The UFC has changed the USADA drug testing process for a fighter entering into the UFC after willingly leaving. Previously, a fighter only had to be part of a drug testing pool for four months leading up to a fight. The new rule now states that a fighter must be in the drug testing pool for at least six months. There is still an exception to this rule. The exception can be applied by the UFC for, “exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an athlete.”
Athletes who willingly left the UFC, for professional reasons or retirement, will have to wait the full six months. Athletes who did not leave the UFC by choice or are entering their first UFC fight only need to be in the pool for a month. Jeff Novitzky, UFC VP of athlete health and performance told MMA Fighting:
“The majority of these changes are athlete driven. Early on in this, we knew there had to be a balancing act between the strength and comprehensiveness of the program and the fairness to the athlete. Over the year and half, this program has been in existence, we have consistently encouraged feedback from fighters and camps about how to make this program stronger, more comprehensive and, just as importantly, fairer to the athletes. All of these changes are a result of that interaction and feedback from athletes and camps.”
The timeline for when fighters are in competition has now been defined as beginning at noon the day prior to the fight and ending once the fighter has taken his post-fight drug test. Nate Diaz forced a clear definition after he said he was using cannabidiol oil at a post-fight press conference.
One other policy change is that a fighter who is appealing a ruling has a conference call with an arbitrator rather than having an evidentiary hearing.
The UFC has been doing a good job of making this sport as safe as possible, especially when it comes to the use of performance enhancing drugs. There is also a refining process occurring. The UFC competition calendar can be very hectic and rarely follows a clear timeline. Many of these changes are in a response to what athletes and officials are telling the UFC. The policy for “extreme circumstances” remains unchanged after the Lesnar-Hunt controversy, which caused Mark Hunt to file a lawsuit against the UFC. The UFC gave an exception to Brock Lesnar, a fighter who had been retired for years but had a history of testing positive for PEDs, who then went on to test positive twice in the lead up to his fight against Mark Hunt at UFC 200.