Lessons and Reflections from Cro Cop’s Negative Doping Test

Last year legendary fighter Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic unceremoniously retired from MMA in the midst of a doping scandal.  Cro Cop admitted to out of competition use of Human Growth Hormone shortly after being subject to USADA testing and earned the unwelcome distinction of being the first fighter to be sanctioned under the UFC’s/USADA anti doping regime.

Interestingly, the doping test results came back after his punishment and they reportedly were negative for any banned substances.

So does this mean the suspension can be set aside?  In short no.  Under the USADA/UFC Anti-Doping Policy, HGH is a prohibited substance and violations are not limited to positive drug tests.  That is simply one way in which a violation can be proven.  The Policy places the burden on USADA to prove a violation occurred and this “may be established by any reliable means, including admissions“.   In other words, if you admit to doping, USADA can use that in and of itself to establish a violation of the policy.

As USADA confirmed to reporter Marc Raimondi, the sanctions against Cro Cop will stand.

With this quick legal lesson out of the way there are a few reflections that come to mind

  1. USADA’s tests failed to catch Cro Cop’s HGH use despite being advanced as the ‘gold standard’ of anti doping testing.  Without criticizing USADA specifically, this is compelling evidence that that state of anti doping testing lags behind the reality of current doping methods.
  2. The number of tests USADA have conducted are far below the frequency of testing guaranteed by USADA CEO Travis Tygart.  Perhaps this is a reflection of growing pains getting the program underway or perhaps there are still a number of athletes who have not signed on to this anti doping program.  Whatever the reason the program has yet to live up to the robustness that was promised when the program was launched.
  3. With this negative test USADA has only managed to catch one doping athlete in all of 2015.  It is a fair bet that others are managing to get away with doping under USADA’s nose.  The question remains just how pervasive is doping in MMA and what, if anything, else can be done to address the problem?




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