The UFC's drug testing program has largely failed in protecting clean fighters and it's time for the incompetent agency to go
Under the last few years of ownership by the Fertitta brothers, the UFC made a series of moves to make the organization more palatable for potential buyers - most notably the Reebok partnership to clean up the visual clutter of the sport (well that was the intention, I never said they were successful) and their partnership with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, or USADA, to help clean up the image of the sport in the minds of fans.
The story of PEDs in MMA, combat sports, or even sports in general is a long, complicated, and messy affair with countless articles and rabbit holes to get lost in. Here, I'll break down some of the basics of it in regards to the UFC and of course the USADA program.
It's no secret that doping in sports is extremely prevalent, whether it be in the Olympics, football, baseball, or even tennis. If there's something available that will give competitors an edge, even if there's no proof of it, most competitors are willing to take it even if it comes with inherent risks. In fact, surveys asking athletes if they would take ten years off their lives in exchange for an Olympic gold medal or championship in their sport came back with the vast majority stating they would happily make that tradeoff, so it's no surprise that even as crackdowns on steroids and performance enhancers in sports have become more prevalent, cheating is just as rampant as ever.
With combat sports, there's an added negative connotation around performance enhancing drugs (or PEDs) in that there's a perceived added danger to enhanced individuals - given combat sports are already dangerous and can even be fatal, there's an added element of fear that a roided up individual could use their extra horsepower to deliver a fatal blow to an opponent during competition. Some have likened taking PEDs in combat sports to using loaded gloves in boxing, which has caused deaths and severe injury and is akin to attempted murder - while in the future this may become more of a reality as science continues to evolve, we have seen no evidence of this in practice.
To look at mixed martial arts, consider that until the sport was sanctioned in the early 2000s, the sport had even less protective measures (hitting the spine and back of the head was legal for instance) and had very clearly doped up fighters, sometimes separated by a lot of weight compared to their opponents, regularly competing in full contact fighting. Even in the mid-2000s, PRIDE FC in Japan still did no drug testing and even encouraged fighters to juice, yet not a single death (or even a life-threatening injury) ever occurred in a major MMA promotion.
So while there's little to suggest that using PEDs creates added risk of death to their opponents, there's a pretty clear advantage sporting-wise to using PEDs, just like in any sport. Rampant PED usage has been around since the sport first came to light in 1993, and has been there ever since - after commissions were brought in to regulate the sport in the same way boxing had been for decades and to clean up the ruleset, the athletic commissions handled drug testing in the same way it was performed in boxing - you submit a urine sample on fight night that gets sent to a cheap testing lab to check for steroids and other banned substances.
For anyone with any knowledge on the subject, these tests were commonly referred to as IQ tests - basically, if you failed one of these, it was because you are an idiot. Good PEDs (especially as you get into more specific designer steroids and hormones) only last in one's system for a certain period of time, and often the biggest benefits from using them actually came once you are off of them for a short period of time - when you know exactly when you're going to be tested, it's incredibly easy to piss clean and technically be a clean athlete at the time of that test, because any performance enhancer has already left your system.
As time went on, some fighters failed drug tests, but it was extremely rare, similar to most sports. Over the years more and more accusations were flung and the inadequacy of the testing in MMA became bigger and bigger news in the media and with fans, with the rather inept commissions drawing ire from fans, most pointedly when they allowed fighters to use testosterone replacement therapy (or TRT) while fighting, which was essentially sanctioned cheating. As its quite easy to have a test show low testosterone, athletes could rather simply get diagnosed by a doctor for having low testosterone, something that should be extremely rare for any kind of professional athlete that isn't in their fifties or older. That would allow them to get testosterone injections to raise their testosterone to "normal" levels, but as the allowable levels were quite high and the injections dissipate quickly, it was prone to massive abuse and became a major problem.
Around the same time commissions started to implement random drug tests in the weeks or months leading up to fights - while this wasn't year round as the commissions could only do it for fighters scheduled to compete in their jurisdiction, testing randomly is a great way to catch users given many PEDs' short detection windows - with a scheduled test it's easy to clear out your system by sample collection time, but a random test, with some luck, has a better chance of catching a user with a PED in their system, especially if conducted a month or more before competition as for more PEDs that's the optimum time for usage.
While the random testing is much more expensive, the bigger commissions like Nevada and California opted to implement random testing for big promotions willing to foot the bill (mainly the UFC) and even used accredited World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) labs (basically, the highest standard of anti-doping protocols available). The system clearly worked, as several high-profile fighters started failing drug tests, while others pushed for more expansive testing protocols.
Georges St. Pierre was one of the leading voices for better testing, and even paid out of his own pocket for a full random testing program from VADA (similar to USADA, smaller but much less shady) and got an opponent of his back in 2013, Johny Hendricks, to agree to join the program and submit to testing. After publically agreeing to the testing, Hendricks then stated he'd rather have USADA perform the testing, as he believed it to be the better program; Georges complied and paid for full testing from USADA as well, but when it came time to sign and submit to the testing, Johny Hendricks refused, and instead the UFC pressured GSP to take the fight anyway. Wanting to clean up the sport was one of St. Pierre's goals, and despite his opponent not being independently tested, St. Pierre submitted to both USADA and VADA drug testing programs for the months leading up to his title fight against Hendricks at UFC 167, posting the numerous tests online every time he received the results after a sample had been taken. After narrowly beating Hendricks, GSP was reportedly furious and felt he had clearly been in the cage with a cheater, which was part of the reason why he retired after the fight and didn't return for 4 years until well after new testing was established.
Hendricks on the other hand, even after the USADA program came in, never failed a drug test, yet closed out his UFC career by suffering one of the steepest drop-offs in MMA history - earning the title after GSP's departure before dropping it in two epic bouts with Robbie Lawler before beating Matt Brown, Hendricks would never return to form after USADA came in mid-2015; Hendricks struggled to make weight and missed on multiple occasions, looked horrid in the fights, and was eventually released after going 1-5 post-USADA.
Getting back to the overall story, the random testing implemented in fight camps was working, but it only applied to certain circumstances - high-profile fighters in big fights. The majority of the fighters on any given card were still only being tested on fight night, and given the random testing only occurred in the lead up to a fight, a simple workaround was to only accept a fight closer to the date you wanted to compete, so by the time you sign your contract you are off your current cycle, something boxers had already been doing with their similarly set-up random testing.
With PED usage a clear black eye on the sport, the UFC opted to go big and invested millions into a comprehensive, all-year-round drug testing program administered and regulated by an independent body. That's where USADA came in, which was a respected name in anti-doping, being the agency responsible for the Olympics and many major leagues. Jeff Novitzky, famous for being the man that hounded and eventually "got" Lance Armstrong, was named the UFC's VP of Athlete Health & Performance and essentially acted as the liason between the UFC, the fighters, and USADA (despite his accolades, Armstrong to this day has never failed a drug test and was only "convicted" off of witness testimony and later his own admission). The testing involved every fighter on the roster and was particularly invasive - fighters had to submit their whereabouts and remain contactable at all times in order to make sure random tests could be conducted.
The full adoption of WADA (considered the golden standard of doping regulations, despite being the ONLY standard) protocols also meant other issues arose, particularly when the program first began mid-2015 - the use of IVs for instance is banned outright, unless given an exemption for medical necessity or being under 50mls of saline, a miniscule amount. IVs were used extensively by fighters to rehydrate after cutting water weight to make the limits of their respective weight class, with many fighters protesting and complaining about the change. USADA argued that consuming water orally would rehydrate the fighter just as well and would not impede performance, but many athletes disagreed - the biggest issue was regarding safety, as hard weight cuts can also deplete fluids found in the skull which protect the brain and take much longer to replenish, leading to some speculation that cutting the use of IVs for rehydration could leave a fighter more vulnerable to being concussed or knocked out.
After some apparent growing pains getting used to what was and was not allowed under the new regulations, including plenty of supplements that were now effectively banned, fighters slowly fell into compliance and became used to random drug tests at 5 in the morning or even out in public with their families, with some circumstances being shared that show just how intrusive the testing agency can be. Urijah Faber recounted being forced to draw blood for USADA while he was in the hospital with his fiance in labour with their first child; Ray Borg recently revealed how at a Chuck-E-Cheese with his family he had to go into the bathroom to submit a sample and poured his cup of urine into the special sample container as other patrons filed in and out; many fighters have shared how they've had to submit samples while on vacation or even a honeymoon.
So with all the inconvenience caused by USADA on the fighters, are they at least getting rid of the cheaters?
The answer is a pretty simple "no".
Early on, that answer may have been slightly different, as the sweeping changes did clearly serve as a deterrent and struck fear into some athletes who had been used to the lax rules. Fans noticed many fighters rapidly "deflate" after USADA came in compared to their pre-USADA physiques, and others who suffered steep performance declines coinciding with the new testing regime, including the afforementioned Johny Hendricks, although many of those deflated fighters never failed drug tests.
As time has passed, the physiques have normalized and the program has proven to catch some high-profile cheaters, including Jon Jones, TJ Dillashaw, and Brock Lesnar.
The program however has caught more non-cheaters than it has actual cheats.
The use of supplements is a rather unregulated aspect of athlete's diets and as supplements aren't subject to FDA approval, many supplement companies either "spike" their wares with more effective ingredients not listed on the label to improve results (including even anabolic steroids), or, more often, are contaminated with trace amounts of other substances due to a cheap manufacturing process (often vats used to make substances aren't properly cleaned in between use, meaning cross-contamination occurs). Due to how advanced testing has gotten, even miniscule amounts of a substance is enough to raise a red flag, and some substances can even be found in food in some regions - clenbuterol for instance, is regularly found in meat in Mexico and China and is commonly used to help bulk up livestock before slaughter, and has led to many athletes from those regions in various sports failing tests, though luckily they receive no sanctions as USADA is aware of the issue.
UFC fighters under the USADA regime are required to list all the supplements they're taking to ensure they don't contain anything banned, and to keep the containers for those supplements after use - however, given supplements high contamination risk, even supplements that have nothing illegal anywhere on their label and appear to be a quality brand have caused adverse test results. After a fighter has been flagged, USADA tests those supplements and even gets supply from the specific batch that a fighter has used to see if the illegal substance is found in that supplement.
So the process seems pretty rigorous and thorough, but what happens when a banned substance is found in that supplement? You'd think that athlete would be absolved of wrongdoing, but USADA still penalizes the fighter with (typically) a 6-month suspension, stating that they knew the risks of taking supplements. That's still much better than a typical 2-year suspension for a first offence (though the length depends on substance classification, some classes are only 1-year suspensions for the first offense), but the fighter not only is forced to sit out that length of time, but often they are pulled (sometimes even last minute) from a scheduled fight due to the failure and lose out on all of their potential earnings. The testing and entire process often takes more than 6 months to clear their name, meaning they effectively sat out longer than that 6-month period with no pay (and typically incur legal or expert expenses to help in the process).
Since July of 2015 when the USADA program started, approximately 100 fighters have failed drug tests, yet over half of them were determined definitively to be the result of tainted supplements, meaning that USADA is effectively catching more clean athletes than they are actual cheats.
Some of the sanctions issued by USADA have been even more ridiculous. Take Lyoto Machida for example - the former UFC light heavyweight champion never failed any drug test, yet was suspended a whopping 18-months. Why? Because on his questionnaire, one of the supplements he listed that he was taking had a chemical compound that isn't actually found in the WADA banned list, something he and his team checked - however when that compound breaks down it forms another substance that is on the banned list, DHEA (which is actually found in a lot of supplements). Now you'd think, since Machida had done his due diligence and shouldn't be expected to have a degree in chemistry just to figure out which supplement to take, that since he never failed a test and had openly stated which supplements he was taking, thinking they were above board, that USADA would have simply told him not to take that supplement as it's not allowed, right? Wrong, they issued him a doping violation and suspended him 18-months, but hey that's 6-months off the standard first-offense for that substance, so they really did him a solid.
Then take former two-division champ and UFC legend BJ Penn. He was suspended 6-months for informing USADA he had used an IV for medical reasons. As part of a new system in trying to help brain recovery, a doctor had given Penn an IV with a medical solution and saline (nothing in the solution was banned). Penn then made the mistake of informing USADA that he had used an IV and explained why, as well as the fact he had a doctor administering it for non-athletic purposes. Clearly Penn didn't do anything wrong here, and if he had, he wouldn't have informed USADA - well, USADA suspended him 6-months for IV use anyway, stating that as it wasn't a medical necessity it didn't qualify for a therapeutic usage exemption.
In another case involving an MMA legend, Mirko Cro Cop was visited by USADA shortly after he had shoulder surgery. He informed them that the doctor had injected him with medication to help with the recovery, and it included HGH, or human growth hormone. Being incredibly hard to detect, Cro Cop passed his drug test, yet for admitting to the usage, even though a doctor administered it post-surgery, he was suspended a full two years. Had he kept his mouth shut and pretended it never happened, he would have never been suspended at all.
If those three cases don't send a clear message that being honest with USADA doesn't do you any good and will just get you fucked over, I don't know what would.
In the first few years, test failures were automatically made public knowledge at the same time as the UFC and the fighters were informed in an effort to be transparent, however the specifics were kept confidential unless the athlete themselves chose to disclose them. This sounds good in theory, however given how many cases ended up being the result of tainted supplements or no intention of cheating, it instead dragged countless fighter's names through the mud and had them labelled as cheaters and steroid users.
One of the hardest hit by this was Yoel Romero, who had long been accused of steroids thanks to his freak of nature physique and athleticism. The Cuban has been absolutely shredded since he was a child and won a silver medal in the Olympics for wrestling, and now well into his forties he still has the body and athletic ability of a Greek god. The man has a kind of special athleticism that simply isn't just the result of any drugs, but rather genetic gifts and a lifetime of training - whether he ever took PEDs or not, they didn't give him those abilities. But given his musculature, fans had speculated the Cuban was doping, and their suspicions were seemingly confirmed when Romero failed a drug test early in the USADA era (despite him being tested plenty by USADA previously in his Olympic days). After a lengthy process, Romero was one of the first to successfully have his results deemed to be due to a contaminated supplement, and later had his suspension reduced to a (still ridiculous) 6-months. Not content with that, Romero opted to sue the supplement company with the tainted product, and last year won the suit and nearly $27 million as a result due to damages, defamation, loss of wages, and emotional duress from the testing failure caused by the supplement. How much money he's actually gotten is still unknown considering the supplement company isn't worth that much money total, but luckily his name was fully cleared even if it took way too long.
After realizing it wasn't the best idea to publicize doping failures immediately when more often than not the fighter ended up having not taken anything banned intentionally, USADA and the UFC updated their policy to keep failures confidential until the process was complete and any sanctions determined. With injuries a regular occurence, fighters who have failed a drug test simply get pulled from upcoming fights and nobody tends to think anything other than an injury occured until told otherwise (the fighters themselves can disclose the issue if they so choose).
Another improvement has been in their handling of SARMS - essentially a class of substance with a variety of medical applications that also include muscle growth, making them banned (and actually illegal to sell in dietary supplements as they have been linked to health risks). Some of the more popular SARMS, mainly ostarine, are particularly prevalent in supplements despite not being on their label and being illegal, and have caused plenty of failed tests stemming from supplement use. Rather than having to test everybody's supplements every time one of these pops up, USADA is now hastening the process and is slowly moving away from sanctioning athletes with trace amounts of them in their system, particularly as the levels being tested are so low they'd bear no effect on performance.
Just last week in one of the most high profile cases in recent memory, Nate Diaz announced to the world that he had been flagged by USADA. While Diaz may be a lot of things, everyone in the MMA community, being fans and fighters alike, knows the Diaz brothers aren't taking any performance enhancers (unless you want to consider marijuana to be one). Since it was trace amounts of a SARM, USADA and the UFC opted not to pull Diaz from his upcoming fight with Jorge Masvidal on November 2nd, one of the most anticipated fights and biggest events of the year at MSG in New York. They told Diaz that he wasn't being sanctioned and that he was good to go, but any notion of impropriety was unacceptable to Diaz, who prides himself on being a clean fighter.
Diaz took to social media to inform everyone that USADA claimed he failed a drug test and wanted him to keep quiet until after the fight, which Diaz said is something a cheater would do. He openly stated he would not be competing whatsoever until his name was fully cleared and whatever the adverse test results were caused by were made public. All of a sudden, a massive UFC event was in jeopardy and the UFC's integrity was called into question by one of the most respected names in the sport.
USADA sprang into action by the next day, issuing a lengthy statement about the trace amounts of a SARM found in Diaz's results. They had already found the supplement causing the test to be flagged - a vegan, all-natural supplement that no sane person would expect to contain any performance enhancing substances in. This resulted in a full exoneration of Diaz's name and the UFC 244 main event is scheduled to continue as planned this weekend.
Of course, not everyone has gotten such a speedy and definitive resolution, nor has virtually anyone else not suffered any repercussions for a flagged test, even if it was the result of tainted supplements.
Just this past April, 4 fighters who had been sitting out (one for 13 months) due to flagged tests for ostarine, one of the afforementioned SARMs, were issued 6-month suspensions despite the trace amounts being found to be from supplements. Amanda Ribas, a young world Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion with a famous BJJ expert father, was flagged for trace amounts of ostarine in June of 2017 stemming from a random drug test before her UFC debut. She was issued a two year suspension which derailed her UFC career before it began - earlier this year they retroactively reduced her suspension, but she still only returned to competition in July, marking a full two years after her initial test failure, effectively serving the full suspension despite not being at fault. Particularly for up and coming fighters, 2 years is a ridiculous amount of time and a lot of potential earnings lost.
Tom Lawlor, a UFC vet, was suspended himself for two years in 2017 for trace amounts of ostarine, only to be released from the UFC after serving his full suspension - a ridiculous slap in the face to a fan-favourite who could have been making money elsewhere, yet was shelved for two years thanks to USADA's ridiculous policies.
Particularly troublesome is the complete lack of compensation or restitution in these cases where USADA has gotten it wrong or unjustly suspended someone - not only have these fighters been dragged through the mud publically and lost sponsors, but they've had to go long periods without fighting and lost out on potential earnings, many have incurred legal and other fees to fight USADAs findings and help them with the process or arbitration, some have lost years off of their fighting primes, and none have received a dime from the UFC or USADA to recoup any of their losses due to the testing program's incompetence.
It would be nice to see one of the fighters with financial ability take the UFC and USADA to court over their inconsistent and unfair practices, and supplements aren't the only area we've seen USADA give preferential treatment.
One of the most high-profile failures in recent years came from Jon Jones, who tested positive for an anabolic steroid's metabolites after defeating Daniel Cormier at UFC 214. Given he had previously failed in the past for two estrogen blockers (commonly used to cycle off of steroids) which he infamously blamed on tainted "dick pills", Jones was facing a 4-year suspension. Rather than have the massive star shelved for that long, USADA instead suspended him 18 months, using a "snitching" clause reserved for athletes who cooperate with USADA to either provide significant evidence to other athletes doping under USADA's program, or to suppliers of substances to said athletes.
Given Jones' suspension was reduced by a whopping 30 months, that information provided by Jones (which of course we don't have access to) would have had to have been extremely significant given that previous uses of that clause typically resulted in only a few months reduction of sanctions. Jones hilariously professed his innocence and claimed he didn't snitch on anybody, later stating he didn't snitch on anybody in MMA, leading to many speculating he snitched on athletes in another sport (possibly the NFL given his two professional NFL playing brothers), yet we've since seen no significant busts in other USADA testing pools nor any raids of steroid suppliers make headlines. The significant reduction in suspension looks more and more like a simple business decision than a legitimate regulatory concern the more you look at it.
Since then, when Jones did return to action, he continued to fail tests for trace amounts of the same metabolite. Now a sanction can't be repeated if its determined that the tests stem from the same failure, and given that the metabolites Jones tested for can stay in the person's system for an unknown length of time, USADA stated they couldn't sanction him again as there was no evidence he ingested it again, and his levels were continuously extremely low. Now, looking at past similar cases in other sports, including an NCAA football player, and looking at USADA's own written rules, they do not allow athletes to compete with any amount of anabolic or other banned substances in their system, even if they've served their suspension. An NCAA football player just a few years prior had essentially the same problem that was determined to be from a supplement, yet had to wait over 3 years for the metabolites to completely leave his system and not show up on any tests to be eligible to compete, meanwhile Jones was given a completely different treatment.
USADA's questionable integrity and preferential treatment is not a new accusation. In fact, USADA was effectively kicked out of testing in boxing after repeated misconduct, including covering up failed tests, retroactively granting big names therapeutic use exemptions for infractions (like Floyd Mayweather, who used an IV to rehydrate after weighing in and was somehow granted an exemption afterward by USADA, despite never granting one to anyone else and having no medical reason to), and suspicious program costs. Despite delivering the exact same testing program, USADA was being paid vastly different sums depending on which promoter was paying for the testing - VADA, the other major testing organization, has a set rate regardless of who is ordering the tests, as the tests themselves don't change, with only minor fluctuation given the location of the fighters (as getting random samples is obviously more costly depending on where they have to go). USADA on the other hand was getting paid inexplicable amounts from some of the bigger promoters, and yet still skimped out on many tests - CIR tests for example, which determine if any synthetic (unnatural) testosterone is present in a sample, were only performed if other indicators aroused suspicion, where VADA, which charged a lot less and is a smaller organization, properly conducted CIR tests on every sample collected, as is proper protocol.
USADA was essentially kicked out of boxing after increased suspicion and questions arose from commissions, and we see their questionable practices coming to light more and more in the UFC.
For the 4+ years USADA has been testing for the UFC, we've seen less than 3% of fighters coming back with adverse tests; when you eliminate the cases of tainted supplements and similar cases, you're looking at around 1% of fighters caught doping in that time. If you ask anyone in the sport, or any sport for that matter, I don't think there's a single person out there that believes only 1% of athletes in any sport are doping. At one point lie-detector tests were considered for use by testing agencies and trials were conducted anonymously on Olympic athletes, but the system was reportedly abandoned after results came back that over 70% of athletes had failed the test or admitted to using PEDs. Even if those numbers are inflated, 1% is simply not an accurate account of cheaters in any sport.
That's not even taking into account the actual WADA list of banned substances, which has been notoriously poor from the start, has overbearing and sometimes silly inclusions. You may have heard of athletes being suspended in the Olympics for taking Advil or too much caffeine (yes, multiple cases did happen and even had medals lost over it) - even though those specific substances have since been removed from the list, the bloated list contains many substances which have been found to have no or little effect on performance, and their reasons for being on the list are often nowhere to be found or little backing in science.
Investigations conducted by journalists over the years have found that many of the banned substances on the WADA list have been shown to have no or very little effect on athletic or physical performance in scientific trials, if any such trials exist. While anabolic steroids are banned for obvious reasons, taking a look at the WADA list you'll note that most of the substances are not steroids at all. Many even have positive health aspects that, considering the doping agencies claim to be for the health and protection of athletes, you'd think would be encouraged. Cannibinoids, which have proven to have tons of health benefits especially with recovery, were banned by WADA until recently, and HGH, which on its own is used to help the body recover (unless the person hasn't reached physical maturation yet, in which case there is definitive enhancement effects) and is one of the only things found to be showing promise in healing brain trauma (of particular concern for combat sports) is banned under all conditions. And then of course there are all of the substances that are so extremely common in supplements (and some even found in food) that it's hard to understand why they'd be banned at all unless a certain threshold is met that would indicate intentional consumption and therefore willful cheating.
Unfortunately there is no other governing body or anti-doping protocols out there other than WADA's, and the two major testing agencies, USADA and VADA, both follow those protocols (though VADA has a much better track record without history of any shady dealings). Ultimately there isn't a whole lot of options out there, and USADA has shown to be extremely limited in its use of common sense when sanctioning cases, so trust in them to continuously improve their system should be limited, even if they have slowly improved some aspects of it.
The case against the USADA program is one which brings the cost of the program into plain view - not just financially, but the human cost of the program. Is it worth catching a cheater, if a clean athlete has to suffer even moreso (given they know the accusations are untrue) at the same time? Is it worth spending millions of dollars every year, costing innocent fighters their livelihoods and time out of their fighting primes, costing the company millions more thanks to cancelled fights and wasted promotion, to catch an extremely limited amount of cheaters? Is it worth taking away their privacy and often embarassing and inconveniencing fighters regularly to collect samples, knowing that less than 1% of those actual samples will come back positive?
The answer is no.
The drug-testing policy in the UFC needs a major overhaul, and it needs it now before any more clean fighters are put through the ringer.
If they want to continue using USADA, their system needs major changes - much quicker turnaround time on resolving cases (like what they did for Diaz), no suspensions for contamination cases, compensation for missed fights if absolved of wrongdoing, thresholds implemented for commonly found substances in supplements that only flag a test if more than trace amounts are found (which will also save them from having to test those supplements in many cases), and ironically, more severe punishment for proven cheating - something like EPO, which can ONLY be injected and has massive performance benefits, should receive by default a lot longer ban than a SARM which is found everywhere, yet we have later-absolved fighters sitting out as long as proven cheats.
While in the beginning USADA may have served as a fear tactic, their success rates are about the same as the much less intrusive methods used by the athletic commissions, yet way fewer innocent athletes were punished during those days. Their testing is simply not catching the intended target and any system that is punishing those not breaking the rules more than those violating them is a broken system that needs replacing.
It's time the UFC pulls the plug on its current anti-doping system and stops the steady stream of nonsense burdening their most important asset - the fighters.
Latest was Nate Diaz, cleared quickly after Nate outed their quiet talks,
USADA kicked out of boxing, double standards at many times (allowing Jon Jones to compete with metabolites for example), ruining many fights only to determine there was no violation, are therefore punishing more clean fighters than they are catching actual cheaters the likes of Dillashaw.