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UFC, USADA fail to reach contract extension; partnership ends

UFC USADA

(Esther Lin, MMA Fighting)

UFC USADA
(Esther Lin, MMA Fighting)

UFC, USADA fail to reach contract extension; partnership ends

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will no longer oversee the UFC Anti-Doping Program after the two parties failed to reach a contract renewal. The current testing program will run through 2023 before officially closing on Jan. 1, 2024. USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart released a statement explaining the split.

Tygart’s statement was twofold as it also announced Conor McGregor is officially in the USADA testing pool.

“We can confirm that Conor McGregor has re-entered the USADA testing pool as of Sunday, October 8, 2023. We have been clear and firm with the UFC that there should be no exception given by the UFC for McGregor to fight until he has returned two negative tests and been in the pool for at least six months. The rules also allow USADA to keep someone in the testing pool longer before competing based on their declarations upon entry in the pool and testing results.

Unfortunately, we do not currently know whether the UFC will ultimately honor the six-month or longer requirement because, as of January 1, 2024, USADA will no longer be involved with the UFC Anti-Doping Program. Despite a positive and productive meeting about a contract renewal in May 2023, the UFC did an about-face and informed USADA on Monday, October 9, that it was going in a different direction.”

Quote via USADA

McGregor’s willingness to join the testing pool clearly played a large role in the deteriorating relationship between the two sides. USADA claimed its relationship with the UFC was “untenable” because of statements made regarding its handling of McGregor’s situation.

The relationship between USADA and UFC became untenable given the statements made by UFC leaders and others questioning USADA’s principled stance that McGregor not be allowed to fight without being in the testing pool for at least six months. One UFC commentator echoed this, recently declaring that USADA should not oversee the UFC program since we held firm to the six-month rule involving McGregor, and since we do not allow fighters without an approved medical basis to use performance-enhancing drugs like experimental, unapproved peptides or testosterone for healing or injuries simply to get back in the Octagon.

Quote via USADA

The UFC Anti-Doping Program will undergo serious changes without USADA at the helm.

USADA provided the UFC with some of the highest-quality drug testing. Plus, USADA had strict whereabouts policies that made that forced fighters to declare their location at all times. This made it harder for fighters to avoid testing.

It can also be argued that USADA often overstepped boundaries. Alexander Volkanovski famously explained USADA tested him in the middle of the night before his rematch against Max Holloway. The idea of constant whereabouts updates has also brought criticism.

The UFC will still have performance-enhancing drug testing. The UFC Anti-Doping Program can still operate and athletic commissions administer tests. The company will still be capable of catching cheating fighters. The question will be if they are as efficient.

The relationship between them will be remembered as a positive. The eight-year partnership helped the UFC catch PED usage in the sport and transition to a cleaner era of competition.

***

UPDATE: The UFC is expected to announce a new anti-doping program that will begin at the start of 2024, according to Aaron Bronsteter.

***

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