USADA suspends Dillashaw 2 years for EPO use

The United States Anti-Doping Agency has suspended former UFC champion TJ Dillashaw for two years for testing positive for recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) before a flyweight title fight against Henry Cejudo on Jan. 19 in New York.

USADA officials announced the suspension, which Dillashaw did not contest, on Tuesday. The news comes less than one month after Dillashaw willingly relinquished his bantamweight championship, which the UFC almost certainly would have stripped him of based on Tuesday's announcement.

"We all know the pressures to win at all levels of all sport are real and intense," USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said in a released statement. "It is exactly why strong anti-doping efforts are necessary to protect clean athletes' rights, health and safety and to ensure that those who do succumb to these pressures and decide to break the rules will be held accountable in a real and meaningful way, as in this case."

The two-year suspension is the maximum sanction for a nonspecified substance under the UFC's anti-doping program. It is dated retroactively to Jan. 18, 2019, the day the test was submitted. EPO is a peptide hormone used to stimulate red blood cell production. It is typically administered via intravenous injection.

Dillashaw is the second UFC fighter to test positive for EPO since the UFC and USADA partnered in 2015. Lightweight Gleison Tibau was also suspended for two years for EPO.

"I'm quite familiar with EPO from my days investigating professional cycling teams," UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told JJA Sport Studio. "It's a very effective substance. It's not a substance you find in contaminated supplements; it's injectable only. You have to know what you're doing when it enters your system.

"On a scale of seriousness in anti-doping, it's up near the top."

Dillashaw suffered a first-round knockout loss to Cejudo in the flyweight title fight, which was historic in that Dillashaw was attempting to become the first active champion to drop down in weight to capture a second belt.

His team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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The New York State Athletic Commission issued Dillashaw its own one-year suspension for the failed drug test. Dillashaw will serve the suspensions concurrently, meaning he will be re-eligible to compete in January 2021.

Dillashaw, 33. He is a two-time UFC bantamweight champion.

In 2017, Cody Garbrandt, one of Dillashaw's former teammates in Sacramento, California, accused Dillashaw of using performance-enhancing drugs in the buildup to a bantamweight title fight in New York. Dillashaw rebutted Garbrandt's claims and went on to knock him out twice, in November 2017 and August 2018.

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