The UFC has decided to part ways with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) at the beginning of 2024. However, the promotion remains committed to its anti-doping program and drug-testing policy. During a press conference on Thursday, UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance, Jeff Novitzky, unveiled a new partnership with Drug Free Sport International, which will take over sample collection duties for all UFC athletes starting in 2024. This transition is expected to bring significant improvements over the existing USADA program, ultimately benefitting the athletes.
Novitzky acknowledged the progress achieved under the current anti-doping policy but expressed optimism that the new program, set to replace the expiring contract with USADA, will run even more efficiently. Drug Free Sport International is well-versed in sample collection, having served 325 long-term sports clients, including major leagues such as the NFL, NCAA, MLB, NBA, WNBA, NASCAR, PGA, LPGA, and international organizations like FIFA.
Additionally, Dr. Daniel Eichner will join the UFC as the new science advisor responsible for overseeing testing and results. Dr. Eichner runs the Sports Medicine Testing and Research Laboratory in Salt Lake City, UT, one of the two US World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited anti-doping laboratories, which adheres to the highest anti-doping standards globally. He will lead the program by directing test distribution, implementing smarter testing planning, and evaluating testing results.
Dr. Eichner’s recommendations include an emphasis on “special analysis testing,” specifically targeting erythropoietin (EPO), one of the most dangerous drugs in the sport. This entails conducting EPO special analysis at the highest rate among sports federations worldwide. The UFC will also adopt innovative blood collection devices, moving away from traditional phlebotomy for drug testing.
Furthermore, several other key changes and improvements are anticipated under the new anti-doping program, such as increased blood testing, studies on stimulant use out of competition, dry blood spot testing (aligned with NBA, NFL, and MLB), oral fluid testing, growth hormone releasing factors testing on every sample, the introduction of a biological passport program, and more comprehensive isotope ratio mass spectrometry testing for precise testosterone abuse deterrence.
George Piro, a recently retired special-agent-in-charge from the FBI, will serve as the independent administrator overseeing the program. Piro is notably known for his role as the lead interrogator in the questioning of Saddam Hussein after the dictator’s capture by American forces in Iraq in 2004.