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The Hong Kong Lab That Handled Cung Le’s Drug Test Is Somewhat Less Than Legit

(“Tastes fine to me.” / Photo via Getty)

When the UFC suspended Cung Le for 12 months following a positive test result for excessive Human Growth Hormone, Le’s team immediately cast doubts on the UFC’s testing methods. Notably, his sample was sent to a non-WADA approved laboratory, and was destroyed afterwards. A new report from MMAJunkie reveals more information about the lab in question, which doesn’t sound like it would be anybody’s first choice to test the athletes of a major sports promotion. Here’s the important stuff:

The Hong Kong Functional Medical Testing Center (HKFMTC) resides in Hong Kong’s southern Yau Tsim Mong District, about an hour’s ferry ride from the Macau’s Cotai Arena where August’s UFC Fight Night 48 was held.

The company’s website offers to test your metabolic function, examine hair for heavy metals or nails for drugs of abuse, for example. It also offers a service called “autism medical testing.” The company opened its doors in February, according to an online records search, and recently put out a job posting for its marketing department.

Following the Aug. 23 event, a phlebotomist hired by the UFC took blood samples from headliners Cung Le and Michael Bisping immediately after their fight and shipped them to the HKFMTC, the promotion told MMAjunkie…It’s unclear how the HKFMTC tested the samples, and the UFC declined to answer any additional questions on the procedures used in connection with the event. On the drug testing firm’s website, there is no specific mention of testing for human growth hormone, though the company does offer a test of the endocrine system including “growth factor analysis.” It’s certain, though, that HKFMTC is not accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which sets guidelines used for HGH testing. The nearest WADA-accredited lab is in Beijing, a four-hour flight from Macau.

The UFC repeatedly has voiced its support for the anti-doping measures taken by state athletic commissions. This past year, it began bankrolling out-of-competition testing. But in hiring the Hong Kong company to look for HGH, the promotion failed to adhere to the testing standards recognized by the commissions it intends to follow.

WADA’s protocols on HGH testing are intended for WADA-accredited labs, which are utilized by the Nevada, California, and the New Jersey athletic commissions, among others. In order to attain such accreditation, the labs must demonstrate their ability to perform the complex procedure involved in finding HGH and must follow strict procedures set by the regulatory body in the collection and testing of blood samples needed to find the drug. There are also defined steps for adverse findings and what happens when results are challenged.

Notably, the protocol advises that drug samples should be frozen in the case where an athlete wants a sample retested. It also advises that HGH testing be done out of competition to keep the element of surprise…

According to Le’s rep, Gary Ibarra, the UFC told him a retest of Le’s blood sample was impossible because it had been destroyed. Ibarra said the fighter’s next step is undetermined.

It seems obvious that the UFC used HKFMTC for the Macau card due to the lab’s closer proximity to the event, compared to the WADA-accredited lab in Beijing. In retrospect, that was a mistake — although it’s unlikely that the UFC will ever admit to that, or change its stance on Le’s suspension. And while Le’s pre-fight appearance set off alarm bells among fans, his suspension should be nullified if the testing procedures were substandard.

What if this was a criminal trial, and Cung Le was arrested based on some evidence that had been discovered…but when his defense asked to see that evidence, the prosecution told him, “Well, we destroyed the evidence, but trust us, the evidence said that you committed this crime and you should definitely go to jail”? That would never fly. Doper or not, Le should have the right to defend himself. And going forward, the UFC needs to make sure that it’s placing its drug testing in the most capable hands — not the most convenient.

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