Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) today (Weds., June 3, 2015) held a special media press conference (video here) to announce its partnership with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), who will serve as the independent administrator for the promotion's new drug-testing policy.
That includes unannounced, year-round, in- and out-of-competition drug testing (blood and urine), modeled on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code, which takes effect July 1, 2015. That means UFC 189 participants can expect to be part of the new regime.
In-competition is defined as six hours before, as well as six hours after a fight.
Drug testing through USADA will supplement -- not replace -- existing programs from local governing bodies, like Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), who recently went back to the drawing board to tidy up some of its own shortcomings.
Get more details on that change right here.
"This policy is a central part of UFC's expanded efforts to protect the health and safety of its athletes, and also their right to compete on a level playing field," said Jeff Novitzky, UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance. "UFC's goal for this policy is to have the best anti-doping program in all of professional sports."
UFC will have no involvement and no decision-making authority over who gets tested, when they get tested, or what they get tested for, according to USADA Chief Executive Officer Travis Tygart, who along with USADA Board of Directors' Chairman Edwin Moses, was part of today's panel.
Suspensions for non-specified substances (anabolic steroids, growth hormones, peptides, etc.) start at two years for the first offense, with the possibility of four years for "aggravated circumstances." Specified substances, in-competition only (marijuana, cocaine, other stimulants) result in a one-year suspension for the first offense, with one additional year in eligible cases.
Punishments double for a second offense and could lead to a lifetime ban with the third.
Both UFC and USADA stressed "due process" for any and all fighters subjected to testing. That's likely to provide little consolation following the news that a minimum of 2750 total tests will be performed each year, which averages out to roughly five per fighter, per year.
Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) will be reviewed on a case-by-cases basis by USADA.
The world's largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion was forced to overhaul its drug testing policy following a rash of high-profile drug tests, some of which returned positive for anabolic steroids and sent shockwaves through the combat sports community.
Will this new policy end the performance-enhancing drug (PED) era?
Time will tell.