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The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the largest mixed martial arts competition in the world. However, this brought an increased responsibility to establish the best possible standards. Because of this, the USADA program was brought in. But what is USADA and how does it affect the UFC? 

USADA is the United States Anti-Doping Agency. It helps detect people using banned substances, which can artificially improve their performance. USADA also needs to assign a penalty for rule violations. This program was begun in October 2015 and continues to play an important role in the sport. 

The USADA program plays a big role in modern UFC. To understand why this organization is so important, we need to look at what they do. 

What Does The USADA Do?

The USADA organization is responsible for making sure that United States athletes aren’t misusing drugs to enhance their performance. They do this across all sports in the United States. This includes athletes performing at the Olympic and Paralympic level. 

The USADA has signed the World Anti-Doping Code. This is regulated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). These rules help regulate what substances are banned and what the testing standards should be. It intends to make sure that all the countries around the world are following the same procedures. This code is periodically and reviewed and updated. 

There are a few ways that the USADA program tries to remove doping from the UFC. They educate fighters and the public about the dangers these substances can pose. They also fund research into these drugs and how they can be better detected. 

However, the most-well effective deterrent is regular testing. This is conducted randomly, so there is no way for an athlete to prepare. If someone is found to have drugs in their system, USADA will determine the punishment that they will face. 

Who Controls The Testing Process? 

The UFC has expressed a desire to have one of the best anti-doping programs in the sports world. Because of this, they have no say in the program. All the tests are conducted and evaluated by USADA. This ensures that they can stay impartial, applying any penalties fairly. 

When Did USADA Get Implemented In UFC? 

The USADA organization was started on the first of October in 2000. However, the UFC didn’t implement USADA in the UFC until 2015. This was done in two stages. 

This first stage began on February 18. This is when the UFC first announced that they were planning on joining the USADA program. However, the first phase of its implementation didn’t begin until the first of July. 

During this time, the USADA program focused on educating the fighters and their management teams. They told them how the program would work and what they needed to do to be in compliance. Some of this was done by visiting the gyms and talking to athletes one-on-one. 

USADA also created a website. This contained resources for fighters and their teams. This told them everything they needed to know about the program. It contained a list of the rules they were expected to follow. It also had a full list of the banned substances

These rules have since been printed in six languages. This ensures that the international athletes on the roster know what is expected from them. 

It wasn’t until October that the testing portion of the USADA program was begun. In the first year, there were 271 tests conducted. 

Today, they aim to have a minimum of 2,750 tests per year. This is enough to make sure that each athlete is tested a minimum of five times each year. 

Can UFC Athletes Refuse A Drug Test?

USADA relies on a random drug test. They can occur at any time, 365 days a year. The athletes won’t be given any advance notice before the test is due to be performed. If they are randomly selected for a drug test, the fighter must comply. 

If they refuse to do the test, they must provide compelling evidence. For this defense to be successful, the refusal must be unavoidableWithout a compelling justification, a refusal to complete a test is treated the same as a positive small result. In most cases, this means that they will face a two-year suspension. 

What Are The Testing Protocols? 

Once they are selected to provide a sample, the athletes will need to start filling out paperwork. As they do this, they will be told about their rights and responsibilities. From the time they are selected to the time the test is taken they will be chaperoned. 

There are two types of tests that might be performed. The first is a urine collection. This will be done at a secure location. The Doping Control Officers (DCO) or chaperone will first ask them to select a container. Then, they will watch as the test is performed. The athlete needs to provide at least 90mls of fluid. Then, the cup is sealed and handed back to the DCO. 

After they have given the sample, the athlete will need to choose which bottle is used to package the sample when it gets sent to the lab. They’ll also need to separate the A and B samples. During this process, the DCO won’t touch the bottles. In the end, they will measure the specific gravity. If it isn’t high enough, they might ask for another sample. 

The other option is to get a blood test. This is more comprehensive.  Again, the process starts with the athlete being informed of their rights and doing the necessary paperwork. They will then need to select which kit will be used. 

Before the test, the athlete will need to stay seated for 20 minutes. Then, the Blood Collection Officer(BCO) will prepare their arm. They can then start to draw blood. No more than two tablespoons of blood will be removed. This ensures that their performance in the Octagon won’t be impaired. The blood will then be placed in a secure tube and sent to the lab to be tested. 

What Happens When an Athlete Fails Their Test? 

After the lab detects that a banned substance, they contact the UFC to report the incident. After this, there will be an adjudication process. This gives them a chance to defend themselves. 

Sometimes, the athlete might request to have their B sample tested. If this comes back negative, it can be enough to overturn the original result. They have the right to have a representative present when the tube is opened. This ensures that it isn’t tampered with in the lab.

What is Banned/Illegal in the UFC?

When Is A Failed Test Announced? 

The UFC has control of when the results of a failed test are announced. When the initial result comes back, the athlete will have six months to defend themselves. Sometimes, the failure can come as the result of an unintentional use. This is usually caused by a contaminated supplement. In other cases, they might be granted an exemption. 

Once the result has been adjudicated, it will be announced. This is designed to protect the athlete’s reputation. However, while the adjudication process is going on, the athletes won’t be able to compete. 

Final Thoughts

The UFC is determined to be a strong leader in anti-doping matters. To do this, they have started a partnership with the USADA. This is an independent body that tests samples from athletes to make sure that they are complying with the rules. With over 2,750 tests performed each year, fans can be confident that they are witnessing fair fights in the Octagon.