Last August, for UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos was pulled from his scheduled UFC 215 fight against Francis Ngannou due to a USADA violation. As it turned out, “Cigano” had tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic that is banned by the agency for its use as a masking agent.
Things took a turn for the better for dos Santos last April when he along with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Marcos Rogerio de Lima were all cleared by USADA after it was found that they had taken contaminated supplements sold by unnamed Brazilian pharmacies. And while dos Santos is back in action, he could not help but feel the paranoia every time USADA pays him their obligatory visit.
“I spent nine months out and it was horrible. The problem is that you’re found guilty before anything else,” dos Santos told MMA Fighting in a recent interview. “You’re found guilty until proven innocent. That only happens with USADA. The law says you’re innocent until proven guilty [laughs].
“It’s a pretty bad situation and I don’t wish anyone to go through it, especially those who have done nothing. It affected me a lot, but I consider myself a strong person, both mentally and physically. I’m happy that it’s in the past and, God willing, won’t happen again.
“I have a fight now, and every time [USADA] comes, I try to show them everything I’m taking,” he continued. “I show everything, because I’m kind of afraid. I don’t know. It happened once when I did nothing. God forbid it happens again, so I get scared. That bothers me a lot.”
Despite what he went through, the 34-year-old fighter still has hope that the system can be better in time.
“I think there’s room for improvement with USADA,” dos Santos said. “No one understands anti-doping better than them, so they should improve [their policies] and not take the athlete out of a fight. Fighters don’t have a match every week, like in soccer, for example. We don’t. We won’t fight for another three or four months.
“I think that USADA should try to prove someone’s guilt before pulling him out of a fight,” he continued. “If you’re caught with steroids or whatever, that’s your problem. If it’s clearly not cross contamination or something like that, if you’re caught with a huge amount of steroids in your body, OK, take him out of the fight because it’s kind of clear that he has a degree of fault.
“Now, if somehow it looks like contamination, they shouldn’t remove you from a fight. They should let you fight and investigate. If a fighter is proven guilty, give him a worse penalty, a fine, revert the result in case of a win.”
Dos Santos is scheduled to fight former WSOF heavyweight champion Blagoy Ivanov on July 14th in Boise, Idaho.