It's Time for the UFC to Step Up on Drug Testing

USADA's Travis Tygart via ESPN

Dave Meltzer laid it down on his podcast (transcription via Fight Opinion):

"But I mean the whole thing is that the drug testing system that we have in place right now is a complete joke. I mean, that's a big part of this story is that when you know the date of your test and because of funding issues, you know you've got, one of the big issues right here to me is that for this sport UFC should be doing the testing and they should be testing similar to, you know, what a regular sport would do. I mean, like, you know they're sitting there doing, well we'll do what boxing does which is leave it to the commissions.

But, number one, the number of drug test failures in MMA is significantly bigger than boxing, so it's a bigger problem. The other issue is that it's an organizational thing and the organization should be stepping up and not leaving it to these commissions that are financially strapped because California does allow out-of-competition testing, Nevada does allow out-of-competition testing, but given the budget restraints (it) ain't going to happen for these commissions. They're going to do (the least), you know, they don't have the funding to do I'm sure they would like to do.

It's just not happening right now and I think that for this business, UFC should do more than just day-of-event testing because, again, you've got guys, a lot of guys, who are doing it cycling, cycling off, getting the benefits of increased training, they may also be getting the detriments of getting off at the wrong time and going into fights kind of lulling which sometimes gives you bad fights because guys didn't get their cycle properly and they may be at a down point of their actual testosterone kicking in and the drugs that they're taking to do that, you know, you can't take too many of them because they may show up on a test. It's a really weird deal here."

Fightlinker piles on:

So long as commissions aren't even doing the minimum they need to actually, oh I don't know, catch abusers, you're going to have cheaters cheating, and many others cheating because the cheaters cheat. It's a vicious cycle that's only going to go away if somebody higher up makes some changes.

Dana White isn't doing much other than playing the hand-tied promoter stuck between government regulation and 'young kids making mistakes.' The commissions are either unwilling or unable to spend the money to do things right. I guess it's just too bad no one is making tens of millions of dollars off the sport that you could make cover the costs of proper testing...

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency head Travis Tygart outlined the problems with the current testing regime to the NSAC in June:

Tygart emphasized that you need to have both urine testing and blood testing in order to have a legitimate drug testing system that can detect various different kinds of banned substances.

The line of questioning by the NSAC's commissioners seemed to be trying to focus on the limits of blood testing and the things that it can't detect (ie, defending the status quo of Nevada's urine-only testing), but Tygart kept emphasizing that if you only have one or the other (only urine testing or only blood testing), you're missing out on detecting entire groups of banned substances.

Tygart added that even if the NSAC were to give itself the authority to order blood tests on fighters and then rarely use that authority, that would still be a big step in the right direction. Tygart said that just the fact that the NSAC would have the authority to order blood tests would act as a deterrent to cheaters, and it would be up to the NSAC to decide how frequently or infrequently these blood tests would be ordered.

Another point that Tygart made is that when a fighter is ordered to take an out-of-competition drug test under the NSAC's current system and the fighter has 24 or 48 hours to submit a urine sample from the time when they are notified, that is plenty of time for any drug-savvy fighter to beat a drug test. Under WADA and USADA standards, athletes must either submit to a drug test immediately, or the athlete must not leave the sight of the inspector until the athlete has submitted a sample.

The NSAC's commissioners appear to be getting a bit defensive, as Commissioner Avansino defensively told Tygart, "We at the Nevada State Athletic Commission have been devoted to random drug testing for years!"

Travis Tygart referred to "the money excuse" and said to the NSAC commissioners (paraphrasing), "The money is there. You just have to decide how you want to prioritize it. You could take one dollar or one percent from every PPV buy of the Mayweather/Mosley fight and that could fund your drug program for the next five years."

It's clear the current system is utterly broken.

The UFC already conducts testing in places where no athletic commissions are in place (the UK, etc).

The UFC has plenty of money to implement rigorous testing.

Let's do this before a UFC champion tests positive. The two biggest matches of this summer -- Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin and Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen -- have both been tainted by PED issues. Every fan of the sport is just lucky that Carwin and Sonnen (barely) lost those title fights.

Do the right thing Dana.

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