On October 1st, UFC fighters will no longer have the luxury of rehydrating intravenously after a weigh-in, thanks to the UFC's partnership with USADA to facilitate their new anti-doping program. Anyone caught using IVs could face a suspension of up to two years for a first time violation. With the sheer volume of fighters that cut vast amounts of weight to maintain a size advantage, the sport will likely see some big changes in the divisions.
In a recent interview with Ariel Helwani via the MMA Hour, drug czar, Jeff Novitsky fielded a variety of questions, with the main focus on the IV ban, which is just five weeks away. Here's what he had to say:
"The risk versus reward under this program, I mean if someone is found out to have taken an IV you're facing a potential two-year ban, which is a long time in the UFC and in MMA. Hopefully all those factors that are put forth, everyone will follow the rules.
It is something that [fighters] are going to have to deal with. Whether it means walking around when fights aren't scheduled a little closer to that fight weight, whether it means, which hopefully it does, being educated through us and through others on how to properly orally rehydrate. The studies and science show that as long as the dehydration isn't too severe oral rehydration is actually better for you. It's safer for you. Studies show that you'll feel like exercise is a little bit easier and you're exerting less if you orally hydrate."
One of the most interesting things he talked about was the fact that they are saving fighter samples and will keep them stored long term with the possibility of retroactive testing as technology becomes more advanced.
"Even if there wasn't a definitive test now, there could be two or three years from now."
Novitsky says there are two methods used to test for IV use. One is the use of a biological passport, and the other is a test that detects plastic particles. One other thing to note here, is that there is a work-around with the ban. If a fighter becomes ill and requires hospitalization, they are permitted the use of an IV. There is a caveat with that loophole, though. The commission could remove the fighter from scheduled competition under those circumstances.
When Novitsky became the UFC's vice president of athlete health and performance earlier this year, he was unaware just how common the use of IVs to rehydrate is among the fight roster.
"What was surprising to me was the prevalence of its use in this sport, not necessarily to try to defeat anti-doping tests, but for rehydration purposes. That and the extreme weight cuts that were going on. That was a surprise."