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USADA to split with UFC over Conor McGregor, testing policy

The strained relationship between the UFC and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is coming to an end, which could mean that Conor McGregor will be back in the octagon sooner than anticipated.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart on Wednesday made a pair of announcements in a statement regarding his agency’s relationship with the UFC. First, McGregor is reentering USADA’s drug-testing pool. Second, it may not be for long as USADA will end its partnership with the UFC on Jan. 1.

Tygart stated that the two sides met recently about renewing USADA’s contract to run the UFC’s anti-doping program (a role USADA has served since 2015). But, according to Tygart’s statement, “Despite a positive and productive meeting about a contract renewal in May 2023, the UFC did an about-face and informed USADA on Monday, October 9, that it was going in a different direction.”

At the heart of the issue is McGregor. After suffering a broken leg against Dustin Poirier in July 2021, McGregor withdrew from the USADA drug-testing pool while he rehabilitated his injury. Per USADA rules, a fighter must spend six months in the testing pool and pass two drug tests before they can return to fighting.

Until Tygart’s statement, McGregor had yet to re-enter the testing pool.

USADA also took issue with statements made about McGregor’s status by people associated with the UFC.

In a July interview, UFC president Dana White said, “We’ll see how that plays out,” when talking about whether McGregor needed to be in the testing pool for six months. “(USADA) is saying that now, but who knows? … The Conor thing, who the hell knows how that’s going to play out? Who cares what USADA says?”

And UFC commentator Joe Rogan said in his podcast last month that the UFC should do in-house drug testing because some USADA policies are prohibitive to UFC fighters (naming the six-month rule and the fact fighters cannot take banned substances for healing while away from fighting).

“The relationship between USADA and UFC became untenable given the statements made by UFC leaders and others questioning USADA’s principled stance that McGregor not be allowed to fight without being in the testing pool for at least six months,” Tygart’s statement said. “One UFC commentator echoed this, recently declaring that USADA should not oversee the UFC program since we held firm to the six-month rule involving McGregor, and since we do not allow fighters without an approved medical basis to use performance-enhancing drugs … for healing or injuries simply to get back in the Octagon.”

There are currently no announced plans for when the 35-year-old McGregor, a former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, may return to fighting.

–Field Level Media

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