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UFC changes anti-doping policy, will no longer announce violations before cases are resolved

The UFC’s current drug-testing policy under United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is a work in a progress, which is why the promotion is making some changes heading into the final months of 2018.

According to a report by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, UFC will no longer announce a violation before the fighter being accused has his or her case completely resolved. The change reportedly went into effect back in July.

UFC’s Chief Legal Officer Hunter Campbell went into further detail as to why this is an important aspect of the organization’s anti-doping program.

”If an athlete has a positive drug test, we aren’t putting them in a fight until their case is resolved -- but what we can do is give the athlete an opportunity to adjudicate their issue without the public rushing to judgment,” Campbell said. “Announcing the test result creates this narrative around the athlete before people understand the facts.”

Per UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky, 21 out of the 62 adjudicated cases under the UFC’s anti-doping program were ultimately deemed “non-intentional use” by USADA. That’s substantial, especially considering those fighters in question had to defend themselves from public scrutiny after unknowingly taking a banned substance.

The most notable case was that of former UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett, who avoided suspension from a 2016 failed drug test after an arbitrator ruled earlier this year that Barnett unknowingly ingested a contaminated substance. Barnett not only lost a ton of cage time while fighting the allegations, but he was forced to defend himself in the public eye.

”Part of the feedback Jeff and I have received from the athletes is, ‘I would have appreciated the opportunity to adjudicate this, so the story could be I tested positive, a full investigation was conducted and it was found the use was unintentional,’” Campbell said. “That story is very different than giving somebody a six-month window, where they are trying to defend themselves against accusations they are a cheater.”

Hopefully this helps clear up some issues on the public end of the spectrum, but the new changes to UFC’s anti-doping program aren’t going to stop cheating all together. Because out of those 62 adjudicated cases mentioned by Novtizky, 41 of them were deemed intentional use.

At least fighters will now have more time to prove their innocence before being thrown under the bus.

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