Junior dos Santos is typically perceived as a cheery guy without a lot of issues with anyone. But when USADA came knocking on his door with a suspension on Aug. 18, 2017, everything came crumbling down. USADA claimed that dos Santos tested positive for the banned substance hydrocholorothiazide, a diuretic. But last month, USADA came to a conclusion in their investigation and deemed that dos Santos and two other Brazilian fighters took contaminated supplements that led to the failed tests. USADA reduced the suspensions of all three fighters, making them eligible to fight again immediately.
"I hope they do some change because it doesn't make any sense. On me, they only found a very small amount of diuretic, which is not drug, not PED," dos Santos told CBS Sports. "The diuretic they found on me, I did some research on hydrocholorothiazide and that diuretic would not be effective. All the doctors I talk to say the same thing, it wouldn't be enough to hide anything even if I took a lot. I would have to use something better to hide anything like USADA said. In my case, it was trace amounts of diuretic, 0.5, which is nothing.
"And they took me out for nine months, almost 10 months to investigate, knowing that it was a contamination because of the amount and because of the substance. That's clear for me. I was champion of the world without even knowing about those things. My goal is to be champion again, the same way without using drugs. It's a choice of mine to not do those kinds of things. And I beat people who do that.
"I feel relieved after this whole nightmare I was living. I never expect to live [through] something like that. I don't do those kind of things. It feels good to have my next fight scheduled already, so it feels like I'm back in the game, you know, I'm ready to show to the whole world a little bit more of Junior dos Santos."
USADA CEO Travis Tygart was happy to come to a resolution on the matter, even though it took nearly nine months to reach it.
"We appreciate the cooperation of the athletes and international authorities in getting to the bottom of this situation, as it will hopefully prevent these problems from occurring in the future," Tygart said. "It's unacceptable that these compounding pharmacies produced contaminated supplements for the public. And it's another unfortunate example of why athletes must use extreme caution if using nutritional supplements. All too often, supplement products contain undeclared substances, including prohibited drugs, that can be dangerous to an athlete's health. We are doing all we can to ensure that these types of suppliers are held accountable for introducing dangerous products like these into the marketplace."
Dos Santos (18-5, 12 KOs) has been through the ringer over the last few years. After losing the third fight of his trilogy with Cain Velasquez, dos Santos is just 2-2 in the Octagon over the last four years. Two of those fights came against current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. But with the USADA suspension and a shoulder injury that required surgery, dos Santos has been unable to get any kind of rhythm with his fight schedule.
"I have with me that I'm a high-level fighter, I'm a high-level heavyweight. I'm suffering because I'm doing one fight per year. My last fight for the title that I lost to Stipe. I fought Ben Rothwell and I finally got a good performance in that fight and I felt really good," dos Santos said. "I said 'man, this is the time I'm gonna make things happen again.' Then I have an injury in my shoulder and I have to go through a surgery and I was one year out without training, without anything.
"And I went to that [title] fight, one year without fighting, one year without training. The fighters who get involved with martial arts, they know we have to have a good [amount of fights] to get in shape and have good timing in our fighting. I wasn't getting that time. So I went to that fight and things went wrong, actually I was following the strategy and kicking his leg, and I was doing my best. Stipe knows he was feeling those kicks but, you know, it's the heavyweight division. He connect a good punch and I lost the fight. But then again, because of this USADA thing, I'm one year out again."
Now, dos Santos already has his next fight lined up, headlining UFC Fight Night Boise against a fresh face to UFC: Blagoy Ivanov on July 14. He is really hoping to see some changes in USADA before it's all said and done.
"It's very frustrating, I was very mad, man. It was running like politics in Brazil," dos Santos said. "For me, I was feeling the same way because I couldn't do anything and whatever they say, that's the rule. I'm not saying it's wrong, but for me, I've been playing the fair game all the time, not using drugs, not using anything. The only company that could tell everybody that I was telling the truth was USADA, and they didn't do that, they did the opposite.
"If it happens again, its going to be even more. I can get more time without being guilty."