Last month I questioned whether all UFC fighters have agreed to the promoter’s anti-doping policy and pondered what would happen to fighters who refuse to do so. Yesterday, the UFC’s Vice President of Athlete Health & Performance, Jeff Novitzky, shed some light on these issues.
In a broad interview provided to Josh Samman at BloodyElbow, Novitzky acknowledged that not all fighters have agreed to the new anti-doping policy and perhaps more interestingly that, to his understanding, the UFC would not offer bouts to any athlete that refuses to sign. Novitzky was quoted as follows:
“I will say that not everybody has signed it. The majority have, although I haven’t run into any instance where I was told a fighter 100% wasn’t going to sign it. I think it’s just one of those deals where it takes a long time to get 600 people to sign something. In terms of the repercussions from refusing to sign it, my understanding is that they’re not going to be fighting for us if they don’t agree to this anti-doping program. We can’t have it that some are going to be subject to it and others aren’t. It’s going to be a condition of getting a bout, in my understanding.”
The real question is what will be the legal fallout for athletes who refuse to sign and are then not offered bouts? While there may not be much sympathy for an athlete who refuses to enter into an anti-doping agreement, basic contract law principles do come into play and an athlete is certainly entitled to request that their existing contracts with the promotion be honored without unilaterally imposed change.
UFC contracts have standard “entire agreement” clauses and further standard language about alterations not being permitted without consent of both parties. In other words, a fighter ought to be able to refuse to sign the addendum and still maintain their existing contractual rights the same way a promoter can refuse a fighter’s request for more money while under existing contract.
While the UFC should be applauded for taking firm measures against doping in a full contact sport, this situation (along with the recent Nick Diaz saga) reveal why the athletes should have a voice at the table with the promoter and regulators when it comes to anti-doping measures.