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Frank Mir says he’s considering legal action against USADA

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Frank Mir is considering legal action against USADA — and perhaps the UFC — in light of some recent changes regarding the UFC’s anti-doping policy.

Mir, a former UFC heavyweight champion, was suspended two years by USADA in April 2017 for failing a drug test for a metabolite of the banned substance oral Turinabol. Given how USADA is now approaching positive tests for the long-term metabolite of the steroid, Mir told the Russian website RT that he is considering a lawsuit.

“I’ve lost millions,” Mir said. “I had six more fights on a contract that paid me well. If you have noticed, my last fight, I didn’t even have sponsors. It’s difficult right now to rebuild up everything because of having to battle back from being falsely accused of something. It makes things difficult.”

Mir tested positive for 4-chloro-18-nor-17β-hydroxymethyl,17α-methyl-5α-androst-13-en-3α-ol (M3) (or DHMCT), the same long-term metabolite for oral Turinabol that is central to the current situation involving UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Mir’s positive test stems from a March 2016 sample collection.

Jones was initially suspended — like Mir — 15 months in his USADA case, following arbitration, for the positive drug test in July 2017. The difference is Jones continues to have the M3 long-term metabolite pop up (or “pulse”) in some drug-test results, but not in others. Jones was cleared by USADA — and two state athletic commissions — to compete at UFC 232 and UFC 235 despite having that metabolite in his system leading up to both events.

The belief among some doping scientists, in USADA and outside of USADA, is that the M3 long-term metabolite can last far longer in an athlete’s system than the published science has stated. Dr. Daniel Eichner, the lab director at Salt Lake City’s World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited Sports Medicine and Research Laboratory (SMRTL), and others have testified that there is no evidence Jones has re-administered oral Turinabol since the July 2017 positive. And Jones is unlikely to gain any performance-enhancing benefit from the trace amounts of the metabolite, which are down to the picogram level.

Both Jones and Mir have vehemently denied knowingly ingesting any banned substances.

“Jon is one of the best fighters in the world pound for pound, but [for me] to be a less credible witness, that bothers me a little bit,” Mir said. “That stings. But that’s the issue I have so much is they’re still learning how the test works. I don’t think that you should have a test in the protocol that’s going to affect people’s careers, take two, four years away from them and not fully understand it. And I think now they’re backtracking with Jon. ‘Some of the tests are positive, some of the tests are negative, we don’t quite understand, it’s this pulsing.’

“And I think it’s also added another taint towards Jon’s career, because I think at this point a lot of people are sitting and going, ‘OK, wait a minute, so it’s in your system, it’s not in your system, it’s showing up, it’s not showing up.’ No one’s clear of any kind of mindset where they think, ‘Well, what if he micro-dosed here and it’s coming up here.’ In just brings in too many questions and I feel bad for Jon on that sense. He’s had his issues that he’s self-imposed and here’s one that isn’t really his fault, so we’re in the same boat in that situation, where the science doesn’t really understand, but they’re doing hardcore sanctionings. And mine was even worse. At least now, I guess there’s a new guy that has this metabolite found in his system. But they won’t release his name until they figure out what’s going on.”

There are two other known UFC athletes who have had similar circumstances with the M3 long-term metabolite: Grant Dawson and Muslim Salikhov. UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky said there is one other fighter in the UFC going through a similar issue, but the promotion will not release his or her name until the completion of USADA’s investigation.

In the cases of Dawson and Salikhov, USADA cleared both after nearly year-long investigations because the agency believes it cannot know when they ingested the banned substance and it could have been long before they entered into the UFC and the USADA program. Like with Jones, there is a belief that neither is gaining any performance-enhancing benefits.

When Mir tested positive in 2016, it came via what at the time was a new detection method. The M3 long-term metabolite popped up in Mir’s March 2016 sample, which was analyzed at the WADA-accredited lab in Tokyo. After that came back positive, USADA went back and tested all of Mir’s past samples. One from February 2016 using that new detection method and it came back containing the M3 metabolite.

“As a result of the additional analyses, SMRTL discovered that an out-of-competition sample Mir provided on February 5, 2016, which had previously been reported to USADA as negative for the presence of prohibited substances, was also positive for the same long-term DHCMT metabolite found in Mir’s in-competition sample,” the USADA statement said at the time.

Mir, 39, was also critical in the RT interview about the UFC’s change in policy regarding announcing potential anti-doping policy violations. Before last summer, the UFC announced potential violations (or positive drug tests) when they were reported to the promotion by USADA. Now, the UFC will wait until the investigation and adjudication process before making any announcements about violations or a lack thereof.

Mir’s potential violation was announced to the public when the result of the drug test came back from USADA, which was policy at the time. Novitzky has admitted that the UFC was wrong to make those announcements prior to a full investigation.

“You guys didn’t understand what was going on and two months into it, ‘Ah, Mir has this in his system,’” Mir said. “Everybody knows that that’s basically guilty. Now you’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, you’re a drug user.’ What kind of impact does that make on someone’s career? Obviously heavy enough that they’d change their stance on that. And they no longer release people’s names until they really understand what’s going on, because they do know that it makes a very strong negative impact on your career to be falsely accused of something.”

On top of that, Mir chided the UFC for waiting until suspended fighters’ were almost due back before releasing them. The UFC cut light heavyweight fighter Tom Lawlor last year just weeks before his USADA suspension was going to be up.

“That’s kind of dirty,” Mir said. “That’s not really working in good faith. You have an athlete under contract, not allowed to work anywhere else. He’s suspended, yeah. But he could get the ball rolling, maybe start looking for work in other areas. But no, you keep him under contract. And then at the end of his suspension, he gets a release letter. … So, I’m not really happy about their conduct, either.”

A request for comment from USADA on Mir’s comments was not immediately returned Wednesday night.

Mir (18-13) asked for his release from the UFC and was granted it in July 2017. A month later, he announced he had signed with Bellator. Mir, a Las Vegas native, had been with the UFC for 15 years, dating back to 2001.