It's almost 3 years ago to the day since Vitor Belfort stepped up on short notice to fight Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 152 in Toronto. Belfort nearly submitted Jones with an armbar in the 1st round, then proceeded to get shellacked until he tapped out to an Americana in round 4.
Belfort has been the subject of heavy scrutiny and multiple controversies concerning his TRT use and drug testing results, and we have another chapter to add to the book. In a special investigation penned by Josh Gross and published on Deadspin, Belfort had actually tested positive for elevated testosterone in the state of Nevada just under three weeks before fight night in Ontario:
[The] document shows that Belfort's free testosterone levels were high—two and a half times above the average for a man his age, in fact. At a time when the TRT exemption as a form of sanctioned doping was becoming a major issue in the sport, the document rightly raised suspicions among those who received it.
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These results (link to the full document) were meant to be sent electronically via email to three UFC executives on the afternoon of September 4th, 2012. Instead, it was accidentally sent "to a group of 29 fighters, managers, and trainers," including longtime MMA manager Monte Cox.
Upon realizing the accident, the UFC went into damage control mode and sent another mass email ordering the unintended recipients to delete the emails, which Gross outlined through these timestamps:
Sept. 4, 2012, got interesting at 3:01 p.m. Pacific time for the people who received the .pdf from the UFC. A paralegal working for the UFC had meant to send an email with the subject "Vitor Belfort Labs" to three UFC executives. Instead, much of the known MMA world, including several people with whom the promotion openly feuded in the past, received it.
At 3:04, the paralegal sent out an email attempting to recall the original message.
At 3:55, a third email explained that the original had been sent in error and that the attempt to recall had come too late. Recipients were asked to "please disregard the e-mail, please delete ASAP!!!!!"
At 7:16, recipients got a memorandum from Ike Lawrence Epstein, UFC's executive vice president and general counsel at the time. [link to the image]
According to Gross, one prominent fighter who saw the results and came to the conclusion that "Belfort had cheated and that the UFC had covered it up," which several others also similarly expressed in off-the-record conversations.
The key details in Belfort's tests are his free testosterone levels:
Belfort's test—administered, according to these records, on Sept. 1, 2012 by Dr. Pierce—measured 1038 nanograms of testosterone per deciliter. A person in Belfort's age range is more likely to be in the 700s, so while this result was within the normal range, it was near the high end of it. His free testosterone levels, though, were clearly elevated.
Beneath "FLAG," to the right of the "RESULT" column on the LabCorp document, Belfort's free testosterone result is labeled in bold as "High."The acceptable range listed on LabCorp metrics—standards vary between laboratories—is 8.7 to 25.1 picograms, or a trillionth of a gram, per milliliter.
Belfort's free testosterone, which encompasses .5- to 3-percent of the testosterone in the body and is crucial to enhancing recovery and performance, registered 47.7 pg/ml. That's two and a half times where a man his age should have been.
Keep in mind that Belfort's TRT use wasn't made public until his fight with Michael Bisping in early 2013, although a later report said he was on TRT since 2011. On that note, here's how the Ontario Athletic Commission handled the situation ahead of the fight:
Regulators in Ontario, Canada, oversaw the Jones-Belfort fight at UFC 152 on Sept. 22, 2012, and were unaware of Belfort's TRT or apparent use exemption. As far as the Ontario commission was concerned, any details related to testosterone exemptions were spelled out in the contract between the UFC and its fighters, said Stephen Puddister, a representative of the province's Ministry of Consumer Affairs. Any questions should have been directed to the UFC.
Ahead of the fight, Marc Ratner, the UFC's head of regulatory affairs, told TheScore.com that the UFC "cannot disclose" drug testing or use exemption information because of the commission. On the night Jones stopped Belfort—though not before the young champion's arm was injured during a submission attempt by the Brazilian—Puddister told me that Ontario was not preventing UFC from disclosing this sort of information.
For the record, it looks like UFC officials declined to make any comment on the matter. On Tuesday, Bloody Elbow's John Nash will have his own report on this very story with additional quotes and documents, so keep an eye out for that. Until such time, the full article by Gross is very much worth your time.