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UFC’s Jeff Novitzky: USADA ‘still evaluating’ Paulo Costa case

Paulo Costa seems to still be trying to work his way back to the Octagon.

The UFC middleweight contender was recently fined by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) for an undisclosed violation, which Costa has said was triggered by his use of a stomach medication before a 2017 fight. In an interview with UFC Unfiltered that published Tuesday, UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky confirmed that USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, is also looking into Costa’s status.

Novitzky was asked by show hosts Jim Norton and Matt Serra why Costa was unable to fight Yoel Romero this month, a bout that was initially targeted for UFC Fort Lauderdale.

“I don’t have any comment on that,” Novitzky said. “My understanding is that New York has issued him a fine or a sanction and that USADA is still evaluating this. It’s not until cases are adjudicated and resolved that we comment on them. So I’m not gonna comment on that one right now.”

USADA has also not commented on the situation and won’t do so until the completion of the investigation. Costa’s team declined a request for comment from MMA Fighting on Tuesday.

It remains unclear what exactly Costa is being investigated for. NYSAC hit Costa with a fine of $9,333.33 earlier this month, though he has not fought in New York since a November 2017 win over Johny Hendricks at UFC 217 and has competed since then. He has not been suspended and NYSAC would not comment on what exactly the violation was.

Lee Park, the New York State Department of State spokesperson, told MMA Fighting at the time that “evidence received and reviewed by the Commission conclusively showed that Mr. Costa failed to comply with Commission rules and policies regarding the use and disclosure of non-performance enhancing substances while licensed.”

Costa, who has denied using banned substances and said he did not fail a drug test, told the Brazilian website Combate that he used the stomach medication Plasil in 2017, which led to the NYSAC sanction.

“[Romero] came back from a reality show and could finally sign the contract,” Costa told Combate. “(But) on the same week the New York Athletic Commission asked me to talk about a stomach medication I had used. And they said: ‘For you to talk about this, unfortunately you won’t be able to fight. You will be ineligible for this fight because you have to notify us about what you used for your stomach.’ It was a simple medication, Plasil. That’s not doping. You take it when you have stomach pain. So, because of that, I didn’t understand it too, but they said I couldn’t fight, that I had to figure this out first.”

Plasil is not a prohibited substance under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code. However, a video surfaced in October 2018 that appeared to show Costa being administered an IV, which is a prohibited method over a certain threshold, regardless of whether the medication being ingested was banned. It’s unclear when the video was recorded.

In place of Costa, Romero was then scheduled to fight Ronaldo Souza at UFC Fort Lauderdale, a card set for next week. Romero then withdrew with an illness and Souza will now fight Jack Hermansson in the main event. ESPN has reported that the UFC is working on Romero vs. Costa again for a card in June.

Costa (12-0) is one of the top up-and-coming names in the UFC’s middleweight division. “The Eraser” has won all four of his UFC fights via TKO. On top of that, Costa, 28, has stopped every single one of his professional career fights inside the distance.

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