Brock Lesnar defeated Mark Hunt via unanimous decision at UFC 200 in July 2016. It was a solid victory by Lesnar, who returned from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to the octagon after a 5-year absence. However, an out-of-competition and in-competition drug test, performed by USADA as part of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, revealed two banned substances that have the possibility to increase testosterone levels. On Tuesday, Hunt filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of Nevada against Lesnar, Zuffa, LLC (i.e., the UFC) and Dana White as a result. Hunt, 42, cited eight causes of action stemming from the UFC’s handling of Lesnar’s return, including violations of the civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
According to the lawsuit, the UFC circumvented its own anti-doping policy by providing Lesnar an exemption prior to the Hunt fight. The UFC Anti-Doping Policy usually requires a four-month period within the drug testing protocol in which an inactive athlete must avail himself to testing prior to a return fight. However, the UFC’s policy allows an exemption to this rule. The UFC has not cited this exemption as reason for waiving Lesnar’s testing period. Prior to his positive tests, USADA had tested Lesnar five times prior to UFC 200, with each of those tests coming back negative. The lawsuit claims that the UFC either knew or did not want to know Lesnar was taking Performance Enhancing Drugs.
Lesnar failed an out-of-competition (June 28, 2016 test) and in-competition (post-fight on July 9, 2016) USADA drug test. He had Clomiphene and 4-Hydroxyclomiphene in his samples. According to the lawsuit, these are “Post Cycle Therapy” substances believed to be used after a period of strength training with anabolic steroids or similar prohibited substances. Lesnar was suspended one year by USADA from MMA competition. In addition, the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who also has joint jurisdiction, agreed to a settlement with Lesnar resulting in a one-year suspension, $250,000 fine (Lesnar made $2.5 million at UFC 200, Hunt made $700,000) and changing his win against Hunt to a no-contest. Lesnar will be available to return on July 9, 2017.
In order to succeed on his RICO claim, Hunt must prove (1) conduct, (2) of an enterprise, (3) through a pattern, (4) of racketeering activity (known as “predicate acts”), (5) causing injury to the plaintiff by the conduct constituting the violation. Here, Hunt claims that UFC’s pattern of allowing athletes to possibly take performance-enhancing drugs and compete against athletes that are clean, provides a basis for a RICO claim. As a result, the UFC realizes revenue from ticket sales, PPV buys, among other things.
The Complaint tracks this pattern all the way back to UFC 152 in 2012, where Vitor Belfort was allowed to fight against then light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Belfort was granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) and allowed Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), however this information was not known to Jones and the general public. An investigation uncovered that the UFC had knowledge of lab test results prior to the fight that Belfort had two and half times the normal testosterone rate within his system, yet did not disclose this information. Belfort ended up losing to Jones at UFC 152, but the discovery of UFC’s knowledge caused concern among fighters. The incident occurred prior to the implementation of the UFC’s current Anti-Doping Policy. At that time, the athletic commissions in which UFC events took place addressed issues of drug testing. In certain instances, where there were no regulatory body, the UFC acted as its own regulator.
Hunt also claims personal injuries which include damage to reputation, loss of opportunity of career advancement and further earning potential.
Hunt’s attorneys embedded a picture to illustrate the issue with Lesnar pummeling a covering Hunt:
This is not the first time that Hunt has faced a competitor that had taken a banned substance. During a March 20, 2016 fight, Hunt knocked out heavyweight Frank Mir. It was discovered that Mir tested positive for a prohibited substance (oral turinabol) classified as an anabolic steroid. In the past, Mir was granted a TUE for TRT, but it was not granted in his fight with Hunt.
The UFC has yet to provide an official response to the lawsuit as of the time of this writing.