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Junior dos Santos, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira get reduced suspensions after USADA investigation

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Gallery Photo: UFC 146 Press Conference Photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Junior dos Santos and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira are free to return to the UFC immediately.

The two Brazilian stars, as well as Marcos Rogerio de Lima, both received reduced, six-month suspensions by USADA after an investigation into two Brazilian pharmacies confirmed they were selling contaminated supplements that led to failed drug tests, the UFC’s anti-doping partner announced Monday.

Both dos Santos and Nogueira tested positive for the banned substance hydrocholorothiazide, while Rogerio de Lima failed a drug test for hydrocholorothiazide and anasatrozole.

The USADA release stated that the compounding pharmacies, located in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, were preparing medication on site and claimed to manufacture nutritional supplements without the possibility of cross-contamination. But when tested at the WADA-accredited SMRTL lab in Salt Lake City, the supplements taken by all three fighters came up contaminated for “multiple banned substances.”

Autoridade Brasileira de Controle de Dopagem, the Brazilian national anti-doping agency, and Brazilian law enforcement assisted USADA with the investigation, per the release. Nogueira, dos Santos and Rogerio de Lima were all talking compounding supplements, which ended up contaminated, on the advice of physicians or nutritionists.

“We appreciate the cooperation of the athletes and international authorities in getting to the bottom of this situation, as it will hopefully prevent these problems from occurring in the future,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. “It’s unacceptable that these compounding pharmacies produced contaminated supplements for the public. And it’s another unfortunate example of why athletes must use extreme caution if using nutritional supplements. All too often, supplement products contain undeclared substances, including prohibited drugs, that can be dangerous to an athlete’s health. We are doing all we can to ensure that these types of suppliers are held accountable for introducing dangerous products like these into the marketplace.”

Dos Santos tested positive in a drug test stemming from an Aug. 18, 2017 sample collection; Nogueira popped after an Oct. 19, 2017 sample collection was analyzed; and Rogerio de Lima failed a drug test stemming from an Aug. 11, 2017 sample collection. Since each of their six-month suspensions would be up, all can compete again in the Octagon immediately.

UFC fighters who take tainted supplements and can prove it are able to get reductions to their USADA sanctions. All three men were facing two-year bans.

“The rule recognizes that supplements can be a risk and also guards against unfounded and unfair reductions by requiring a thorough investigation of all claims of ‘contamination,’” Tygart said. “The rule also ensures that athletes are not overly penalized when they have been diligent in what they use, and when it is proven the source of the positive is from a contaminated product, like in these cases.”

Dos Santos, 34, was pulled from a fight with Francis Ngannou at UFC 215 last September when he was provisionally suspended for the positive drug test. The former UFC heavyweight champion fought for the belt against Stipe Miocic at UFC 211 last year and fell via first-round TKO, but remains one of the top heavyweights in the world.

“I’m relieved that this nightmare is finally over and that we were able to determine what happened and where the prohibited substance found in my sample came from,” dos Santos said in a statement provided by his attorney Ana Guedes. “Like I’ve always said, I’m a clean athlete. The most important thing now is that I can go back to earning my livelihood. I want to get back inside the octagon as quickly as possible. Back to business.”

Added Guedes: “The process has been extremely frustrating for Junior, who has always supported antidoping measures, always supported USADA, and always advocated for a clean sport. Junior was pulled from his planned October bout against Francis Ngannou and has not fought since his May 2017 title challenge against champion Stipe Miocic. While the reduced sanction of six months is less than the one year provided for a first violation of the UFC antidoping policy, the practical reality of such a long investigation coupled with the difficulty of UFC heavyweight matchmaking means Junior will go nearly a year without a fight, it’s unfortunate, it has been very rough on Junior.”

Nogueira, 41, was supposed to face Jared Cannonier at UFC on FOX 26 in December when he was pulled due to the failed drug test. The legendary Brazilian fighter has lost three of four. Rogerio de Lima, 32, would have fought Saparbek Safarov at UFC Rotterdam last September if not for the positive test.

Rogerio de Lima’s manager Alex Davis also released a statement Monday on the situation:

We’re very happy with the result of this USADA case with Marcos Rogerio Pezao. We spent a long time, effort and money to prove his innocence. We knew he had no fault, like other athletes like Minotouro, Cigano and Amanda Ribas, who we know is innocent but couldn’t find where the contamination came from. Every athlete who is under the USADA program has to pay attention. I find absurd that pharmaceutical and supplementation industries is so reckless with their products and damages fighters like them, who work hard and train so much to get where they are, and risk damaging their careers for these companies’ absurd and ridiculous lack of professionalism. This is very serious because those substances not only are prohibited in an anti-doping program, they can also prejudice these athletes’ health, so many things can happen. I hope this news is an alert to these companies. Marcos Rogerio will definitly try to guarantee that the moral and financial damages caused are reimbursed.