Kevin Lee is stinging over a suspension that he knows he could have avoided.
“The Motown Phenom” was recently suspended for six months by the Nevada Athletic Commission after testing positive for Adderall, a banned substance that he was using to treat ADHD. The test stemmed from an Aug. 28 welterweight bout against Daniel Rodriguez that Lee lost by unanimous decision.
Appearing on The MMA Hour on Monday, Lee said that he made the mistake of not applying for a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) as he had hoped it would simply be out of his system by the time the Rodriguez fight came around.
“It wouldn’t have been an issue, but I got a little arrogant in it,” Lee said. “I thought that I would be fine without it, and that it just would get out of my system much faster. But I think not cutting as much weight – I should have applied for the TUE. I’m still kind of kicking myself in the ass over it because it’s a legit prescription, it’s a legit diagnosis and I think I just went about it in an unprofessional way to get that done.”
According to Lee, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2018 and simply fought through it until 2020 when he was prescribed Adderall; he sought out the prescription as he recovered from a second knee surgery. He realized he needed help to manage his condition with recovery leaving him unable to train and compete, which was how he had dealt with his ADHD in the past.
Although the drug was beneficial, Lee doesn’t completely agree that it’s a performance-enhancing drug.
“It’s not a performance-enhancer at least from what I can tell from it, from using it,” Lee said. “It definitely worked. It enhances life for sure, and it helped me to solve a lot of issues that I’ve been dealing with for a very, very long time. It definitely helps you in life, but I don’t necessarily know if it ever helped make me bigger, faster, stronger, or even focus more during the fight.
“I think that’s one of the things you can even see during that fight is I kind of lost that focus in the second round and I wish I could have been on it. I probably should have just smoked weed or something, then it probably would have been a whole lot better.”
Shortly after news broke of his suspension, Lee released a video in which he poured a bottle of pills down a drain.
His plan going forward is to no longer use Adderall. He is also reducing the amount of alcohol he consumes in his spare time, which he says was an issue for him when he wasn’t actively involved in a fight camp.
“Not in training camp, I’ve always been disciplined during training camp because it was six weeks or sometimes four weeks or whatever it is,” Lee said of his heavy drinking. “I’m just a disciplined person, I feel like, so I know when to stop.
“The problem came when there is no fights coming up. And it’s just like, OK, I’m just around, I don’t really have to train that hard tomorrow, so why not? That’s the part that I really want to cut off and cut back on.”
Lee went on to explain that he suffers from a lack of focus and constantly needs to find stimulation, which he thinks is a common problem among many adults who might be dealing with undiagnosed ADHD.
“ADHD I think is one of those things that kind of gets tossed out a lot,” Lee said. “I think a lot of people kind of have it, but for some, it’s more extreme than others. For me, I lose track of every f*cking thing, and I’ve kind of always been that way and kind of always only been interested in the things that really, really interest me, or if it’s a life-or-death type of situation.
“But that’s not always the best way to be as an adult, you’ve got to be interested in things that you can’t do. So when I couldn’t train and I couldn’t just fight my way out of it and just focus only on the gym, that’s when some of those issues really came to the forefront. It’s just something that I needed to do to enhance my mental health and quit ignoring it all the time and just kind of drowning it in the fight.”
Lee’s six-month suspension is retroactive to August, so the earliest that he will be able to compete again is in February of next year.
As he sits on the shelf, Lee isn’t too worried about whether a drug suspension will result in fans labeling him as a cheater – he was more worried about how others would react to knowing that he has ADHD. It was a concern that was assuaged by a few conversations with people who shared similar stories with him.
“It was definitely embarrassing,” Lee said. “I still am just a little bit, but it was more so embarrassing to tell people what’s actually wrong with me, you know? But since I came out with it last week, I felt a little bit better. The reception to it has been better than I expected.
“I was expecting more people to kick me while I was down, but I’ve had a whole lot of people that I actually respect that have reached out to me and said that they deal with the same issues. I think that it just doesn’t get talked about a lot. So it was a little embarrassing for me to talk about it, but I’m less embarrassed than the actual issue itself these days.”