The UFC made big waves earlier this month with the announcement that, as of January 1st, 2024, the promotion would no longer be continuing its USADA drug testing program. The news was initially broken by USADA itself, in a press release announcing the return of combat sports superstar Conor McGregor to the UFC’s pool of tested athletes.
While USADA couched the separation of the two companies around tension caused by McGregor’s withdrawal from the program—seemingly in order to pursue alternative recovery methods for a broken leg suffered against Dustin Poirier at UFC 264 back in 2021—it was shortly revealed that the UFC itself had announced their decision not to renew their contract with the drug testing agency in a conference call with USADA CEO Travis Tygart.
UFC’s problems with USADA
Shortly after USADA’s statements on the UFC & McGregor, the promotion sent UFC Drug Czar Jeff Novitzky and Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell to issue a response. The two men outlined a series of grievances that the world’s largest MMA promotion had apparently been holding back for some time.
Along with claims that USADA had mistreated and seemingly mishandled Conor McGregor’s hiatus from competition, they also claimed that the company had been difficult to deal with—not just for the UFC and their athletes, but apparently for athletic commissions as well.
The two men also claimed that the UFC had personally funded improvements in USADA’s system, to the tune of $1.8 million, only to see “jack sh*t” in return for their investment. It was a fairly comprehensive outlining of what the promotion appeared to feel were longstanding failures. To the point that it almost seems surprising the partnership lasted so long. The big question now is, what comes next?
UFC informs athletes of drug testing future
While Novitzky and Campbell gave some details as to what the promotion was planning for the future of drug testing in the UFC, in a recent email provided to Bloody Elbow by multiple UFC athletes they provided a more thorough outline of what’s to come.
The major thing that it seems the UFC wants to get across to their fighters is that the program as they experience it will remain largely unchanged. The UFC will still be performing random drug tests 24/7/365, and will be operating from the same list of banned substances that USADA was using. Allusions were made to the potential future policy shifts, but only in the mention that “The program’s rules will generally remain the same and will be publicly posted in advance of the transition.”
Read the entire email below:
Of note, under this new program for the UFC, the promotion has hired former high ranking FBI agent George Piro to oversee the program with what they claim will be “all decision making authority,” in a role meant to replicate USADA’s adjudication of fines and suspensions for athletes guilty of a doping violation. While Piro doesn’t seem to have any experience in PEDs or sports, he does have a long history in law enforcement.
Who is George Piro
Bloody Elbow already gave readers a more complete breakdown of Piro’s history and why the UFC may have been so interested in bringing the former head of the 2004 Sadam Hussein Interrogation Team, but here’s some brief background info:
Before joining the FBI in 1999, he went from the Air Force to work with the Stanislaus County Drug Enforcement Agency. He transitioned to the FBI Phoenix field office. Mr. Piro’s FBI career advancement blossomed quickly under Directors Robert Mueller, James Comey, and Christopher Wray. Mr. Piro steadily built a résumé under multiple Presidential administrations.
For over a decade, he rose in the ranks of the most powerful national security divisions within the FBI & Department of Justice. In a video interview shot at the American Top Team gym in Coconut Creek, Florida, Mr. Piro discussed his work experience and learning under the tutelage of John Perren, who was one of the most powerful criminal intelligence analysts in Washington DC.
After spending a decade in DC for the FBI in their Washington Field Office and in an inter-agency capacity overseen by the Counterterrorism Security Group within the White House, he applied to take the job as Special Agent in Charge of the Miami FBI Office. He was back in DC a few years later after an appointment by Director Wray to the number two slot in the International Operations division of the FBI. He returned back to his role as Miami SAC a few years later.
From the outset, it seems any UFC fighters who are hoping that their experience under the new anti-doping system would be less rigorous are going to be disappointed. The promotion is touting a new and improved whereabouts tracking system, and who knows what other changes may come down the line in the future?
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