Usada changes to UFC Anti-Doping Regulations (in a nutshell)

As the UFC Anti-Doping program heads towards its second year anniversary USADA have updated the ADP (Anti Doping Policy) with a swathe of changes responding to incidents over the past 18 months of the program.

All changes effective April 1st 2017

Multiple violation clause in relation to Athletic Commission imposed violations

(The Barnett clause)

Decisions made either before or after the effective date of this Policy by an Athletic Commission or other Anti-Doping Organization, finding that an Athlete or other Person violated a rule involving Prohibited Substances or Prohibited Methods or committed an Anti-Doping Policy Violation may be considered in sanctioning or counted as a violation under this Article where the process was fair and the violation would also be a violation of these policies. Where such offense would not also constitute a violation under this Policy, then the offense shall not count as a violation for purposes of Article 10.7.

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Possibly the most notable of all the changes. Previously the “multiple violation” penalties were only triggered by multiple violations under the USADA program. This now changes. Now, any athlete that has been found to have committed a violation by an athletic commission, either in the past, or going forward, may trigger their “second violation” if they test positive under USADA.

This, had it been effected originally would have affected the likes of Josh Barnett who because of prior violations could be facing a “multiple violation” situation.

Athletes admitting prohibited substance use prior to joining the UFC

(The Meek and Hunter clauses)

2.1.5 – Limited Conditions for No Violation In the event an Athlete entering the Program voluntarily and promptly discloses to USADA, prior to testing by USADA, the Use or Attempted Use of a substance or method that is prohibited at all times on the Prohibited List, then the presence or evidence of Use of such disclosed substance or method in an Athlete’s Sample, shall not be considered an Anti-Doping Policy Violation if it is determined by USADA to have resulted from Use of the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method which occurred prior to the Athlete entering the Program.

2.5.2 – Expands Tampering Definition Absent a compelling justification, the failure to disclose to USADA, prior to entering the Program, the Use, Attempted Use or Possession within the previous one year of a substance or method that is classified as prohibited at all times on the Prohibited List. The past Use, Attempted Use or Possession of a Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method shall not constitute a violation of these Policies if disclosed prior to entering the Program; however, the admission of such conduct shall subject the Athlete to the notice period requirements outlined in Article 5.7.4. Furthermore, unless the Athlete’s use of the substance or method in question was pursuant to a valid medical prescription or recommendation, such conduct may also be considered in sanctioning or counted as a violation for purposes of Article 10.7 if the Athlete subsequently commits an Anti-Doping Policy Violation.

5.7.4 A new or returning Athlete who admits or has an established and verifiable history of the Use, Attempted Use or Possession of a substance or method that is classified as prohibited at all times on the Prohibited List shall not be permitted to compete in UFC Bouts until he/she has made him/herself available for Testing for a minimum period of six months before competing. At USADA’s discretion, such Athletes may also be required to provide a minimum of two negative Samples during the minimum six-month notice period before being cleared for competition. This provision shall not apply in situations in which (i) the Athlete’s Use of the Prohibited Substance or Method was pursuant to a valid TUE or (ii) USADA subsequently grants the Athlete a TUE for the substance or method in question.

acornWhen entering the USADA program athletes undergo an initial “induction” session. It was in such a session that Emil Meek admitted use of prohibited substances prior to joining the UFC that would constitute a violation and as a result he was made to sit out four months in the testing pool. (Initially claiming to Ariel Helwani it was because of IV and Cortisone use, later admitting that he hadn’t been totally honest in that summary). The new clauses lay out that procedure in black and white with a number of provisos.

When joining the UFC admitting to use of any prohibited substance in the previous year will not result in a violation however..

  • Athletes will have to sit in the testing pool for a full six months prior to being able to compete
  • Athletes will have to provide 2 clean samples during that time
  • While the admission of use of prohibited substances prior to joining the UFC will not count as a violation, if, the athlete tests positive at a later date, then when it comes to sanctioning the admission may be used in triggering the “multiple violation” clause.

The changes also cover what could be known as the “Hunter Clause”. If you sign for the UFC full to the brim with prohibited substances admission of this promptly will mean that any positives for the said substances (as long as it can be established that use was prior to joining the UFC) will not be considered a violation (but you will be made to sit out for 6 months).

  • As a catch all, any athlete with a documented use (use, possession etc) of prohibited substances (so athletes who have served prior doping bans) will also be subject to a 6 month testing pool period (along with 2 clean tests)

Note that these clauses only refer to substances classified as “prohibited at all times” so does not include for instance the classes of stimulants for example.

Prohibited association with persons under suspension

(the Letourneau clause)

Professional of Sport Related Capacity Acting in a Professional or Sport Related Capacity shall include, without limitation, acting as a manager, coach, trainer, second, corner man, agent, official, medical or paramedical personnel. For purposes of this Policy, it shall not include indirect or peripheral involvement in an Athlete’s training, or acting as an Athlete’s training partner.

acornIn 2015 for her title challenge Valerie Letourneau was denied then boyfriend and training partner Hector Lombard in her corner due to his ongoing suspension. While she was not prevented from training with him the new wording clears up any confusion over what is considered support personnel. Athletes can train with suspended persons, but not be coached, managed, cornered by them.

In-competition definition

(The Diaz Clause)

For purposes of this Anti-Doping Policy, “In-Competition” means the period commencing at noon on the day prior to the scheduled start of the Fight Card on which a Bout is contested and ending upon the completion of the postBout Sample or Specimen collection. If a post-Bout Sample or Specimen collection is not initiated by USADA within a reasonable time, which will not exceed one hour following an Athlete’s post-Bout medical clearance, then the In-Competition period shall expire at that time.

acornWhen Nate Diaz was outed smoking Cannabinoids after UFC 202 the debate raged about the definition of the in competition testing window. The new rules adjust and clarify that.

In competition now commences at 12 noon, the day before the bout (as opposed to “6 hours before weigh-in’s”, and runs until either, the post fight samples are collected, or 1 hour after post fight medical assessment completed, whichever is the earlier.

Notice Requirements for New and Returning Athletes

(The Lesnar, Hill clauses)

5.7.1 An Athlete who has not previously competed in UFC, may not compete in UFC Bouts until he/she has executed a Promotional Agreement with UFC and made him/herself available for Testing for a minimum period of one month before his/her first UFC Bout. Where the conditions set forth in Article 5.7.6 below are satisfied, the foregoing rule shall not prevent a new UFC Athlete from participating in a Bout less than one month after entering into a Promotional Agreement with UFC.

5.7.2 An Athlete who ceases to have a contractual relationship with UFC due to UFC-Initiated Inactivity, may not resume competing in UFC Bouts until he/she has entered into a new Promotional Agreement with UFC and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of one month before returning to competition. Where the conditions set forth in Article 5.7.6 below are satisfied, the foregoing rule shall not prevent a returning UFC Athlete from participating in a Bout less than one month after entering into a new Promotional Agreement with UFC.

5.7.3 An Athlete who gives notice of retirement to UFC, or has otherwise ceased to have a contractual relationship with UFC due to Athlete-Initiated Inactivity, may not resume competing in UFC Bouts until he/she has given UFC written notice of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of six months before returning to competition. UFC may grant an exemption to the six-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete.

5.7.6 The one-month notice period requirement for an Athlete subject to Articles 5.7.1 and 5.7.2 shall be waived automatically where he/she is named to a Fight Card as a replacement for an Athlete who was withdrawn from the Fight Card due to loss of eligibility, injury or other event not reasonably foreseeable to UFC.

acorn2016 saw a number of controversies in regards the “returning athletes” clause in the Anti Doping Policy. Brock Lesnar famously was granted exemption from the four month testing rule and promptly tested positive in both pre-fight and fight night tests. Angela Hill on the other hand after being cut by the UFC was initially prevented from returning on short notice to fight Jessica Andrade before (rightly) being granted exemption from USADA and clearance to fight.

The new rules make it easier for athletes that had previously been released by the UFC to return, but make the rules tougher on those who retire, or leave the UFC voluntarily.

  • A new athlete joining the UFC may not compete until they have spent at least one month in the testing pool.
  • An athlete who had previously been in the UFC but had left due to UFC initiated activity (So released, contract not renewed etc), may not compete until they have spent one month in the testing pool.
  • An athlete who had previously been in the UFC but left under their own steam, so retired, chose not to renew contract, joined another organisation, may not compete until they have spent 6 months in the testing pool. (This brings the UFC into line with most other WADA sports who have a standard 6 month return to pool clause)

Potential waivers:

  • The one month rule may be waived where they are joining/returning to the UFC as a late notice replacement following injury, illness etc of the original participant.
  • The six month rule may be adjusted/waived where manifestly unfair to the athlete or in exceptional circumstances.

Of course, any new or returning athlete that has prior history of prohibited substance use will be made to sit on the naughty step for a full six months before being allowed to compete.

Retiring while under suspension

(The Cro-Cop, Lesnar clause)

5.7.5 If an Athlete retires from UFC competition while subject to a period of Ineligibility, the Athlete shall not resume competing in UFC Bouts or competitions approved or sanctioned by an Athletic Commission until the Athlete has given six months prior written notice (or notice equivalent to the period of Ineligibility remaining as of the date the Athlete retired, if that period was longer than six months) to UFC of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing throughout the notice period. Similarly, if an Athlete is retired at the time a period of Ineligibility is imposed, then the Athlete’s sanction shall be tolled until such time he/she provides written notice of his/her return from retirement and makes him/herself available for Testing.

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Following his HgH violation in 2015, Mirko Filipovic announced his retirement and was granted his release by the UFC. As such, his suspension was effectively put on hold and if he returns to the UFC in the future then he is required to serve out the rest of his suspension in the testing pool before he is allowed to compete.

The regulations become clearer from April 1st with athletes required to remain in the testing pool during suspension, or, if they should retire and leave the pool either:

  • Serve six months in the testing pool prior to being allowed to compete

or

  • Serve out the remainder of their suspension had it been put on hold at the time of their retirement

whichever is the longer

Minor changes

  • Provisional hearings (initial hearings to determine if provisional suspension is fair/required) now held by teleconference with single arbitrator
  • Athletes considered inactive by USADA when either terminated by the UFC or when UFC declines to renew contract
  • Rules in the anti-doping policy will be based on date of violation UNLESS it is decided that the newer rules would be fairer to the athlete and its determined that the newer rules should be applied by the arbitration panel.

Summary

Overall USADA have done a good job of tailoring the policy so that genuine athletes are not penalised if joining or returning to the UFC while upping the penalties for athletes that have committed violations, or chosen to leave the UFC and want to return. It certainly brings the “return to pool” rules more in line with sports under the wada code while acknowledging the “short notice” nature of some bouts. Fairer to the innocent, harder on the offenders.

Sources

You can download the full Anti Doping Policy (Effective 1st April 2017) here (Usada.org)

And a summary of the changes here (Usada.org)

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