The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and UFC have made changes to the USADA anti-doping regulations for testing UFC fighters. The revised guidelines will come into force on April 1, 2017.
Under the new guidelines, a fighter who has left the UFC under his or her own accord or retired will not be able to compete again for the UFC until he or she is entered into the USADA drug-testing pool for six months. Previously, the rule had been a period of four months in the testing pool before an athlete could return to the Octagon.
USADA spokesperson Ryan Madden said it has been a successful first year-and-a-half for this program, but with that said we are always looking for ways to strengthen it and make it more effective for all involved. Madden added the policy updates announced are a direct reflection of our experiences, and the feedback we have received from both athletes and the UFC and all of which we believe will give further confidence to competitors that they can step into the Octagon, compete clean, and win.
The UFC may grant an exemption under the revised guidelines in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete. The UFC was criticized in the past for waiving the four-month testing period for the comeback of Brock Lesnar prior to UFC 200. Furthermore, athletes who make a return to the UFC after leaving through no choice of their own and any athlete coming to the Ultimate Fighting Championship for the first time is required to be in the testing pool for one month prior to returning to competition. However, these two rules may be waived when a fighter is signed to be a replacement on a card because of the loss of eligibility, injury or other event not reasonably foreseeable to UFC.
USADA also said a fighter disclosing a banned substance will not face an anti-doping violation, even if he or she fails a drug test for that drug. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency also revised the definition of “in-competition” for drug testing. Under the new guidelines, in-competition means the period commencing at noon on the day prior to the scheduled start of the fight card on which a bout is contested and ending upon the completion of the post-bout sample or specimen collection. USADA also commented that the in-competition period shall expire at that time if a sample is not collected within one hour of a fighter receiving post-fight medical clearance.
Jeff Novitzky, UFC vice president of athlete health and performance, said the majority of these changes are athlete driven. Novitzky added we early on in this knew there had to be a balancing act between the strength and comprehensiveness of the program and the fairness to the athlete. The UFC athlete health and performance VP also remarked this program over the year and half 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 and also said all of these changes are a result of that interaction and feedback from athletes and camps.
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