USADA Banished UFC Fighter Jake Collier for Higenamine — But What Is It?

Jake Collier
Jake Collier Credit: Dave Mandel/

Jake Collier failed a USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) drug test in December of last year, testing positive for Higenamine. We look into what exactly the banned substance is, and why it has led to a 10-month suspension.

Announced earlier this week, following a failed drug test taken in December of last year by USADA, ‘The Prototype’ Jake Collier (11-4) has accepted a 10-month suspension.

It’s often we see athletes fail a drug test due to a tainted supplement, in this case, the intake of a pre-workout containing Higenamine, but what exactly is this banned substance?

Per the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) website, here’s some details on what was found in Collier’s system, ultimately leading to a 304 day suspension from mixed martial arts competition:

Higenamine (Norcoclaurine)

  • History: A substance found in a variety of plant sources, Higenamine was often used in traditional medicine, and now the supplement industry has started using it as a substitute for Dimethylamylamine (DMAA) and ephedrine. As such, USADA reminds athletes to check your supplement labels for Higenamine (also known as norcoclaurine) or Higenamine plant-based sources (Aconite, Annona squamosal, Nandina domestica, Tinospora crispa, and others).
  • Clinical Utility: Higenamine can act as an anti-asthmatic and a cardiotonic, which means that it may strengthen the heart by increasing cardiac output. Pre-clinical studies suggest Higenamine may be used to help the heart recover after an adverse event like a myocardial infarct or heart failure. Many of these effects have been observed in in vitro studies and in animals, but have not been confirmed in humans.Higenamine currently has no government regulatory approvals for human clinical use in the United States. Higenamine or its synonyms may or may not be listed on labels of dietary supplement products. Some examples can be found on USADA’s Supplement 411 High Risk List.
  • Performance-Enhancing Actions: Research indicates that Higenamine has mixed adrenergic receptor activity, meaning it may act as a general stimulant. It may be found in some pre-workout, energy, or weight-loss products.
  • Potential Side Effects: In some circumstances, Higenamine may also alter blood pressure and cause irregular heartbeats.
Higenamine structure

Interestingly, Jake Collier is the only UFC athlete sanctioned for Higenamine thus far. However, weightlifter Kaitlyn Jarrett was suspended from competition by USADA after testing positive for the substance in 2018. She was handed a one-year ban from here sport, while fellow weightlifter Carlee Acevedo-Fuller received nine months after testing positive for multiple banned substances, including Higenamine.

Given those suspensions, Collier’s would appear to be in line with other athletes under USADA. It’s worth noting that he shaved a couple of months off the recommended suspension thanks to cooperating with USADA during their investigation into the failed test.

Collier is coming off of a unanimous decision victory over Marcel Fortuna in November of 2017. Later he was set to face off with Marin Prachnio in February of last year, but was forced to pull out due to injury.

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