Two arbitration judgements were released today documenting an anti-doping issue involving released UFC fighter Gilbert Melendez. Of interest the decisions address when USADA has jurisdiction over a fighter who has been released by the UFC.
In short Melendez tested positive for GHRP-6 and its metabolites GHRP-6(2-5)-OH and GHRP-6(2-6)-OH as the result of a urine sample collected out-of-competition on October 16, 2019. He was handed a two year ban via arbitration reasons released today. While there is little controversial about a doping violation resulting in such a ban the real issue was whether USADA had the right to seek punishment given that the sample was obtained at a time after the UFC decided to release Melendez but neither he nor USADA had knowledge of this decision.
In late September or early October the UFC decided to release Melendez from his UFC contract. They failed to inform Melendez of this decision until November 2019. They did so via letter dated September 12, 2019 (days before the sample collection) but this letter was actually created in November 2019 and was simply backdated. In short neither USADA nor Melendez knew he was released from his UFC contract at the time. Melendez challenged USADA’s jurisdiction over him and argued that in these circumstances there is no authority for USADA to punish him for a doping violation. Arbitrator Matthew Mitten disagreed and in reasons dated in May of this year found as follows:
Applying Rose to the facts of this case, the Arbitrator concludes that the court’s holding and reasoning supports USADA’s position that the UFC’s failure to provide Mr. Melendez (or USADA) with any notice before October 16, 2019 of its decision to terminate his contract evidences that he was an athlete “under contract . . . with the UFC” on October 16, 2019 who was bound to comply with the requirements of the UFC ADP. Read together, ARTICLES IV, X, and XXIV of his Promotional Agreement expressly required the UFC to provide written notice of the accelerated termination of his contract to Mr. Melendez by his personal email address. In sharp contrast to the facts in Rose, Mr. Melendez did not receive any actual notice (either verbal or written) of the UFC’s purported October 12, 2019 unilateral termination of his contract prior to October 16, 2019. The UFC did not give him the contractually required notice of its accelerated termination of his Promotional Agreement until November 6, 2019. On the other hand, the Arbitrator cannot accept Mr. Melendez’ assertion that Rose permits the UFC to remedy its failure to timely provide contractually required written notice by providing such notice to him on November 6, 2019, which is retroactively effective on October 12, 2019.
Based on analysis of all relevant provisions of the UFC ADP and his Promotional Agreement, the Arbitrator rules that USADA has proven by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Melendez was “under contract . . . with the UFC” on October 16, 2019, which is supported by his voluntary compliance with his obligations under the UFC ADP. On September 26, 2019, he submitted his whereabouts information for October 1—December 31, 2019 with updates on October 1 and 10 (stating he would be “Working UFc” in Tampa, Florida, which he was, serving as a commentator for the UFC Tampa Fight Night event.) The Arbitrator’s ruling also is supported by Mr. Melendez’ understanding that he was in the UFC RTP on the October 16, 2020 date of his sample collection because the UFC had not notified him either verbally or in writing that his contract had been terminated. In addition, it is supported by documentation that the UFC did not notify USADA until December 5, 2019 that Mr. Melendez should be removed from the UFC RTP because it had terminated his contract.