UPDATE April 12, 2016 – USADA’s Media Relations Specialist, Ryan Madden, has responded noting that they do not consider sparring during a period of ineligibility (ie suspension) to be a breach of the policy provided that Romero is not acting in any other capacity as an “athlete support personnel“. When asked to clarify some examples of this Madden responded as follows –
“So outlined in Scope and Application of the Policy section and definition for Athlete Support Personnel includes acting as a “manager, coach, trainer, second, corner man, agent, official, medical or paramedical personnel.” That’s not an exhaustive list, but it should help clarify for you.”
With this it appears USADA is taking a restrictive interpretation of “athlete support personnel” to exclude suspended fighters from the definition.
After being on the wrong end of a ‘tainted supplement’ scandal UFC fighter Yoel Romero accepted a 6 month period of ineligibility by the United States Anti Doping Agency.
Shortly after this news broke Romero tweeted a photo of himself training in Albuquerque with Jon Jones at the Jackson-Wink MMA Academy and apparently is “an addition to #teamjones training camp“.
(screenshot via BloodyElbow)
The potential problem with this? The UFC/USADA Anti-Doping Policy has strict terms for athletes serving a period of ineligibility. Specifically these athletes cannot
“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”
Section 2.10 of the Policy prohibits athletes from associating with any “athlete support person” serving a period of ineligibility and athlete support person is defined to include “any person assisting an athlete in preparing for a Bout” .
As Canadian MMA fighter Valerie Letourneau learned on the cusp of her UFC straweight title bout, this “prohibited association” clause not only kept her from having Hector Lombard, who was serving a period of ineligibility, acting as her second, but also from “serving in any other prohibited capacity during his sanction.’
When commenting about the strictness of this policy USADA’s Director of Communications told 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.”
The question now is, does actively participating in a training camp run afoul of this policy and if so will this lead to a warning from USADA or something potentially steeper?