Jeff Novtizky attributes Islam Makhachev’s 2016 failed drug test to ‘one of the greatest, colossal mistakes in anti-doping’

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Islam Makhachev’s 2016 positive drug test was a failure, but more so by the system than the athlete. That’s according to UFC senior vice president of anti-doping compliance Jeff Novitzky.

During Wednesday’s UFC 302 media day, Novitzky presented Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) with a 50-time perfect test jacket. Before doing so, however, he explained why Makhachev’s drug test failure eight years ago ahead of a scheduled fight vs. Drew Dober should not be held against the UFC lightweight champion.

“Islam did have an issue back in 2016. I actually talked with him and his team last week and I said, ‘I think we need to bring this up.’ And they agreed.”

Makhachev was 24 at the time, and pulled from the card during UFC on FOX 16 weigh-ins day. Then-UFC anti-doping partner USADA suspended Makhachev for three months, though said he was “without fault or negligence” because Makhachev took Meldonium after an issue with frequent ventricular arrhythmia.

“In 2016, USADA, who ran our program, put it on our prohibited list,” Novitzky said about Meldonium. “Before that, you were allowed to use it. He had a medical procedure back in 2014. He submitted documents that he used it under that. Ultimately, he was cleared by USADA. But in my opinion, one of the greatest, colossal mistakes in anti-doping. It affected not only Islam but several other UFC athletes and hundreds of other amateur Olympic athletes.

“That’s something that just cannot happen. That’s something you can carry forward with you and your reputation forever. I’m here today today to say that Islam absolutely did nothing wrong. This mistake was on the anti-doping authority, not him. It’s very important to note that.”

The UFC and USADA have since split, in a very public and somewhat aggravated parting of ways at the conclusion of 2023. The current UFC anti-doping program is run by former FBI agent George Piro.

Makhachev has no history of drug test failures outside of the 2016 failure.  He fights Dustin Poirier (30-8 MMA, 22-7 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC 302 main event at Prudential Center.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 302.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie