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Junior dos Santos laments impact of doping controversy on his career

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

Junior dos Santos wants you to know he’s not a drug cheat. The former UFC heavyweight champion also wants you to know he’s careful about what he puts in his body, and takes great care to make certain he stays within the UFC’s rules.

Despite the caution, dos Santos was caught in the middle of an anti-doping probe that he fears harmed his reputation forever.

“Someone hears that you failed [an anti-doping test], but do they know what happened and do they pay attention when I was [cleared by USADA]?” dos Santos said. “It was very hard. It was terrible. I had a very difficult time. To be accused of something like this that I did not do, it is terrible. People were saying bad things about me. I couldn’t fight. I would never wish this on anyone.”

The test failure came in August, and forced dos Santos out of a significant fight against Francis Ngannou. He’ll return on Saturday in Boise against Blagoy Ivanov in a bout that can’t come too soon for him.

No one is happy to be unfairly accused of something, but it has burned dos Santos more than most. He’s been outspoken against performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career and came off looking like a hypocrite when it was announced he’d failed himself.

Junior dos Santos is immediately eligible to fight after USADA discovered he had taken a tainted supplement. (Getty)

But dos Santos didn’t cheat, and USADA now admits as much. It blamed the positive test for hydrochlorothiazide on contamination by a compounding pharmacy in Brazil. He was given a prescription by a Brazil doctor for a supplement and took it to a compounding pharmacy with a good reputation he’d worked with for years.

But his supplements were contaminated with a banned substance, which USADA was able to track.

USADA recommends to athletes that it not use supplements for this very reason, and supplements are not regulated in the U.S. by the Food & Drug Administration.

But dos Santos said it is impractical for an athlete at the UFC level not to use supplements.

“USADA tells us not to use supplements,” dos Santos said. “They say we don’t need them. That’s completely … I was going to say something bad, but I don’t want to do that. It’s not right. If anyone says that, it’s obvious they never went through a training camp for a fight. The truth is, you cannot get everything your body needs when you are working like we are from food.

“If I wanted to eat all the protein I need from food, I would have to eat something like 10 chickens per day. That is impossible. I wish they would give us lists of brands that we can trust so we could then use the supplements on that list.”

Now that he’s back, he needs to figure out how to turn around a slide that has seen him alternate wins and losses for nearly six years. He hasn’t won back-to-back fights since he stopped Frank Mir at UFC 146 on May 26, 2012, to improve his record to 15-1.

Since then, he’s gone 3-4 and has been stopped three times.

But he said it’s not because he’s declined as a fighter. He attributes the up-and-down nature of his record to an untimely mistake.

“I’m better than I was before, no doubt,” dos Santos said. “I’m more mature and I have more experience and I understand better what it takes. It’s not good, for sure [to have not won back-to-back fights in so long]. I’m chasing my goals and I haven’t been able to make things happen the way I want them to happen. It doesn’t feel good, but the answer is simple: I just have to work hard and to focus on cutting down the number of mistakes I make.

“I don’t think too many of these fights, I have been dominated or anything. I make a mistake and it costs me. I want to get back to where I was. I had won, I think, nine in a row before and I need to do that again and I think I will if I can stop the mistakes.”

The sad thing for him is he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to forget when he was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.

“I worked hard to do the right thing and to have a good [reputation] and not to cheat but to do things the right way, and that still happened to me despite all of that,” dos Santos said. “I don’t want that kind of thing associated with my name, but it’s like you’re guilty even before they give you a chance to explain. It was so hard, just a terrible time in my life.”

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