UFC / USADA Announce “Significant Changes” To Their Doping Policy After Nate Diaz Incident

Earlier this week it came to light that Nate Diaz tested positive for detectable levels of a prohibited substance after an out of competition test conducted by USADA, the UFC’s privately hired anti doping watchdog who implements their custom tailored anti doping policy.  This potentially jeopardized his main event bout scheduled shortly in New York.

Today the UFC announced that Diaz’s finding could be traced back to a tainted supplement and he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

The announcement also noted that “certain significant changes to the UFC Anti-Doping Policy have been agreed on in principle between UFC and USADA” since August 31, 2019.  In short they have apparently agreed to allow certain ‘thresholds‘ of specific prohibited substances on the basis that these are consistent with product contamination.  These were never publicly announced until now in the wake of the Diaz saga.  As with all aspects of this anti-doping program, these changes are not collectively bargained and are unilaterally implemented by the UFC.

Interestingly USADA appears to have been interpreting their anti doping policy differentlyy since at least May, 2019 whereethey exercised leniency to athletes who could not prove specific product contamination wheres athletes before that had the full force of the policy thrown at them.

Below is the UFC’s press release in full:

UFC is an industry-leader in anti-doping and we continuously strive and advocate for an effective and fair program for our sport and athletes.  From January of 2019, UFC and USADA, along with independent experts and consultants, have been reviewing the UFC Anti-Doping Policy to ensure it remains a reliable and effective tool to combat doping in our sport and to protect UFC athletes that compete in the Octagon.

As early as August 31, 2019, certain significant changes to the UFC Anti-Doping Policy have been agreed on in principle between UFC and USADA and, as such, have been put into practice.  One of these changes is the adoption of scientifically-based decision concentration levels, also known as minimum thresholds, for certain prohibited substances where evidence has shown that positive tests of these substances below the threshold are consistent with innocent contamination. A positive sample of an applicable substance below the decision concentration level results is treated as an atypical finding. An atypical finding will result in no violation in the absence of other facts or circumstances that confirm the athlete intended to gain an unauthorized performance enhancing or therapeutic benefit through the use of the substance.

Since August 31, 2019, several UFC athletes have had their provisional suspensions lifted based on the implementation of decision concentration levels, including Neil Magny. Mr. Magny’s provisional suspension was due to a positive sample containing a prohibited SARM (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator), known as LGD-4033 or Ligandrol, in an amount below the decision concentration level for this substance. Mr. Magny’s atypical finding was reviewed by USADA and it was concluded that no other facts or circumstances were present that would have resulted in an anti-doping policy violation by, or sanction for, Mr. Magny.

On October 15, 2019, UFC was presented with a unique opportunity to discuss the topic of decision concentration levels in a public forum hosted by the California State Athletic Commission. Attendees at the summit included the California State Athletic Commission, the Association of Boxing Commissions, representatives from other state athletic commissions, members of the mixed martial arts media and anti-doping specialists and scientists. Representatives of USADA and UFC, including Jeff Novitzky, Senior Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance of UFC, discussed recent developments that support implementing decision concentration levels. Mr. Magny was also granted the opportunity to explain the facts and circumstances of his matter and his support for implementing decision concentration levels. At the summit, the California State Athletic Commission, the Association of Boxing Commissions and other attendees expressed significant support for incorporating decision concentration levels into their own rules and regulations. 

On October 24, 2019, Nate Diaz released a public statement regarding a recent out-of-competition test conducted by USADA. UFC has been notified by USADA that the out-of-competition test concluded that LGD-4033 was present in Mr. Diaz’s sample at an amount below the decision concentration level for this substance. USADA is reviewing the out-of-competition test as an atypical finding. Further laboratory testing conducted by the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL), a WADA-accredited lab in Salt Lake City, Utah, has confirmed that two bottles of the same organic, vegan, plant-based daily multivitamin that Mr. Diaz was using were each contaminated with LGD-4033, which the evidence supports resulted in Mr. Diaz’s positive sample.

Mr. Diaz has not committed an anti-doping policy violation, has not been provisionally suspended and is not subject to any sanctions. Additionally, UFC has been informed by independent experts who have determined that there is unequivocally no appreciable performance enhancing or therapeutic benefit from the significantly limited amount of LGD-4033 that may be present in his system, which is roughly 10,000 times lower than one LGD-4033 therapeutic dose.

Upon completion of the revised UFC Anti-Doping Policy, UFC and USADA will make the policy publicly available.

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