CAPE TOWN – IOL Sport has learned that former EFC bantamweight champion Demarte Pena is currently serving a four-year ban for using performance-enhancing drugs. In addition, he had not yet completely cleared his name when he made his final title defence against Irshaad Sayed in December last year.
According to a report from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Pena tested positive for testosterone and signs of anabolic steroid use after his first fight against Sayed on 11 November 2016, when a urine sample collected on the same day by the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) was analysed.
He was provisionally banned, but then cleared of intentional doping in May after SAIDS tested samples of legal supplements that he had been using, and found them to be contaminated with banned substances.
Seemingly cleared of all wrongdoing, Pena would go on to face Sayed again on 16 December last year, landing several powerful punches and one head-kick en route to a dominant victory. In reality, as shown in the CAS report, Pena had yet to stave off an appeal from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) against the Independent Doping Hearing Panel’s decision to let him off with only a reprimand.
EFC president Cairo Howarth said the organisation was informed of the result of the arbitration hearing and Pena’s ban in the last 48 hours. “The positive is that Wada and SAIDS are doing rigorous testing across the EFC,” Howarth said.
"Demarte has been tested numerous times, as have our other champions. Hopefully less and less people in the sport will use less and less performance-enhancing drugs. It’s a lengthy suspension for Demarte. That’s very discouraging for people. If there are people not playing by the rules, hopefully it discourages that and we have a cleaner, safer sport. Not only in MMA, but all sport in general.”
News will Soon emerge as to why Pena relinquished the title, it wasn’t such a noble gesture after all. Turns out it’s not just his supplements that were tainted, his reputation will be too
Wada filed an appeal against the initial decision in July to CAS after asking Pena several questions about the supplement samples he had supplied to SAIDS for testing. A drawn-out, back-and-forth process to decide the date and location of the arbitration hearing, and which evidence and testimonies would be permitted, would follow in the months before and after Pena and Sayed’s second bout.
Just four days after the second fight, the CAS eventually set the date of the hearing for March 15 and the location as Johannesburg. The EFC went on to announce Pena’s decision to relinquish the title on 19 February last year.
In the days to follow, his lawyer would make several requests to have the date of the hearing postponed, once asking for it to reschedule until mid-July in order to conduct a “simulated study” with the aim of proving Pena’s innocence. But these were denied by the sole arbitrator for the case.
The arbitrator would go on to find in favour of Wada, ban Pena for four years and declare all of his competitive results since 11 November 2016 (the first fight) as disqualified. The CAS report on the arbitration also states that Wada believed Pena was responsible for intentional doping, and that he failed to prove he accidentally ingested that banned substances through the tainted supplement because (amongst other reasons):
- He supplied the samples of the supplements and claimed that all were sealed, when in fact two out of three were opened.
- The sealed bottle tested as clean, while the opened bottles tested as tainted.
- The concentration of the prohibited substance in the tainted supplements could not have produced the concentration found in Pena’s sample.