The United States Anti-Doping Agency will no longer oversee the UFC’s anti-doping program once their current contract expires at the end of 2023.
The stunning news was announced on Wednesday with a statement from USADA CEO Travis Tygart after confirming UFC superstar Conor McGregor had officially re-entered the drug testing pool following a long absence from the program. Tygart claims that talks were ongoing for an extension between USADA and the UFC until talks broke down; the MMA promotion then opted to end the partnership starting in 2024.
“We can confirm that Conor McGregor has re-entered the USADA testing pool as of Sunday, October 8, 2023,” Tygart said. “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.”
UFC did not immediately respond to MMA Fighting for comment on this story.
Tygart pointed at a strained relationship between USADA and the UFC is largely due to the situation surrounding McGregor, who dropped out of the anti-doping program after suffering a broken leg in his previous outing against Dustin Poirier in 2021.
Since that time, McGregor teased plans to re-enter the UFC anti-doping program, but under USADA rules, he would have to undergo six months of testing before being allowed to compete again – unless an exemption was granted.
“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,” Tygart said. “We are disappointed for UFC athletes, who are independent contractors who rely on our independent, gold-standard global program to protect their rights to a clean, safe, and fair Octagon. The UFC’s move imperils the immense progress made within the sport under USADA’s leadership.
“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.”
Tygart added that USADA would not approve an exemption for McGregor after he dropped out of the anti-doping program while recovering from his broken leg.
“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,” Tygart said.
“Fighters’ long-term health and safety — in addition to a fair and level playing field — are more important to USADA than short-term profits at the expense of clean athletes. USADA is proud of the work we’ve done over the past eight years to clean up the UFC, and we will continue to provide our unparalleled service to UFC athletes through the remainder of our current contract, which ends December 31, 2023. As always, we will continue to uphold the rights and voices of clean athletes in all sport.”
The UFC first partnered with USADA back in 2015 to oversee the promotion’s anti-doping initiative. During the eight-year relationship, USADA conducted over 27,000 tests across the UFC’s roster.
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