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Cung Le's suspension for elevated levels of HGH rescinded by UFC

Anton Tabuena

The one-year suspension Cung Le received after testing positive for excess levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in a post-fight drug test following his fourth-round TKO loss to Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 48 has been rescinded, promotion officials announced on Tuesday.

With the UFC serving as its own governing body, as per usual for overseas shows in a territory lacking an athletic commission, both Bisping and Le were subject to enhanced blood and urine drug testing following their fight in Macau, China, in addition to the regular pre- and post-fight drug testing.

Le was initially found to have failed the test, however several flaws with the UFC's testing process were uncovered in the ensuing days, chief among them the fact that the testing facility employed by the UFC, the Hong Kong Functional Medical Testing Center, was found to not be a lab approved and operated under the standards of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

In addition, the blood sample drawn from Le was discovered to have been taken just minutes after the conclusion of his fight with Bisping, despite the belief that HGH levels tested post-exertion undergo significant natural increase from normal levels.

Le (9-3) planned to appeal the UFC's one-year suspension, but in light of Tuesday's decision, that is no longer necessary. UFC officials issued the following statement:

At UFC Fight Night Macao on August 23rd, UFC contracted with an independent drug testing laboratory in Hong Kong to perform urinalysis testing on all fighters on the card. Additionally, UFC requested the laboratory to test blood samples from 4 fighters for human growth hormone (HGH), erythropoietin (EPO) and testosterone.

One of the athletes who had his blood tested was Cung Le. The laboratory results from Le's blood test were sent to the UFC and showed that his blood had a total HGH level outside the reference range. Based on such results, UFC officials determined that Le had violated his promotional agreement and the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy. Consequently, UFC decided that Le should be suspended from unarmed combat competition for 12 months.

Following the announcement of Le's suspension, UFC officials have been provided with medical advice regarding the elevated total HGH present in Le's system. In accordance with such medical advice, UFC has determined that Le's elevated total HGH by itself does not prove that he took performance-enhancing drugs before the August 23rd bout. As a result, UFC has informed Le that his suspension is rescinded.

Le had requested an appeal of his suspension, and was entitled to arbitrate the drug test results and suspension. However, based on the lack of conclusive laboratory results, UFC officials deemed it appropriate to immediately rescind the suspension without the need for further proceedings.

The UFC organization has always been a leader when it comes to testing for performance-enhancing drugs in combat sports. All UFC athletes know they are subject to drug testing by an applicable state athletic commission, an international governing federation, or by an independent laboratory contracted by the UFC when no regulatory body is overseeing the event. In those cases where regulatory oversight is unavailable, UFC voluntarily chooses to adhere to the highest level of athlete health and safety protocols similar to if the event were being held in the state of Nevada.

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