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Dequan Townsend addresses USADA suspension for cocaine, fentanyl metabolites: ‘I am not a drug user’

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UFC Fight Night: Weigh-Ins
Dequan Townsend
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Dequan Townsend is setting the record straight on his recent USADA suspension.

After making his UFC debut on just three days’ notice in a losing effort against Dalcha Lungiambula last June, the 33-year-old middleweight was informed by the USADA that his in-competition urine sample tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, and norfentanyl, a metabolite of fentanyl. It was recently announced that Townsend had accepted and served a six-month suspension for the drug test violation.

Because the prohibited substances in question were classified as drugs of abuse rather than performance-enhancers, Townsend was eligible for a reduced penalty, contingent on his completion of a drug rehabilitation program.

Townsend told MMA Fighting he fully cooperated with the USADA to ensure he was eligible to compete in his next bout against Bevon Lewis, which is scheduled to take place on Jan. 25 at UFC Raleigh. He also wants to make it clear that the substances in question entered his body by accident.

“There’s thousands of different ways that things can get into your system,” Townsend said. “Me personally, I am not a drug user. I don’t discriminate, I don’t judge anybody who does drugs personally. What they do in their free time is what they do in their free time.

“I took this fight on three days’ notice. I was hanging around the wrong crowd. There’s a thousand different ways things can happen, and (it ended) up getting into my system, and I just did what I needed to do and took the necessary steps I needed to in order to get this situation behind me. That was that, and I’m moving forward from it.”

Asked how the banned substances might have entered his system, Townsend pointed to both his choice of company and employment as possible explanations. He believes he could have been exposed to cocaine metabolites through an intimate encounter, and to fentanyl metabolites – or a derivative of the powerful painkiller – through his work as a registered nurse.

“There’s different ways, and one of the most common ways is [through the] mucous membrane,” Townsend said. “That’s one of the most common ways. If you sleep with somebody or engage in any sexual activity with someone who is a user or who does what they do on the side or whatever, it can get into your system through sweat, different sexual activities. There’s different ways it can get into your system. That’s one way.

“Also, touching stuff. I am a nurse – that’s my nine-to-five. I’m not sure if a lot of people know; people in Lansing actually know that’s my actual nine-to-five job. That could have been a way that it happened. But as I said in general, it was three days’ notice, (and) I obviously wasn’t aware or extra careful because I didn’t plan on fighting in the UFC.”

Townsend had competed as an amateur since 2009, and he said he won nearly 30 fights before turning pro in 2012. He subsequently earned a 21-9 record, with 17 of those victories by knockout or submission. Given his finishing rate, he publicly questioned what it would take to get noticed.

“I posted one week before a rant of me being upset about not being able to get to the UFC and not going to the UFC, but wanting to,” he said. “I got my opportunity, took it short-notice, and it happened.”

Since moving to the UFC, Townsend hasn’t had any issues jumping through the hoops put in front of him. He agreed to another late-notice call, this time as a replacement for Alen Amedovski at UFC Raleigh. He doesn’t resent USADA testing.

“There’s in-competition and out-of-competition, it’s completely different,” Townsend said. “You can test for certain things out of competition, and it’s not publicized and they don’t consider it as a violation. That’s what I was told. I’m not sure how that really works, I just feel like the in-competition tests should be the only ones that are released, and those are the ones that are truly important.

“Unless it’s performance-enhancing drugs like steroids or other major situations where they shouldn’t be taken.”

Townsend’s last-second debut was a flurry of tests and paperwork. The aftermath proved no less complicated. He worked with the USADA to resolve his situation, and now, the suspension is in his past. He looks at the Lewis fight as his proper UFC debut, even though he’s only had a few extra weeks to prepare this time around.

Regardless, he’s confident in his chances – and that he won’t be on USADA’s radar again.

“I took the necessary precautions, (and I’ve done what I needed to do,” Townsend said. “I took the classes. I was mindful of the information that was given to me, and I just pretty much want to put the whole thing behind me.

“Obviously, when it was released, everybody has their comments, everybody has their opinions. And I just let people think what they want to think. I use their opinions to fuel me as more motivation to overcome more obstacles, fight, be a better performer, and just get my hand raised.”