UFC 173 offers opportunity for UFC to prove seriousness on drug testing issue

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

More NSAC documents emerge to show how "enhanced testing" in Nevada has been handled. The proof that WADA "full menu" testing has occurred in the state, combined with the UFC's claimed willingness to pay for any and all testing opens the door for the promotion and commission to use UFC 173 as a groundbreaking moment in drug testing in the sport.

One of the larger issues with the Testosterone Replacement Therapy ban in Nevada has been the lack of discussion on improved drug testing protocols for the state. As previously discussed on Bloody Elbow, a fighter like Vitor Belfort could still use TRT in the state despite the ban, so long as he keeps his Testosterone-to-Epitestosterone levels in check as there is no CIR/IRMS testing to determine if testosterone in his body is natural or synthetic.

The NSAC has begun to offer "enhanced testing" programs for certain fights. The first UFC fight to undergo the "enhanced testing" was Josh Barnett and Travis Browne at UFC 168. That testing was initiated due to Barnett's history of multiple drug test failures for steroids in his career and Browne participated as a sort of measure of fairness in testing. Of course, when Bloody Elbow released the enhanced testing results for the bout it was shown that there was no IRMS testing done as well as no EPO testing.

This is the issue with the repeated use of "WADA testing" in negotiations for drug testing in bouts such as Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks. We already covered that in depth, but the UFC, NSAC and Hendricks all kept pushing the idea of "WADA testing" as the counter to St. Pierre's suggestion of being tested through VADA and one of the key issues the UFC and NSAC seemed to have was St. Pierre's camp wanting to know what exactly the testing would consist of. The NSAC's use of "partial menu" testing in Browne/Barnett would seem to lend some credibility to those concerns. Barnett/Browne was testing done through a WADA accredited lab (SMRTL in Utah) and used a WADA partial menu panel, so it was "WADA testing" but it wasn't the comprehensive testing some had asked for.

Bloody Elbow has acquired the NSAC enhanced testing results for the boxing match between Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez. You can read the PDF of the Bradley vs. Marquez testing here.

These tests are also said by Top Rank to be the guidelines for how the Bradley vs. Manny Pacquiao testing will be handled. While there are some partial menu tests included, there are also multiple instances of WADA full menu testing, including IRMS. I have been unable to confirm if the $35,000 price that the Bradley/Pacquiao 2 fight testing comes with was also the cost of Bradley/Marquez, and there are issues that only about 50% of the tests included the IRMS testing, but at least it was more comprehensive than the Browne/Barnett testing.

The motivating issue in the inconsistencies is that state athletic commissions have limited budgets, so it requires an investment on the part of a promoter to make true testing happen. The UFC has made public statements that they'll pay for any and all testing that a commission wishes to put their fighters through, it'd be interesting to see who will be the first fighter to demand the enhanced testing will be, if the UFC will follow through and if the NSAC will use the opportunity to conduct multiple full menu tests.

The NSAC has made it clear that they can and will oversee testing that includes IRMS, the UFC says they'll pay for it and there are plenty of fighters who will shout about drug use in the sport. Will anyone actually step up and ask for everything to be set into motion?

There isn't reason to suspect either Chris Weidman or Lyoto Machida of using performance enhancing drugs. But, as the next major UFC main event fight in Nevada, in the wake of the TRT/PED controversy that has dominated the MMA landscape, would the fighters, promotion and commission be willing to set the example of random full WADA menu testing? And let's take it a step further and bring in the co-main event, announced last night as heavyweights Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos.

The UFC can say they're serious about drug testing or they can actually be serious about drug testing. And there are four tremendous fighters who could help blaze a new trail for drug testing in the UFC.

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While we're on the PED/TRT subject, we should take a moment to talk about Vitor Belfort.

Belfort's lawyer admitted to Yahoo! that Vitor was on TRT at the time of his February 7 NSAC drug test. It has been noted that this could have been an issue for the state of Nevada (in addition to Vitor's previous failed drug test in the state) in getting an exemption.

The specifics of why that would be an issue haven't exactly been laid out by many, but they relate to the standards of the Association of Boxing Commissions in acquiring a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for TRT. In a statement sent out by the ABC following the NSAC decision, the TUE policy was detailed as such (emphasis mine):

ABC TRT TUE Policy

July 2011

A letter from a Board Certified Endocrinologist stating that you stopped all hormone replacement therapy for a minimum of 8 weeks prior to repeat testing.

The letter should include copies of medical records that address the following issues:

A clearly established diagnosis of primary or secondary hypogonadism.

Include the results from any relevant imaging studies.

Provide results from the endocrinologist's physical examination including a description of all symptoms such as, but not limited to: incomplete sexual development, reduced sexual desire and activity, change in hair pattern, small or shrinking testes, Height loss due to vertebral compression fracture, Low bone mineral density (dexa scan), Reduced muscle bulk and strength.

Provide at least three separate measurements of Baseline testosterone therapy.

Samples should be taken in the morning of free or bioavailable testosterone levels.

If you have been on testosterone (T) therapy already, then the combatant should cease using testosterone therapy for at least two months, preferably three, before measuring baseline T.

Measurements must be made using an accurate method such as calculated free testosterone by equilibrium dialysis.

Results should demonstrate T levels consistently below the low normal value for the reference laboratory.

The obtained values must be interpreted by a Board Certified Endocrinologist.

Provide LH and FSH values measured at the same time as T above. In this case, the obtained values must be interpreted by an endocrinologist.

Provide results from stimulation of the gonadal axis by hCG as applicable.

Provide confirmation that you do not have any short term illness or other condition that would influence testosterone production at the time of evaluation, and that you are NOT on any medication that may affect T levels such as narcotics or corticosteroids, or androgen replacement therapy.

Provide a detailed treatment plan including how systemic T levels will be monitored to ensure maintenance of therapeutic levels. The dosage must be decided by an endocrinologist in this case. The intervals between assessments of therapeutic maintenance levels must be so stated and the results of at least two therapeutic levels submitted by an endocrinologist.

Please be hereby advised that you will be subject to at least three separate drug tests prior and immediately thereafter your fight date, the timing and type of which is to be determined by the regulating agency.

Given that he was actively on the therapy prior to getting his TUE from Nevada, there is no way the NSAC could have granted a TUE that would have been in accordance with the ABC standards.

So, if not being able to use TRT was a reason for Belfort to pull out following the ban, there was roughly a zero percent chance (had all parties followed established policies) for him to have ever fought Chris Weidman in Nevada at UFC 173.

Update: Kevin Iole gives a little insight on the cost of the Bradley/Marquez testing vs. Bradley/Pacquiao:

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