Sean O'Malley has been temporarily suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission due to trace amounts of the prohibited substance ostarine being found in his system, the UFC bantamweight announced Friday on social media.
O'Malley was scheduled to fight Marlon Vera at UFC 239 on July 6 in Las Vegas. That was to be O'Malley's return fight after being suspended six months by the NSAC for testing positive for the same substance last year.
He wrote on Instagram on Friday that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the UFC's anti-doping partner, will not be sanctioning him because there is a belief that the trace amounts currently being found stem from the previous ingestion.
He also wrote that he was looking forward to going before the NSAC with scientific experts to explain why trace amounts of ostarine were still showing up in his system. He said he never intentionally took performance-enhancing drugs.
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Punished twice for doing nothing wrong. I have never taken anything illegal. I don't know what's going to happen, but I will continue to train and get better everyday. "You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength" -Marcus Aurelius
USADA director of communications Adam Woullard confirmed in a statement Saturday that O'Malley is not facing a violation. NSAC executive director Bob Bennett declined to comment on the matter Friday.
O'Malley tested positive for ostarine before a scheduled bout last October at UFC 229. He was suspended six months by the NSAC in November for the violation. USADA also suspended O'Malley six months, reducing a potential two-year ban because the agency found no evidence of intentional use of the drug. There were also traces of ostarine found in an out-of-competition sample taken from O'Malley on Dec. 28, but USADA considered it one violation because the amount in both samples was consistent with "ingestion prior to" the initial positive test.
UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told ESPN that O'Malley had trace amounts of ostarine in two recent drug tests. He also had two other USADA tests earlier this year reported as negative.
Novitzky said O'Malley is likely to go before the Nevada commission for a public hearing in late July, which he believes will ultimately be a good thing for all involved.
"I feel very bad for Sean," Novitzky said. "I feel very bad for all his fans that were looking forward to watching him fight in Las Vegas. But there is a part of me, there is a part of the UFC that actually, in the long run, likes what Nevada is doing, because once again everybody is gonna get that chance in a very public forum to hear those experts talk about this substance, to talk about anti-doping now that you're able to detect at such low levels."
Novitzky said recent cases have shown that ostarine is capable of staying in the system for long periods and "pulsing," or showing up in some tests and not others. O'Malley's situation is similar to the one Jon Jones is going through with the long-term metabolite of oral Turinabol (DHCMT).
Ostarine is a selective androgen receptor module (SARM) that was developed to treat diseases such as osteoporosis. It can have similar benefits to anabolic steroids -- just not at the low picogram level, Novitzky said. USADA is considering a threshold for SARMs, Novitzky added. Major League Baseball added one in February. Only a SARM detection over 50 picograms per milliliter constitutes a potential violation now in MLB. Novitzky said O'Malley's recent test results were all under that threshold.
"Had [Sean O'Malley] been a Major League Baseball player, this would not have been reported out as a positive test," Novitzky said.
O'Malley (10-0) is one of the best UFC prospects in the bantamweight division. The Montana native made a name for himself in 2017 on Dana White's Contender Series and is 2-0 in the UFC. O'Malley, 24, trains out of The MMA Lab in Arizona.
Vera's manager, Jason House, told ESPN that Vera expected to stay on the UFC 239 card.