PFL hires USADA to run its anti-doping program

After 10 fighters failed drug tests this year, PFL is taking action.

The MMA promotion has partnered with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to run its new drug-testing and anti-doping program, according to an email from PFL president of fighter operations Ray Sefo to fighters and teams obtained Tuesday by ESPN.

Sefo wrote that the program will begin immediately with "educational sessions" for fighters starting as early as this week.

USADA also runs the UFC's anti-doping program, along with the program for U.S. Olympic athletes. Sefo wrote that the PFL's system will be "similar" but different from the UFC because of PFL's season-and-playoffs format that is more like a major team sport. There is already a website set up for PFL athletes at pfl.usada.org to gain information on what substances are banned and other details.

"This program is part of the PFL's commitment as a fighter first organization to supporting a safe, level playing field and advancing the highest levels of competition and the integrity of the sport," Sefo wrote.

PFL executives made it clear in the aftermath of the drug-test failures that the promotion was seeking a solution and that discussions were being had with USADA. Ten fighters, including former PFL champions Robert Wilkinson and Bruno Cappelozza, tested positive for banned substances after the first half of the PFL 2023 regular season in April. All were suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and pulled from the PFL's season, which caused an upheaval.

USADA told ESPN in a statement that PFL fighters will, in the future, have to fill out their whereabouts information, like athletes in the UFC, Olympics and Paralympics must do. UFC fighters have an app on their phones where they must regularly input where they will be at all times, so that USADA sample collectors can show up to test them randomly. Currently, only PFL fighters who remain in the 2023 playoffs will have to fill out their whereabouts information.Other athletes are still subject to in- and out-of-competition drug testing from USADA. Athletes who don't stay up to date on their whereabouts can face a violation that would result in a suspension similar in length to a ban for testing positive for a prohibited substance.

"By the end of the year, a full testing pool will be implemented, and Whereabouts filings will be required for all athletes," USADA wrote to ESPN in a statement.