Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White is giving the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) free rein to run an out-of-competition drug-testing program for the mixed martial arts outfit. The partnership is expected to bring radical change and stricter enforcement of penalties, the stiffest of which is the imposition of a four-year suspension to first-time offenders. Both sides announced the arrangement in a news conference at the Red Rock Casino and Spa in Las Vegas.
USADA Chief Executive Officer Travis Tygart was flanked by UFC officials such as White and Lorenzo Fertitta. The UFC through its officials declared that the move is the first step in the evolution of the mixed martial arts world.
Fertitta admitted that the repercussions could include untimely cancellation of fights, champions losing their belts and the organization parting ways with fan favorites. Nevertheless, the UFC is determined to clean up its act, a move that the USADA is lauding.
“The UFC literally has removed themselves from the material operations of the policy,” Tygart said. “So questions about who’s tested, when they’re tested, and what they’re tested for, is a year-round testing program, in- and out-of-competition.”
Both sides have outlined a program that separates penalties for specified substances -- such as steroids and performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) -- and non-specified substances, a label that covers recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. With almost 2,700 random tests in tow -- or roughly the equivalent of five tests for each fighter annually -- the UFC is hoping to deter its pool from considering any type of substance.
As Fertitta warned fighters: “You can’t use anything. If you use it, you will get caught.”
USADA and UFC hope their agreement stands as a major deterrent. The new penalties to be implemented July 1 include a minimum two-year suspension for first-time offenders of specified substances, such as steroids and PEDs. Repeat offenders of the same nature will see their fines get doubled on every tier that the same offense is violated. Apart from these, fight winners will also run the risk of forfeiture and additional financial fines if the post-fight tests do not work in their favor.
The authority given by the UFC to USADA will still have to work out the harmonization of its policies with state athletic commissions, which oversee other areas of the fights, including suspensions from doping incidents. The promotional outfit clarified that it will use the default penalty recommendations of USADA in booking matches.