Thursday, August 18, 2022

Jeff Novitzky: UFC and USADA Extended Contract, Testing To Increase

In spite of speculation to the contrary, UFC and USADA’s partnership is as strong as ever and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Reports of Jon Jones’s atypical test result from December 9th have generated more questions than answers about USADA’s testing policy and the athlete sanctioning process. And when an entire UFC card is relocated as a result of that process, answers need to be expedited. UFC’s Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky appeared on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast to provide some answers, including Jon Jones’s testing frequency and where things stand between USADA and the UFC (Transcript via MMAjunkie):

“The reality, and [USADA representatives] just told me this, is Jon was one of the most, if not the most tested athlete over these last six months when you look at total amount of tests on his samples,” Novitzky told Rogan. “One thing that obviously protected him here was that volume of testing, and so USADA came to us and said, ‘Hey, we think that you probably should up the amount of tests that you’re doing.’ So we just renewed a contract with USADA and we’re increasing our testing numbers by 30 to 40 percent.

“The first three years of the program, we were under contract for approximately 2,700 tests, and starting this next year, we’re going to up that to around 4,300 or 4,400 tests. So I think it’s going to be more of a burden. There’s going to be USADA showing up on more doorsteps early in the morning for more of our athletes, but I think this is a perfect example that the increased volume of testing actually can be a protectant to the athlete, especially when you’re talking these low level picogram quantities and contaminated cases, and things like that.”

As for the atypical test result of Jon Jones that caused the relocation of UFC 232, Novitzky believes that it is a sign of the times and how much drug testing has evolved:

“If I would’ve talked to you 15, 16, 17 years ago when I got my start in the anti-doping world, I would’ve told you definitively that testing is way behind what’s being used out there,” Novitzky said. “They were able to test to multiple nanograms limits, that’s as far down as they could go. Now we can go down to single-digit picogram. There’s another professional sports league out there that recently had a one picogram M3 metabolite case. I mean, do the math coming down from four or five nanograms, which used to be the lower limit, now to one picogram — 10,000 or 20,000 times [smaller].

“I am almost under the theory that the pendulum has swung maybe a little bit too far in the other direction, and that certainly is part of my job to the UFC. Look, I want to catch every intentional cheater that’s out there. I want to make sure we have a rock-solid program, use all the latest and greatest techniques to do it, but I also want to keep an eye on it to make sure it’s administrated fairly. And when you’re getting down to detection of one single-digit picogram, I have a concern that what kind of level of sensitivity are we talking about?”

Do you think the UFC continuing its partnership with USADA was the right move to make?

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