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Sean O’Malley holds no ill will towards USADA: ‘I just got so good the last two years, it doesn’t even matter’

Sean O’ Malley
Sean O’Malley
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It would be easy to understand if Sean O’Malley was filled with nothing but rage after he missed two years of his career due to drug testing issues.

He was initially pulled from a fight back in 2018 due to a potential violation of the UFC’s anti-doping policy. The USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) eventually issued a six-month suspension after testing positive for the banned substance ostarine.

O’Malley then faced a second six-month suspension after testing positive for the same banned substance. Through it all, O’Malley maintained his innocence and the USADA ultimately deemed the levels of ostarine in his system were consistent with taking a contaminated supplement that was out of his control.

In recent months, USADA has taken steps to improve the UFC’s anti-doping policy to deal with cases similar to O’Malley’s by setting a threshold for certain banned substances that won’t flag an athlete for a doping violation. Fighters who fit the criteria won’t be subject to any penalties or sanctions and they will be allowed to compete without an interruption to their careers.

Despite everything he endured, O’Malley doesn’t hold a grudge against the USADA or anybody else for his forced time off. Instead, he’s just hopeful that the UFC’s anti-doping policy continues to grow and evolve to best serve the athletes and keep the sport clean.

“I think they’re trying to do their best,” O’Malley told MMA Fighting when asked about the USADA. “It’s something that’s going to be a process to figure where the line should be drawn. I still don’t think it’s 100 picograms, that’s what it’s at right now. I think that’s still such a low number but they don’t the know the science to where it’s performance enhancing and when it’s a tainted supplement and it’s not doing anything for you.

“They don’t know the science enough to make the perfect limit. 100 picograms is a start and they’re obviously doing their best, too.”

Rather than sit around mired in volatility aimed at USADA or the UFC for a two year break from the sport, O’Malley just focused on making the most of his time off.

“I just got so good the last two years, it doesn’t even matter. I don’t even think about that anymore,” O’Malley said.

“I feel like I’m twice as good. Overall, I’m stronger in every aspect. I think I was twice as good as I was two years ago.”

When he finally made his return at UFC 248, O’Malley made the most of the opportunity by tearing through Jose Quinonez with a TKO less than three minutes into the opening round.

There was no hint of ring rust in O’Malley’s performance, although even he admits he wishes the fight had gone on just a little bit longer.

“It worked out perfect,” O’Malley said. “I wish it could have gone a little longer. You train so hard for two minutes but can’t complain. If I picture fighting someone, I start seeing me knocking them out right away. You kind of start playing those scenarios through your head.

“So early on, I saw the fight going like that. It just happened how it was supposed to.”

Afterwards, the emotion nearly overwhelmed him and even days later it’s tough for O’Malley to truly capture in words what that moment meant to him.

“It’s hard to [explain] but I had pictured that moment so many times,” O’Malley said. “Just outside walking my dog, I’d picture that moment happening. When it did happen, I just really felt it and let it happen. I guess it was emotional. I was just feeling it to the fullest and it was just powerful.”

It felt good to be back and now O’Malley is only looking forward.

Even when he was stuck in the middle of the unknown during that forced two-year hiatus, O’Malley says it taught him to look at the bigger picture and realize even without fighting, he still had it pretty good.

“You just put it into perspective,” O’Malley explained. “If I’m standing in my shower and I have hot water running down me, my life’s pretty good. I can shower. I can go to the refrigerator. I have food. I have shelter.

“My life’s okay. Just makes you look at life with a different perspective.”

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