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UFC bantamweight Francisco Rivera suspended four years by USADA

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Francisco Rivera
Francisco Rivera has been issued a four-year suspension by USADA.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

An independent arbitrator has dropped the hammer on Francisco Rivera.

Rivera, a veteran UFC bantamweight, has been issued a four-year suspension by an independent arbitrator stemming from his July 2016 positive drug test for the banned substance clenbuterol, USADA has announced. That suspension is retroactive to Aug. 2016, the date on which Rivera was first provisionally suspended by USADA.

The verdict was made official Friday following a Dec. 2017 evidentiary hearing.

Rivera is among several UFC athletes who tested positive for clenbuterol in recent years, having done so in a out-of-competition urine sample provided on July 23, 2016. Similar to the cases of Augusto Montano and Li Jingliang, Rivera said he believed the positive test was the result of tainted meat eaten while vacationing in Mexico.

However, unlike Montano and Jingliang — both of whom received no sanctions after USADA ruled they were not at fault — Rivera was not so lucky.

In a statement issued Friday by the UFC’s drug testing partner, USADA “concluded that the clenbuterol levels detected in [Rivera’s] sample were inconsistent with what could be expected from meat contamination,” and that Rivera was “unable to provide independently verifiable evidence to support his claim that he had traveled to Northern Mexico and ingested meat in the days leading up to the relevant sample collection.” As a result, Rivera submitted his case to an independent arbitrator.

However, prior to the arbitration hearing, a USADA investigation “revealed that several pieces of evidence presented by Rivera to USADA and the arbitrator had been falsified to support the athlete’s claims that the substance had originated from contaminated meat in Mexico.”

That falsification became the foundation upon which Rivera’s protracted suspension was based, as “under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, deceitful or obstructive conduct intended to avoid the detection or adjudication of an anti-doping policy violation may be regarded as aggravating circumstances, which can lead to an increased period of ineligibility,” per the statement issued by USADA.

Due to the aggravating circumstances surrounding the case, the independent arbitrator ultimately ruled that Rivera receive a maximum four-year suspension, rather than the standard two-year suspension Rivera was in line to be issued prior to arbitration.

Additionally, Rivera’s case also falls under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission, as Rivera was scheduled to fight in Atlanta, Georgia at UFC 201 at the time of his positive test. That means the Georgia commission has the ability to impose an additional fine and/or suspension upon Rivera if it so chooses.

Rivera, 36, will see his four-year suspension come to an end in Aug. 2020. He will be two months away from turning 39 years old.