Anti-Doping Policy Change is a Win For UFC Nutritional Partner Thorne

By Patrick Auger Nov 27, 2019
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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After conducting a review of the promotion’s policy, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and United States Anti-Doping Agency have decided to make some changes.

On Nov. 25, the world’s largest MMA organization announced it was making formal adjustments to its anti-doping policy through a press release on the company’s website. Changes in the program include a prohibited list of substances with specific threshold levels, which will determine whether or not an athlete receives a provisional suspension should they test positive for one of the listed items. The overhaul comes after several recent cases of UFC fighters being flagged for tainted supplements, including an issue that almost had Nate Diaz removed from UFC 244.

“Putting forth a fair anti-doping program with due process protection is integral to having a strong and comprehensive program,” said UFC Senior Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky in the release, “A combination of the pervasiveness of low-level contaminants in our environment and the increased levels of testing sensitivity of anti-doping laboratories has created an explicit need for decision concentration levels to ensure that the program is penalizing intentional cheaters and not those athletes who have been faithfully adhering to the anti-doping policy.”

An additional change in the policy is the introduction of certified supplements. The UFC has directed fighters under contract with the organization to only use supplements that have been certified through one of the following agencies:

- NSF Certified For Sport
- Kolner Liste (Cologne List)
- Informed Sport Trusted by Sport
- HASTA (Human and Supplement Testing Australia)
- BSCG (Banned Substance Control Group)

If an athlete uses supplements that have gone through one of these accredited entities, they will not be sanctioned under the UFC anti-doping policy if they pop positive for one of the aforementioned substances, absent other evidence of doping. This essentially gives a fighter blanket immunity from any sanctions that may arise from contaminated supplements so long as they use certain products. This is a reversal from the position USADA previously took with NSF Certified for Sport substances, which stated:

“Under the rules, if an athlete tests positive and establishes the source as a contaminated NSF Certified for Sport product, the athlete could get a much-reduced sanction, but there likely would still be a consequence.”

The biggest winner from these changes aside from the fighters? A nutritional company named Thorne.

This past May, the UFC announced that it had reached a deal with Thorne to become the official sports performance nutrition partner of the promotion. The multi-year global marketing partnership integrates Throne’s NSF Certified for Sport line of products into UFC Performance Institute dietician plans at both the Las Vegas and Shanghai locations. As part of the deal, Thorne will take ownership of UFC Performance Institute Nutrition Stations, which are dedicated areas within the facilities that provide individualized health and wellness solutions to UFC athletes. The arrangement also states that Thorne products will be highlighted on UFC’s “Embedded” series and the company will be featured as a presenting partner for select episodes.

“Thorne is the unquestioned leader in quality and innovation in the sports nutrition supplement industry, making them the perfect match to support the UFC PI and the athletes who choose to use our services,” said Clint Wattenberg, director of sports nutrition for the UFC Performance Institute in a press release about the partnership earlier this year, “This UFC-Thorne partnership shows UFC athletes, as well as consumers, where to find the safest and highest-quality products available.”

Given the changes to the UFC’s anti-doping policy, Thorne will now not only be able to classify itself as the official nutritional partner of the promotion, but can also guarantee fighters that using its products will protect them from contaminated supplement sanctions by USADA. While it’s true that other supplements will fall under one of the five accredited agencies and thus also save athletes from penalties due to contamination issues, Thorne’s official partner designation with the UFC makes them the safest and easiest choice for fighters who want to avoid any issues with nutritional aids. Considering the impact even reduced punishments can have on an athlete’s career and the fact that fighters are being flagged for tainted supplements more than ever, Thorne is in a great position to profit off of those who wish to take no chances with USADA violations. The UFC even endorses Thorne as the preferred supplement provider in the press release regarding the new policy changes, with a paragraph stating:

“In addition, as previously announced, UFC has partnered with supplement provider Thorne to provide UFC athletes with certified supplements through the UFC Performance Institute. Together with a personalized nutrition program developed by UFC’s renowned sport dietitians, UFC athletes may obtain safe and high quality supplements to support their unique needs.”

Another consideration to take into account is that as the UFC and USADA continue to adjust the organization’s anti-doping guidelines, the promotion may push for fighters to use the UFC Performance Institute for their nutritional needs. The UFC PI currently supports around one-third of the UFC roster on a monthly basis, with a goal of supporting half of all fighters under contract by the start of 2023. As more athletes use the institute’s facilities, Thorne’s brand and product awareness will continue to grow, potentially translating into increased sales for the nutritional company.

Nate Diaz’s issue at UFC 244 might just be the blueprint for how the UFC and USADA will handle tainted supplements moving forward. It’s important to note that given the depth of the rest of the card and Diaz’s drawing power, the Stockton native’s supplements were expedited for testing by USADA, a process less established or undercard fighters may find won’t apply to them. In either scenario, the UFC’s anti-doping policy changes help promote supplements that meet the aforementioned criteria, especially Thorne, and will hopefully help fighters avoid situations that end their career early—like this one. Advertisement
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