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In latest Greg Hardy controversy, he may actually be a victim

Greg Hardy
Greg Hardy
Thomas Lakes, MMA Fighting

Say what you will about Greg Hardy — and there’s plenty to comment about — but the man sure leaves the sports world with plenty to talk about whenever he appears. It is not always positive, of course. Everyone is aware of his previous arrest and conviction for a domestic assault, a decision that was later dropped on appeal after the victim stopped cooperating with prosecutors. Everyone knows he was essentially banished from the NFL. Most have heard about his cocaine possession arrest. The list goes on.

The latest controversial entry was written at last night’s UFC on ESPN 6 event in Boston. For the first time in his professional fighting career, Hardy was pushed to the final bell. Facing Ben Sosoli, Hardy showed some newly refined techniques but also failed to live up to his “Prince of War” nickname. Despite being the second biggest favorite on the card, Hardy scraped past Sosoli with a decision victory, a win he only got to celebrate for about an hour before it all started unraveling.

Between the second and third rounds of the fight, Hardy requested use of his Ventolin albuterol inhaler. A Massachusetts State Athletic Commission inspector standing aside him asked if it was medically approved. Yes, Hardy said, it was USADA approved. While his declaration is debatable, one of Hardy’s cornermen handed it to him, and within seconds, he was taking a puff.

Moments later, while Hardy and Sosoli went back to fighting, all hell broke loose around them, with the question of whether he’d just broken a rule. UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner stated unequivocally on the broadcast that the usage was illegal. Meanwhile, UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky told Yahoo!’s Kevin Iole that use of an albuterol inhaler was allowed, as long as it stayed below certain thresholds.

So which one was it? About 30 minutes after the event concluded, the word came down it was the former. As a result, Hardy’s win was turned into a no-contest.

If you’ve never seen a decision overturned twice, stay tuned, because Hardy may have a legitimate case for reversing the reversal. According to Massachusetts 523 CMR 20.01, which governs prohibited acts in MMA, the commission adheres to WADA’s prohibited list. Here’s where the problem comes in: the medication in Hardy’s inhaler — which is called salbutamol but marketed as Ventolin, is not prohibited by WADA except in excess doses of over 1600 micrograms over 24 hours. According to the drug maker Glaxo Smith Kline, the inhaler only releases 108 micrograms of the solution per dose. So unless he hit that thing like a vape pen at Burning Man, he should be under the limit. While some commissions have specific rules for what may be consumed during an event — for example, Nevada’s NAC 467.591 allows Gatorade, Red Bull, Powerade, and others, no such rule seems to exist on Massachusetts’ books.

Smarter scientific (or perhaps legal) minds will eventually determine whether or not his usage is acceptable during competition, but there is also the problem of how we got here in the first place.

Hardy’s asthma is not a new development. Stories of his issues with the condition, while not common during his NFL days, were occasionally publicized and circulated. It is a real concern.

His team then, should have made sure to cover all of its bases before allowing him to go to the inhaler. That’s their piece of blame.

But here’s what’s worse: the commission seemed to play a role in the mess. After all, it was the cage inspector that essentially gave him permission to take a puff.

While Massachusetts is framing this as “he didn’t ask the commission,” he certainly asked a commission representative. It’s on video! The inspector’s entire job is to ensure all of the laws and regulations pertaining to the bout are followed, but what if the inspector doesn’t know the laws and regulations? Well, you get a certified MMA mess.

“The worst part for me is, here I am letting people down again,” Hardy said. “It’s a sucky feeling. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing. I asked permission, he told me I could, and I’m in trouble again.”

But it wasn’t only the inspector’s fault, even though Massachusetts quickly tried to throw that person under the bus. All parties seem to agree that Hardy disclosed use of the inhaler on his pre-fight questionnaire with the commission, but it also seems that no one bothered to follow up on it with him.

So let’s recap. There’s an experienced American Top Team corner that should be aware the situation is at least questionable and maybe worthy of more clearance, there’s a commission that didn’t get more details on a disclosure form, and there’s an inspector who doesn’t quite know what is and isn’t allowed. Hardy was the most inexperienced of the group, and at least he asked if it was OK before doing it. It was everyone else who let him down. For its weirdness, this was a very Hardy ending, but with a twist: for once, he may be the victim.

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