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VP explains UFC's policy in handling drug test results of 244 headliner Nate Diaz

Nate Diaz answers questions during UFC 244 media

Nate Diaz answers questions during UFC 244 media day in Manhattan on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. Credit: Newsday/Mark La Monica

UFC welterweight Nate Diaz went public with his positive test results by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency last week —  a result he was cleared of a day later. Would MMA followers have been in the dark about it otherwise?

“Probably,” Jeff Novitzky, the UFC senior vice president of athlete and health performance, said on Friday after UFC 244 weigh-ins in New York City.

Diaz is in the main event against Jorge Masvidal on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

“You want to get as much transparency as you can in an anti-doping program,” Novitzky said. “But when that impedes on the fairness and due process of an athlete, and that’s unfortunately something that we saw. We saw positive tests early on, where we’d announce them right away and that athlete is labeled a cheater and it’s hard to reel back in that headline.”

The USADA has administered the UFC’s anti-doping program since 2015. When the program first started, if an athlete was flagged for a potential doping violation, it would be announced immediately. That changed in September 2018 when the UFC switched to waiting until after adjudication of the case to make an announcement.

“Had Nate not talked about it,” Novitzky said, “It wouldn’t be out there.”

The day after Diaz made his announcement, he was cleared of any wrongdoing. The UFC released a statement saying Diaz did not commit any anti-doping violations and was not suspended or subject to any sanctions despite the presence of banned substance LGD-4033, a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) also known as Ligandrol and used as a performance enhancer. Diaz had provided an out-of-competition sample.

While the USADA reviewed the test as an atypical finding, further lab testing confirmed “two bottles of the same organic, vegan, plant-based daily multivitamin that Mr. Diaz was using were each contaminated with” the banned substance, according to the UFC’s statement.

On Oct. 24, Diaz wrote on his social media accounts that he was flagged by the USADA. Diaz, a vegan, always has been outspoken against those who use performance-enhancing drugs.

In his self-outing, he wrote, “I'm not gonna play their game and try and hide it or keep quiet, as they suggested. I'm not gonna have my name tainted as a cheater like the other [expletive] who keep quiet until after the fight just so that they can get paid. [expletive] cheaters."

"I don't give a [expletive] about some money over my dignity and my legacy. I'm not playing along with this [expletive]. I'm not staying quiet and figuring it out after the fight. That's cheating.”

Novitzky said Friday that he was the one who spoke to Diaz when they first found out about the positive test.

“We changed our policy now where we don’t publicly announce things," Novitzky recalled telling Diaz. "We have this threshold for this substance. I think you’re going to fall under [that threshold]. So look, if you don’t want it out there, then I wouldn’t tell anybody or not talk about that.

“Anyone who insinuates that means we weren’t going to tell the commission, that is absolutely false.”

UFC 244 weigh-in results

Main card, 10 p.m. Eastern on ESPN+ PPV

Welterweight: Nate Diaz (170.4) vs. Jorge Masvidal (169.6)

Middleweight: Kelvin Gastelum (184) vs. Darren Till (186)

Welterweight: Stephen Thompson (170.4) vs. Vicente Luque (170.2)

Heavyweight: Derrick Lewis (265) vs. Blagoy Ivanov (257.4)

Lightweight: Gregor Gillespie (155.4) vs. Kevin Lee (155.6)

UFC 244 prelims, 8 p.m. on ESPN 2

Light heavyweight: Corey Anderson (204.6) vs. Johnny Walker (204.8)

Featherweight: Shane Burgos (145.8) vs. Makwan Amirkhani (145.4)

Middleweight: Brad Tavares (184.6) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (185)

Heavyweight: Andrei Arlovski (244) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (246.2)

UFC 244 early prelims, 6:30 p.m. on UFC Fight Pass

Women's flyweight: Katlyn Chookagian (125.4) vs. Jennifer Maia (127.2)

Welterweight: Lyman Good (169.6) vs. Chance Rencountre (170.8)

Featherweight: Julio Arce (145.4) vs. Hakeem Dawodu (145.8)

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