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Josh Barnett: USADA still tried to punish me long after recognizing tainted supplement

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UFC Fight Night: Barnett v Rothwell Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight contender Josh Barnett recently won an arbitration case against United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), becoming the first fighter to test positive for a banned substance and avoid a lengthy suspension without striking a deal.

But, the time he lost over the past 15 months is something he can’t regain, even after USADA recognized early on that his positive test for the banned substance ostarine was due to a tainted supplement.

It’s the long and unnecessary process which followed that Barnett has a problem with.

“I’m proud my innocence held up and that USADA has to recognize that publicly. But the fact we worked with them from the beginning and they had knowledge this supplement was tainted -- we could have been done with this a long time ago,” said Barnett in a recent interview with ESPN. ”The fact is, [USADA] seemed far more insistent on trying to be punitive than to recognize the facts and move on.”

Barnett says USADA was still looking for a suspension after recognizing his innocence and tried coming at him through a different angle to make a point which, to Barnett, does not signify a level playing field for combatants.

“It felt like [USADA was saying], ‘Okay, he’s proved this was a tainted supplement; how do we go after him another way?’” Barnett said. “They were just moving the goalposts back until they had something, which is incredibly backwards from this idea of creating an equitable, fair environment,” he added.

”Maybe [USADA] felt I was someone who would look good to punish, but more likely I think it’s the concept of results. I think the best results this program could have is no one tests positive anymore -- that the system works and people operate within it.”

Barnett still has to re-enter the USADA drug testing pool after withdrawing from it in 2016, which means he won’t be eligible to compete for another six months; however, Barnett hopes his case sets a precedent moving forward.

“Bureaucracies are big, unwieldy animals that don’t hardly ever shrink or alter their course, but I do hope my case changes some things,” he said. “It’s difficult enough to have to sit out and wait, and have these supplements tested. That is hard enough on a fighter. For an agency to then try and find ways to punish them or create a guilty party out of it, it’s excessive.”