Breaking News: USADA informs Fabricio Werdum of potential anti-doping violation

It would appear that Fabricio Werdum has become the latest in a long line of big names to fall foul of USADA.

Per ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, the former heavyweight champion has been informed of a potential anti-doping violation stemming from an out of competition sample collected late last month.

The Brazilian veteran last fought in March, headlining the UFC London card and falling victim to an Alexander Volkov KO in The fourth round of an entertaining contest. The loss was a particularly significant setback for the 40-year-old considering how close he appeared to be to getting another shot at the UFC heavyweight championship.

It is unclear at this time how the reported doping violation will effect plans for the UFC’s maiden visit to Russia in September. Just yesterday, reports claimed that Werdum was set to headline the Moscow card against Russian heavyweight Alexey Oleynik.

News: Josh Barnett clear of USADA issues – free to make his UFC return

After a little over a year in the wilderness, Josh Barnett is free to continue his UFC career.

Following an arbitration hearing in his USADA doping case, Barnett was issued with a public reprimand. USADA announced on Friday that there will be no additional suspension handed out and Barnett is eligible for an immediate return to action.

The outcome represents the first time an athlete has tested positive for a performance enhancing substance and has not received a suspension since the partnership between the UFC and USADA began in 2015.

Barnett tested positive for Osterine in an out of competition test in December 2016. Both Barnett and his team protested his innocence throughout the process and were able to demonstrate to the arbitrator that the Osterine originated from a tainted supplement.

“Given the source was established to be a contaminated supplement, along with the athlete’s care and diligence concerning the nutritional products consumed, the arbitrator determined that a public reprimand was appropriate.” USADA confirmed in their announcement.

Barnett’s arbitration case was heard by Richard H McLaren who made the following declaration when announcing his decision.

“On the evidence before me, the Applicant is not a drug cheat,” wrote McLaren. “He unknowingly ingested a Contaminated Product. In doing so, he did commit an ADPV because he had a Prohibited Substance in his Sample but he did not actively engage in attempting, in any way, to engage in the use of a Prohibited Substance.”

40-year-old Barnett hasn’t fought since he earned a third round submission win over former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in September 2016. Speaking via twitter after the outcome of his case was announced, the one time UFC champion declared his intention to return to action in the near future.

 

Cynthia Calvillo receives 9 month suspension from Nevada Athletic Commission

Just days after accepting a six month suspension from USADA, Cynthia Calvillo has found herself looking at a little more time on the sidelines.

Following on from failing a UFC 219 drugs test for Marijuana, Calvillo has been handed an additional nine month suspension by the Nevada Athletic Commission. The suspension will run along side her existing six month USADA suspension and will leave the Team Alpha Male fighter eligible to return on 30th September.

In order to make her return to action, Calvillo will also be required to submit a clean test to the commission before she can have her fighting license reissued.

In addition to the suspension, the 30-year old has been fined $6,150 which represents 15% of her fight night purse.

 

USADA – How fortunes have changed for four fighters since July 2015

On July 1st 2015, the UFC introduced their new Anti-Doping program in partnership with the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA). Coincidentally, this date marked a turning point in the career of a number of previously prolific fighters.

It isn’t for me to speculate on the exact reasons for the dramatic changes in fortune of these four fighters. Age, injury, bad match ups have all played a part in some form or another. That said, it does seem that July 2015 was a real turning point for many UFC fighters careers, particularly the fighters below.

Below, I break down the shift in career trajectory of four athletes who prior to July 2015, were some of the UFC’s brightest stars.

Erick Silva

Erick Silva

Pre July 1st 2015 Record – 18-5-0

Post July 1st 2015 Record –  1-4-0

Erick Silva arrived in the UFC as a highly touted welterweight prospect with a record of 13-1-0 (1 no contest). Making his debut in August 2011, Silva made short work of Luis Ramos, picking up a TKO victory in just 40 seconds. Unfortunately for Silva, he never really lived up to his potential and spent the next four years alternating wins and losses. Things finally seemed to be coming together with a March 2015 win against Josh Koscheck. This was the first time the Brazilian had won two fights consecutively since 2011.

Silva returned to action looking for his third win in a row at UFC Fight Night 74 in August 2015, two months after the UFC implemented their new Anti-Doping partnership with USADA. At the weigh ins, Silva presented a much softer physique which drew a significant amount of attention from fans and fighters alike. The search for a third win was ultimately unsuccessful and what followed has been a real disappointment. 5 fights with a lone win, sandwiched in the middle of four losses.

The dramatic physique change accompanied a sharp downturn in form, which will always leave unanswered questions hanging over Silva’s time in the UFC. Just last week, this time came to an end with the announcement that the one time hot prospect had been released from the UFC roster.

 

Johny Hendricks

Johny Hendricks

Pre July 1st 2015 Record –  17-3-0

Post July 1st 2015 Record –  1-5-0

Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks has had a rough time over the last two years. From botched weight cuts to underwhelming performances, Hendricks has been a shadow of the man who defeated Robbie Lawler to claim the UFC welterweight title in 2014. Bigg Rigg’s luck seemed to change in his February 2016 fight with Stephen Thompson, almost a year after his last fight where he defeated Matt Brown in March 2015. The battle with Thompson was the first time Hendricks had been stopped in his 21 fight professional career.

Hendricks missed the welterweight limit in his next two fights and added two additional losses to his record. It was also the first time in his career he had lost consecutive fights. After taking the decision to move up to middleweight Hendricks finally snapped his losing streak with a unanimous decision win against Hector Lombard. Just when it seemed his luck was turning, Hendricks missed weight again, coming in 2lbs above the middleweight limit. Rubbing salt into the wound, the 34-year old was on the receiving end of the second TKO stoppage of his career on fight night.

In his most recent attempt to reverse his fortune, Hendricks faced fast rising prospect Paulo Costa at UFC 217. Sadly for Hendricks this fight ended in his second consecutive second round TKO loss.

One could make the argument that father time has caught up with Hendricks with more than half of his fights going the distance. He’s been involved in some legendary fights over the years and there is every chance that those battles have taken their toll on the former champion. Unfortunately for Hendricks, the timing of his dramatic change in fortune will invariably leave fans speculating over what might have caused his sudden decline.

 

Vitor Belfort

Vitor Belfort

Pre July 1st 2015 Record –  24-11-0

Post July 1st 2015 Record –  2-2-0, 1 no contest

At 40 years old and with a career spanning 21 years, it is inevitable that Vitor Belfort would have to slow down sooner or later. The dramatic changes in both his performance and appearance certainly escalated that decline.

Prior to July 2015, Belfort was a force to be reckoned with. His win list reads as a who’s who of the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. His only losses coming at the hands of certified greats Jon Jones and Anderson Silva in addition to then middleweight champion Chris Weidman. In his first fight of the USADA era, Belfort picked up a first round KO victory against Dan Henderson but followed this up with three consecutive KO defeats. The most recent of these ended up being over turned to a no contest after the victorious Kelvin Gastelum tested positive for THC. The idea that Belfort would be knocked out in three consecutive fights would have seemed unthinkable a few years ago.

It is common knowledge that Belfort has received Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) in the past. Fans and analysts often refer to ‘TRT Vitor’ as an example of just how scary an MMA fighter can be. While the rules around TRT are somewhat murky, Belfort never received a suspension for his “medically prescribed” TRT treatment. Looking at the physique of the former champion today compared with how he looked in his prime, it begs the question, just how much of a physical advantage did Belfort receive due to the TRT treatment?

 

Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva 2

Pre July 1st 2015 Record –  33-6-0, 1 no contest

Post July 1st 2015 Record –  1-2-0

Just a few years ago Anderson Silva was almost universally considered to be one of the UFC’s greatest of all time. Many still hold that opinion but events of the last 3-4 years have irreversibly changed the opinion of a large portion of the fan base.

It would be unfair to suggest that Silva’s problems began after the introduction of USADA. Things really began to go south for the former great in 2013 with a pair of bouts against fellow middleweight Chris Weidman. Silva entered his first fight with Weidman as middleweight champion. He hadn’t lost a fight in six years. He held the company record for most consecutive title defences. He was a hero. Unfortunately, all of this came crashing down around him just 1 minute into the second round. Silva, with his hands by his hips, taunting Weidman, was caught flush on the chin and dropped to the ground where he was finished by a flurry of punches from the American challenger. Silva no longer seemed invincible.

Granted an immediate rematch, Silva met Weidman for the second time in December 2013. This time out, he showed a little more respect to the newly crowned champion but nobody could have predicted what happened 1 minute and 16 seconds into the second round. Silva threw a fairly innocuous inside leg kick which was checked by the champion. In a moment MMA fans will never forget, as the kick connected, Silva’s leg snapped. The former champ fell to the ground unable to continue and he experienced the first consecutive losses of his career.

After a long lay off to recover, Silva made his return to the octagon in January 2015 against Nick Diaz. The fight ended with a unanimous decision victory for Silva but this was quickly overturned to a No Contest after it was announced that both fighters failed pre-fight drugs test. Silva had tested positive for an anabolic steroid. It later emerged that Silva had also failed a fight night drugs test for separate substances. In an effort to save his legacy, Silva’s team acted quickly to protest his innocence and find an explanation. That explanation ultimately ended up being that Silva had taken a tainted sexual enhancement pill. The Nevada Athletic Commission rejected the explanation and handed Silva a one year suspension.

During the hearing, Commissioner Anthony Mundell cast doubt over Silva’s previously clear test record.

“I’m not taking anything away from Mr. Silva’s career. I think he’s done excellent things. He’s by far one of the top fighters in the world. But this is the first time he’s really been subject to enhanced testing, so it’s hard to put a lot of credibility into his prior test results — not his career, but his prior test results.”

The Brazilian legend returned from his suspension to face Michael Bisping in February 2016 with the new USADA regime in place. That fight ended with in a unanimous decision win for Bisping. Silva followed this up with a second unanimous decision loss, this time to light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier at UFC 200 after stepping in at short notice due to a failed Jon Jones drugs test.

Silva picked up his first win in 4 and a half years at UFC 208 against middleweight Dereck Brunson. Maybe things were finally getting back on track for the 42-year old. Sadly not. Before he could get a chance to fight again, Silva was flagged by USADA for another failed drugs test and suspended indefinitely, pending the outcome of an investigation. The former champion continues to protest his innocence but with two instances of failed tests in the last three years, things are not looking good for Silva or his legacy.

 

I’ll leave it with you to draw your own conclusions on what was the biggest cause of the declines each of these fighters has experienced.

 

Of course, the fighters discussed above aren’t the only ones to experience a change in fortune once the UFC entered into partnership with USADA. I should add – before anyone mentions his name, Alistair Overeem is 4-2 since July 2017 with his only losses coming against reigning heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and title contender Francis Ngannou. Compare that to his pre July 2015 record of 4-3, his form has actually improved since the introduction of USADA. With that in mind I didn’t feel he warranted inclusion in the list above, despite a pretty dramatic physique change over the past few years.

Let me know who you think has struggled the most since July 2015 in the comments below.

For more of my MMA content, you can find me on Twitter @tommymull_mma.

 

Cynthia Calvillo receives 6 month suspension for marijuana

Reports are emerging that rising UFC strawweight star Cynthia Calvillo has been handed a six month suspension by USADA. The Team Alpha Male talent tested positive for marijuana during an in competition test in relation to her December 30th bout against Carla Esparza.

The fight resulted in the previously undefeated Calvillo picking up her first career loss and has now ultimately put her on the shelf for potentially six months.

Prior to receiving her suspension, Calvillo had been extremely active with all 7 of her professional fights taking place over the course of just 16 months.

While the suspension will of course be a blow to the 30-year old, there appears to be a silver lining. Should she successfully complete the USADA approved drug awareness program, Calvillo would be eligible to return by 30 March.

 

 

Jon Jones – The Turinabol Mystery Continues

Jon Jones had his date with the California State Athletic Commision last week and left with his pockets $205,000 lighter and his fighting license revoked. Despite all of the expert opinions and discussion, we are still non the wiser as to how he came to test positive for Turinabol after the UFC 214 weigh ins.

Jones has publicly proclaimed his innocence throughout the entire process. He was tested twice, on 6th and 7th of July, with both tests coming back negative. His post fight blood test ,taken on 29th July, also showed no signs of any banned substances. So how did Turinabol find it’s way into the former champions system?

There are a number of different theories and scenarios which are circulating on social media. I’ve taken a look at some of the more popular pieces of speculation below.

Tainted Sample

The idea that supplements made by reputable companies, recommended by nutritionists, might be contaminated with banned substances may seem far fetched. In the UFC alone, we’ve seen a significant amount of fighters test positive and point to tainted supplements as the reason. The majority of the time, fans appear sceptical about this explanation. There has, however, been a significant amount of research into the supplement industry and it’s produced some fascinating findings. In 2001 a study was carried out where 630 off the shelf supplements were purchased and tested for banned substances. Over 25% of the products were contaminated. Five years later, a further 60 products were purchased and tested. This time, over 22% of the products were contaminated. The problem is real, and with this information in mind it is not a surprise that we frequently see athletes fall victim to tainted supplements.

Jones and his team presented this to CSAC as his defence for his failed test. The difficulty with this explanation is all of his supplements and massage oils were tested and showed no signs of contamination. It’s hard to accept this as an explanation if all of Jones’ products were clean when tested.

Jones has said all along that he doesn’t dispute the findings of the test. Turinabol was in his sample and he accepts that. He just doesn’t know how it got there. His whole defence is built on him saying that he claims he wouldn’t do something like this. It’s a risky defence to take, in light of his history. With no plausible explanation as to how the Turinabol got there, he is on extremely thin ice with USADA. While his legal team may continue to push the tainted supplement explanation, it seems unlikely that this is truly what happened.

Intentional Use

The most popular theory, if you look at social media, is certainly the least complicated one. An overwhelming amount of people believe that Jones intentionally took the Turinabol. It’s easy to understand why. Given Jones’ history of self sabotage, it isn’t that much of a stretch to see this as just another example of him making poor choices. If Jones did take the substance intentionally, it surely has to be up there as his most stupid decision to date. He knew he would be tested that day. He knew he had passed all the random testing leading up to the fight. You would expect that he knew that Turinabol is designed to build strength over time. There is very little, if anything at all, to gain from using it once so close to the event.

If USADA believe that Jones cheated intentionally, he can expect them to throw the whole library at him. A four year ban would certainly be on the cards as they look to send a message to Jones as a repeat offender. The former champion’s defence in this scenario is a simple one. Why on earth would he take something like this knowing he was going to be tested? Unfortunately for Jones, that isn’t much of a defence. Especially when you could ask the same question of any of the errors in judgement he has made through the years.

Accidental Exposure

There is a theory doing the rounds on social media which feels somewhat plausible, if a little far fetched. The theory centers around his brother, NFL player Arthur Jones.  Arthur was suspended by the NFL in 2016 following a drugs test which revealed an anabolic agent in his system. At the time, Arthur attributed this to a tainted supplement.

There is speculation that perhaps Jon used a cup/bottle which was previously used by Arthur and that traces of Turinabol were ingested in that way. It sounds ridiculous, of course. Surely if that were a viable option, Jones and his team would have used it in his defence at the CSAC hearing. That said, if Jones is telling the truth, and didn’t knowingly ingest the banned substance, this theory deserves at least a token amount of examination.

Sabotage

Everyone loves a conspiracy theory right? While this is easily the most unlikely scenario of them all, it is still worth taking a look at the possibility that this was an act of sabotage. There are still a small number of fans who remain convinced that Jones has been set up.

Of course there are some huge questions to answer if we treat this as a serious possibility.

Who did it? Why did they do it? How did they do it? None of these can be answered and I’m extremely reluctant to speculate on who might have taken the trouble to spike Jones with the Turinabol.

There is only one aspect of this whole story which supports the idea that this is a set up. Why would Jones fail a test at the weigh in but test clean twice before this and once shortly after? The test that Jones failed was not a random test. As a veteran of the UFC, Jones would have known that a test was coming after the weigh in. It’s standard procedure. It makes no sense at all that he would risk having everything come crashing down around him in spectacular fashion, again, by taking something which he knew would show up on a regularly scheduled test. Yes, Jones has made mistakes in the past, but surely he wouldn’t be so stupid? Jones himself pointed this out as part of his defence in his CSAC hearing.

Given the lack of evidence to support it, it’s no surprise that Jones and his team have avoided suggesting that he was sabotaged. Yes it sounds ridiculous. Yes, it’s unlikely. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

What Next?

The reality is we’ll likely never find out what really led to Jones failing this test. It will be interesting to see the approach the former champion takes in his defence to USADA when the time comes. You can safely assume that they will take a dim view of the revelation that he didn’t complete the anti-doping tutorials he was required to do. During the CSAC hearing, Jones admitted that these had been completed by his management, with them forging his signature. Taking this lack of accountability into consideration, along with his previous issues, things don’t look great.

Between now and the USADA hearing date, Jones and his team are going to need to come up with a significantly better explanation for what happened.