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Report - Manel Kape off UFC Vegas 52 after NSAC finds Turinabol metabolite in drug test

The former RIZIN bantamweight champion’s quest for UFC gold appears to have hit another snag.

Manel Kape celebrates after his victory over Zhalgas Zhumagulov.
Manel Kape celebrates after his victory over Zhalgas Zhumagulov.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

One of the most promising, action-forward fights on this weekend’s UFC Vegas 52 fight card is officially off. The UFC announced that the flyweight battle between Manel Kape and Su Mudaerji has been scrapped from their April 23rd event, citing ‘personal reasons’ for the Angolan fighter. No replacement opponent for Su Mudaerji will be sought.

As for just what those ‘personal reasons’ might be? In a quickly deleted Tweet, Kape revealed that he had been flagged by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for the DHCMT Turinabol M3 metabolite. That’s the same substance that Jon Jones tested positive for in 2017, resulting in the overturning of his victory over Daniel Cormier to regain the light heavyweight title.

The substance is said to have a ‘pulsing effect,’ meaning that trace amounts can show up in an athlete’s body even years after potential ingestion. Jones’ 2018 return bout against Alexander Gustafsson had to be moved at the last minute from Nevada to California, after the NSAC was unwilling to grant Jones a license due to continued trace amounts of Turinabol in his system.

“I want everyone to hear directly from me why I won’t be fighting this Saturday,” Kape wrote in a now deleted social media post.

“I was shocked yesterday afternoon to receive a call from the UFC, telling me that the sample I provided to USADA on April 9th returned with a positive finding of 17 picograms per ml of the long term metabolite of DHCMT, called M3. I will start by stating unequivocally that I did not intentionally use DHCMT nor any other prohibited substance for that matter. I have zero idea how this got in my system. I have never had an issue with a previous test under this program and it is ridiculous to think I would intentionally use a prohibited substance (DHCMT) where it’s long term metabolite would remain in my system for months and sometimes years, as I am aware it often does.

“Overnight, I have already learned much about this metabolite called M3. I know that several years ago the UFC changed their anti-doping program rules and instituted a 100 picogram per ml “threshold” for the M3 metabolite that must be exceeded in order to be a violation of the program. This is very important for me to note, I have not been charged with any violation or been sanctioned or suspended by anyone concerning this finding. However, I have also learned that the Nevada Athletic Commission has been handling these cases over the last couple of years by requiring any fighters with any levels of the M3 metabolite, to enter into a 6 month extensive testing program to study the presence and levels of M3 in their system. While I am disappointed that I will not be able to fight in Nevada this weekend and likely for the next six months, I will of course adhere to this study by the Nevada Athletic Commission because I have nothing to hide.

“I have also learned overnight that I am not alone in this situation. I know that numerous UFC fighters have been in a similar situation as me, having a low levels of M3 in their system without any idea of how it got in their system. I also know that this issue is not unique to the UFC. I have also learned that numerous other professional athletes, including many Major League Baseball players, have been faced with this issue. While I will do everything in my power to come up with an answer, I know that often answers are never found as it relates to these low level cases of M3 metabolite. I am grateful that the UFC program acknowledged this issue with the M3 metabolite and adjusted their program accordingly. I will cooperate with the Nevada Athletic Commission and do whatever they need me to do to acquire a license to fight. I look forward to my fans watching me again in the Octagon soon.”

In 2018, Dagestani welterweight Muslim Salikhov also tested positive for the M3 Turinabol metabolite. Salikhov was ultimately not sanction by the UFC for the drug test failure, as promotional drug czar Jeff Novitzky revealed that USADA was unable to determine whether or not the substance had entered his system prior to entering the program.

“That’s a big concern that I have now, that the level of sensitivity is becoming so great,” Novitzky said of USADA testing at the time. “I want to make sure that the science isn’t getting ahead of itself, because that’s a nightmare in my world for somebody to be sanctioned when it comes out later, ‘Oh, we really didn’t understand the science yet.’ So, that’s certainly part of my job to be eyes and ears for the athlete and make sure this program is being administered fairly. And that’s certainly why we’ve having discussions with USADA now with certain thresholds.”

Although Salikhov wasn’t officially punished for the findings, he still essentially lost out on a year of his career, with a decision on his status not reached until spring of 2019. In Kape’s case, it seems things may move a little faster, but given how often the UFC hosts their events in Vegas, it seems unlikely that fans will see Kape compete until the NSAC’s six month testing window is completed.