It looks like USADA head Travis Tygart’s criticism of the NSAC’s drug testing policies didn’t completely fall on deaf ears after all.
At a June NSAC meeting, Tygart argued that a legitimate drug testing program needed both urine and blood testing to adequately detect the various kinds of performance enhancing drugs currently used by athletes. At the time, it didn’t seem like the commission was going to act on Tygart’s recommendations, however MMA Fighting is reporting today that the commission has made a few minor changes in their drug testing protocols. Most notably, in addition to testing for infectious diseases they will be adding analysis for PED use to fighters’ annual blood tests.
During a meeting on the subject, NSAC moved to require hemoglobin and hematocrit tests, which can indicate blood doping or PED use. Fighters are already required to submit to annual blood tests for licensing with a focus on infectious diseases.
The hemoglobin and hematocrit tests would essentially test blood for for unusual levels of red blood cell percentages. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Institute of Health, a normal test for men is between 40.7 and 50.3 percent while for women it’s 36.1 to 44.3 percent.
Standard urine tests for anabolic steroids, T/E ratio, masking agents and diuretics will also remain in use.
Additionally, any time a fighter seeks an exemption for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which is allowed if you have legitimate medical condition with a doctor’s note, they will be required to take a test for steroids immediately.
While I wouldn’t disagree with those who argue the commission still isn’t doing enough, at least they’re moving in the right direction. Small progress is still progress.
Not related to drug testing, but the commission has also reached a partnership agreement with the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the Cleveland Clinic to “advance the study of brain trauma, concussive injury and neurological health” of mixed martial artists and boxers, which is just outstanding news.