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.”