Today the USADA has released the nuts and bolts of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy publishing the following documents –
While this policy can and should be applauded as the most comprehensive private solution in the professional combat sports industry in relation to doping, there are a few significant loopholes that appear to exist.
1. The Retirement Loophole
The Anti-Doping Policy allows the USADA to test UFC Fighters, any place, any time anywhere. That is unless they declare that they are retired. Specifically the policy says that thr USADA can test athletes until “such time as they give notice to UFC in writing of their retirement from competition“.
Those who follow the sport know retirement is a flexible state. UFC contracts survive retirement and simply cease in operation until a fighter ‘un-retires’ at which stage contractual obligations pick up where they left off. This appears to be a fairly glaring shortfall.
Section 5.7.1 of the policy goes on to state that “An Athlete who gives notice of retirement to UFC, or has otherwise ceased to have a contractual relationship with UFC, may not resume competing in UFC bouts until he/she has given UFC written notice of his.her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of four months before returning to competition. UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete“.
2. The Whereabouts Loophole
If a fighter is doping and does not want to be caught the policy appears to let them dodge two tests a year before repercussions. If USADA can prove intentional evasion occurred then that is violation of a policy in and of itself. However, the policy allows for two ‘whereabouts failures’ before the policy is violated.
Specifically s. 2.4 provides that it is an anti-doping violation where “any combination of three Whereabouts Failures within a twelve-month period as defined in the Whereabouts Policy developed by the UFC“.
Whereabouts Failures are defined as follows “The failure by any Athlete to comply with the UFC Whereabouts Policy by failing to timely, accurately and completely provide required whereabouts information and/or for being unavailable for Testing due to inaccurate information provided on the Whereabouts Filing“.
3. The “Tainted Supplements” Loophole
The Policy comes with steep consequences for those who violate its terms. However, these are not set in stone. The Policy allows fighters to try the “tainted supplements” excuse that comes so often after a positive doping test. Specifically section 10.5.1.1 of the policy states that “In cases where the Athlete or other Person can establish that the detected Prohibited Substance came from a Contaminated Product, then the period of Ineligibility shall be, at a minimum, a reprimand and no period of Ineligibility…”
The fighters need not prove tainted supplements resulted in the positive test beyond a reasonable doubt, rather they are only subject to a ‘balance of probabilities’ test with s. 3.1 stating that “Where this Anti Doping Policy places the burden of proof upon the Athlete or other Person alleged to have committed an Anti-Doping Policy Violation to rebut a presumption or establish specified facts or circumstances, the standard of proof shall be by a balance of probability”.
Consideration should be given to tighten up these exceptions, that said, this policy continues to be a big step in the right direction in tackling issues with doping in combative sports.