UFC's age of innocence over as Silva, Diaz fail tests

Maybe the only surprise about Anderson Silva’s positive drug test was that any of us still feel surprised by this sort of thing.

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When the news first broke on Tuesday evening, and the world found out that Silva had failed a Jan. 9 drug test administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, it felt all too familiar.

An elite athlete -- replace Silva with Lance Armstrong or Roger Clemens or Marion Jones -- captures sports fans’ imaginations, only to shatter the illusion of greatness when it’s revealed they were doping.

Who knows, maybe Silva was clean his entire career and only started using performance-enhancing drugs in his preparations for his fight last weekend against Nick Diaz. He was, after all, returning from one of the most gruesome injuries in MMA history when he shattered his leg fighting Chris Weidman in December 2013.

And maybe when a second test is done on Silva’s Jan. 9 urine sample, it’ll come back clean. The results of both a Jan. 18 out-of-competition test, as well as a Jan. 31 fight night test, have yet to be released.

Fans – and the media -- have been burned before, though, and it’s hard to give Silva the benefit of the doubt, despite the 39-year-old’s pleas of innocence.

“I’ve been competing in this sport for a very long time,” Silva said in a statement released Tuesday. “This is my 19th fight in the UFC. I have been thoroughly tested many times and have never had a positive drug test.

“I have not taken any performance-enhancing drugs. My stance on drug is, and will always be, the same. I’m an advocate for clean sport.

“I’m consulting with my advisors right now to explore all my options and intend to fight this allegation and clear my name. I will not make any further comments until my team advises me to do so.”

On Tuesday night, the UFC announced the test results showed Silva tested positive for drostanolone metabolites and androsterone. The drostanolone indicates the use of an anabolic steroid, while androsterone is a form of endogenous testosterone.

“Anderson Silva has been an amazing champion and a true ambassador of the sport of mixed martial arts and the UFC, in Brazil as well as around the world. UFC is disappointed to learn of these initial results,” the organization’s officials said in a statement.

“The UFC has a strict, consistent policy against the use of any illegal and/or performance enhancing drugs, stimulants or masking agents by its athletes.”

The tests were administered by the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, a Salt Lake City facility approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Tuesday’s announcement wasn’t the first time in the past month that UFC athletes failed an out-of-competition test. Earlier in January, it was revealed that light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had tested positive for cocaine metabolites in a Dec. 3 random test.

Silva’s opponent on Saturday night, Nick Diaz, is also facing heavy sanctions after marijuana metabolites were found in his system in a post-fight drug test. It’s the third time Diaz has tested positive for marijuana.

NSAC executive Bob Bennett told MMAFighting.com the Californian had 300 ng/ml of marijuana in his system, which is twice the permitted limit.

Whatever one thinks about marijuana use – for or against -- it all adds up to a complete and utter mess for the UFC. Especially since the organization dropped plans to institute its own out-of-competition drug-testing plan in early January.

It all also comes after a difficult 2014 that saw Wanderlei Silva retire after running away from drug testers. With Chael Sonnen tested positive for PEDs, too, these recent incidents don’t exactly feel isolated.

Silva, Diaz and Jones are three of the biggest draws on the UFC’s roster, and they’re now all tarred by allegations of drug use.

Diaz will likely face a lengthy suspension and the NSAC will almost certainly force him to forfeit a good chunk of his purse from Saturday night’s fight. Silva probably also faces a suspension and will likely have his win against Diaz changed to a no-contest.

But there were many who believed Silva was seriously considering retirement after UFC 183 anyway. More damaging, surely, will be the asterisk that appears on his otherwise sterling resume.

Let’s not forget, this is the MMA legend that won 16 straight fights in the UFC and defended his middleweight belt 10 times in a row. He’s one of the few prize fighters ever to cross into the mainstream sports world’s consciousness and is widely considered to be the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time.

If the secondary tests come back positive, he’ll also forever be remembered as a cheater.

It’s not as if he doesn’t know it, as his words to MMAJunkie.com earlier in 2014 prove.

“When the guys test for the steroids, it’s bad because this is a problem,” Silva told the website in October. “It’s bad not just for the UFC, but for the sport.

“When the guys test for the steroids, (they should have) no more fights. When you use the steroids, you use them for a long time. When you use the steroids for a long time, you have a problem. It’s a drug and it’s not good for the sport.”

Maybe it’s not fair to kick Silva when he’s down with his own words, but his advocacy for a zero-tolerance policy is consistent with how many sports fans feel.

There’s no real grey area here. In a sport where athletes put themselves in danger every time they fight, the playing field needs to be even. It’s imperative the UFC finds a way to guarantee that each and every time two fighters step into the octagon.

Suspending juicers after the fact isn't enough -- they need to be prevented from fighting beforehand.

Ensuring the results of a Jan. 9 test are made public before a Jan. 31 fight would be a start, although the responsibility for that may lie with the NSAC and not the UFC itself.

MMA fans may have been naive to think that fighters weren’t juicing -- if baseball players were doping to hit a ball further, why wouldn’t fighters do the same to hit a face harder? -- but the age of innocence is over now.

Even if only a handful of the thousands of drug tests administered to UFC fighters come back positive, MMA’s premiere promotion now faces the serious stigma of being associated with PED use.

January was one of the best business months ever for the UFC, but for Jones, Diaz, Silva and the organization itself, the damage caused by the first 31 days of 2015 could be felt for a long, long time.

GSP LOOKS LIKE A GENIUS

Georges St. Pierre is looking smarter and smarter.

The longtime welterweight champion hasn’t spoken out about Anderson Silva’s failed drug test, and the mutual respect between the two fighters probably ensures he won’t be throwing the Brazilian under the bus any time soon.

In the wake of Silva’s positive test, though, St. Pierre’s earlier words about performance-enhancing drugs sure look prescient.

Here’s what the Quebecer said in an interview with BloodyElbow.com in which he also called the use of PEDs the biggest negative in the sport.

“I will never fight again in MMA,” St. Pierre said, “without my opponent and myself being thoroughly tested for the most advanced PEDs by a credible independent anti-doping organization like VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) or USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) under the strictest standards of the World Anti-Doping Association.”

Long before he stepped away from fighting following his win over Johny Hendricks at UFC 162, St. Pierre had been advocating for stricter drug screening in the UFC, as well as other major North American sports leagues.

In particular, he was an advocate for VADA, which sees athletes voluntarily undergo random tests.

While it’s useless to speculate about whether that would have helped prevent guys like Silva from testing positive, St. Pierre’s insistence that PED use was becoming increasingly common in MMA looks ever-more accurate.

As the sport inevitably prepares to clean up its image, the Canadian may be worth listening to.

“The technology to use the drugs will always have an edge on the technology testing for the drugs,” St. Pierre told MMAJunkie.com last year. “If you do random testing, it will make things harder. We have a big problem with testosterone, synthetic drugs, EPO and growth hormone. People use that for recuperation, it’s a big problem for the sport.

“You cannot catch everybody, but at least if you make random drug testing, people will be on their guard.”



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