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It just got a whole lot tougher for drug cheats to succeed in the UFC

‘The best anti-doping program in all of professional sports.’

Jeff Novitzy, the UFC's new Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance. He also wears a suit and aviator sunglasses, so you know important stuff is going down.
Jeff Novitzy, the UFC's new Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance. He also wears a suit and aviator sunglasses, so you know important stuff is going down.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE ULTIMATE FIGHTING Championship has announced major changes to its policy on drug testing.

At a press conference in Las Vegas, Jeff Novitzy — the UFC’s recently-appointed Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance — outlined several new measures following a spate of high-profile failed tests recently.

According to Novitzky, the changes are intended to create “the best anti-doping program in all of professional sports”. Under the stewardship of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), it’s expected that the programme will become effective as and from 1 July.

The new programme will result in the UFC’s roster of over 500 athletes being subject to unannounced, year-round testing, both in and out of competition. This will include blood and urine testing, “with the possibility of a collection occurring any place, any time, with no notice,” Novitzky said.

According to USADA CEO Travis Tygart, a minimum of 2,750 tests will be conducted each year — an average of over five tests per fighter. The testing is to be overseen globally by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) labs.

Suspensions for “specified substances” include…

As per WADA code: Anabolic steroids, growth hormones, peptides, blood-doping drugs and methods (tested for in and out of competition):

First offence: Two years (with the possibility of four years for “aggravating circumstances”).
Second offence: Double the sanction for the first offence.
Third offence: Double the sanction for the second offence.

Suspensions for “non-specified substances” include…

As per WADA code: marijuana, cocaine, other stimulants and glucocorticosteroids (tested for in competition only):

First offence: One year (with the possibility of two additional years for “aggravating circumstances”).
Second offence: Double the sanction for the first offence.
Third offence: Double the sanction for the second offence.

Brazil Rio 2016 Anderson Silva Ex-middleweight champion Anderson Silva is currently serving a suspension for failing a drug test in January. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Sanctions

- An anti-doping violation during, or leading up to, a bout will result in disqualification of the result of the bout, and forfeiture of title, ranking, and purse or other compensation.

- Any purse, compensation or fine forfeited will be put towards the cost of the UFC’s anti-doping program and/or anti-doping research.

Should a lenient sentence be handed out by a state commission, the UFC will overrule that sentence and enforce its own anti-doping procedures instead.

Many UFC fighters, including Donegal’s Joseph Duffy, took to social media to welcome the revamped programme…

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The UFC intends to fund the program itself at a cost of “multiple millions of dollars,” according to its CEO Lorenzo Fertitta. However, the procedures will be entirely overseen by USADA.

Fertitta said: “We are jumping into this issue in a very aggressive manner. There is the potential that some very high-profile fighters, or any fighter on our roster, now has the potential to be caught.

“There could be major fights that fall out but we are prepared to deal with that. That’s a consequence that, hopefully it won’t happen, but if it does, then we understand that.

“But I think that at the end of the day, the way this program was structured and the education process and the way it’s going to be rolled out, we’re hopeful that there is a strong enough deterrent aspect to what we are doing here.

“That is very clear to every athlete on the UFC roster — and even an athlete who potentially believes they will be on the UFC roster in the future — that they cannot use any prohibited substance. And that’s the bottom line.”

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Paul Dollery

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