Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic recently retired from MMA in the midst of a doping scandal.  Cro Cop admitted to out of competition use of HGH shortly after being subject to USADA testing and now has the distinction of being the first fighter to be sanctioned under the UFC’s/USADA anti doping regime.

He was handed a 2 year ban with USADA noting it could have been 4 years but for his prompt admission of wrongdoing.

The USADA released the following press release:

USADA announced today that Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, of Zagreb, Croatia, an athlete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), has received a 2-year sanction for his anti-doping policy violations.

Filipovic, 41, admitted to the use, attempted use, and possession of human growth hormone (“hGH”) following an out-of-competition test conducted on November 4, 2015 in Zagreb, Croatia. On the day he was tested, prior to any results being reported, Filipovic contacted the UFC to advise them that he had been using hGH in violation of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy. Thereafter, on November 9, 2015, Filipovic admitted to USADA as well that he had been using the prohibited substance.

Human growth hormone is a Prohibited Substance in the class of Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors and Related Substances under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy. Due to Filipovic’s prompt admission of his anti-doping policy violations, he avoided the imposition of a four-year sanction, as permitted under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy where aggravating circumstances are present.

Filipovic’s period of ineligibility began on November 9, 2015, the date he first admitted to his anti-doping policy violations to USADA. In addition, Filipovic has been disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to October 30, 2015, the date on which he first used hGH in violation of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, including forfeiture of any title, ranking, purse or other compensation.

“Ultimately, our goals are to keep the Octagon clean and to protect the rights of clean athletes within the UFC,” said USADA CEO Travis Tygart. “Not only do athletes need to consider their health and safety when it comes to the use of prohibited substances, but also the damage that such use can inflict on their own legacy.”

USADA conducts the year-round, independent anti-doping program for all UFC athletes. USADA is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental agency whose sole mission is to preserve the integrity of competition, inspire true sport, and protect the rights of clean athletes. The anti-doping program run by USADA for UFC athletes includes education, science and research, testing, and results management. Official UFC Anti-Doping Program information and athlete resources are available at UFC.USADA.org.

NoteThe below findings likely exclude concussions which appear to be “significantly underreported” with the authors noting that 40% of contests end in KO/TKO and concussions are likely in many of these bouts.  In other words, the study finds there is a 39% reported injury rate in kickboxing bouts in addition to the likely brain trauma that comes from bouts ending in KO/TKO


In the latest safety study addressing combat sports, professional and amateur kickboxing records were reviewed revealing 39% injury rate for competitors.

In the recent study, titled Injuries to Professional and Amateur Kickboxing Contestants, published this month in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, the authors obtained and reviewed data describing fight outcomes and injuries sustained during professional and amateur kickboxing contests over a 15-year period from the official records of the Nevada Athletic Commission.

The records revealed an overall injury incidence rate of 390.1 injuries per fighter per 1000 contests.

The data further showed that professional fighters were 2.5 times more likely to get injured compared with amateurs.

The most commonly injured anatomic regions were the head (57.8%) and lower extremity (26.1%), while the most common types of injury were laceration (70.6%) and fracture (20.6%).

Study Table 1

The full study can be found here – Injuries to Professional and Amateur Kickboxing Contestants

Recently Michigan’s legislature passed a Bill seeking to regulate amateur Mixed Martial Arts.  This week Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed the Bill into law.

The AP published the following press release

LANSING, Michigan — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed bills regulating mixed martial arts bouts between amateur fighters.

Snyder says in a news release that as participation in martial arts competition has grown it has become important to protect the health and safety of amateur participants.

The main law regulates amateur mixed martial arts contests like professional mixed martial arts fights and boxing. Licensing fees are assessed on contestants, promoters, judges, referees and others.

Amateur athletes will compete in weight classes, with drug testing required, as well as a doctor and ambulance onsite.

One of the laws makes it a felony crime for a fight promoter to allow a boxing or MMA professional to participate in a fight with an amateur fighter.

My previous summary of this legislation can be found here.

Earlier today I had the privilege to co-author an article with Michael Martin, JD, Content Manager for Strong Sports Gymnasium in downtown Los Angeles, for BJPenn.com detailing how fighter Jamual Parks had his MMA trained hands recognized as deadly weapons.

The full article can be found here.   For readers looking for more on this topic you can find my previous write up here.

And, if you are looking for the full statute in Guam requiring Karate and Judo “Experts” (note basically anyone above a white belt) to register their hands as deadly weapons – Guam Martial Art Registration Law

§ 62102. Registration. The Department of Revenue and Taxation shall register each karate or judo expert who applies therefor and shall keep a roster of such experts. On issuance of the registration certificate by the Department of Revenue and Taxation, the applicant shall bring such certificate to the License Division of the Department of Revenue and Taxation, which shall bill the applicant for the required fee. On payment of the required fee to the Treasurer of Guam, the Treasurer shall receipt therefor on the face of the registration certificate and return such certificate to the applicant. The registration certificate with the receipt of the Treasurer marked on the face therefor shall constitute evidence of registration.

Update October 12, 2015 – Cro Cop, in a post on his website, has now admitted to taking banned growth hormone noting as follows –

With each blood plasma, I had a little mix of growth hormone to make my shoulder heal faster. Growth hormones are on the list of banned substances. I knew that already..After 6 days of growth hormone and plasma injections, the USADA came to test me. I gave them my blood sample and urine samples and immediately told the UFC about the test


First Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic announced retirement citing chronic injuries, shortly after the UFC published a press release announcing CroCop “has been provisionally suspended at this time due to a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation.”.

CroCop has become the first known athlete to reportedly have a potential violation in the UFC’s USADA era.  So what next?

Unlike many State and Provincial regulatory schemes with fairly sparse rules about anti doping management, the USADA Anti-Doping Policy “ADP” spells due process rights out clearly and even addresses the issue of retirement.

Retirement plays a role but won’t save CroCop from punishment.  While the policy does not apply to retired athletes with the ADP coming to an end at “such time as they give notice to UFC in writing of their retirement from competition” retirement does nothing to stop sanctions from being applied to an athlete who had a sample taken from them prior to retirement.

Clause 7.9 of the ADP specifically spells out the following powers after retirement is announced

If an Athlete retires or ceases to be under contract with UFC while USADA is conducting the results management process, including the investigation of any Atypical Finding or Atypical Passport Finding, USADA retains jurisdiction to complete its results management process. If an Athlete retires or ceases to be under contract with UFC before any results management process has begun, and USADA had results management authority over the Athlete at the time the Athlete committed an Anti-Doping Policy Violation, USADA has authority to conduct results management in respect of that Anti-Doping Policy Violation

So where does this leave CroCop?  Assuming the alleged violation related to an “adverse finding” (ie doping) he can waive his rights to contest the finding and take the punishment USADA hand out.  These sanctions include suspension (likely two years) also include a fine of up to $500,000 at the UFC’s discretion with 10.10 of the ADP providing as follows –

UFC may impose a fine on an Athlete or other Person who commits an Anti-Doping Policy Violation up to the sum of $500,000 depending on the seriousness of the violation and the relative compensation of the Athlete or other Person

If CroCop does not waive his rights he can demand testing of the B sample.  If this tests negative then “the entire Test shall be considered negative“.

If the B sample is not tested or confirms the initial findings then USADA will issue their punishment and CroCop will have the right to either admit the violation and accept his punishment or contest it and request formal arbitration requiring USADA to prove their allegations on a balance of probabilities.

CroCop has been a pioneer in many ways in MMA with his early career rooted in PRIDE’s “we don’t test for steroids” Era

He now may end his career with the unwelcome distinction as trailblazer for the modern USADA anti-doping era.

Canadian MMA fighter Valerie Letourneau has learned a lesson about the scope of the USADA/UFC anti-doping’ program’s “prohibited association” policy on the eve of her straweight title fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 193.

Letourneu planned on being cornered by training partner Hector Lombard, a fighter who is currently serving a one year suspension issued by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after testing positive for the anabolic steroid desoxymethyltestosterone.

While there is nothing unusual about a suspended athlete being prevented from working as a corner, an activity that typically requires athletic commission licencing, USADA is preventing more than this and has warned Letourneu that “association” with Lombard will put her in hot water.

As MMAJunkie reports, USADA director of Communications advised that “We are aware of the relationship between Ms. Letourneau and Mr. Lombard, and we have been in contact with both of them to advise them of the rules in regards to prohibited association,” and further that “After being informed of the rules regarding prohibited association, Ms. Letourneau has since confirmed that Mr. Lombard will not be cornering for her or serving in any other prohibited capacity during his sanction.”

What is a prohibited capacity beyond acting as a corner?  The wording is so broad it arguably can include anything including training with the Anti Doping Policy reading as follows –

No Athlete or other Person who has been declared Ineligible may, during the period of Ineligibility, participate in any capacity in connection with a UFC Bout, or any match or competition sanctioned or licensed by an Athletic Commission, or participate in any capacity in a competition or activity… authorized or organized by any Signatory, Signatory’s member organization, or a club or other member organization of a Signatory’s member organization

For helpful background reading on the potential scope of this policy can be I recommend this article by Mike Couglan at Halfguarded.com.

The policy is broad and, as Couglan reports, if enforced to the letter of the law can ostracize suspended dopers from any meaningful participation in the sport in effect shelving careers.  This week’s development with Letourneu shows that USADA appears to be, in fact, applying the policy in a broad fashion with USADA’s Director of Communications telling MMAJunkie

The prohibited association rule aims to send a clear message to athletes: Do not associate with individuals that have breached anti-doping rules as they could encourage you to cheat the system and to rob your fellow athletes of their right to clean sport.”

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disorder related to repetative traumatic brain injury is perhaps one of the most troubling risks associated with the world of contact sports.  As the medical industry better understands this progressive disease the link between prolonged exposure to sub concussive blows and the disease becomes ever clearer.  To this end a study was recently published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica showing just how strong the link is.

In the study, titled “Chronic traumatic encephalopathy pathology in a neurodegenerative disorders brain bank” the authors accessed a brain bank and processed samples for tau immunohistochemistry.  Medical records were cross referenced to determine if the samples came from individuals with a history of contact sports participation.  The study revealed as follows

  • 21 of 66 former athletes had cortical tau pathology consistent with CTE
  • CTE pathology was not detected in 198 individuals without exposure to contact sports, including 33 individuals with documented single-incident TBI sustained from falls, motor vehicle accidents, domestic violence, or assaults
  • CTE pathology was only detected in individuals with documented participation in contact sports

The authors conclude that “exposure to contact sports was the greatest risk factor for CTE pathology”.

The study’s abstract can be found here .

This week the most stigmatized fighter for past Testosterone Replacement Therapy use, Vitor Belfort, denied any wrongdoing being quoted as saying that he never fought while on TRT “without approval of a commission and the UFC.

Belfort goes on to note that “fourteen guys” on the UFC’s roster were also on TRT and were presumably granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the otherwise prohibited performance enhancing drug.

When Athletic Commissions, (or the UFC directly in jurisdictions where an anti-doping policy was missing from the regulatory scheme such as Ontario) grant a therapeutic use exemption for a prohibited drug it is not meant to be a rubber stamp process.  Under Nevada law, for example, (also the framework the UFC supposedly used when self regulating events) WADA standards have to be used for TUE’s to be granted.  The WADA test is as follows –

1. “The Athlete would experience a significant impairment to health if 
the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method were to be withheld in 
the course of treating an acute or chronic medical condition.” (Article 
4.1 a. of the International Standard for TUEs.)

2. “The Therapeutic Use of the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited 
Method would produce no additional enhancement of performance 
other than that which might be anticipated by a return to a state of 
normal health following the treatment of a legitimate medical 

3. “There is no reasonable Therapeutic alternative to the Use of the 
otherwise Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method.” (Article 4.1 
c of the International Standard for TUEs.)

4. “The necessity for the Use of the otherwise Prohibited Substance or 
Prohibited Method cannot be a consequence, wholly or in part, of 
prior non-Therapeutic Use of any Substance from the Prohibited 
List.” (Article 4.1 d. of the International Standard for TUEs.)

Let’s assume that Belfort and every other athlete granted a TRT TUE legitimately needed one and did not mislead athletic commissions to allow them to take otherwise banned performance enhancing drugs.  How can any of these athletes continue to be fit to be licensed by an Athletic Commission?

Athletic Commissions exist first and foremost for athlete safety.  If an athlete is suffering from a “significant impairment to health” and can no longer take the only “reasonable” medication for their condition they are by any sensible standard unfit to fight.  Unless former TRT users had their past ‘medical conditions‘ coincidentally cured at the same time that TRT became prohibited then none of these athletes should be fit for a fighter licence.

If, on the other hand, athletes are prepared to admit they never needed TRT and lied to athletic commissions to receive a TUE then that ought bring its own repercussions.

Adding to this site’s archived cases of UFC pay per view event piracy prosecutions, the latest reasons for judgement were released last month assessing damages for piracy of UFC 133.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc v. Thirsty Camel, Inc) the Defendant establishment displayed UFC 133 without paying sub-licencing fees to the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff sued and obtained default judgement.

In finding total damages of $7,000 were appropriate District Judge Jane Boyle provided the following reasons:

Here, considering the need to deter future FCA violations, and the fact that Thirsty Camel would have faced a sublicensing fee of approximately $1,100 had it actually paid to lawfully broadcast the Event, the Court determines that $5,000 in statutory damages is reasonable. Doc. 10, Pl.’s Ex. A, Riley Aff., App. ¶ 7, App. 6; see Doc. 10-1, Ex. A-2, Aff. of Jared Morland (Morland Aff.), App. 30 (capacity of the establishment is approximately one hundred people); Doc. 10-1, Ex. A-3, Rate Card, App. 33 (rate for establishment with 51-100 capacity is $1,100); see, e.g., Al-Waha Enters., 219 F. Supp. 2d at 776 (“Merely requiring Al-Waha to pay the price it would have been charged to obtain legal authorization to display the event does nothing to accomplish this object [to deter future violations of the FCA].”). Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Joe Hand’s request for statutory damages and awards it $5,000…

Here, Joe Hand provided evidence of an auditing visit, where investigator Jared Morland observed Thirsty Camel violating the FCA. Doc. 10-1, Ex. A-2, Morland Aff. App. 30-31. Though the affidavit notes that Thirsty Camel’s establishment was equipped with two te levisions, one was not operating the evening of Morland’s visit. Id. at 30. Either way, there were only between eighteen and forty patrons in attendance during Morland’s visit, and nothing indicates Thirsty Camel charged them, or the investigator, a cover, or that he advertised his establishment as broadcasting the Event in order to attract a greater audience. Id.

Based on the damages awarded by other courts, the evidence currently before this Court— (which reveals between eighteen and twenty patrons present at Thirsty Camel’s establishment—and the need to deter future violations, the Court finds that an additional damages award of $2,000 is reasonable. Thus, the Court GRANTS Joe Hand’s request for additional damages and awards it $2,000.

Update – I have obtained a copy of the official Indictment and Judgement and Conviction by Court and these documents do indeed show that State of Texas was satisfied that Jamual Parks hands, given his MMA training, were a deadly weapon.

Parks Indictment Screenshot

Parks Conviction Screenshot


It is reported that authorities Tarrant County, Texas recently charged a man with MMA training with assault with a deadly weapon.  The deadly weapon in question escalating the charge to aggravated assault?  His hands.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Vassar is quoted as follows with respect to designating the hands of a martial artist as ‘deadly weapons’ – “It’s pretty unusual, but in this instance — because he is an MMA fighter — we thought it was appropriate to charge his hands as deadly weapons

The Defendant, Jamual Edward Parks, reportedly plead guilty to the charge and was sentenced to six years in prison.

The guilty plea avoids any judicial scrutiny of whether hands can be considered a ‘weapon’, an argument that stretches the imagination as a weapon, by definition, is likely intended to require something external from the human body.  Texas’ penal code defines deadly weapon as follows –

(A) a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury; or

(B) anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.

Arguably trained hands can meet the broad definition under sub-paragraph B but I suspect a Court would have little difficulty in ruling that hands are not a “thing” which presumably references an external device of some kind.


Update –   A quick shout out to Michael Martin, JD, Content Manager at DTLA’s Strong Sports Gym,  who brought Turner v. State, 664 SW 2d 86 (90) to my attention in which the Texas judiciary had the following to say about whether fists or hands are a deadly weapon under Texas’ penal code –

In Ray v. State, 160 Tex.Crim. R., 266 S.W.2d 124 (1954), a murder case, the court held that hands and feet, which defendant, according to the indictment, used in killing the deceased, were not “deadly weapons” per se and they could become such only in the manner used.

Likewise in the instant case, and under the 1974 Penal Code, we conclude that a fist or hand are not “deadly weapons” per se but can become such only in the manner used depending upon the evidence shown.