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Mirko Cro Cop suspended two years for substance violation

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The UFC announced that Mirko Cro Cop has been suspended  for two years by the United States Anti-Doping Association (USADA) for a substance violation.

Cro Cop, 41, whose real name is Mirko Filipovic, announced his retirement on Nov. 10, citing a shoulder injury that made it impossible to train on. The next day it was announced by USADA and the UFC that he had been suspended conditionally for violation of the company's doping policy.

On Wednesday, USADA issued the official suspension, stating in a release, "Filipovic, 41, admitted to the use, attempted use and possession of human growth hormone (HGH) following an out-of-competition test conducted on November 4, 2015, in Zagreb, Croatia. On the day he was tested, prior to any results being reported, Filipovic contacted the UFC to advise that he had been using HGH in violation of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy. Thereafter, on November 9, 2015, Filipovic admitted to USADA as well that he had been using the prohibited substance."

The release doesn't state that Cro Cop actually failed a drug test, but instead admitted usage of HGH, an extremely difficult drug to detect, upon being given a surprise test. Shortly after his retirement announcement, Cro Cop publicly admitted he had used HGH as a last-ditch effort to find something that would heal his ailing shoulder.

New UFC and USADA bylaws call for two-year suspensions on performance-enhancing drug violations for first time offenders. Cro Cop would be the first offender since USADA began testing UFC fighters in July.

Cro Cop was originally scheduled to face Anthony Hamilton on this coming Saturday's UFC show in Seoul, South Korea, in what was the co-main event on the show.

Cro Cop was one of the top heavyweight kickboxers in the world, when, in 2001, he debuted in an MMA gimmick fight against pro wrestler Kazuyuki Fujita, which he won with a knee to the head and blood stoppage in 39 seconds in a fight that had a huge national television audience in Japan, as part of a K-1 vs. Pride special.

The win started his ascent to stardom. Pride signed him away from K-1 and he became one of the regulars during the height of that company's popularity, most noted for major fights with the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Bob Sapp, Wanderlei Silva, Fujita, Kevin Randleman and Josh Barnett. He headlined a 2002 show at Tokyo National Stadium against Kazushi Sakuraba that drew 71,000 fans, still the largest recorded crowd to attend an MMA event. Cro Cop was the most popular foreign fighter in Japan when he signed with UFC, and started with the company in early 2007.

UFC said the following in a statement:

"UFC recognizes the two-year sanction issued today to Mirko Cro Cop by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for violations of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.

UFC secured the services of USADA, a third-party agency, earlier this year to administer its Anti-Doping Policy to ensure that all athletes compete on an even playing field, free of performance enhancing drugs. UFC appreciates Cro Cop's disclosure and admission of usage of a prohibited substance, and supports the issuance of necessary sanctions to maintain a clean sport.

Cro Cop has subsequently announced his retirement from the sport after a storied career. UFC recognizes his accomplishments in the sport of mixed martial arts and wishes him well in future endeavors."

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