The IBJJF has suspended five competitors of the 2022 worlds for three years due do violating USADA’s anti-doping policies. Publishing a statement on their website yesterday evening, the IBJJF listed black belts Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu, Vagner Rocha, Igor Nascimento da Costa Feliz, Jonnatas Gracie and José Cardoso as suspended from competition retroactive to various testing/competition dates and for varying policy violations.
Fans remember the bizarre scenes of the tournament last year. Following dynamic victories heading into the finals, fan favorite grapplers vanished quietly from the Anaheim Convention Center before several championship final matches. Carsado and Cyborg both left before their scheduled Absolute championship bout, and Rocha was gifted a Heavyweight championship win unceremoniously by a forfeiting André Porfiero. Viewers were quick to generate rumors about the pullouts, ranging from much-hated closeout agreements between friends and the ever-present drug issue in the sport. We now know, at least partially, it’s the latter.
Below are each athletes’ violations in detail outlined in the IBJJF’s statement.
- Igor da Costa Feliz tested positive for exogenous testosterone and its metabolites as the result of an in-competition urine sample collected on December 11, 2022, at the World No-Gi Championships. His three-year suspension retroactively began on January 24, 2023.
- Jonnatas Gracie Araujo da Silva tested positive for 19-norandrosterone (19-NA), a metabolite of nandrolone and other prohibited 19-norsteroids, and exogenous testosterone and its metabolites as the result of an in-competition urine sample collected on December 11, 2022, at the World No-Gi Championships. His three-year suspension began retroactively on January 25, 2023.
- Roberto de Abreu Filho tested positive for exogenous testosterone and its metabolites as the result of an out-of-competition urine sample collected on December 20, 2022. His three-year suspension began retroactively on January 27, 2023.
- José Henrique Cardoso tested positive for 19-NA, 2a-methyl-5a-androstan-3a-ol-17-one (a drostanolone metabolite), epitrenbolone (a trenbolone metabolite), methasterone, and exogenous testosterone and its metabolites as the result of an out-of-competition urine sample collected on January 24, 2023. His three-year suspension began retroactively on February 1, 2023, the date he was provisionally suspended from competition.
- Vagner S. Rocha refused to submit to sample collection after being notified by a USADA doping control officer during an out-of-competition test on December 23, 2022. His three-year suspension began retroactively on January 11, 2023.
Both Rocha and Cyborg have addressed the bans separately on their Instagram pages. Stating that he was unaware of the testing protocols, Rocha stated “I didn’t show up to get a medal because they would only test the winners. This is the first time they’ve done this at the No-Gi Worlds. I competed the year before and there was no test”.
He’s historically been open about his hormone replacement therapy (HRT) usage for competition, but since he refused to test, we don’t know what substances might have been in his system. He has yet to respond to requests for further comment form Bloody Elbow.
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Cyborg made a much more detailed statement earlier today. Flying into the controversy, he openly admits to HRT use while citing the demanding schedule and training pro grapplers undergo for competition. He also criticised the IBJJF’s pay structure for athletes, and bemoaned the younger athletes affected by the bans.
“Please no hypocrisy. The world needs to get over the fact that if athletes like us are going to train as hard as we do; as often as we do; as intensely as we do; for as many years as we have, then we all have to take the steps necessary to make sure we can recover and keep training,” Cyborg wrote.
“HRT is super beneficial for athletes over 30. Everything I take is prescribed by a doctor and is professionally followed by his team accords to my needs. And I highly suggest it,” he continued.
“I believe this step will take a lot of credit from IBJJF,” he wrote. “I’ve won several world titles and I’m okay with staying out, but the younger athletes who get suspended are missing out on a big time of their lives. It’s really sad to see them get ripped off at their prime.”
Cyborg has yet to respond to requests for comment from Bloody Elbow.
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As of publishing, only Rocha and Cyborg have publicly commented on the situation. We will update as needed.
A wider question posited by the bannings is, How valuable is access to the IBJJF for BJJ athletes?
“Question is: do they still get to compete at pro events like WNO and others even during suspension? Remembering that in a lot cases the title is what makes them legit enough to be invited to compete at those…” IBJJF legend Victor Hugo commented on FloGrappling’s Instagram post breaking down the situation.
The questionable finances of the sport aside, most athletes need to pay to compete in IBJJF events, with prize totals hovering in the low thousands (12K for the No Gi World’s absolute championship). As more and more independent tournaments like Flo’s WNO, Sub Spectrum, F2W and Emerald City Invitational pop up with different money making opportunities for athletes, the worth of an IBJJF title could potentially falter. This is while more and more of the sport’s biggest stars like Gordon Ryan become open with both their drug use and lack of interest in the IBJJF.
Yesterday, a fan asked ADCC head organizer Mo Jassim if the promotion would follow the IBJJF in adopting USADA testing during an Instagram Live session.
“You keep that [USADA] for the IBJJF,’ Jassim said. “I get that some people don’t like that, I respect it. But it’s not happening anytime soon.”
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