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NSAC suspends Sean O’Malley nine months, cleared for UFC 248

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The Nevada State Athletic Commission on Wednesday cleared the way for UFC bantamweight Sean O’Malley to fight at UFC 248 after issuing a nine-month suspension that expires just prior to the pay-per-view event.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the suspension, which is retroactive to May 25, 2019 and runs until Feb. 25, just over one week from O’Malley’s fight against Jose Quinonez at the March 7 pay-per-view event. O’Malley is also ordered to pay $872.16 in attorney’s fees and is required to pay for random drug tests that run until March 6.

In September 2018, O’Malley was flagged by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for ostarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) that’s popped up in several contaminated supplement cases. He denied knowingly taking any performance-enhancing substance.

This past April, O’Malley was among four UFC fighters to accept six-month suspensions for drug tests linked to bad supplements. He was also suspended six months by the NSAC.

The USADA continued to test O’Malley in late 2018 and 2019, according to his manager Daniel Rubenstein, and test results appeared to show the same “pulsing” of long-term metabolites shown in other UFC cases like that of light heavyweight champ Jon Jones (though Jones tested positive for a different metabolite, M3, of oral turinabol).

After the initial September 2018 positive, ostarine metabolites were found in O’Malley’s system on six occasions, including two samples initially found to be negative that were retested, Rubenstein said. The USADA declined to sanction the fighter again, ruling that the metabolites were residual from his previous positive tests.

This past May, O’Malley again showed elevated levels of ostarine metabolites in his system. As a result, the NSAC elected not to license him for a fight against Marlon Vera at UFC 239 because there wasn’t enough time to verify USADA’s finding that the positive tests were residual, Rubenstein said.

The manager said O’Malley tested as high as 88 picograms of ostarine metabolites in some tests and was also completely negative in others. He said the USADA was unable to find a correlation between O’Malley’s physical condition – via weight-cutting and hydration, for example – and the tests where he was positive.

At a hearing today in Las Vegas, the NSAC said O’Malley is subject to between one and three random drug tests per month until March. As long as he doesn’t exceed 100 picograms, the USADA’s new threshold for ostarine metabolites, in any of his tests, he won’t be subject to further sanctions. He is also required to pay for and provide clean drug tests at 30, 15 and three days prior to his UFC 248 fight, as well as apply for a new license.

In a prepared statement, Rubenstein thanked the UFC and the USADA for clearing O’Malley’s name.

“Sean appreciates the due diligence of the NSAC and USADA to work to get his name cleared for the March 7th UFC 248 fight in Las Vegas, NV,” he wrote. “He looks forward to making his UFC return on an enormous fight card in the fight capital of the world and showing his fans how much he has improved in the last two years away from fighting.”