Juicers Beware – The Revamped NSAC and UFC Drug Testing Policies

November 11, 2015


By Dan Hutchinson – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student

In the early summer of 2015 things got much more difficult for fighters in the UFC using PEDs. This is due not only to sweeping changes being made by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) but also a revamped drug testing policy put in place by the UFC itself. The changes come on the heels of a failed drug test by long time middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Silva’s failed drug test came as a shock to UFC personnel and fans alike, and has caused many to question how rampant drug use actually is in the organization. Such concerns have prompted NSAC to enforce a complete overhaul on their drug testing program.

On May 15th, 2015 NSAC rolled out many new drug testing measures including heavily increased punishments across the board for all number of drug testing violations. Some of the changes regarding the use of illegal substances include: a 9 month ban for the first time use of any sedative, muscle relaxant or cannabis, a 2 year ban for a first time use of any stimulant (amphetamines, cocaine), and a 2 year ban for a first time offense of anabolic steroids. After the third or fourth offense of any of the illegal substances the ban is life. NSAC regulates competitions of unarmed combat in the state of Nevada. Since Nevada is the epicentre for combat sports, it has become the state commission in North America which other state commissions and sports bodies, including the UFC, have worked to emulate.

Not to be outdone by NSAC, the UFC made significant changes to its own drug testing policy shortly after the announcement of NSAC’s changes. The changes made by the UFC were headed by Jeff Novitzky, the organization’s new Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance. Previously, Novitzky worked with the US Internal Revenue Service and the Food and Drug Administration and played a large part in the Lance Armstrong investigation. Novitzky terms the UFC program to be “the best anti-doping program in all of professional sports” and will be overseen by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

The changes made by the UFC were very significant and funded by the UFC itself to a tune of “multiple millions of dollars” according to UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta. The program is modeled after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code and include: a 2 year ban for a first offense of non-specified substances as defined by the WADA code (anabolic steroids, HGH, peptides, blood doping drugs), a ban of 1 year for the first offense of a specified substance as defined by the WADA code (e.g. marijuana, cocaine), and a doubling of the ban with each subsequent offense. Additionally, aggravating circumstances such as egregious intent, conspiracy or agreements will be taken into account and could result in a stiffer penalty.

Both the UFC and NSAC’s changes include a stricter testing program and harsher punishments for those that fail these tests. However, some MMA fighters under the UFC banner have criticized these changes stating that even though they are harsher, it is still not enough and more needs to be done to protect the sport from PEDs.
Welterweight Matt Brown has argued the 2 year ban is not enough and believes there should be a minimum four year ban or, if he got his wish, a lifetime ban for first time dopers. This is due to the nature of the sport where serious injury is a very real possibility. Brown feels that one day someone in the UFC will be killed and if it is at the hands of a “known juicer” it’s going to be a much larger issue. He evocatively says, “I don’t want to be the dead one, because a motherf—-er was sticking needles in himself all day.”

Regardless of what Brown believes, USADA CEO Travis Tygart has applauded the UFC for its new program stating “the UFC has taken a bold and courageous leap forward for the good of its athletes in developing a comprehensive and cutting edge anti-doping policy expressly modeled on the key elements of the WADA anti-doping program and having it run by an independent and transparent national anti-doping organization.”

The new policies from both the NSAC and the UFC may seem harsh but when dealing with a sport such as mixed martial arts all care must be taken to ensure the safety of all competing athletes, not only the ones ingesting the PEDs but the others on the receiving end of the sport’s brutality. An unfair advantage due to doping in baseball could result in a ball travelling further but in MMA the result of doping could be much more severe when the entire sport involves inflicting pain on an opponent. Catching those who are using PEDs and banned substances is of the upmost importance in the sport of MMA and both the NSAC and UFC should be applauded for their new, revamped policies.

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