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UFC’s Paulo Costa used ‘substantial assistance’ clause to get reduced USADA suspension

How did UFC middleweight contender Paulo Costa go from facing a two-year suspension to only getting six months?

MMA: UFC 226-Hall vs Costa Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Paulo Costa provided “substantial assistance” to USADA to reduce his suspension from two years to six months.

The UFC middleweight contender was suspended six months Friday by the UFC’s anti-doping partner for use of intravenous infusions (IVs) in 2017. The sanction is retroactive to Aug. 10, 2018, the date Costa “acknowledged receipt” of the IVs. Costa is already eligible to compete.

Per a USADA release, Costa used an IV to re-hydrate after weighing in ahead of bouts at UFC 212 and UFC 217 in June and November 2017, respectively. Both IVs were administered by Costa’s other brother Carlos Costa, who was also suspended six months by USADA. The agency described Carlos Costa as Paulo Costa’s “athlete support personnel.”

IV use is considered a prohibited method under the UFC anti-doping policy. The typical sanction for such a violation is a two-year suspension.

The Costas’ suspensions were reduced, however, due to the substantial assistance clause. If an athlete provides information to USADA or another anti-doping organization regarding an anti-doping violation or criminal offense by another person, USADA “may suspend all or part of the period of ineligibility,” per the UFC anti-doping policy.

The reduction is based on the seriousness of the violation committed by the athlete and the significant of the substantial assistance, per the policy.

Athletes who provide substantial assistance in return for a reduced sanction must “continue to cooperate and to provide the complete and credible substantial assistance.” Athletes who fail to do so face reinstatement of the original sanction, per the policy.

Paulo Costa is the second high-profile UFC fighter to exercise the “substantial assistance” clause to get a reduced USADA suspension. Current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones faced a four-year suspension last year after a 2017 failure for oral Turinabol related to his rematch with Daniel Cormier at UFC 214, but it was reduced to 15 months after he provided “substantial assistance” to USADA.

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