Former UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw has been suspended for two years by USADA after testing positive for EPO before his UFC Fight Night 143 bout back in January against Henry Cejudo. USADA announced the ruling and ESPN had the full report on it, noting that Dillashaw did not contest the ruling and has accepted the sanction. He will now be eligible to return to the Octagon in January 2021. You can read more about USADA’s ruling on its official website.
Dillashaw moved down to the flyweight division for the first time in his career to headline the UFC’s first show on ESPN+ opposite Cejudo and try and win a second belt, but it turned out to be a terrible night for Dillashaw. First he lost in devastating fashion after Cejudo knocked him out in the first round, and then the news came out he had failed a drug test, which forced him to relinquish his belt.
The UFC would have stripped Dillashaw, anyways, making the fact he gave up his belt voluntarily moot. He got caught red-handed, making him perhaps one of the most surprising MMA fighters to test positive for banned substances as most figured him to be a clean athlete. Unfortunately, he wasn’t, and the fact he isn’t going to appeal USADA’s ruling pretty much means he’s admitting he cheated, which is obviously extremely disappointing for everyone involved. According to doping expert Jeff Novitzky, EPO is injectable only, so the odds that Dillashaw used a contaminated substance are extremely low. He just plain got caught.
With Dillashaw out of the bantamweight title picture for the next two years, Cejudo will now face Marlon Moraes at UFC 238 this June for the 135lbs belt. Dillashaw, meanwhile, will miss two years from the prime of his career on the sidelines. At age 33, he won’t be able to fight until he’s nearly 35 years old, and in a division where younger fighters have the advantage, the championship version of Dillashaw we all enjoyed watching may never return.
Not only does Dillashaw hurt his earning power in the next two years as he won’t be able to compete and therefore not be able to earn a purse, but he has also arguably tarnished his legacy as an MMA fighter. Dillashaw was up for consideration as the greatest bantamweight in MMA history, but it’s hard to put him at the top of that list now. This positive drug test for EPO makes you wonder about his previous career accomplishments, and it’s hard to rank him above Dominick Cruz (who previously defeated Dillashaw by split decision) at this point. Former champions Cody Garbrandt and Renan Barao, who were both knocked out twice by Dillashaw, should also not be forgotten as all-time greats, especially in the wake of this drug test.
To read more about blood doping and EPO, check out USADA’s website here, which has a full FAQ on the drug which ultimately crushed Lance Armstrong’s cycling career, and perhaps Dillashaw’s MMA career. It’s well worth your time to read.