Drug testing continues to be a mess

Image for Drug testing continues to be a mess

USADA’s flagged another potential violator. This time it’s Islam Makhachev, who joins Lyoto Machida, Frank Mir, and Viscardi Andrade as fighters recently and potentially flagged by USADA for potentially using potentially performance-enhancing drugs. The witch hunts are (potentially) working.

Drug testing continues to be a mess

But the anti-doping world isn’t the stable, robust system one hopes it would be. For instance, USADA flagged Makhachev for meldonium. Never heard of meldonium? Well, WADA added it to its banned list at the beginning of the year, and they did all their homework right? Here’s the BBC:

 MMA Sucka TV logo

But numerous athletes have claimed they stopped taking the drug last year, prompting many to question how long the drug can stay in an athlete’s system.

“There is currently a lack of clear scientific information on excretion times,” the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said in new guidance distributed on Monday.

It said that athletes might be able to show that they “could not have known or suspected” meldonium would still be in their systems having taken it before it was banned.

“In these circumstances, Wada considers that there may be grounds for no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete,” added the guidance.

Dr Tom Bassindale, a forensic toxicologist and anti-doping scientist at Sheffield Hallam University, believes Wada may have been too hasty in banning meldonium.

“Wada did not have full information about how meldonium is processed by the body when imposing the ban,” he said.

And what was the justification for banning meldonium in the first place? Here’s the New York Times:

Meldonium helps increase blood flow and therefore increases the amount of oxygen taken into the body, which would allow athletes to recover faster while training. The drug’s inventor, Ivars Kalvins, a professor at Latvia’s Institute of Organic Synthesis, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that the drug was once used by Soviet soldiers lugging heavy equipment at high altitudes during the invasion of Afghanistan.

The Russian trainers and officials said they were obeying the ban on meldonium, but they insisted the drug — despite its benefits — should not be considered a performance enhancer. Sheremetiev and other team physicians said it was merely for restoring physical fitness. But WADA has disagreed. The body’s president, Craig Reedie, in an open letter to The Independent, wrote that meldonium was “a big concern because it’s clear that people are abusing the drug.”

Still, the fact that so many athletes were using it suggests that they believed it improved performance, he said, adding, “I can’t see how so many athletes — young, quite fit and healthy — would really have a need for this particular drug.”

Notice, WADA’s issue isn’t that meldonium creates an unfair playing field or that it may be harmful for athletes in the long-term. No, the reason is simply that athletes are taking it, so it must be a problem. But then why was caffeine removed from the banned list in 2004? Caffeine has known performance-enhancing effects and can be harmful to one’s health if abused. A Google news search shows WADA intermittently putting it on their watch list, as athletes have apparently been (ab)using it since it’s removal from the prohibited list.

But it doesn’t stop there. Recently, WADA discovered than an accredited lab in Ethiopa wasn’t actually doing any drug testing. Here’s Fittish:

It’s hard to imagine what WADA has been doing in the 16 years they’ve been in business, since massive state-sponsored doping across a variety of sports in Russia, a system visible from outer space, also really caught them off-guard, but checking up on the Ethiopian branch office was not one of them. AP reports that “when WADA officials came to assess the [Ethiopian anti-doping] office in December [2015] they were shocked by the poor standard of the facilities and gave it a rating of ‘zero.’”

Shock all the way around then, because the World Anti-Doping Agency has apparently neither conducted testing of their own in Ethiopia, nor requested results from the national program. In fact, they seem to have just discovered Ethiopia.

Now, as far as I know, no UFC fighter resides in Ethiopa, but they do reside in Russia, where WADA revoked a lab’s accreditation today. Remember, this is the gold standard of the anti-doping world.

If you want more evidence (and evidence regarding the UFC) that all this is nonsense, Yoel Romero’s suspension for his (potential?) violation was set at six months instead of the standard two years. Why’s that? Because his violation was caused by a tainted supplement. This after Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky talked tough about the supplement industry and fighters having to own responsibility for what they consume.

Share this article

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *