Starting on Saturday, April 1, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will be making some changes to their policy.
“It’s been a successful first year-and-a-half for this program, but with that said we’re always looking for ways to strengthen it and make it more effective for all involved,” USADA spokesperson Ryan Madden said. “The policy updates announced today are a direct reflection of our experiences, and the feedback we’ve received – from both athletes and the UFC – all of which we believe will give further confidence to competitors that they can step into the Octagon, compete clean, and win.”
The first change comes to the four month rule, which has been changed to essentially the one month rule on April 1. The rule now states that any fighter returning the the UFC after being cut/released or being signed to the promotion for the first time most be in the testing pool for at least one month before they can compete in the UFC.
“The majority of these changes are athlete driven,” UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told MMA Fighting. “Early on in this, we knew there had to be a balancing act between the strength and comprehensiveness of the program and the fairness to the athlete. Over the year and half, this program has been in existence, we have consistently encouraged feedback from fighters and camps about how to make this program stronger, more comprehensive and, just as importantly, fairer to the athletes. All of these changes are a result of that interaction and feedback from athletes and camps.”
The length of the in-competition testing period has changed as well, with the new rule stating that from 12pm the day before a fight until one hour after the fight concludes will become the new in-competition testing period. If somebody is tested by USADA outside of the new in-competition restrictions and they fail, it will be considered an out of competition test failure, which has different punishments for the fighters.
Another rule change is that if a fighter discloses that they used an illegal substance prior to signing with the UFC, they will not be facing any punishment. Also, if a fighter who signs with the UFC has a veritable history of drug test failures outside of the UFC, then they must be in the testing pool for six months before they can fight in the UFC.
The final major change to the rules is that when a fighter wishes to challenge a failed drug test result, they can do so with an arbitrator over the phone, instead of in person.