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Tim Means reveals the ‘shady’ side of supplements

Tim Means spoke to Bloody Elbow about the long ordeal that followed his positive test for a banned substance. ‘The Dirty Bird’ also revealed the ‘shady’ things that happened during his efforts to prove his innocence.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Means vs Howard Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

February 3rd. Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tim Means - wearing workout gear and a backpack - stood at his kitchen counter making coffee, readying himself for afternoon practice at FIT NHB over on Lomas Boulevard. Brenda, Means’ wife, entered the room. “You’ve been suspended for Ostarine,” she said. Means looked over his shoulder, half-smiled and said, “Very funny.” He went back to making coffee.

“Hey, no. You tested positive for Ostarine,” repeated Brenda - more forcefully. “You gotta look in your email.” Means, who was deep into a weight cut, faked a laugh and told his wife, politely, that he’s wasn’t, “in the mood for this.” Then, Means’ phone buzzed with a text message, then another, then an email. Means checked his device. His eye’s widened, before turning to Brenda.

“What’s Ostarine?”

According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Ostarine is a Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator (SARM) that has similar properties to anabolic agents. Clinically it’s used to repair and strengthen muscles and/or bones in patients who have muscle wasting disorders or osteoporosis. Listed as an ‘Anabolic Agent’ by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Ostarine is banned by USADA, and thus the UFC as well.

After calling USADA to confirm the news, Means immediately called Jeff Novitzky, a former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent who became the UFC’s anti-doping Tsar in April, 2015. The pair chatted briefly and Novitzky informed Means that the UFC would release a statement on the situation that evening.

The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Tim Means of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collection.

USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case. It is important to note that, under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full and fair review process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed. However, because Means was scheduled to compete against Donald Cerrone on February 21 in Pittsburgh, there is insufficient time for a full review and proper promotion before the scheduled bout. As a result, UFC will announce shortly a replacement opponent for Cerrone on the UFC Fight Night card in Pittsburgh. -

Means read the above statement at 8:00 p.m. And it all began to sink in. His fight with Donald Cerrone, forecast to be the biggest moment of his career, was off the table. “It had Fight of the Year written all over it,” said Means. “Things at that time were just going well, you know? I started to get a real good rhythm in the cage, in my last few outings, even in my loss to [Matt] Brown. I thought a fight against Cerrone was happening at the right time and it was a fight that I had looked forward to for years before.” And Means wasn’t the only one salivating at the match-up with ‘Cowboy’. Though much of the hardcore UFC fanbase was excited for the fight, within the New Mexico fight community - this one was special. “We’re two big dogs in the same backyard,” stated Means.

“He’s one of the top-notch dudes from his gym, I’m team captain of my gym, we’re literally right across the street,” said Means. “We don’t want to see each other in the grocery store and know that one or the other got the upper hand.” But, bragging rights between FIT NHB and Jackson-Winkeljohn would have to wait. Shortly after Means had read the UFC’s statement, Novitzky called.

“Means, did you take this product?” said Novitzky, referring to Ostarine.

“No Jeff, I never even heard of it,” replied Means.

Means accepted that it sounded like a ‘cop out’, but he continued to tell Novitzky that he had ‘no idea’ when, why, or how he ingested the substance. Novitzky told Means he had no reason not to believe him, and he promised to begin reaching out to his contacts. Before hanging up, Novitzky asked Means to photograph all the supplements he was taking. Means acted quickly and sent Novitzky images of his daily vitamins, fish oil capsules, and creatine pills.

“He red-flagged the creatine and it all went from there,” remembered Means. Novitzky informed Means that they would need to get his creatine tested with hopes of finding Ostarine within the remaining pills. The test would cost between $1000 and $4000 per supplement. Means was expected to pay for this. However, Novitzky wrote to USADA on Means’ behalf, asking that the test be done pro-bono. USADA agreed.

Novitzky knew that USADA would require a second batch of the creatine pills to test, preferably from an unopened container that Means had no contact with. Means went to work packing up the batch of creatine he was currently taking. Means then searched for an additional unopened container to send to USADA. He couldn't find any around the house, so Means turned to his 'supplement guy' for help. “This is when it started getting shady,” revealed Means.

August 18th, 2015: Jeff Novitzky discussed the UFC’s upgraded anti-doping program with Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour.

“Supplement guy was like, ‘Oh hey, you know, I need to find the lot number of the product,’” recalled Means. At this point, Means had already sent the container to USADA, and he still hadn't found a second unopened container, meaning he was unable to provide a lot number. Then, the 'supplement guy' called again. This time, he wanted Means to speak directly with the supplement’s manufacturer. Means‘ didn’t want to do this and told the ‘supplement guy’, who had been Means’ friend for over ten years, that he would prefer to just deal with him. According to Means, this all occurred on February 4th, a day after he was notified of the failed test.

Means would have to resort to finding the possibly tainted creatine supplement in stores. That was no easy task. “They immediately pulled that product off the shelves,” said Means. Novitzky noticed the move too. Novitzky told Means this was another ‘huge red flag’ and that they simply had to find the product.

A few weeks later, the test results came in for the sample Means had sent to USADA. Means was sat on the couch when he heard the news. Positive. Means raised his fist in the air. “They found [Ostarine] in every pill,” said Means. “There was 15mg per pill, which is quite a bit.” Means believes the pills themselves were only 35mgs in total. On hearing this news Means immediately felt he would be vindicated and returned to the UFC’s active roster. But, things wouldn’t be quite that simple.

Despite USADA proving the creatine Means had sent them was tainted with Ostarine, they still demanded a second sample to test. They told Means this was to rule out the possibility that he himself had tampered with the sample he had sent in. Eventually USADA contacted the supplement manufacturer themselves and asked for a clean sample from the same lot as the pills they had already tested. A few weeks later, the manufacturer obliged, kinda.

“The pills that were tested were in a sandwich bag, with the lot number written on the bag,” said Means of the sample that the manufacturer sent to USADA. “My bottle was brand new, cotton still in it, plastic on the outside,” said Means referring to the sample he sent to USADA. Unexpectedly, as far as Means was concerned, the sample sent by the manufacturer came back negative - no signs of Ostarine.

Means’ was distraught, but - as through most of his ordeal - he channeled this energy into researching anti-doping and the supplement industry. He had begun corresponding with a number of scientists and lawyers. Eventually he found noted anti-doping attorney Howard Jacobs, a veteran of over 150 USADA cases (recently including Jon Jones). From then on things flowed smoothly. “Once he got involved, he really just knew the paper to file, or what buttons to push,” said Means. Jacobs’ quickly got Means an arbitration date with USADA (June 15th).

Prior to arbitration, USADA made Means an offer: six months (as of February 3rd). Exhausted by the process, Means accepted. Though he is delighted to be putting the incident behind him, he still feels sore that he had to serve any suspension. “I still feel like I did something wrong, you know. I took a plea agreement, and you don’t take plea agreements unless you’re guilty in a lot of ways.” Means claimed that he had been thorough in asking his supplement suppliers to make sure his products weren’t on the banned list and that he had studied USADA’s rules and regulations prior to this incident. “I did everything I was supposed to do,” said Means. “So it was kind of frustrating to have to settle for a six month suspension when I never intended to ingest this product, when it’s down to either shady manufacturing or just not paying attention to what’s going into their bottles.”

Means admitted that now he feels paranoia over what he puts in his body, wondering every time he takes a pill or mixes powder with water whether or not there is anything illegal lurking in the composition. “It can be in absolutely everything,” said Means, who also revealed a fear that his food could have a contaminant. “I tried to do no supplements at all going back into training and you just realize, me as an athlete, and the constant wear I put on my body, I need my aminos and I need the proteins.”

Means, with Howard Jacobs at his side, are currently in litigation with the supplement manufacturer, hoping to recoup financial losses Means has suffered (for both loss of income and for legal fees). Along with this, Means is hoping for admission of guilt on behalf of the manufacturer (who he had worked with for around seven years prior) and also his former ‘supplement guy.’ The betrayal he feels from those parties still pains him.

“I’ve always been open about my past, I don’t run from my issues, I don’t point blame, If I get caught up [in something] and it’s my fault, I learn and move on. But, this is something I had nothing to do with, and I wasn’t trying to learn a lesson the hard way.

“I wasn’t cutting corners, I was showing up to practice, busting my ass. And I think the most frustrating thing now is the manufacturer, they never even came out and apologized. I really hope to be staring them in the face in the courtroom.”

Able to fight in August, Means is mostly happy for how things panned out and he feels thankful for both USADA and Jeff Novitsky’s efforts to bring about a resolution in his case. Though he was frustrated with USADA at many points during the process, mostly for things not happening quick enough, Means said the agency did a “thorough job” and that he thanks them for going, “above and beyond to prove things with facts and not opinions.” When it comes to Novitzky, Means won’t say a bad word. “He pulled every string he had,” said Means.

The majority of Means’ gratitude has been reserved for those closest to him. “True colors of individuals come out when the ship starts to sink,” said Means, whose past struggles with addiction and the law are well documented. “The first time, when I got in my trouble, my ship sank, all the so-called friends I had jumped off. But this time, when my ship started to sink, I had one individual jump off, and that was the supplement person.

“My wife and my parents and everybody were so optimistic that this was going to be found, and they really kept me up, drove me along, carried me, if you will. So I was more than ecstatic to get to the end and realize I had one shitty person in my corner, and that’s it. That’s a great feeling today.”

Means' suspension ends on August 3rd. He is scheduled to fight Sean Strickland on August 20th, at UFC 202: Diaz vs McGregor 2.

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