UFC Announces Anti-Doping Policy Changes

The UFC is looking into potential changes for its anti-doping program, done in partnership with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and the promotion has announced one change already made.

As of this past July, the UFC now only announce a violation (typically a failed drug test) when the case has been resolved.

“I have nothing but the highest caliber of respect for USADA, but it would be obtuse on our part if we did not take a look after a three-year period and say, ‘What are the things we’ve learned and what changes might we need to make to this program?'” UFC Chief Legal Officer Hunter Campbell told ESPN. “If an athlete has a positive drug test, we aren’t putting them in a fight until their case is resolved — but what we can do is give the athlete an opportunity to adjudicate their issue without the public rushing to judgment. Announcing the test result creates this narrative around the athlete before people understand the facts.”

According to Jeff Novitzky, the UFC’s vice president of athlete health and performance, 21 of the 62 cases under the UFC’s program were found to be non-intentional use (e.g. tainted supplement [ex: Junior dos Santos]) or cases where use exemption was granted (ex: Cris Cyborg). This 34 percent of fighters not intentionally using performance enhancers is enough to trigger the change.

“Part of the feedback Jeff and I have received from the athletes is, ‘I would have appreciated the opportunity to adjudicate this, so the story could be I tested positive, a full investigation was conducted and it was found the use was unintentional,'” Campbell said. “That story is very different than giving somebody a six-month window, where they are trying to defend themselves against accusations they are a cheater.”

The UFC is also discussing potential changes as to how it views second-time offenders. Jon Jones was facing a four-year suspension from USADA for a second violation before the 15-month retroactive suspension handed down last week. Jones’ first suspension, handed down in 2016, lasted just one year rather than two due to reckless use rather than intentional cheating, but Jones still faced a four-year suspension for the second violation under the policy’s rules.

“One of the reasons a guy like Jon Jones was facing four years is that he was a multiple offender of the program,” Campbell said. “My issue with that is that Jon Jones was found to have not done anything intentional in his first offense. He was found to have a exercised a degree of irresponsibility. I do not think anyone who has two unintentional violations should have to face a four-year suspension. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. You have to have, and we will continue to have, increasing penalties in the event a violation is found to be intentional.

But Campbell warns the changes don’t mean the program is getting lax.

“If you have anything in your system, you are going to test positive,” Campbell said. “With the amount of microscopically low doses they can detect, if you’re trying to knowingly cheat, I wish you the best because you are on borrowed time. In terms of accomplishing that, which is what we set out to, we’re doing remarkably well.”

Original Story: ESPN

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