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USADA granted Cris Cyborg exemption despite her not disclosing substance before test

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Cris Cyborg was cleared to fight last week by USADA.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Cris Cyborg did not disclose before a December sample collection that she was taking a banned substance, but was still granted a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) by USADA.

One of the provisions in the UFC’s anti-doping policy is that athletes must not provide “fraudulent information to UFC or USADA,” which can extend to not disclosing the ingestion of a banned substance to a doping control official during a sample collection.

Cyborg did not disclose that she was taking a prohibited substance, but USADA’s TUE Committee felt like she met all the important criteria and ultimately decided to grant her an exemption last week. A non-disclosure does not automatically lead to a violation from USADA without other elements of the situation being taken into account.

In a statement, USADA spokesperson Ryan Madden explained that Cyborg was able to immediately identify the medication as the reason why she failed the drug test, then “submitted all necessary medical information and demonstrated that it was being used for legitimate medical purposes without enhancing her performance.”

The full statement is below:

Her use of the medication was not initially disclosed; but more importantly, once contacted by USADA, she immediately identified the medication as the source of her positive test, submitted all necessary medical information and demonstrated that it was being used for legitimate medical purposes without enhancing her performance. Those are the primary considerations when reviewing any TUE application.

Cyborg, 31, tested positive for the banned diuretic spironolactone in December. She was facing a one-year suspension from USADA if she was not granted the TUE.

In a statement after the news of the failed drug test was announced, Cyborg said she was using the drug as prescribed by a doctor to help treat side effects from her recent weight cut. Cyborg cut a large amount of weight to make the 140-pound limit to fight Lina Lansberg in September.

USADA, after an investigation done by its TUE Committee, announced last week that Cyborg had been granted a TUE after finding that she was taking spironolactone “in accordance with her physician’s recommendation for the treatment of a legitimate medical condition.” It was the first time a UFC fighter had been granted a retroactive TUE since the UFC brought USADA on board in July 2015 to run its anti-doping program.

Cyborg, the best female fighter in the world, will be eligible to compete again in the UFC immediately. She should be next in line to face new UFC women’s featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie.

“USADA recognizes that over the course of a career, athletes may experience illnesses or medical conditions that require the use of a particular medication for proper treatment,” USADA wrote last week in the statement announcing Cyborg’s TUE. “While athletes are educated and encouraged to apply for a TUE in advance of using a prohibited substance or method, the UFC Anti-Doping Policy permits athletes to file for retroactive TUEs where the use of a prohibited substance or method was medically justified.”

Cyborg tested positive for an anabolic steroid in 2011 and was stripped of her Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title at the time.