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IMMAF heads discuss WADA setback: ‘The process is disturbing’

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Pictured above: IMMAF President Kerrith Brown speaks at the Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) 2016 General Meeting

“It’s disturbing,” IMMAF President Kerrith Brown stated, when discussing the process that resulted in IMMAF’s application to the World Anti-Doping Agency being denied.

In 2016 the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) submitted its application to become an official signatory to the WADA code. Success would have rendered eligible IMMAF’s application for recognition from Sport Accord. In turn, Sport Accord affiliation is a usual requirement for sports seeking recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). WADA approval would have also provided tangible support to IMMAF’s anti-doping programme, better enabling the sport’s sole governing body for Amateur MMA to improve safety for its participants.

In 2016 IMMAF CEO Densign White stated: “IMMAF is already meeting WADA criteria through its current Anti-doping programme, and is in fact pushing boundaries in its stringency. We feel confident in our application and see no valid reason why it should not be accepted.”

However, in his end of year statement the IMMAF CEO revealed the disappointment of a rejected application to WADA, despite IMMAF being more than fully compliant. White cited political causes as responsible, spearheaded by leaders of other sports.

“We knew politics would be involved,” he explained to IMMAF.org, “but it’s astonishing and wrong how WADA cannot make a decision for themselves, based on merit.”

While compliance to the WADA code is essential for an application, rejections can be handed out based purely on the disapproval from any current sports body under the Sport Accord umbrella, without the need for justification.

He continued, “The popularity of MMA means that other sports bodies see us as a threat to their own goals and fear our momentum towards becoming an Olympic Sport. They fear that we will steal the limelight and that their funding could diminish. This is linked to the situation with French Judo who have the ear of France’s Sports Minister, resulting in the recent ban on MMA competition through an undemocratic process.

“From the offset there was no support or clarification from WADA, even when we first reached out to discuss IMMAF’s application. We were repeatedly asked for information that had had already been provided. It’s incompetent.”

The CEO also revealed how even IMMAF’s public statement that it is compliant with the WADA code was met with a hostile response from WADA lawyers.

“IMMAF prides itself on transparency,” President Kerrith Brown added, “but there has been no sight of this from WADA. It’s a closed system with no rationale. Our follow up has been met with a vague response. From what has been said, it seems there is no proper policy or process from here.”

Meanwhile, the popularity of MMA continues to increase – from the recreational through to competitive amateur and professional levels. The IMMAF President believes that this in itself bestows a responsibility on WADA to be forward thinking and fulfill it’s duty in sport regulation without bending to political pressure.

“We will continue to show leadership, and the merit and effort shown by IMMAF will continue as a driver for clarity. We will not be pushed into a corner and shall continue to pursue this.”

By IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran

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