Current UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling has revealed that he caught wind of ex-champ T.J. Dillashaw’s performance enhancing drug use “years ago.”
Dillashaw returns to action this Saturday at UFC Vegas 32 in the main event, opposite fellow 135lb contender Cory Sandhagen. The former bantamweight champion has been out for two years thanks to a USADA suspension, after testing positive for EPO (erythropoietin), a banned substance made famous by disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Dillashaw has long maintained that he used the substance, one of the most common forms of blood doping, only in his fight with Henry Cejudo. Sterling, however, claims otherwise.
“He cheated, he’s been cheating for a very long time, ask his teammates,” Sterling said during a recent edition of his Weekly Scraps podcast (h/t MMA Fighting). “This is something that has been disclosed to me years ago and of course, you don’t want to be the whistleblower and not have any evidence but the evidence has been his teammates talking about it, his former teammates talking about it, and of course, now being caught, it’s pretty safe to say that where there’s smoke there’s fire.”
EPO, used in treating kidney failure and chemotherapy, among other legitimate purposes, increases red blood cell mass, which in turn helps the body provide more oxygen to muscles. That results in increased stamina and recovery, allowing athletes to train harder, longer, and recover quicker.
The substance is particularly hard to test for. Dillashaw has pointed to some 30 negative tests he has taken under the UFC’s Anti-Doping program, run by USADA, as proof that his cheating in the Cejudo fight was a one-off. The agency has been testing his old samples, to ferret out any past cheating. However, in addition to requiring a special test just to detect EPO, evidence of its use can clear the human body in as little as two days.
Despite being told of Dillashaw’s cheating years prior, however, champ Sterling is not against granting a title shot to him, should he get by Sandhagen this weekend. “I’m very excited to see what T.J. Dillashaw shows up because, you beat T.J. Dillashaw, does that give you a title shot? I don’t know. But if T.J. beats [Cory Sandhagen], does that give T.J. a title shot? Absolutely. It should absolutely give T.J. a title shot.”