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Wanderlei Silva receives lifetime ban from NAC, fined $70,000

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Wanderlei Silva was given an indefinite or lifetime ban by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) on Tuesday. He was also given a fine of $70,000, which represented a 35 percent fine of the purse he was originally scheduled to receive at UFC 175 had he competed.

The commission voted unanimously to render judgement. Silva was not in attendance at the hearing and was represented by his attorney, Ross Goodman.

Silva, 38, was subject to a random drug screening in Nevada ahead of his scheduled bout with Chael Sonnen at UFC 175, but ran from the testers. At a subsequent hearing, Silva admitted to running from the test as well as taking diuretics, which he claimed was to help with inflammation with a fractured wrist.

Goodman first argued the NAC did not have the regulatory authority to punish Silva as he was unlicensed at the time of the test and Nevada regulations do not provide oversight for fighters without licenses. According to Goodman, NAC 4867.850 won't allow the commission to take disciplinary action against a fighter without first being licensed by the commission. "The complaint [against Silva by the NAC] has a jurisdictional defect," Goodman said.

Despite Goodman's efforts, they were for naught as the challenge was dismissed. While the commission never addressed the substance of Goodman's legal arguments, later in the hearing Commissioner Bill D. Brady took issue with the substance of Silva's attorney's arguments.

Brady suggested the commission often doesn't license fighters until days or the day before a fight, particularly in cases where a late replacement is called. Allowing fighters to escape regulation before licensing would hobble the ability of the commission to do its job. "To say we don't have jurisdiction because we issue random drug tests out in advance, just doesn't work," he argued.

As the disciplinary hearing portion took over, Deputy Attorney General Christopher Eccles recommended to the commission upon Commisioner Pat Lundvall's request for sanctioning that Silva be severe. "I'm suggesting to the commission that you send a message that Mr. Silva will never be licensed here," he said. "When you run from a test, that's about the worst thing you can do.

"I'm trying to think of a worse thing. Maybe submitting fake urine. Obviously having a lot of steroids in your system is pretty bad," he continued, "but running from a test, it's really terrible for the sport. It's terrible for all the clean athletes out there and I think that to send this deterrent message, you really just need to say, 'Don't ever come back here.'"

Eccles arguments and sanctioning recommendations were well received by members of the NAC. In addition, Goodman admitted to the commission that he and Silva did not dispute the charges of the State's complaint against Silva, which includes running from testing and using diuretics. That opened the door to Silva's eventual punishment.

"I find him dodging the test to be abhorrent behavior. And certainly I am in favor," said Commissioner Skip Avansino, "of the harshest penalty we can impose for this type of action."

"I just think that running, lying, cheating - second and third offenses - and maybe we don't have a precedent, we're starting to develop a precedent, should carry the harshest penalty," said Commissioner Anthony A. Marnell. "I truly believe that in my heart and it is the only way, the only way, in any regulated or commission sport, to start to clean the sport up and let the athletes of all types be on notice that it's a zero tolerance for this."

Lundvall eventually offered a motion to issue Silva a lifetime ban and a 30 percent fine of his originally scheduled $200,000 purse. That fine was raised to 35 percent, the historical upper limit of previous NAC fines, on an amendment by Marnell. After a brief discussion and Lundvall's motion was unanimously adopted.

Notably, Silva released a YouTube video on Friday where he said he was retiring from the sport due to issues he said were related to mistreatment from the UFC.

Afterward, Goodman told that he plans on appealing the decision in district court, and he expects the case to be resolved within the next three to four months.

"Today just reinforces how arrogant they are in dealing with these issues," he said.

"The [district court] judge will do what the commission should have done today."