Of all the things that went so, so wrong for the UFC in 2014, the biggest positive that could be taken away was easily the promotion’s decision to begin drug-testing its athletes in house and year-round. As luck would have it, 2014 also went down as one of the druggiest years in MMA since the PRIDE days (allegedly). Random, out-of-competition drug testing was an expensive but necessary step forward and one that helped quell the near-constant questions regarding the legitimacy of the organization’s product. And it was working, dammit.
That was, until the UFC started farming out their drug testing to fly-by-night laboratories like the one that handled Cung Le’s sample. You know, the one which led to a 12-month suspension for the high-profile middleweight (that was quickly overturned) and played a huge role in Le’s request to be released of his contract as well as his class-action lawsuit against the UFC that followed? Yeah, that one.
Well put your minds at ease, Potato Nation, because the UFC’s brief experiment with running an out-of-competition drug testing program is over. HIP, HIP, HOORAY!!
Dana White broke the news during a media session on Thursday afternoon at the MGM Grand. Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter has the details:
“Our legal team completed screwed that up. We f—-d it up, and we will f–k it up again. That’s what the commission is there for,” he said.
White continued by saying that, while they have come to the realization that the promotion cannot oversee its own drug testing program, Zuffa will instead give more money to athletic commissions to help fund additional testing.
“What we’ll do is we’ll help fund it, so they can do more drug testing,” he said. “Our legal department screwed that whole thing up. We’ve got no business handling the regulation.”
While this may seem like a crushing blow to the UFC’s legitimacy at first, we should all probably recognize that the drug testing methods the UFC was using prior to this decision were shaky at best. Several top scientists in the field already brought into question the legitimacy of Le’s test, stating that the method used to determine his HGH levels (which were 18 times the limit, BTW) differed from those used by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and therefore should not be considered. (via BloodyElbow):
There are currently two different tests being used by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) to detect hGH use. The hGH “Isoform Differential Immunoassays” test is used to determine the presence of exogenous (meaning from an outside source) hGH in the system. That test is used in conjunction with a test for serum IGF1 levels.
The other hGH test is known as the Biomarker test. According to the Hong Kong lab report reviewed by this reporter, none of these sports doping hGH tests were conducted on Cung Le’s blood sample.
Instead, the Hong Kong lab took a reading of Le’s total hGH concentration, which by itself cannot determine if the subject has used exogenous hGH or not.
For a male who has fasted and rested for 12 hours prior to giving a blood sample to be tested, [proper protocol], the normal range is 05 ng/mL. For an athlete giving a sample after strenuous activity such as a fight, the expected range is 20-30 ng/mL. Le’s reading was a bit below 20 ng/mL, which is actually lower than the expected post-exercise reference range.
I don’t know where to begin, really. White’s reasoning for calling an end to random drug-testing (“We’ll f*ck it up again”) is about as laughably dismissive of a much bigger problem as you can get. Rather than, you know, attempt to improve their flawed but effective system of fighter-testing, the UFC is essentially shrugging its shoulders over how incompetently their billion dollar organization is run and hoping that throwing some money at the problem will make everything hunky-dory. “That’s what the commission is there for?” You mean those same incompetent, underfunded commissions that you endlessly bitch about not being able to even appoint a proper set of judges? That’s who’s going to swoop in and save the day?
Of course, White is more than likely glossing over the bigger reason behind the decision: Money. Carbon Isotope Ratio tests (the drug test of choice by VADA) cost between $700 and $1000 a piece, making them four to five times more expensive than the average T:E tests. Because of their cost, most athletic commissions can’t afford to use them on every athlete competing on a given fight card, let alone on a year-round basis. Without getting into how bad a year the UFC had money-wise, well, let’s just say they are probably in the “cutting-corners” phase of operations. And if they can’t afford to pay one of their fighters more than 8k to show, how much do you think they’ll be willing to donate to these commissions to make sure that their athletes are properly tested?