UFC middleweight Cung Le tested positive for an “excess level of human grown hormone in his system” following his Aug. 23 UFC Fight Night Macau bout against Michael Bisping, UFC officials revealed to MMAWeekly.com on Tuesday.
Initially levied a nine-month suspension, upon further review, the UFC increased the duration to 12 months and required Le to pass a drug test before competing in the UFC again.
SEE ALSO: Cung Le Tests Positive for HGH
The 42-year-old fighter, in a statement to MMAWeekly.com on Thursday, said he was caught completely off guard by the test result. Le also called the testing procedure into question, pointing out that the lab used to conduct the drug testing was not World Anti-Doping Agency approved and did not follow WADA’s prescribed protocol.
“I was completed (sic) surprised at the results of my recent drug test,” said Le. “I was informed by the UFC that I passed my pre and post-fight drug test as well as the majority of the blood tests with the only abnormality being an elevated level of hGH being determined to be present. I tested negative for Anabolics, Stimulants, Diuretics, Masking Agents and my Testosterone levels were within World Anti- Doping Agency and Nevada State Athletic Commission Approved limits a total of three times over two urine tests and a blood test collected both before and after my fight, which is what makes these hGH result so difficult for me to accept as correct.
“This has also caused me to call the testing procedures into question. I have been informed that there are many possible reasons for a level of hGH to exceed what is allowed unknowingly and my doctors are researching those possibilities, which may include a much more serious health concern. I have also been informed about the unreliability of the current hGH testing that exists and it’s high rate of inaccuracy. I want to reiterate to my fans and the fans of mixed martial arts everywhere that I did not take any performance enhancing drugs or anything that would cause my natural level of hGH to exceed normal levels.”
While the accuracy of hGH testing has been called into question in the past, it’s not necessarily that detecting an elevated level of hGH is not accurate, but how that result is interpreted.
There are several variables involved when determining whether an elevated hGH level indicates abuse or a naturally occurring fluctuation, which WADA admits occurs naturally.
“Since the total levels of hGH secreted into circulation vary naturally, are widely fluctuating over time and may be influenced by several factors not associated with doping, it is practically impossible to develop an anti-doping test based simply on the measurement of increased total hGH concentrations,” according to WADA’s website. “However, doping with recombinant hGH (recGH) alters the naturally constant proportions between the different isoforms of hGH present in blood of an individual. The hGH Isoform Differential Immunoassays were developed to detect these changes in the proportions of different hGH isoforms after recombinant recGH injection.”
Le and his manager, Gary Ibarra, argue that the lab used to process the fighter’s test did not go the extra mile in determining the variables necessary to determine whether his increased level of hGH was abuse or naturally occurring.
“Upon our independent review of the laboratory procedures when testing for PED’s, it has been clear that the possibilities for incorrect test results are many. We were informed that the laboratory was advised to use the WADA approved rules and procedures when conducting the testing that they administer, yet the lab in Hong Kong contracted to do the testing was not WADA approved, which was surprising since there was a WADA approved lab available in Beijing China,” Ibarra said in a statement to MMAWeekly.com.
“The blood sample was collected post-fight when the natural hGH levels are the least reliable as the body in an attempt to heal itself will naturally release more hGH, but even more of a concern is that the more reliable and WADA required test for hGH known as the IGF-1 test was never conducted on the sample. When we contacted the UFC to request that this more reliable test be conducted, we were informed that this was not possible as the lab only retained the sample for a week following the fight. WADA regulations require that samples are to be frozen and held for 10 Years, so that they can be retested in the event of a challenge.
“WADA rules state that when testing for hGH, the lab must use the ‘Isoform Differential Immunoassays’ or ‘the Isoforms Test’ a procedure which requires the IGF-1 test be performed. ￼￼Again, this test was not performed by the lab and was could not subsequently be performed as the ￼sample had been destroyed.”
Le was under scrutiny in the days leading up to his bout with Bisping, fielding questions from reporters about a photo of him looking exceptionally lean for a man his age. In response, Le reportedly denied he was taking any performance-enhancing drugs and explained that his physique came strictly from diet and exercise.
In the bout, Le lost via third-round technical knockout after getting overwhelmed by Bisping for a majority of the contest.
Neither Le nor his camp has indicated any further action on their part to refute the test results, but Ibarra told MMAWeekly.com, “Cung Le has been a professional martial artist for over 20 years and has always conducted himself with honor showing a deep respect for his supporters and opponents, to have him made a public example based on suspect testing procedures conducted by a lab unfamiliar with the WADA rules is irresponsible. Cung is extremely disappointed at the results of the test and that the UFC would make such an unprecedented decision to extend his suspension from 9 to 12 months when the testing procedures remain unclear.”