The Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion, took an aggressive and much-needed step towards cleaning up the sport Wednesday by announcing they have retained U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as the independent administrator to spearhead their revamped drug testing program.
The USADA will conduct year-round, in- (six hours before and after fights) and out-of-competition drug testing on all UFC fighters beginning July 1. The screenings will include urine and blood.
There will be a minimum of 2,750 random tests conducted each year, averaging 5.5 tests per athlete each year.
Every UFC fighter is required to notify the USADA of their whereabouts throughout the year, so there will be no hiding from pop quizzes. Three missed appointments in a year equates to a fail.
“The UFC’s goal in this program is the have the best anti-doping program in all of professional sports,” UFC of VP Athlete Health & Performance Jeff Novitsky said during today’s press conference.
Under the new policy, first-time offenders for performance-enhancing drug will receive a two-year ban, four years with “aggravating circumstance.” The suspension is doubled for the second offense and double of the second penalty on the third offense.
Marijuana and other recreational drugs will only be tested in-competition. These failed screenings will result in a one-year suspension, two years for aggravating circumstance. The suspension is doubled for the second offense and double of the second penalty on the third offense.
Previous failures could either count towards the new policy or steer the offenses towards the aggravated circumstances part of the policy.
“I hope that our guys aren’t using drugs. I hope that that isn’t the case. But we’ll see. We’ll see how this plays out,” said UFC president Dana White. “We’re being proactive now in trying to fix things that seemed impossible to fix. We’re trying to create a clean sport where everyone is on the same playing field.”
Costs of these drug tests were not disclosed during today’s press conference, but in February UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta (pictured) estimated they would spend millions of dollars annually to execute this plan of attack.
The UFC was initially in negotiations with several organizations to run their drug testing program. However, they couldn’t have done much better than picking USADA, who is the national anti-doping agency for the United States for Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American and Parapan American Sport.
Make no mistake, this is a monumental move by the UFC. Many have complained for years that the UFC, serving as MMA’s biggest player, should be more aggressive in their efforts to weed out the cheaters. While it may have taken the UFC longer than expected, nobody can doubt the UFC’s intentions now.