UFC 244 due to an adverse finding from a drug test.

Diaz tweets he’s out of UFC 244

October 24, 2019

Nate Diaz sent out a bombshell on social media today when he tweeted out that USADA had found an adverse finding in a drug test and is therefore out of next week’s showdown with Jorge Masvidal on November 2nd in New York.  The news, which has yet to be confirmed by USADA or the UFC as of the time of this writing, means that one of the most anticipated fights of this year looks to be off.

Diaz sent out a tweet of a typed message on his phone.

The message states Diaz, “tested with elevated levels that they say may be from a tainted supplement.” In detesting this ruling, Diaz noted, “I only take Whole Foods or natural foods supplements.”

For his part, Masvidal sent out a tweet in support of Diaz.

Payout Perspective:

If this means Diaz is truly out of the fight, we do not know if Masvidal will take another opponent or if it is just a big blow for the event.  It would be a big gain for boxing casuals that night as it is the same date as the Canelo Alvarez-Sergey Kovalev fight.  This may gain some fans that would pay for the UFC PPV to pay for a DAZN subscription.  As for the possibility of a tainted supplement, this looks like it may be the case.  We have seen numerous findings of a tainted supplement where a banned substance is in the product although not named on the label.  This could mean Diaz unknowingly ingested the product without his knowledge.  But to the larger point at this time, it would mean that Diaz is out of the November 2nd fight barring any sort of last-minute findings.

Judge sides with supplement maker in motion in Lyman Good’s lawsuit

September 6, 2019

The Court in the Lyman Good nutritional supplement lawsuit has granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss related to the issue of spoliation of evidence.  While the court will not outright dismiss the case, the order states that the jury may infer from the lack of evidence.  A trial date has yet to be set.

Order on Motion to Dismiss … by Jason Cruz on Scribd

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York heard oral arguments on August 19th on the Motion to Dismiss from defendants Gaspari Nutrition and Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals.  The Court make a quick ruling by granting in part defendants’ Motion to Dismiss on the same day.  Defendants had requested that the Court dismiss the case due to the spoliation of evidence – a missing bottle of Anavite which Good claims was contaminated and per defendants’ is the key piece of evidence in the lawsuit.  The request to dismiss the case is one of the potential penalties under the rules of civil procedure if a party does not provide evidence to another.  It is the most severe of the penalties. In addition, defendants originally requested the Good’s attorney, David Fish, recuse himself from the case since he could be a potential witness (i.e., Good claimed he gave the bottle to Fish but Fish stated that he no longer had it).  But defendants seemed to back off this claim.

 

Defendants also pointed out that the bottle in question was not listed in Good’s list of supplements he was taking to USADA.

Defendants’ Motion also shows its request to Good and his attorney for the bottle in question. The below correspondence which was attached to the Motion from defendants shows a bottle they received but not the subject Anavite.

There is no real opinion as to what the Court dismissed of the claims that Good set forth or whether this was a general granting that plaintiff and his counsel mishandled the evidence.  The ruling seems to imply that a jury could not side with Good based on the lack of evidence and/or the defendants would have a necessary advantage since they would be allowed to argue that a reasonable jury could not conclude that the product was contaminated because plaintiff does not have the product.

Payout Perspective:

This case shows that not every fighter that sues a supplement maker will receive $27 million dollars like Yoel Romero (or at least receive a judgment for that amount).  There is no trial date set but one would imagine that Good will look to settle or defendants will go for the kill here.  In speculating on the granting of defendants’ motion without a written opinion, one has to believe that the Judge does not believe that a jury will be able to find in favor of Good without the evidence.

Defendants’ Motion to D… by Jason Cruz on Scribd

Motion to Dismiss – Opposition by Jason Cruz on Scribd

Motion to Dismiss – Reply B… by Jason Cruz on Scribd

Dan Hardy getting ready for a comeback?

August 21, 2019

A lot has happened in the sport of MMA since 2012.  It was Dan Hardy’s last time in the Octagon.  Now, the current UFC commentator says he’s getting ready for a return to the Octagon.

Hardy announced on the Joe Rogan Podcast (via MMA Junkie) that he is entering the USADA testing protocol.  According to the rules, once he’s been in the random-testing pool for four months he’ll be able to fight in the UFC once again.

You may recall that Hardy was sidelined due to Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome.  The past several years Hardy has served as a commentator for the promotion mainly doing European events.

At 37, one has to conclude that Hardy misses the competition of MMA and believes that his health will not be a factor upon return.

Payout Perspective:

Hardy does a great job as a commentator but you have to believe that he thinks it was a ‘now or never’ situation on a return to the Octagon.  Nate Diaz’s return from a three-year hiatus may have motivated Hardy but his health situation is something to give pause upon return. With the UFC putting on weekly events all over the world, Hardy may be a name that might see a rebirth of a career if physicians allow it to happen.

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