Barnett expects full four year suspension from USADA

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett said once he’d probably take a fight to the death. So the man could care less if a fighter he is facing uses performance-enhancing drugs. And he has an unfortunate history of failing PED tests.

Late in 2016 it was announced that Barnett failed an out-of-competition drug test administered by USADA. Barnett thus gained the unenviable distinction of earning the most doping failures in MMA history.

He tested positive after UFC 34 in 2001, and received a warning. He testing positive for Boldenone, Nandrolone, and Fluoxymesterone after UFC 36 in 2002 and was stripped of his heavyweight title. And he tested positive for Drostanolone in an Affliction bout in 2009; the fallout of that one led in some people’s estimation to the end of Affliction MMA.

However, at the time of the latest failure, Barnett had stopped knowingly taking PEDs. The fighter spoke recently with Steven Marrocco for MMAjunkie, and said he would not settle with USADA, no longer trusts the organization, and expects to receive the full four-year suspension for a second-time offender.

“I would be willing to do anything else but work with USADA at this point,” he said. “When you can’t trust someone, what are you supposed to do? Continue to give them the opportunity to break your trust? They don’t seem responsible enough to have oversight over my career.”

Barnett said the USADA failure was for Ostarine. UFC fighters Tim Means and Amanda Ribas both had tests flagged for Ostarine, and both argued the source was tainted supplements. Means received a reduced suspension; Ribas received the full two years. Barnett says he worked with USADA and traced the failure to a supplement containing tribulus terrestris, a legal herb with no proven performance enhancing effects.

Due to the cooperation, USADA offered Barnett a reduced suspension of 24 months. Unfortunately, the reduction was from a four-year penalty for a second failure, not from two years for a first offense. As the second failure multiplier only considers failures in the past ten years, only one previous flagged test was considered. However, Barnett felt betrayed. He protested and it was reduced to 18 months, but he had cooperated with USADA and it was determined via a thorough testing process that he did not knowingly take a PED. The fighter hoped for a warning, or something far from two years.

“I’m not against the idea and the spirit of USADA, or what an independent drug testing program is for – not at all,” said Barnett. “I don’t have an issue with any of these things, and even though I took a supplement that was tainted, I’m OK with having to go through the process to test the supplements. I’m totally fine with that.

“The only thing I protest to is being hammered after the fact, after finding that I am innocent of any wrongdoing, and instead of moving on and considering the time spent researching and finding the data and appealing my case as enough – the extra efforts to come after me, that’s where I draw the line.”

“They have a real insistence of trying to mete out punishment. Despite everything we’ve done and the initial process of dealing with them, they at some point turned a corner and became very stringent, hardcore, inflexible, and really, unwilling to continue on the same path they initiated. It seems they want to erect a stake and burn me at it.”

“I think I’m the first fighter to go full on, indepedent, Olympic-level random testing when I fought Travis Browne [in 2013], which I didn’t have any problem doing. But USADA hasn’t been nearly as easy to deal with.

“It’s very frustrating, because I understand the intent of the program. But this doesn’t feel like anything having to do with the intent of the program. This feels like something else, and that’s the trouble. I feel like this isn’t anything about fighter safety or sanctity of sport. This is more about using a witch hunt on a personal level. Maybe punishing people, to them, represents effectiveness [rather] than being about athlete safety and finding issue with tainted supplements.”

“I’m not done fighting. I’d still like to compete. But I want to train and compete and have a reasonable and understandable process to the whole thing.”

Josh Barnett is a principled man. And he’s 40. If USADA does not find some flexibility, and gives him the full four years, it’s the end of his fighting career. That’s not just.