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USADA grants Gian Villante retroactive exemption for inhaler after positive drug test

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Gian Villante will still be able to fight “Shogun” Rua next month despite the failed drug test.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Gian Villante failed a drug test last month, but will not be sanctioned.

USADA granted the UFC light heavyweight a retroactive therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for his use of an inhaler which had a prohibited substance as an active ingredient, the UFC’s anti-doping partner announced Friday. He will not face an anti-doping policy violation.

Villante disclosed that he was using a Breo Ellipta, a treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder or asthma, during a Jan. 18 urine sample collection done by USADA, the release stated. The Breo Ellipta contains the banned substance vilanterol, which Villante ended up testing positive for. Vilanterol is prohibited at all times and is listed as a Beta-2 Agonist (drugs that cause smooth muscle relaxation) under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code.

After his disclosure of the inhaler, USADA told him that it contained a banned substance and would be prohibited without a TUE. Villante applied for an exemption, which documented that his doctor had prescribed him a 14-day course of the inhaler to treat conditions associated with asthma and airflow restriction.

USADA said after an investigation it “determined that the athlete had an unequivocally diagnosed acute medical condition for which the use of vilanterol is consistent with the standard of care.” The investigation showed that the use of vilanterol was within the therapeutic recommendation and not intended to act as a performance enhancer. Plus, the release said, other permitted treatments were not successful in treating Villante’s condition.

Villante is the second UFC athlete to apply for and be granted a TUE after Cris Cyborg got one for the use of a banned diuretic last week.

USADA announced the TUE because it resolves a potential anti-doping policy violation, the release said. In other circumstances, USADA does not divulge TUEs due to medical privacy reasons.

The UFC did not announce Villante was facing an anti-doping policy violation when the positive drug tests results came back, unlike in other cases. UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told MMA Fighting that it was not announced previously because in speaking with Villante “it immediately appeared he had a legitimate medical use for the substance and UFC wanted the TUE process to play out in fairness to Villante before the public announcement.”

In other cases where an athlete did not disclose the use of a prohibited substance and it was not readily ascertained that the fighter had a legitimate medical reason for usage, the UFC has announced a potential anti-doping violation, Novitzky said. But there is flexibility in when announcements are made in the UFC’s anti-doping policy.

“Decisions on immediate UFC disclosures of potential violations are made on a case-by-case basis, balancing transparency and the fairness to the athlete in each case,” Novitzky said.

Villante, 31, is slated to face Mauricio Rua at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum on March 11 in Fortaleza, Brazil. The failed drug test will not prevent him from competing due to the TUE. Villante (15-7) is coming off a second-round TKO win over Saparbek Safarov in December.

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