Exclusive: Cung Le and Victor Conte Explain How Drug Test Was the Failure

October 29, 2014
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Following his bout with Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night 48 on Aug. 23 in Macao, Cung Le tested positive for elevated Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels, but that didn’t quite tell the entirety of the story.

Le, a 20-year Vietnamese-American martial arts veteran, was initially suspended by the organization for nine months, which was quickly escalated to a 12-month suspension upon further review by UFC senior management.

Le’s reputation immediately fell into a downward spiral.

Maintaining his innocence, Le set in motion the first appeal of a positive drug test at a self-regulated UFC event. However, the case would never make it to arbitrators.

SEE ALSO: Cung Le Sets Wheels in Motion for Landmark Appeal of UFC Drug Test

With the test result being reported as surpassing the normal limits for Human Growth Hormone, the entire story had yet to be told. Citing information provided with medical advice on the reported elevated total HGH present in Le’s system, the UFC eventually determined that it indeed did not prove that he took performance-enhancing drugs prior to competing at UFC Fight Night. As a result, the UFC rescinded Le’s suspension nearly a month after it initially announced he failed the test.

Cung LeThere are many variables that are included as the deciding factors on whether an elevated HGH level indicates a naturally occurring fluctuation or an athlete’s abuse.

WADA-approved laboratories provide testing of human growth hormone on blood samples. They do not, however, do a total human growth hormone concentration test by itself. Erythropoietin (EPO) and Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) tests are both done on urine, not on blood. For anti-doping purposes, blood is not used to test for testosterone either. These are important details that bolster Le’s claim to his innocence.

On the front lines of support for Le is famed, if controversial, Balco founder Victor Conte, the man that’s been at the center of the sports world’s PEDs narrative. Conte points the finger directly at the UFC for the mismanagement of Le’s case and outlines multiple discrepancies.

“Well, what’s interesting here is, and I’m going to point out the specifics; these things I want to point out to you illustrate the incompetence of the UFC and their understanding of PED testing and how they are just not presenting the facts as Cung, and I, and Gary (Ibarra, Le’s manager) know them to be,” Conte told MMAWeekly.com.

“We’ll start with the very first sentence, ‘at UFC Fight Night Macao on August 23rd, the UFC contracted with an independent drug testing laboratory in Hong Kong to perform urinalysis testing on all fighters on the card.’ Well, let me say this, first of all, there was no urine testing done by the Hong Kong lab for Cung Le. That’s just a false statement; it’s not true. We have copies of the test results and Quest Diagnostic Laborites, specifically the lab in Kansas, and they took the urine samples for Cung at least, and everything that Cung has received from the UFC. They did pre and post analysis on his urine samples and they looked at the complete battery of anabolic steroids, stimulants, cocaine, marijuana, the whole battery that they do. And, the interesting part is even on that it says that this is a pre-employment (drug test).

“So, first of all, the basic information saying urine samples by all fighters on the card were done at the Hong Kong lab. That is just simply false regarding Cung Le, because the results that we have say Quest Diagnostic Laborites in Kansas. So, they start out by providing misinformation, the first sentence is just factually wrong. The second sentence in part exposes why the UFC should not be doing their own testing, and whoever is advising them. The second sentence reads, ‘additionally the UFC requested the laboratory to test blood samples from four fighters for human growth hormone (HGH), erythropoietin (EPO), and testosterone.’ Now, let’s take a look at that test by test. Yes, WADA approved laboratories do testing of human growth hormone on blood samples, but they don’t do total human growth hormone concentration test by itself, but I’m sure you’ve read they do the isoform test, the biomarker test, and the serum IGF-1 test. So, it’s like a table has to have at least three legs in order for it to stand up and they didn’t even do any of the three legs on the testing. They looked at something for clinical purposes, as other scientists have said, like (Dr.) Don Catlin and others, the test is worthless, it’s useless, ignore it. What they did is not an anti-doping test, the growth hormone test they did,” Conte continued.

  • DamianCross

    I think Le cares a little too much about his reputation. At the end of the day he’s a San Shou guy who came into the MMA game very late. Nobody was expecting him to have an MMA career that would go this long or this far up the ladder. He doesn’t have to defend that career choice, and he’s not going to change any more minds by pushing the doping issue this far either.

    • Seth

      I guess he defends his name more, based on his attempts to be an actor and stuff outside of MMA. I dont think he cares much about his MMA career.

      • Cung Le Bro

        Yeah, I agree.

        He has done well for himself financially. And at age 40, with movie credits, his own gym, and a solid MMA career, I doubt he cares as much about his MMA career as some of these younger doods that has to fight for a living.

  • dandogood

    Why all the concern over Cung? Cung just got destroyed by an average Bisbing. Beaten and bloodied into a rice pulp of 40 year old Cunger. Cung is a journeyman UFC fighter usually a win for any opponent. Bisbing beat the rice out of Cunger. No big deal. and a juiced up Cungie at that.

    • dandogood’s mom

      You sound racist foo. I dare you to get offline, fly to San Jose, and say this to Cung Le in front of his face. Call him Cunger or Cungie (your preference) and see what he does.

      I dare you.

      Being a 40 year old veteran and still being able to fight at the top 10 level in the UFC is impressive in and of itself. There is zero shame in losing to Bisping given his career and success.

      • dandogood

        cungie is average and slow and now bloodied and drugged up and shamed.

        • dandogood’s mom

          You mean average for a main card UFC fighter?

          The dude is 40 years old dumbdogood. And he still compete at the top level of MMA.

          He doesn’t care about you bro. He will just LOL at you.

    • mmalive

      Hey dandogood, RACIST BASTARD. Guys like you are the slime and filth of the earth. Feel free to fly to San Jose and tell make the same comment to Cung’s face. He will smash or ko you EASY. Ooh Bisbing is a joke. Got Koed by Vitor, Beat by Tim Ken., and will be smashed by Rockhold.

      • dandogood

        hey you rickshaw pulling rice eating slope be cool.

      • dandigoodie’s mom

        Cung’s not gonna do anything. He will just laugh his ass off at this MMA nerd.

        Had another accomplished MMA fighter made those comments, I am sure Cung would be upset. But dandowhoooo?

        Do you care what a handicap kid thinks about you?

  • Wow. What a load of slick talking from Conte. It’s also surprising to me that our esteemed author of this article used such praising language to characterize Conte’s verbiage (“Quite the insight and statement from Conte…), which in reality is almost entirely hot air and not a lot of substance regarding why Le’s elevated HGH level could have been a false positive. Disappointing reportage.

  • Bendo’s Abs

    Of all the people to defend you innocence….Victor Conte…BALCO…Hello? Victor Conte = smoking gun.

    • Seth

      Well…at least he knows what hes talking about, right? Hard to find better expert at PEDs than that guy.

  • TheCerealKiller

    Sounds like the Chewbacca defense.


  • dandogood

    Cung isn’t any good anyway losing to the average Bisbing. Cunger should retire at 40 and being average and a win for all opponents.

    • Guest

      Whoever said Bisping was an easy opponent? You couldn’t beat him either so that’ll make you below average.

  • 4g63mark

    I’m really glad to see Victor Conte asserting himself into the MMA realm. If the UFC is messing with a fighters livelihood by fumbling drug test info, and outright lying about procedures used, an expert like Conte is needed to catch them.

  • dandogood

    Cungie got demolished bloody and battered by the Bisbing who is quite average. Face it UFC fans Cunger is not very good and way to old to compete. Scott Smith put Cungie ut cold in the Strikeforce days. Cungie has a few slow kicks and not much else and bleeds well.

  • dandogood

    Cungie needs to retire and just give rickshaw rides in San Jose. Fight hunger with Cunger free rice snacks with a rickshaw ride from Cungee LEE.