Policy Change Means UFC Will No Longer Announce Potential Anti-Doping Violations

UFC Heavyweight Josh Barnett
Josh Barnett Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

The UFC will no longer be announcing anti-doping policy violations until athletes have gone through the adjudication process with USADA, the UFC unveiled over the weekend.

In a change to its anti-doping policy, the UFC will no longer announce potential anti-doping violations. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto initially reported the news Friday. The change will alter the way in which the UFC addresses drug test failures for its athletes for the first time since the launch of the USADA program in the UFC in 2015. To date, when a fighter has tested positive, the UFC has announced that said fighter is facing a “potential anti-doping violation.” The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency generally communicates news only when a fighter has been sanctioned, however.

Moving forward, the promotion will not announce failures. At least, not until the adjudication process has played out. The change comes after a number of high profile cases that saw fighters found not to be at fault despite testing positive. Those would include Josh Barnett, who won his case with USADA after a costly arbitration process when he was able to prove he was victim of a tainted supplement. Junior Dos Santos and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, meanwhile, wound up with positive tests thanks to contamination at a compounding pharmacy (where supplements were prepared). Barnett opted to exit the promotion after his clash with USADA.

UFC Chief Legal Officer Hunter Campbell told ESPN that “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.”

“Part of the feedback Jeff [Novitzky, UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance] 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 added. 21 of 62 adjudicated USADA cases in the UFC have found that athletes did not intentionally use performance enhancing drugs.

The change will bring the UFC in line with how Olympic athletes are treated by USADA.