UFC fighter Rob Font has been cleared by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in an out-of-the-ordinary doping case.
Font, a top bantamweight, had an adverse finding in a drug test related to his win over Cody Garbrandt at UFC Fight Night on May 22 in Las Vegas, his team wrote Friday in a social media statement. However, USADA, the UFC's anti-doping partner, found that the substance Font used was not prohibited and it determined that he did not commit any violation, per a USADA letter sent to Font attached to the statement.
"Rob has NEVER taken any prohibited substances and USADA has already cleared him of any wrongdoing," Team Font's statement read.
According to the statement, Font tested positive for the metabolite 4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid (4-CPA), which itself is not a prohibited substance. However, one of the parent compounds of 4-CPA -- called meclofenoxate -- is a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited stimulant. In January, WADA issued a memo to laboratories that any amount of 4-CPA over 1,000 ng/ml means that the metabolite had to have come from the prohibited meclofenoxate.
However, after doing further testing, USADA has come to the conclusion that the memo was not correct -- that 4-CPA over the threshold can come from the ingredients of products like suntan lotion. Font's team was able to provide USADA with 35 pages listing what he ingested leading into the bout. It turned out, per the statement, that hair and skin care products Font was using contained chlorphenesin, which is what USADA believes caused the metabolite 4-CPA to show up in his system. Chlorphenesin is not a prohibited substance. Per Team Font's statement, the UFC informed it that every fighter on the May 22 UFC card had some traces of 4-CPA in their system.
"Based on the foregoing, USADA is satisfied that product(s) you were using (prior to your sample collection) which contained chlorphenesin as an ingredient was the cause of your positive test," USADA wrote to Font. "Therefore, because USADA has concluded that your positive test was caused by a non-prohibited substance, the matter will be closed out as no violation."
Font is still facing a doping case with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), which is on the agenda for the commission's meeting Wednesday. NSAC executive director Bob Bennett declined comment Friday.
"NSAC has all of the above facts in this case, but has not yet closed it out," the statement from Font's team read. "As with any athlete in an open case, Rob will serve a temporary suspension until the case is closed. As we have all along in this process, we will cooperate in every way, shape, and form with them."
In a statement provided to ESPN, UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky blasted WADA and its recent memo regarding 4-CPA, which has not yet been rescinded.
"This is a true 'false positive' case," Novitzky said in a statement. "And the blame lays squarely on the shoulders of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Their scientists put forth guidelines to their accredited laboratories that were flat out wrong. We know definitively that the use of an allowed substance, chlorphenesin, commonly found in cosmetics, can result in 4-CPA levels well in excess of 1000 ng/ml. I'm very happy that USADA was able to resolve Rob's case quickly, but I'm very disappointed that WADA has let down clean athletes with a lack of care in instituting flawed scientific guidelines, that as of today, still have not been rescinded. WADA needs to act immediately."
Font (19-4) has won four straight and the win over Garbrandt, the former UFC bantamweight champion, was the biggest of his career. ESPN has Font ranked No. 4 in the world at 135 pounds. Font, 34, is 9-3 in the UFC since his debut in 2014.
"Team Font is a HUGE supporter of anti-doping and a clean UFC, but this guidance put forth by WADA let us down in this case," Team Font's statement read. "We hope this incident opens some eyes and leads to them making some changes. This mistake was not our own, we did everything by the book, and unfortunately not everyone will believe us."