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Rob Font gets all clear from USADA after false drug test failure due to cosmetics product

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The streaking bantamweight contender appears poised for title contention. All the more so now that a WADA testing flaw that lead to a false positive has been cleared up.

Rob Font lands a left hand on former UFC champion Cody Garbrandt.
Rob Font lands a left hand on former UFC champion Cody Garbrandt.
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Rob Font’s successful return to competition just about hit a major roadblock. The bantamweight talent fighting out of the New England Cartel returned from a year on the sidelines due to injury in December of last year, making an immediate impact in the Octagon with back-to-back victories over recent title contender Marlon Moraes and former champion Cody Garbrandt.

However, Font very nearly found himself on ice again after MMA Fighting reports that the he was on the wrong end of an ‘in-competition’ drug test failure, stemming from a sample collected on March 22nd—surrounding his fight against Garbrandt. Font is currently under temporary suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission awaiting the NSAC’s upcoming July 7th meeting. However, with the recent news that the UFC’s drug testing partner, USADA, has already cleared the fighter of wrong doing, he’s expected to be able to return to competition in the immediate future.

In a written statement released Friday, Font’s manager explained the circumstances surrounding Font’s positive test. Notably that a urine sample provided by Font tested positive for 4-Chlorophenoxyacetic acid, a metabolite associated with prohibited stimulant meclofenoxate. It is also, however, a common additive to skin care and beauty products.

“Rob has never taken any prohibited substances and USADA has already cleared him of any wrongdoing. The Nevada Athletic Commission is still examining the facts, however,” Font’s manager Tyson Chartier wrote in a statement released on Friday.

“We recently learned that in January of this year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) put forth a ‘technical letter’ advising all WADA-accredited laboratories (the laboratories used under the UFC/USADA program) to begin reporting out cases in excess of 1000 ng/ml of 4-CPA as ‘adverse analytical findings’ for the stimulant meclofenoxate, even when no meclofenoxate is present. We have learned that Rob’s case, and one other in the Olympic world, were the first two positive meclofenoxate cases reported out under this new ‘technical letter’ guidance. Rob’s sample was reported to contain over 1900 ng/ml of 4-CPA, but no traces of meclofenoxate.

“We knew immediately that Rob didn’t do anything wrong. Rob is a professional and very detailed in all aspects of his preparation. That professionalism and attention to detail saved Rob in this case. We were rapidly able to provide UFC and USADA with everything Rob consumed leading up to the fight. Food, certified and tested supplements, even skin and hair products were provided to look for answers. All backed with receipts of purchase. Team Font provided a 35-page document, listing EVERYTHING he did in preparation for this fight, including photos of what he consumed and used.”

Font’s manager added that he had been informed that all sample collected surrounding the March 22 UFC card had shown some trace levels of 4-CPA, and that USADA had since conducted tests showing that even a single application of sunscreen could result in a positive test like the one Font returned. Speaking to MMA fighting, UFC Drug Czar Jeff Novitsky made it clear that Font’s case should be treated like a “true false positive.”

“This is a true ‘false positive’ case,” Novitzky told MMA Fighting. “And the blame lays squarely on the shoulders of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Their scientists put forth guidelines to their accredited laboratories that were flat-out wrong. We know definitively that the use of an allowed substance, chlorphenesin, commonly found in cosmetics, can result in 4-CPA levels well in excess of 1000 ng/ml.

“I’m very happy that USADA was able to resolve Rob’s case quickly, but I’m very disappointed that WADA has let down clean athletes with a lack of care in instituting flawed scientific guidelines, that as of today, still have not been rescinded. WADA needs to act immediately.”

No word yet on exactly when Font may return to competition, or a potential opponent. Font is currently ranked 3rd in the UFC men’s bantamweight division, behind Cory Sandhagen and Petr Yan. Current champion Aljamain Sterling remains sidelined until at least October as he recovers from a neck injury.