Josh Barnett cleared to fight, receives only ‘public reprimand’ for USADA violation
UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett expected to get a four-year suspension after talks with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency broke down following his first alleged violation with the UFC’s anti-doping agency.
But after heading to arbitration on March 6 with USADA, Barnett, 40, has been almost completely vindicated, emerging with no suspension after coming up positive for the banned substance ostarine.
Instead, Barnett receives a “public reprimand” for a failed drug test in late 2016. He is free and clear to fight.
“Given the source was established to be a contaminated supplement, along with the athlete’s care and diligence concerning the nutritional products consumed, the arbitrator determined that a public reprimand was appropriate,” a USADA press release stated.
Independent arbitrator Richard H. McLaren, the chief arbitrator from McLaren Global Sport Solutions, Inc., wrote in a 21-page decision that Barnett “is not a drug cheat.”
“He unknowingly ingested a contaminated product,” McLaren wrote. “In so doing, he did commit an (anti-doping policy violation) because he had a prohibited substance in his sample but he did not actively engage in attempting, in any way, to engage in the use of a prohibited substance.”
USADA spokesperson Brad Horn declined additional comment on the decision. MMAjunkie was unable to reach Barnett for comment.
In a January interview with MMAjunkie, Barnett (35-8 MMA, 7-3 UFC) expressed frustration with the direction of his case, which stemmed from a positive out-of-competition drug test conducted by USADA on Dec. 9, 2016.
Barnett refused to settle with the UFC’s anti-doping partner after working to discover the source of the positive test, which USADA agreed was tied to a supplement he took containing tribulus terrestris, a legal herb purported to boost natural testosterone.
Barnett said despite the finding of a contaminated supplement, USADA factored in a 2009 anti-doping violation from the California State Athletic Commission that upped his potential punishment to four years. The anti-doping agency initially offered a two-year term before offering an 18-month suspension as a reduced punishment.
“I’m not against the idea and the spirit of USADA, or what an independent drug testing program is for – not at all,” Barnett said. “I don’t have an issue with any of these things, and even though I took a supplement that was tainted, I’m OK with having to go through the process to test the supplements. I’m totally fine with that.
“The only thing I protest to is being hammered after the fact, after finding that I am innocent of any wrongdoing, and instead of moving on and considering the time spent researching and finding the data and appealing my case as enough – the extra efforts to come after me, that’s where I draw the line.”
The positive test was Barnett’s fourth public failure as a professional MMA fighter. In 2001, he received a warning after failing a post-fight test for steroids after UFC 34. One year later, he was stripped of the UFC heavyweight title after failing a steroid test in the wake of a win over Randy Couture.
Barnett most recently fought in the UFC in September 2016, when he submitted ex-UFC champ Andrei Arlovski at UFC Fight Night 93.
Several fighters have received suspensions stemming from supplements contaminated with ostarine. Barnett is the first to challenge a USADA anti-doping violation under the UFC’s anti-doping program and emerge without a serious punishment.
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