The debacle over Cung Le’s hGH test failure has been nothing short of a PR disaster. Not for the UFC, mind you, whose role in all this will be soon forgotten, but for Cung Le, who will now have to face years of people believing he’s a proven steroid cheat, or, at the very least, dimly remember that he failed a drug test at some point, but not quite be sure when or for what. That kind of information often tends to stick with fighters. Not always, but often. And Cung Le is the kind of high profile, fan friendly fighter, that it’s almost certainly going to stick to.
Le released a statement recently about the fallout he’s received from the UFC reporting his drug test failure, and what he feels to be a general lack of consideration from the UFC in apologizing for their mistake and helping to clear his name.
San Francisco – October 23, 2014: “I am extremely happy with the UFC’s decision to rescind my suspension. I believe the issues raised in regards to the testing procedures as well as the manner in which the results were determined by the UFC clearly support my assertion that I did not use any performance enhancing drugs. I am also happy to take away the fact that the UFC has decided to make the proper changes in their testing procedureswhich will now ensure that no athlete will ever have to endure the same hardship. While I feel vindicated in this matter, the UFC’s press release does little in the way of an apology of which I believe I am rightly owed after unfairly enduring the public’s scrutiny. Their decision to announce me as a user of performance enhancing drugs with little thought to the accuracy of the testing or proper procedures has caused my family and I great pain; that we have now come to know was completely unnecessary had the proper care been taken to ensure my test results were in fact valid proof of impropriety.”
In contrast to Le’s feelings on the matter, UFC executive Lawrence Epstein spoke to the LA Times about fallout on the UFC’s behalf over their failure to ensure proper testing procedure for Cung Le and the rest of the fighters on the Macau show.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat this: We’re not happy with how this particular situation played out,” Epstein said. “Once we had information, we rescinded it. That’s appropriate under the circumstances. We said it all by rescinding the suspension. I feel like what we did is an adequate remedy.”
“We were in China, using a lab where they analyze the blood locally, so we went to the only facility that was in the area that could do this,” Epstein said. “We told them what we wanted them to test for. They conducted the test. The test was done properly, but not done to conclusively prove the elevated levels were exogenous.
“There was nothing wrong with the test. It just wasn’t the right test.”
“We are not in the drug testing business. We are in the sports/media/fight promotion business. When we have athletic commissions or federations in place, they do it all. When we have situations like we have in Macao, we have to self-regulate. We do the best we can. Frankly, that’s what I think we did.”
It sounds like Le won’t be getting his apology any time soon. But, beyond that, it’s incredibly troubling that the UFC is sticking by the we did “the best we can” line. There were numerous procedural failures that had to happen for Cung Le to end up getting suspended and for that suspension to be rescinded. The UFC didn’t use a WADA accredited lab, didn’t understand the nature of the tests that lab was running, and didn’t understand the problems presented by not having a secondary sample available to test. In an over eagerness to appear “tough on PEDs” they ended up dragging one of their fighters through the mud. The idea that they’d come out of it feeling like they “did their best” is frankly a little bit appalling.
At the end of the day, there appears to be no end to the international, self-governed shows that the UFC plans on promoting. However, if this is the standard of oversight that fans and fighters can expect from those shows, it may be best to take any and all testing and medical results with a healthy dose of skepticism.
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