The furore that now envelops Jessica Eye, one that has reached to the highest levels of the UFC and the Nevada Athletic Commission, is one that should have been easily dealt with months ago.
Eye tested positive for marijuana following her Oct. 19 split-decision victory over Sarah Kaufmann at the Toyota Center in Houston at UFC 166. It was a rousing UFC debut for Eye and she seemed to have a bright future.
But now, her win has been changed to a no contest and her integrity is being questioned.
Nothing would have or should have changed when the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation notified Eye on Nov. 26 that her test result had come back positive for cannabinoids.
Texas law values secrecy over the public's right to know, and so Texas did not release the positive test result when it received it. Had it done so, most people would not have paid much attention and Eye would be training for her UFC 170 bout on Feb. 22 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas without a cloud hanging over her head.
There is no reason for any state athletic commission to hold such information private. The test was ordered by the state at a state-regulated event. The public clearly has a right to know which, if any, athletes are violating the rules.
The fighters sign away their medical privacy rights when they apply for a privileged license such as a fight license.
Texas, though, did not release the information. And nor did the UFC. The UFC made a very weak statement on Feb. 5, which basically said nothing other than that Eye would fight as scheduled.
The UFC's full statement, which was not attributed to any person, read, "The UFC received word of the fully probated suspension and fine issued to Jessica Eye by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The UFC intends to honor the probation, which will not force Eye to miss her scheduled bout at UFC 170."
Yahoo Sports spoke briefly with UFC president Dana White on Monday, five days after the statement was released. In response to a call from Yahoo Sports looking for information on Eye's situation, White said, "I'm just being made aware of this now."
He then said he was planning to call Eye.
The UFC had an interest in clearing this up because it wants (or should want) to remove the stigma that it condones fighters failing drug tests or using performance-enhancing drugs.
When former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre said the lack of strenuous drug testing in the UFC hastened his decision to take a sabbatical, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta claimed otherwise.
After Yahoo Sports first published a story on St-Pierre's comments, Fertitta phoned back and made further comments, going farther in an anti-drug testing stance than he'd ever gone before.
He said the UFC had offered to pay for any and all additional drug screens that the Nevada Athletic Commission wanted for St-Pierre's bout with Johny Hendricks.
Even more, Fertitta told Yahoo Sports that the UFC embraces regulation and has told commissions that it would pay to have any fighter it has under contract tested at any time. He said that offer would include as many fighters as the commission would want and said it would cover any test, including Carbon Isotope Ratio testing.
Yahoo Sports contacted Francisco Aguilar, the new chairman of the Nevada Athletic Commission, who said Fertitta had indeed made such an offer.
"The UFC has been phenomenal to work with in regard to the enhanced testing of the athletes we're looking to do," Aguilar said. "All that has ever been communicated to us from Lorenzo, Lawrence [Epstein, the UFC's chief operating office] and Marc [Ratner, its vice president of regulatory affairs] is that they're in favour of testing.
"At no point has the UFC ever pushed back on any testing request we've made. We just did an enhanced testing program with Travis Browne and Josh Barnett for their fight [in December at UFC 168] and the UFC was fully supportive and did what we asked.
"Not only haven't they pushed back, they've been the opposite. They've told us they've been open to any and all testing and would gladly pay for whatever tests we wanted to do."
Rarely, though, does the UFC speak out that strongly in favour of drug testing and against PED usage. In the Eye situation, it was a minor situation that most people don't even regard as a problem.
Instead of offering a vague statement that did nothing to clarify the situation, the UFC should have been more transparent and gotten in front of this issue.
The biggest culprit, though, is Eye. She taunted reporters looking into the issue via her Twitter account and during an interview on Ariel Helwani's The MMA Hour on Monday, she blatantly lied in an answer to one question and was deceptive in her answers about others.
At the 1:11:54 mark, Helwani asks, "So, let's figure this out. When did you find out that the Texas Commission had an issue with you stemming from your fight at UFC 166? How did they notify you of this?"
According to documents in this report by Damon Martin of Fox Sports, Eye was notified by the Texas commission of her positive test result on Nov. 26. She signed a settlement order, agreeing to a small fine and a one-year probation, sometime on or before Jan. 15, 2014. Eye signed but didn't date the document; however, Texas officials stamped it as received on Jan. 15, 2014.
That was more than two weeks before reports began to surface that she'd failed a drug test.
Yet, Eye's answer to Helwani was different. She said, "Well, they didn't notify me. I found out the same way you guys did, so I had no idea until that Saturday afternoon [presumably meaning Feb. 1 when reports began coming out]."
Later in the interview, Eye said, "I've never done things that other people wanted me to do. Just because everybody else wants to hear things out of my mouth, or wants me to say certain things,
"I'm not going to do it because it will make other people feel better or will give them fuel. That's not how I work, man. I work under my terms, not other people's."
That prompted Helwani to directly ask if she'd tested positive for marijuana. Helwani referred to a report on Bloody Elbow that noted sources said her positive test was for marijuana.
Helwani asked, "You're denying that, right?" And Eye said, "Yes." Later, Eye said she was already licensed in Nevada, which is also untrue. It may soon become true, but Nevada required her to pass a drug screen.
The screen was received at the commission office Monday, but it hasn't been acted upon. So Eye is not a Nevada licensee.
The sad thing is, this is all minutiae considering the personal tragedy Eye is dealing with. Her father recently had a baseball-sized tumor removed from his brain.
She's not the first athlete, nor will she be the last, who flat lied to a reporter's direct question.
But in this case, by not telling the truth, Eye made her situation vastly worse.
This whole issue should have been avoided, and pressure should be put on states like Texas that don't release such information to change their laws and commission regulations to support openness.
In the grand scheme of things, unless there is more to the story than there appears to be, the Eye situation is no big deal. It was blown out of proportion due to a bad law and some bad decisions.
All fighters, as well as UFC officials, should go to school on this one.
- Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation
- Nevada Athletic Commission
- Jessica Eye