T.J. Dillashaw said before he fought Henry Cejudo in January that victory would clinch his standing as the UFC’s top pound-for-pound fighter.
Instead, in defeat, he’s been exposed as just another drug cheat.
The Orange County-based Dillashaw on Tuesday accepted a two-year ban from competition from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which found his Jan. 18 urine sample contained the banned performance-enhancing substance recombinant human erythropoietin, or rHuEPO.
In an official statement on the matter, USADA reported the synthetic hormone is “used to stimulate the body’s production of red blood cells, thereby increasing oxygen transport and aerobic power.”
The substance was used by world-class cyclists to cheat during the notorious Lance Armstrong era of seven Tour de France victories, and former world-champion boxer Shane Mosley was implicated for using it following the BALCO raids.
“It increases stamina and endurance and makes it much easier to breathe during a fight,” Victor Conte, the BALCO mastermind, said of EPO. “It’s probably the single most powerful PED that exists. If you had to select one, that’s it.”
Conte said that during his BALCO era he distributed EPO to a world-class 60-meter sprinter because “you can train for 2½ hours like a beast.”
The substance is used in the treatment of those with AIDS and kidney failure, and, unlike some steroid metabolites, it doesn’t show up in contaminated nutritional supplements.
“He knows the B sample will replicate the A sample, so what option,” other than accepting the ban, is there?” Conte asked. “It’s a training drug and helps you with competition.”
Dillashaw was pursuing Cejudo’s flyweight belt while standing as bantamweight champion, a demanding test in the octagon complicated by his need to cut 10 pounds to fight at 125 pounds.
He made the cut but was finished by Los Angeles-born Cejudo in 32 seconds on Jan. 19 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, and joins UFC legends Jon Jones and Anderson Silva with a legacy stained by a positive drug test.
“We all know the pressures to win at all levels of all sport are real and intense,” USADA Chief Executive Travis Tygart wrote in his company’s 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.”