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UFC flyweight Mara Romero Borella gets 26 year suspension from Italian Anti-Doping over alleged recreational drug sales

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One of the first women flyweights to compete in the Octagon could be facing some trouble in her MMA career. 32-year-old Mara Romero Borella became half of the first bout under the UFC’s newly instituted 125 lb division back in 2017, when she defeated Kalindra Faria via first round submission.

She then lost a contentious split decision to top contender Katlyn Chookagian in January of this year, and hasn’t been seen since. Now there are questions swimming about the chances of the Italian athlete ever returning.

Italian MMA site 4once.it reports (h/t to MMA Today) that Borella has been handed a 26-year-suspension from Italy’s National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO Italy), in connection with a 2012 sting operation that reportedly busted her along with her boyfriend at the time – and 35 others – for distribution of marijuana and cocaine.

According to reports, Borella spent time in jail and under house arrest for the incident. Additionally she was banned from competition for 15 years in 2014 by NADO Italy, for violation of WADA guidelines. However, that suspension has now apparently been extended out until 2044, following new violations.

The increased time seems to have come about due to Borella being involved in and/or attending events sponsored by the Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano (COMI) or Italian National Olympic Committee – actions that were specifically prohibited as part of the previous suspension. But, that’s where this story takes a surprising twist.

According to Borella’s former coach, Gian Luigi Tedoldi, the fighter never received notification that she had been suspended by NADO Italy. And any violations stemming from that fact were made entirely unintentionally. It’s difficult to say that the lack of communication will have a bearing on getting her suspension reduced, but that may all be a moot point as far as her UFC career is concerned.

As Erik Magraken of Combat Sports Law recently pointed out, “Both Cannabis and Cocaine are not banned out of competition under the UFC/USADA Anti-Doping Policy (the ‘ADP’). There is also nothing in the policy that automatically forces the UFC/USADA to recognize a ban from an other organization.”

Additionally, due to specific language in the UFC’s ADP, Borella may not be in violation of the promotion’s own “Trafficking” guidelines if they wished to uphold the NADO suspension. The UFC’s ADP states that by definition: trafficking “…shall not include actions involving Prohibited Substances which are not prohibited in Out-of Competition Testing unless the circumstances as a whole demonstrate such Prohibited Substance are intended to enhance sport performance…”

It remains to be seen what direction the UFC decides to take on this. They could decide to uphold NADO’s suspension, which would effectively kill Borella’s career. Or simply cut her from the organization and let rid themselves of any conflict in policy. Or, simply ignore the whole thing and let Borella continue to compete as long as she continues to comply with USADA guidelines under her UFC contract.

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