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UFC fighter Ion Cutelaba under USADA investigation for potential blood doping

The Moldovan light heavyweight has the potential to become the first UFC fighter found guilty of ‘blood doping,’ pending a USADA investigation.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Auckland Cutelaba vs da Silva Simon Watts-USA TODAY Sports

Ion Cutelaba was removed from UFC 217 due to a potential anti-doping policy violation just one day before he was scheduled to fight Michal Oleksiejczuk in the New York event. The fighter would go on to release a statement to MMAUNO, claiming that the potential violation was simply a failure to provide documentation that would exhonerate him in time for his bout. The Moldovan fighter said of the USADA violation:

“I’ve done a legal medical procedure to reduce an inflammation and that procedure is called ozone therapy.

This procedure I don’t think is very well known by USADA, so USADA just wanted information about this procedure from the doctor that has performed it, but unfortunately because we only had a few days to provide all this evidence, we didn’t have enough time to get everything together that USADA wanted.”

USADA have confirmed to Bloody Elbow that Cutelaba’s potential violation was in fact over his disclosed use of Ozone therapy. Unfortunately for Cutelaba, rather than exonerate him, admitting to the procedure has potentially put him in hot water.

Ozone therapy is, in fact, well known by USADA; their Globaldro site has an FAQ which clearly states it is banned as a form of blood doping and prohibited by section M1 of the WADA prohibited list. The section on Ozone therapy reads:

“Is ozone therapy prohibited?

Yes, ozone therapy or any manipulation of blood or blood components is prohibited under M1 of the WADA Prohibited List. This includes the administration or reintroduction of any quantity of autologous, allogenic (homologous) or heterologous blood or red blood cell products of any origin into the circulatory system, artificially enhancing the uptake, transport or delivery of oxygen, or any form of intravascular manipulation of the blood or blood components by physical or chemical means.”

Ozone therapy typically involves lacing some of the patient’s own blood with Ozone –which is a molecule of 3 oxygen atoms, as opposed to the two oxygen atoms in O2 –and transfusing it back into the patient.

Ozone therapy is not approved by the FDA for use as a medical treatment, and is potentially hazardous to human health. The FDA has stated that, “Ozone is a toxic gas with no known useful medical application in specific, adjunctive, or preventive therapy.”

It should be noted that any sort of blood transfusion, regardless of what is being transfused, would be prohibited under the rules currently in place. In addition to violating the blood doping section of the WADA prohibited list, it’s also very possible that the therapy would also fall foul of the rules against IVs over 50ml.

The M1 section of the WADA prohibited list which covers IV ozone therapy carries a standard punishment of two years under the terms of the UFC’s deal with USADA. This can be reduced for a number of reasons, most commonly when it is ruled that a fighter’s degree of fault for their failure is reduced.

If found to have used IV ozone therapy, Cutelaba would be the first fighter to be suspended for blood doping under the UFC and USADA program.

Cutelaba is currently under provisional suspension, and will be undergoing a process of communicating with USADA to determine the circumstances of his provisional suspension and the potential sanctions he may be facing.