By: Jesse Donathan
It’s a conspiracy, or so UFC superstar Nate Diaz alleges in the controversy surrounding his positive test for a performance enhancing drug in the lead up to his UFC 244 showdown with Jorge Masvidal for the promotions newly created BMF title. The resulting backlash from the mainstream media and the sports wildly dedicated fan base was so severe that not only was an acquittal for Diaz quick in the making, but the UFC’s own anti-doping czar, Jeff Novitzky , has reportedly been left openly questioning the very intellectual foundation itself in how the matter of flagged test results could potentially be handled moving forward later down the line in the future.
“You’re all on steroids, not me,” Nate Diaz announced in his October 24, 2019 Twitter social media message in effort to get out in front of the bad news shared with him privately. Attached to the Tweet, an additional message the UFC superstar took the time to type up in a screenshotted text message that read, “I’m not gonna make it out to NYC for (the) fight next week because they say I tested with elevated levels that they say might be from some tainted supplements,” Diaz wrote. “I call false on that because I only take whole food or natural food supplements. I don’t even eat meat,” Diaz explained.
“So, until UFC, USADA or whoever is (expletive) with me fixes it, I won’t be competing. I’m not gonna play their game and try and hide it or keep quiet, as they suggested,” said Diaz. It was the shot heard around the world, heads turned in the mixed martial arts community on the news someone within the UFC or USADA had suggested Diaz hide the flagged, atypical test result. According to Forbes writer Trent Reinsmith, “The story isn’t that Nate Diaz is out of UFC 244, the story is that someone allegedly told him to keep quiet. Find that person, report that story. That’s what matters,” alleges Reinsmith.
The news and mainstream narrative would quickly shift to Diaz being exonerated of any wrong doing, with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reporting that Diaz had in fact been cleared to compete at UFC 244 after all. According to the October 25, 2019 Twitter social media post, “Breaking: Nate Diaz is eligible to compete at UFC 244. USADA has ruled he has not committed an anti-doping violation. Elevated level of SARMS was traced to a contaminated organic, vegan, plant-based daily multivitamin,” reads the Okamoto report.
Originally taped to an October 27, 2019 Chael Sonnen YouTube video titled, “The difference between Jon Jones and Nate Diaz flagged USADA tests…,” Sonnen, a former UFC middleweight championship contender and current ESPN MMA analyst himself, believes that, “The apologies that are owed to Nate Diaz are bountiful, but I don’t see them coming in.”
In classic form, Sonnen didn’t skip a beat in assessing the media firestorm surrounding the Diaz flagged test result. As the Bad Guy Inc. CEO sees it, “So, if you publicly attacked Nate Diaz and now you are left to look like a fool, the apology needs to be done publicly,” said Sonnen. “You did it through social media on Twitter, you got to go back to Twitter and make it right. Or you’re just a scumbag and you can go ahead and be scumbag, I mean, it is the fight business, right?” the seasoned veteran Sonnen leveled for his viewing audience in reviewing the basic facts of the story.
“People say terrible things about one another, but those are the choices. People were very quick to turn on Nate, now I will have to say, most of the people who turned on Nate were completely clean and innocent, and just don’t know, they just don’t know how abundantly clear it is. Take Dustin Poirier by example,” said Sonnen.
“Dustin Poirier, who has never taken anything and is squeaky clean himself, he wouldn’t know. He wouldn’t be like a guy like me who is an expert in this, for all the wrong reasons, but an expert nonetheless, he just wouldn’t know,” said Professor Sonnen. “So, he is going to default to the test.” Continuing, and most interesting to consider, Sonnen went on to remark, “Just by example, a lot of the people who were hard on Nate were very innocent themselves, okay. They weren’t throwing stones and then doing something bad. But wrong? They were wrong,” said Sonnen in getting to the bottom of the matter once and for all.
The Bad Guy’s message apparently made it to all the right parties, including the Dustin Poirier camp, with Poirier himself taking to Twitter social media in an October 28, 2019 post to lay something somewhat reminiscent of an apology out to Diaz, stating that, “… I jumped the gun when news came out that he (Diaz) failed a test. He’s always been a guy who pushed for clean eating and clean sport. I shouldn’t have,” explained the former interim lightweight champion before going on to add that that it, “Doesn’t change the fact that I still want to beat his ass,” said Poirier.
Since joining BoxingInsider.com, I have written a number of articles on the topic of performance enhancing drug use, regularly calling for a paradigm shift in how anti-doping is handled in combat sports across the board. It would seem the countless hours spent kneeling at the altar of sacrifice before the “Just Bleed Gods” has finally paid off as my prayers have been delivered to the high priests of MMA who answered the call. Although it is likely that they only picked the phone up out of necessity, rather than reason, in the face of increased backlash and scrutiny surrounding the way in which the promotion and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) handle their day to day operations amid accusations of conspiracy.
As originally recorded to an October 29, 2019 Luke Thomas YouTube video titled, “Jeff Novitzky Made a Key Admission About Anti-Doping,” the longtime MMA analyst highlighted what he believes to be a potentially “radical change” in anti-doping policy that could be on the horizon.
According to Thomas, ““What is slowly beginning to don on anti-doping authorities, and who again, Jeff Novitzky does not work for USADA, he works for the UFC, is what they’ve found is it’s not merely supplements that are contaminated with trace levels of prohibited substances,” explained Thomas. “They’re finding it in water from the municipal water system, they’re finding it in medications from reputable pharmacies, they’re finding it in foods, they’re finding it in all manners of circumstances where you just can’t believe,” said Thomas.
Going on to cite an October 26, 2019 Josh Gross article for TheAthletic.com titled, “In a ‘contaminated world,’ can common sense prevail with the UFC Anti-Doping Policy?” Thomas highlighted a segment of the report of particular interest to the MMA SiriusXM radio host. As originally written by Gross, “For many years the onus of “strict liability” fell on the fighters, meaning they were the ones responsible for what is in their bodies. Now Novitzky and the UFC are arguing that in some cases the burden must shift from the athlete to the testing authority.”
Referencing Novitzky, Gross went on to write that, “Maybe 10 or 15 years ago when the labs could only detect nanogram level and you didn’t see as much contaminates in the world, that policy was appropriate,” he said. “In this day and age, with those two things happening – the low limits of detection and increased contaminates in our world – I don’t think “strict liability” is the appropriate answer,” said Novitzky.
Admittedly blown away by this revelation from the UFC anti-doping czar, Thomas went on to share his thoughts on the subject and what it could possibly mean for the future of combat sports. “Strict liability is the, is part of and a key corner stone of the intellectual underpinning that makes anti-doping what it is,” explained Thomas. Continuing, “If the world is that contaminated and the detection is that good, as they seem to believe that it is, what are you supposed to do?” a perplexed Thomas asked.
“You can’t force the onus constantly on the athlete,” said Thomas. “He actually thinks the burden should shift to the testing agency. That is an absolute, if that happens, fundamental shift in how anti-doping works. It is an absolute invert. It is literally like saying, not literally, it is kind of like saying, I want to be fair here, you have went from guilty until proven innocent to innocent until proven guilty. That is how utterly monumental that is as an admission,” Thomas concluded.
According to an October 28, 2019 MMAFighting.com article titled, “Nate Diaz blasts ‘made up’ USADA drug testing issue: ‘It was all just a big old bunch of bullsh*t’,” author Damon Martin writes, “The UFC claims that an “organic, vegan, plant-based daily multivitamin” was contaminated with the banned substance LGD-4033—a selective androgen receptor modulator banned at all times for athletes—led to the adverse findings in the drug test.”
Interestingly, the MMAFighting.com report went on to state, “Ultimately, Diaz calls the whole debacle one giant “conspiracy,” and he vehemently denies any accusations made against him, especially considering his feelings on the majority of fighters in the UFC, who he branded as cheaters a long time ago,” said Martin.
According to the report, “’Everybody I’ve been fighting has been on steroids,’ Diaz explained. ‘Most of the people, I don’t want to diss everybody, but most of the people in the UFC, champions or not champion, they’re all on f*cking steroids, and they’re going to pass their tests and they know how to pass their tests. I know, cause I know all them motherf*ckers,’” MMAFighting.com reports.
In the wake of the controversy surrounding Diaz’s reported positive test for elevated levels of a performance enhancing drug, a furor erupted in the mixed martial arts community that brought increased scrutiny and skepticism to the efficacy of the promotions testing program under the United States Anti-Doping Agency, striking at the very intellectual foundation itself in how the two entities conduct their day to day operations. The resulting fallout so severe that the UFC’s own anti-doping czar Jeff Novitzky is openly considering a complete and radical paradigm shift due to the significant pushback and increased scrutiny from the combat sports media and general public as accusations of a conspiracy mount.