Former title contender Gilbert Melendez was released from the UFC last year, but he will still face a two-year suspension as a result of a drug test taken prior to his exit from the promotion.
On Monday, the United States Anti-Doping Agency released a statement confirming that an independent arbitrator ruled in its favor with a two-year suspension handed down to Melendez following a positive drug test taken on Oct. 16, 2019.
“Melendez, 38, tested positive for GHRP-6 and its metabolites GHRP-6(2-5)-OH and GHRP-6(2-6)-OH as the result of a urine sample collected out-of-competition on October 16, 2019,” USADA officials said in a statement. “GHRP-6 is a non-Specified Substance in the class of Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors, Related Substances, and Mimetics, and is prohibited at all times under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy and UFC Prohibited List.
“While Melendez did not contest the presence of GHRP-6 and its metabolites in his sample nor identify a source of the prohibited peptide, he did challenge USADA’s jurisdiction to conduct the test. The arbitrator concluded that USADA did have jurisdiction to both conduct the test and allege an anti-doping policy violation in the event of a positive sample, as was the case.”
Melendez’s suspension is retroactive to Nov. 1, 2019, meaning he’ll be cleared on Nov. 1, 2021.
GHRP-6 is a growth hormone releasing peptide, which is designed to increase the body’s natural production of growth hormone. Retired UFC featherweight Chad Mendes was previously suspended for two years when he tested positive for GHRP-6.
According to the case notes from the arbitration hearings, Melendez asserted that USADA did not have jurisdiction to take a sample because he had already been released from his UFC contract on Oct. 12.
The initial arbitration hearing notes stated that prior to Oct. 16, the date Melendez’s sample was collected, the UFC had not informed USADA or Melendez that his contract had been terminated. The UFC then followed up with a letter date on Nov. 6 that Melendez had been released from the promotion.
Melendez was then removed from the USADA testing program as of Dec. 5, 2019.
The initial arbitration ended by ruling against Melendez’s objection and finding he was “under contract” with the UFC on Oct. 16.
As part of his argument against the suspension, Melendez also asserted that a USADA sanction would “violate his right to make a living outside the UFC with an entirely new fight organization.” In other words, he would still be subject to the two-year suspension even after he was released from the UFC.
Ultimately the arbitrator ruled that any sanction issued by USADA “could only expressly prohibit him from competing in UFC” during his suspension. If another promotion opts not to sign Melendez, or offer him fights until after his suspension is completed, it is not “the product of an anticompetitive agreement with the USADA.”
Under the terms of this ruling, Melendez is essentially banned from competing in any UFC fights for two years from the start of his suspension. That doesn’t prevent him from signing with another organization, or being booked for a fight by a different promotion.
That said, organizations outside the UFC can still choose to honor the suspension and it “does not constitute an illegal restraint” on Melendez’s fighting career.
This past November after Melendez was released from the UFC, he told MMA Fighting that he was still weighing his options when deciding what came next for him. He wasn’t certain if he’d ever fight again, but it was still possible.
“It would have to be something that makes sense for me, it has to be fun, everything has to work out well, but it’s fun to know that I’m free and I’m not locked down to anybody,” Melendez said. “If something really neat comes my way, I can jump all over it.”