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Texas expands drug testing for UFC 136

Heavyweight Dave Herman (right), shown here at UFC 131 in June, said he was removed from UFC 136 for failing a drug test. (Kathleen Hinkel/Icon SMI)

It’s no secret that Texas is viewed as one of the more lenient locales when it comes to licensing combat sports’ athletes.

In 2010, boxer Antonio Margarito resumed his career in the Lone Star state despite being denied licensure in both Nevada and California after he served a one-year suspension for a hand-wrapping scandal.

Regarding MMA, the state’s governmental agency hasn’t required any drug testing of its applicants in the past, and approved two fighters, Josh Barnett and Chael Sonnen, for licensure in 2011 despite both having unresolved licensing issues with other state commissions pertaining to positive drug tests.

At least the days where mixed martial artists bypass drug testing altogether in Texas might be behind us.

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation required four contestants to undergo drug testing surrounding UFC 136 on Oct. 8 at the Toyota Center in Houston -- the second time in four months that the state body has asked this of MMA applicants since it started regulating the sport in 2003.

Two fighters were asked to complete drug testing prior to their bouts, while another two were tested following their bouts, said Susan Stanford, the public information officer for the TDLR. Stanford said the pre-fight tests were paid for by the contestants as part of their application process and the regulatory body funded the post-fight testing.

The TDLR won’t identify who was tested, what drugs they were tested for, or the results, pending a review from the agency’s general counsel to determine if this information is protected under the state’s Public Information Act.

Heavyweight Dave Herman identified himself as one of those tested pre-fight in late September. Herman told Sirius XM’s Clinch Gear Radio that he’d been removed from the UFC 136 roster due to a positive pre-fight urinalysis for marijuana.

Marc Ratner, the UFC’s Vice-President for Regulatory Affairs, said the TDLR informed him it had tested the two championship bouts at UFC 136. That night, lightweight champion Frankie Edgar defeated Gray Maynard and bantamweight champion Jose Aldo notched his fourth title defense against Kenny Florian.

In addition, Ratner said the promotion conducted its own supplemental random testing of four fighters for “illegal street drugs” and performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids, through an independent laboratory both pre- and post-fight. Ratner said the laboratory selected which fighters would be randomly tested from a provided list.

Since 2007, the UFC has organized drug testing for its competitors in places that lack a regulatory agency to do it themselves, from the United Kingdom to Japan, which the promotion will visit for the first time in 11 years this February.

Ratner confirmed that UFC 136 marked the first time the promotion had ordered additional testing on top of a regulatory body’s own requirements because of the minimum testing conducted in Texas. The UFC has ordered its own independent testing in Texas at previous events, including UFC 103 in September 2009, when the regulatory body opted not to.

If any UFC 136 tests came back positive, Ratner said the promotion would notify the fighter and any media that asks for the information, as well as the TDLR for their own disciplinary purposes.

Stanford said the TDLR requested its first drug test of an MMA applicant for Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum in June.

The TDLR rep wouldn’t comment if the agency’s drug-testing policies have changed, but said the executive director always reserves the right to request testing for any applicant if he feels there is cause, per state guidelines.

-- Loretta Hunt

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