It has been over two years since the UFC Anti-Doping Program was established in June 2015 – a change which has had significant impact on the promotion
The first independent anti-doping program in a major professional sports capacity, USADA was brought in to ‘clean up the UFC’ but it’s sometimes aggressive approach to drug testing hasn’t always gone down well.
There are many fighters, coaches and fans, however, who have welcomed USADA’s influence in weeding out the cheats and chancers from those who fly straight. MMAFighting’s Mark Raimondi spoke to USADA’s CEO Travis Tygart, asking him for his opinion on how he feels about the policy and if there are any alterations or major changes due in the future:
“We’re obviously honored that the athletes and the UFC would have us administering the program,” Tygart said. “I think you can’t lose sight of, I think, a courageous decision by the UFC to externalize entirely the material elements of the program. It’s not unlike the courageous decision that the United States Olympic Committee made back in 2000. So, we’re honored to be a part of that. And listen, I think we focused on education when we first took over the program back in July of 2015. We had to get the rules up, we had to focus on education.
What we didn’t want to happen was have athletes who weren’t aware of the risk on supplements, who saw the old process for TRT (testosterone replacement therapy), for example — that was no process — would be an excuse for using testosterone if they hadn’t go through the therapeutic use exemption. We really started with education to provide a base level of information. Some UFC athletes competed for their countries, particularly the U.S., on the Olympic side. So they were familiar with the program.
That job, I think, we found that needed the languages. We needed to get it global, make it easily accessible at different levels of education we were dealing with it. I think overall we were satisfied with the UFC’s willingness to help, with Jeff Novitzky there as their face of it, getting out live in front of athletes. I think a combination of that really started the program off on the right footing.
I think now 2 1/2 years into it seeing its full effect, we’re hearing from that athletes that it’s making a big difference. I saw a story this morning out of [Georges St-Pierre] saying what a great program it was and it led to him coming back in large part. And we hear that routinely from athletes. But we’re not satisfied until every athlete has an opportunity to compete and win clean. And so you never in this business, if you’re doing your job for clean athletes, you’re never at a point where you say, ‘Alright, we can be satisfied and continue to do what we’re doing.’ We want to always get better. So day in and day out, we have a saying around our office: We want to break the status quo. Make it better for clean athletes. That’s what we’re pushing to do daily, for this program and for our other programs.”