As UFC 249 Draws Closer, Picture of Drug Testing, Health and Safety Approach Becomes Clearer

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Dana White UFC Aurora
Credit: Rodney James Edgar/Cageside Press

UFC athletes will be subject to drug testing by USADA at the upcoming UFC 249. According to at least one fighter, they’ll be tested for infection from the novel coronavirus before and after heading to Jacksonville, Florida, where the event is being held. And the UFC has revealed its safety protocol to fighters.

There’s a lot to digest, and running an event during a pandemic will not be easy. But for those interested in what the promotion is doing in regards to fighter health and safety, the last 24 hours have been an eye-opener.

In a statement to Cageside Press on Friday, USADA officials wrote that “testing at UFC events is an essential part of a fair fight. We will have doping control officers at UFC 249, and will do everything in our power to conduct testing at future events, of course taking appropriate precautions to protect the health and safety of everyone involved.”

In mid-March, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that it was focusing on “mission critical” testing in sports that were still active. It also outlined precautions being taken, including provisions such as:

  • “Where feasible, DCOs (Doping Control Officers) 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.”

Per a report released by MMA Junkie, the UFC itself is taking a number of precautions with fighters. In a communication to athletes, the promotion noted that UFC 249 (and subsequent events) will be limited to staff, athletes, and their corners only. Media will not be on hand, as the promotion previously notified outlets that interactions with fighters will take place online, including a “Virtual Media Day” ahead of the event.

Mandatory medial screenings including daily tests will be required for fighters and their corners upon arrival at the host hotel in Jacksonville. Fighters will have an individual workout room with mats, mat sanitizer and a personal sauna provided. The UFC PI and Trifecta will be providing support where required, and medical staff will be on the premises.

In an interview published Thursday with MMA Junkie, heavyweight Yorgan de Castro, who faces Greg Hardy on the UFC 249 card, also revealed he was expecting to be tested for the coronavirus both prior to and upon arrival in Florida.

“They told me they were going to test me and my coach before we fly, and when we get there, we’re going to get tested again,” De Castro was quoted as saying. “So they have a lot of safety that we have to go through.”

All for good reason. To date, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has infected over 3.3 million people globally. The resulting disease, COVID-19, has a death toll of over 237,000 as of this writing.

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