Anti-doping agency USADA has announced that the UFC is cutting ties with their services starting from January 1st of 2024.
The news comes at a time when there’s been a lot of focus on Conor McGregor’s long-awaited return to the UFC, which has been held back by USADA’s policy of requiring returning fighters to undergo six months of testing before they are allowed to compete again.
In a statement from USADA it seems clear that they believe the McGregor issue is a big reason why the UFC have now made the decision to break away from their relationship, despite having been discussing extending their deal over the summer period.
Read USADA’s full statement below.
“We can confirm that Conor McGregor has re-entered the USADA testing pool as of Sunday, October 8, 2023,” USADA wrote in a statement. “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. 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.
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. 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.
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.”
It now remains to be seen how the UFC will proceed in the coming year with regards to their drug-testing program, and whether the strict procedures that USADA had in place to ensure that fighters didn’t cheat by using illegal substances to enhance their performance will now become a thing of the past.