T.J. Dillashaw could face further suspension if historic violations discovered

Monday, April 15, 2019

Disgraced former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw was recently suspended for two years for EPO. He didn't take a tainted supplement, or fail to read a label, or eat meat in China; he shot EPO in his butt cheek, in a hurting game.

When Dillashaw failed, his other samples taken in relation to the fight were tested, and a 12/28 sample was positive. That did not merit further sanction, as it was considered part of the same failure. Now all of Dillashaw's samples taken since the advent of USADA assumed the drug-testing role for the UFC in 2015 have been retested for EPO, and they are clean. However, while all the samples USADA has on hand were tested, WADA labs may have others.

"They’re looking to see whether or not they or in some cases WADA laboratories have the ability to make the decision to retain samples themselves,” said UFC vice president of athlete health and performance (Drug Czar) Jeff Novitzky at a media scrum in Atlanta, as transcribed by Marc Raimondi for MMA Fighting. “So in some cases, USADA will say, ‘Hey, these 10 samples you got today are UFC samples or our samples. Keep them for the next 10 years.’ In addition to that, the laboratory on their own can say, ‘You know what, we’re gonna keep these thousand samples just to do some studies on down the road.’ Right now, they’re checking through those databases to see if anything were to remain. And I think if any were to remain and didn’t have the special analysis EPO done on them, they would do that here in the coming week. ... Certainly, any of those previous tests — and I don’t know that there is — but if there is something remaining that hadn’t had that analysis done on it and they did it and it came back positive, it would be another violation.”

EPO is not tested for every time, for every fighter, as it occurs naturally in the body, and thus requires longer, more complex testing, taking some three days. Further, Novitzky said that as of four or five years ago, it was his understanding that microdoses of EPO can clear the body in eight hours or less. However, USADA keeps a biological passport of every fighter, and an anomalous finding there could trigger an EPO test, although Novitzky did not know for certain if that's why Dillashaw was tested for it.

“EPO does require - it’s called a special analysis test - it is more than a standard steroid, stimulant, other prohibited substance test that goes on," said Novitzky as transcribed by Jay Anderson for CageSidePress. “It’s way more labor intensive. If a test should come back positive, another set of experts look at it. Because of that, it has increased testing costs. That being said, USADA is very good about allocating those special analysis tests. If you look across our roster, I think it’s safe to say, at one time or another — and it’s all done strategically — that our fighters are tested for EPO.”

“USADA takes a close look at what’s called the biological passport. They’re looking now, with four years of this program, they’re looking at every urine or blood marker that is the result of a test. So not only does each individual test test for prohibited substances, it also takes these markers - [including] amount of red blood cells, hemoglobin levels, certain steroid profiles in the urine. My understanding is there’s algorithms they have that will spit out someone who is showing some red flags that may not be to the level of, ‘Hey, this is a positive test,’ but wait a second, we saw an uptick in red blood cells or the urine profile is a bit different than last time. Those are likely athletes that are gonna get special analysis done.”

“I like T.J., good person. But doing something like this is really bad and concerns me in this sport. So, definitely a mixed bag of emotions. I tell people all the time, when these things come down the pipe, I never get happy over them. There’s a part of me that says, ‘God, what did I not relay to this guy or girl that they were gonna get caught in this program if they did this?’ Like I failed them by not being enough of a deterrent almost, I feel like sometimes.”

Novitzky may be wrong. T.J. Dillashaw may not be a good person. He may instead be a person who would take illegal drugs to help him better hurt clean opponents. And Dillashaw may have been doing it for a while. Maybe we'll find out.