Li Jingliang fails test, suspended by NAC, but not USADA

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

From the outside, PED testing in mixed martial arts appears to be a pretty straight forward process – do comprehensive (blood and/or urine), random (if you know the test date, it’s an IQ test, not a drug test), out of competition (knock knock at 6:00 a.m. any day of the year) tests and punish the failures.

However, consider the difficulty that the Olympics has in determining whether someone is male or female. South African female track and field star Caster Semenya has internal testes, that are producing testosterone. She was given the choice of surgery or artificially limiting the amount of testosterone in her body. Her times went down. Then they lifted that prohibition, and her times went up. She won gold in Rio.

If telling whether someone is male of female is hard to do, imagine how tough it is figure if someone has been taking something too performance enhancing.

Earlier this month, it was announced that TUF China winner and UFC bantamweight Ning Guangyou failed an out-of-competition drug test for clenbuterol, but won’t face a suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency or the UFC.

A 2011 WADA warning noted that meat in China is commonly contaminated with clenbuterol, and that is apparently the source of Guangyou’s failure.

“USADA reviewed all of the evidence, including the athlete’s whereabouts, dietary habits, and the laboratory reports demonstrating very low parts per billion concentrations of the prohibited substance in the athlete’s urine sample, and concluded that the presence of clenbuterol in the athlete’s sample very likely resulted from clenbuterol contaminated meat consumed in China,” wrote USADA in a statement. “As a result, Guangyou will not face a period of ineligibility for his positive test.”

Curiously, Guangyou was scheduled to fight at UFC 202 in Las Vegas, Nevada, but after the test failure, his fight was scheduled a week forward, to UFC on FOX 21 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The change has been described as an administrative precaution, but it is possible, if improbable, that Nevada officials are more stringent even than USADA, and that is the cause of the change.

Now another Chinese athlete has failed for clenbuterol, via UFC.com.

“The UFC organization was notified by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that it has informed Li Jingliang of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collection on May 18, 2016. USADA also informed the UFC that it initiated an investigation into the source of the prohibited substance detected in Jingliang’s sample prior to notifying him of the potential violation. Because of this investigation, USADA has not issued a provisional suspension against Jingliang at this time.

“USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case. It is important to note that, under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, a full and fair legal review process is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed. The Nevada State Athletic Commission has also retained jurisdiction over this matter because Jingliang’s sample was collected prior to his participation on The Ultimate Fighter Finale card on July 8, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Consistent with all previous potential anti-doping violations, additional information will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.”

So the UFC’s independent drug testing body is giving the fighter a pass. If the test had been random, and not connected with a fight, that would likely be the end of it. However, the test was given while the fighter was training for a contracted fight in Las Vegas, so the Nevada Athletic Commission also comes into play.

And the NAC appears to have a different process than does USADA/UFC. MMA Fighting reports that at their monthly meeting Tuesday, the NAC temporarily suspended Jingliang. At some point in the next few months he will have to go before the commission for a disciplinary hearing, with the possibility of a suspension, fine or changing his KO win over Anton Zafir to a No Contest.

Odder still, the test was given on May 18. Jingliang fought on July 8, so the test results were back by then, and the fighter was allowed to fight. Yet he now faces a hearing after the fight.

USADA is a stellar organization, and is not giving a pass to every clenbuterol test failure. UFC bantamweight Francisco Rivera is provisionally suspended by USADA after testing positive for clenbuterol. The fighter attributed it to a vacation in Mexico, where, like China, meat is known to be contaminated. But Rivera faces a hearing, and suspension.

It is not not known what is happening at the NAC, but to circle back – the best experts in sports cannot define adequately whether someone is male or female. PED testing is grayer still, by far. UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky is perhaps the smartest person in the world on the subject. USADA is Olympic good at what they do. It would be bad for the sport if athletic commissions began administering radically different punishments for the same test “failure” than does USADA, which administered the test.