Last October, the biggest topic facing the MMA world was the news that UFC star Nate Diaz had tested positive for a selective androgen receptor module (a SARM), LGD-4033, a substance banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Nonetheless, Diaz was eventually cleared to compete at UFC 244.
The supplement that caused the positive was not initially revealed, and both Diaz and UFC President of Performance Jeff Novitzky would only go so far as to say it was an organic, vegan, multivitamin.
“I’m not gonna make it out to NYC for fight week next,” wrote Diaz on Twitter at the time, “because they say I tested with elevated levels that they say might be from tainted supplements. I call false on that ’cause I only take Whole Food or natural food supplements.”
Now four months later, Diaz may find himself once again embroiled in controversy with USADA.
USADA maintains an online database – the high-risk list – detailing all supplements that have been discovered to contain prohibited ingredients. The supplements placed on this list usually stem from either reports issued to USADA or from cases involving athletes.
During the holiday season, a new entry was added to this list, a particular “organic, vegan, multivitamin.” Two opened, partly used containers provided to USADA by an athlete were analyzed and found to contain LGD-4033, and two further samples that were obtained by USADA were found to contain LGD-4033 and, in addition, another SARM, ostarine, and an anabolic steroid, methasterone. While the supplement in question, “Plant Man,” was marketed as both organic and vegan by the manufacturer, Game Up Nutrition, it should be noted that it was not third-party tested nor certified.
Below is USADA’s official statement on the supplement, which was posted to the Supplement 411 domain that houses the USADA high-risk list:
“Brand Name: Plant Man Multivitamin
Manufacturer: Game Up
Four different bottles (2 open and 2 sealed) of this product were tested. Testing of a sealed bottle Lot #02-GUPMV, expiring 9/6/21, revealed the presence of ostarine, LGD-4033 and methasterone. Testing of a sealed bottle with an unreadable lot number and expiration date revealed the presence of ostarine and LGD-4033. Testing of two open bottles of Lot #01-GUPMV, expiring 5/13/21, revealed the presence of LGD-4033,” – USADA
Game Up’s Instagram page last promoted the Plant Man supplement on July 30, and the Plant Man product is not listed on the Game Up website. Several Instagram posts from Game Up describing and advertising Plant Man have been deleted, but the product is still seemingly available for purchase from CBD retailer cbdee.com.
Game Up Nutrition heavily features both the Diaz brothers – Nate and former WEC and Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick – in their marketing efforts, even offering “Diaz G” merchandise. In fact, the site’s current meta description claims that they are actually the founders of Game Up, describing the brand as “[a] plant-based wellness brand founded by UFC super stars Nick & Nate Diaz offering a variety of top-quality CBD products, including hemp flower & CBD oil.”
In a media scrum before his UFC 241 bout with former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, Diaz confirmed his involvement with the brand. Following a reporter’s question about Diaz having his own line of CBD products, Diaz responded, “Yeah, it’s Game Up – Game Up Nutrition. Me and my brother.”
At press time, a blog post published by Game Up touting the Diaz brothers as the company’s founders that also decried “the marketing dollars [that] are poured into steroid-bloated athletes” has since been removed from the website. An archived version of that blog post is available here.
Searches for “Nate Diaz” on Game Up’s website now only yield results for Diaz merchandise, while searches for “Nick Diaz” yield no results.
As for the significance of this development to Diaz’s October USADA situation, it should be noted that it has not been confirmed by USADA, nor the UFC, nor Diaz himself, that Plant Man, produced by Game Up, is the supplement responsible for the UFC star’s adverse test. However, it appears statistically possible, perhaps even probable, that it is the supplement in question.
In a press statement issued a day after Diaz’s inflammatory revelation that he had tested positive for a banned substance, the UFC revealed that LGD-4033 had been found in a Diaz sample, the same SARM found in Plant Man. The statement also revealed that USADA had tested “two bottles of the same organic, vegan, plant-based daily multivitamin that Mr. Diaz was using,” which directly parallels the “two open bottles of Lot #01-GUPMV, expiring 5/13/21” of Plant Man that were tested by USADA.
The tainted supplement Diaz was said to have taken has been described as an “organic, vegan, plant-based daily multivitamin” by the UFC and a “multi-vitamin” by Novitzky. Novitzky went on to add, “There’s nothing guesswork about the Nate Diaz case. It is as rock-solid evidence as I’ve ever seen in the history of my anti-doping career when it comes to a contaminant. To say he did anything wrong, you’d have to say, ‘You did something wrong by choosing a plant-based, vegan, organic multivitamin that said on the label they were lab tested.*'” (*Emphasis is The Body Lock’s).
Plant Man was listed as “an organic daily multivitamin formulated specifically for those who choose plant-based lifestyles,” according to a Facebook post from Game Up.
In addition to matching all of the criteria of Diaz’s unknown tainted supplement, Plant Man is also the lone supplement on the USADA high-risk list to do so. In fact, Plant Man is the only vegan, plant-based supplement to appear on the high-risk list to contain LGD-4033, making it a frontrunner as the tainted supplement in the Diaz case.
If Plant Man was the supplement that led to Diaz’s adverse test results, serious questions arise.
USADA makes judgments largely on perceived “degree of fault,” namely, to what degree is the athlete in question responsible for the adverse finding. Typically, the higher the degree of fault, the higher the penalties.
Should it be that Plant Man was the source of Diaz’s adverse test, USADA would need to establish if Diaz was involved in the operation of the company to a degree where the welterweight could have been aware that the product was high risk. If Diaz had enough knowledge of the day to day operations to know it was a high-risk supplement, USADA could likely attribute a higher degree of fault for the adverse test to Diaz.
Additionally, were it that Diaz’s tainted supplement was, in fact, Plant Man, it is unknown if USADA and the UFC were aware of the apparent involvement of the Diaz brothers with Game Up. If USADA and the UFC were aware that Diaz was involved with Game Up and Diaz’s test yielded an adverse result stemming from a Game Up product, that marks a potential conflict of interest that was entirely omitted from public statements on the situation.
USADA has not immediately responded to The Body Lock’s request for comment to identify or disidentify Plant Man as the tainted supplement in the Diaz case.
If USADA and the UFC were not aware that Diaz was involved with Game Up and Diaz’s test yielded an adverse result stemming from a Game Up product, that information could fundamentally alter the way in which USADA carried out its investigation into the tainted supplement in addition to the way in which USADA determined penalties for Diaz.
Likewise, USADA has not immediately responded to The Body Lock’s request for comment about whether or not USADA was aware of Diaz’s apparent involvement with Game Up.