Ion Cutelaba Given Six Month Suspension by USADA For Declaring Use of Ozone Therapy

Ion Cutelaba UFC
Ion Cutelaba Credit: Karine LaRocque/

Another suspension is handed down from USADA, this time to UFC light heavyweight Ion Cutelaba — but it’s not for what you’d expect.

UFC light heavyweight Ion Cutelaba has fallen victim to the U.S. Anti-Doping agency, but not from any positive drug test. Instead, the light heavyweight has been handed a six month suspension for use of ozone therapy, which is banned in part by USADA (via the World Anti-Doping Agency code it adheres to) without a therapeutic use exemption. Cutelaba, according to a statement by the agency released Thursday, was not aware of the need for a TUE.

Ozone therapy is an alternative medical treatment that claims to increase oxygen in the blood via the introduction of ozone. Although some forms of the treatment are permitted by the UFC Anti-Doping Policy enforced by USADA, the organization does not allow intravenous ozone therapy, which is what was administered by Cutelaba’s physician. The athlete actually declared his use of the treatment, not realizing that the particular version he was undergoing was banned. Incredibly, he was facing a punishment of up to two years for a procedure that, with a TUE, would have been allowed, and is allowed in other forms.

USADA stated in its press release Thursday that:

Based on Cutelaba’s doping control paperwork, USADA contacted the athlete to request more information about the route of administration in order to establish whether the treatment was permissible. Cutelaba’s physician subsequently provided documentation indicating that the treatment was administered on October 3, 2017, and October 17, 2017, in a prohibited manner, as it involved a blood transfusion. The WADA Prohibited List prohibits the administration or reintroduction of blood or red blood cell products of any origin or quantity in the circulatory system, unless a valid Therapeutic Use Exemption has been obtained. While Cutelaba was unaware of the violation and declared the treatment on his doping control paperwork, he was unable to refute the documentation provided.

Under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, as well as the World Anti-Doping Code, an athlete’s period of ineligibility for using a prohibited method may be reduced due to an individual’s voluntary admission of a violation and/or pursuant to an analysis of the athlete’s degree of fault for the anti-doping policy violation. Here, after taking both of those factors into consideration, USADA determined that a reduction to six-months from the standard two-year period of ineligibility was an appropriate sanction under the rules for Cutelaba’s violation.

Ion Cutelaba’s suspension is retroactive to November 3, 2017, meaning he has just under two months to go before he can get back to work in the octagon. He was pulled from UFC 217, however, as a result of the investigation into his ozone therapy use. Cutelaba (13–3 (1)) is 2-2 in the UFC to date.

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