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USADA suspends UFC’s Ion Cutelaba six months for prohibited ozone therapy administration

UFN Fight Night 96 Weigh-in Photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A UFC light heavyweight was suspended for use of an alternative medical treatment, but will be able to return to the Octagon soon.

USADA sanctioned Ion Cutelaba for six months due to a prohibited administration of ozone therapy, the UFC’s anti-doping partner announced Thursday. Ozone therapy is an alternative treatment that introduces ozone into the body with the goal of increasing oxygen. There is no peer-reviewed research supporting its effectiveness as a medical technique.

There are different methods of ozone therapy, some of which are banned under the WADA Code. Cutelaba disclosed to USADA that he was undergoing the treatment during a sample collection in October and, upon investigation, USADA found that he was having the ozone therapy administered via a prohibited method — it involved a blood transfusion.

“The WADA Prohibited List prohibits the administration or reintroduction of blood or red blood cell products of any origin or quantity in the circulatory system, unless a valid Therapeutic Use Exemption has been obtained,” USADA wrote in the release. “While Cutelaba was unaware of the violation and declared the treatment on his doping control paperwork, he was unable to refute the documentation provided.”

Cutelaba, 24, was facing a two-year ban for the prohibited method. But because he voluntarily disclosed the ozone therapy use and USADA found he didn’t have a relatively high degree of fault, his suspension was reduced to six months, the release stated.

The suspension will be retroactive to Nov. 3, 2017, the date he was provisionally suspended by USADA and pulled from a scheduled UFC 217 fight with Michal Oleksiejczuk just minutes before the ceremonial weigh-ins. Cutelaba will be eligible to fight again May 3.

Cutelaba (13-3, 1 NC) most recently defeated Henrique da Silva by 22-second knockout at UFC Auckland last June. The Moldova native is known for painting his body green like The Incredible Hulk at ceremonial weigh-ins. Cutelaba sports a 2-2 record in the UFC, but is a promising, exciting 205-pound prospect.

Via Dr. Saam Falahati, who assisted him with USADA, Cutelaba issued a statement regarding the sanction to MMA Fighting:

It has been a very difficult and emotional past few months. At UFC 217 in Madison Square Garden I was ready to make my mark in the UFC 205lb division and make my first true step on the way to my dream of becoming a champion. I was unable to do so, and there was a point where it was looking like that I was going to be unable to fight for two years. I maintain that during my Ozonotherapy I did not take any illegal products and have never acted with intent to cheat in my life. After many months and with the tremendous hard work on my case from Dr. Saam Falahati and Paul Greene I am happy that a resolution was reached and this suspension has been reduced by USADA from two years to six months. Thank you to Dr. Iulia Barau who has been a key figure in supporting me throughout the whole process. My intentions have always been pure. My violation is not one of cheating, but one of ignorance where I accepted a treatment which would not have had any performance enhancing effect, but alas was banned under the USADA rules. USADA took this into account. It has not been easy, it has been a hard long road to prove my intentions and my character, it was not easy to achieve this result, but thanks to my team and management, USADA accepted my position and I will now be returning to the Octagon shortly as I will be eligible to fight from the month of May and I will chase my dream of becoming the UFC world champion. The Hulk is back.

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