USADA “Will Focus Only On Mission-Critical Testing of Athletes in Sports Still Competing” During Coronavirus Pandemic

UFC Philade;phia octagon
Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Sports still active, and those preparing for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, will be USADA’s focus for the foreseeable future.

USADA (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency), which oversees the UFC’s Anti-Doping Policy, has released a statement pertaining to its procedures and focus in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 and the resulting disease, COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) has disrupted essentially all of the professional sports realm, including the UFC. The promotion recently postponed its next three shows, starting with this coming weekend’s UFC London.

With USADA testing athletes from both the UFC and other sports, and with employees traveling frequently to collect samples, the safety of both athlete and sample collector has obviously become a concern.

In Tuesday’s statement, the anti-doping body gave an overview of how it is handling the situation, and also provided a video statement for athletes from CEO Travis T. Tygart.

“At USADA, we are here to protect athletes and ensure their right to compete on a healthy, clean and fair playing field,” the statement read. “We are equally committed to protecting the health and wellbeing of athletes and sample collection personnel. We understand we are operating in an uncertain time, and our experts are closely following the advice and best practices of national and local health authorities.”

With that in mind, the organization “will focus only on mission-critical testing of athletes in sports still competing, and as absolutely needed for those preparing for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games to ensure their rights are upheld and their reputations protected.”

USADA also announced that its Doping Control Officers (DCOs) would be “enhancing our collection process accordingly:

  • Where feasible, DCOs will use personal protective gear, including mask and gloves. DCOs will also have hand sanitizer for use during the processing of the sample. Please keep in mind that many communities have a shortage of these materials that are needed by the healthcare system.
  • As always, we ask that both athletes and DCOs wash their hands before testing occurs.
  • We encourage athletes and DCOs to maintain a six-foot distance during the process.
  • During this time, no USADA DCO who has any sign of sickness or otherwise meets any of the risk criteria identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be collecting samples.”

With UFC 249 still moving forward according to Dana White, it would appear the UFC will fall under the “mission critical” category, at least for the time being. Further postponements or cancellations could see that change, however.

Cageside Press reached out to USADA officials earlier this week, requesting the organization’s procedures for sample collection during the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, USADA was asked whether fighters being booked last-minute for upcoming UFC events (prior to the postponement of UFC London, UFC Columbus, and UFC Portland) would be considered “short-notice” and therefore exempt from the regular testing period for new UFC athletes, even in cases where the fight was essentially two entirely new fighters.

A USADA official referred the matter to the UFC.

USADA CEO Travis T. Tygar’s message to athletes can be found below.