Earlier Wednesday in one of the side ballrooms inside the spacious Red Rock Rest & Casino on the outskirts of Las Vegas, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, along with members of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), detailed its new procedures and punishments for drug testing.
The new procedures for collecting urine and blood samples of fighters under contract to the UFC will officially go into effect on July 1. Along with the typical “in-competition” testing that encompasses up to six hours before an official weigh-in, to 12 hours leading up to the fight and six hours following the fight itself, combatants will be subjected to random blood and urinalyses throughout the year for as long as he or she is under contract to Zuffa.
Lorenzo Fertitta, co-owner and CEO of the UFC, was excited as he spoke about the MMA giant’s partnership with the USADA, stating that this is a first big step in not only educating its fighters about the risks of performance-enhancing drugs but also of the eventual punishment if and when a fighter is caught trying to gain an advantage.
Fertitta also elaborated that the UFC has created a new Athlete Marketing and Development program, introduced to help its athletes with various tools and programs to maximize their exposure and earning potential.
The UFC held its Athlete Summit the past two days in an attempt for its fighters to learn how to master press relations and social media, financial planning, nutrition, health and wellness. According to Fertitta, many of the UFC’s fighters attended the summit, from long-time veterans to newly-signed prospects.
But the bulk of today’s press conference, which was closed to the public, was centered on the organization’s new, incredibly strict drug-testing policies.
“Earlier this year, we vowed to take a leadership position on key areas impacting our sport, fighter health and fighter safety,” Fertitta said. “After months of hard work, and the addition of Jeff Novitzky, we have taken the opportunity to not only launch an elite anti-doping policy, but to invest, develop and deploy a year-round Athlete Marketing and Development program focused on the preparation, performance and education of our athletes.”
Novitzky, the newly-hired Vice President of Athlete Health and Safety, detailed virtually every aspect of the new policy, which is designed to curtail -- if not totally eradicate -- what many believe to be rampant illegal use of PEDs, masking agents and in some cases, illegal narcotics.
Though UFC President Dana White and Fertitta both stated that there wasn’t a singular circumstance that led to the harsh new policies, both agreed that what transpired earlier this year regarding three of its biggest stars -- Anderson Silva, Nick Diaz and Jon Jones -- was probably the catalyst behind such a strong new stance on the matter.
“We all know what happened earlier this year,” White said. “We felt that something had to be done. I don’t care how far some guy can hit a baseball over the wall. That doesn’t mean anything to me. But with the UFC and fighting, we are talking about potential dangers and fighter safety. We’re talking about guys getting punched in the head from someone who is on PEDs. In fighting, we just can’t have that. It’s dangerous.”
Novitzky, who has worked with the U.S. government for 22 years, agreed but needed to make it clear that this is not designed to catch fighters cheating in some sort of witch hunt. Rather, he said, the new policy on testing is designed to thwart would-be cheaters, to make them think before they try to gain an illegal advantage. But he did warn that any would-be offenders would be caught.
“Aside from our ‘in-competition’ testing, we will be conducting random tests throughout the year,” Novitzky stated. “On a random notice, we will be collecting urine and blood samples from you at any time of the day no matter where you are or what you’re doing. These will be no-notice tests.”
Punishments for specified substances, which is designed to keep the UFC’s fights on an even playing field include:
First offense: Two years with the possibility of two additional years for “aggravating circumstances.” Aggravating circumstances include previous drug failures, conspiracy with others, testing positive for multiple banned substances, egregious intent.
Second offense: double the sanction of first offense.
Third offense: double sanction of second offense.
Punishments for non-specified substances mirror those of the specified substances.
It must be noted that a fighter who has failed a post-fight drug test will be subject to disqualification, hefty fines and forfeiture of titles and rankings.
The assembled UFC brass also revealed that they will supply all of its fighters with presentations, hands-on demonstrations of online and mobile applications, written material and online educational courses in an attempt to educate fighters on drug use.