However, it was reported Tuesday by Yahoo! Sports that Silva had tested positive for anabolic steroid metabolites in a pre-fight, out-of-competition drug test Jan. 9. Those banned substances very well could have aided his rehabilitation process, according to SB Nation medical expert Dr. Ali Mohamadi, an endocrinologist.
"These drugs wouldn't speed bone healing itself, but it's possible the increased muscle mass could make rehab easier than it otherwise would be," Mohamadi told MMAFighting.com.
Silva tested positive for drostanolone and androstane, both prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code followed by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC). He has been temporarily suspended by the NAC and will face discipline at a hearing in either March or April. Silva is denying he took any performance-enhancing drugs, he said in a statement today through manager Ed Soares.
How could those substances have assisted him in training camp and the fight? Quite a bit, Mohamadi said.
"They could be potentially extraordinarily helpful in terms of rapid muscle building, both in terms of just physically causing the muscles and proteins to build," the doctor said. "It also has a second factor in terms of workouts. It allows you to have an easy recovery period after your workout. That increases the efficiency of your workout."
Drostanoline is an anabolic steroid, while androstane is a little different. Mohamadi said it is a generic term small molecules that are metabolites for another substance -- something like dihydrotesterone or dehydroepiandrosterone. Both of those are also steroids. Androstane is not typically manufactured for performance-enhancing drug use, but it can be, which is why it's on the WADA banned list, Mohamadi said.
"Another possibility is that these showed up in the blood, because Silva was taking a different substance entirely that may have included DHT or DHEA and when they break down in the blood, they turn into androstane and cause a positive test," Mohamadi said. "That would probably be my theory."
The effects of drostanolone are significant and rapid, Mohamadi said.
"It essentially works in two different ways to improve muscle mass and muscle definition," he said. "The first is it basically causes an increase in a production of proteins. That's the actual physical factor that causes muscles to build up significantly. The second is that they can reduce recovery time from workouts. That's by decreasing the effects of other stress hormones. So in two ways, both in terms of increasing the muscle mass and reducing recovery time from workouts, you can get an enormous effect in simply a matter of weeks."
Both drostanolone and androstane are easily detected by drug tests. So why would Silva risk that instead of using HGH or something synthetic that would require a more invasive testing method? Mohamadi is unsure, but figures it has to do with availability.
"Easier access would be probably the reason that would make people choose one of those versus something like HGH, which is effective but becoming increasingly difficult to obtain due to the fact that there are tight regulations on the distribution of HGH," he said. "It's just really hard to get your hands on HGH, and it's becoming harder as the regulations tighten."
In order to get drostanolone or androstane, all Silva really needed was Google.
"You can go online and find any one of a number of the older generation anabolic steroids that are being sold through distributors," Mohamadi said. "These are not that hard to get your hands on. A lot of the newer drugs, a lot of the designer drugs really require a lot of effort."
Anabolic steroids like drostanolone could have helped Silva's fight preparation immensely. But there are serious downsides with regards to health.
"It can result in severe aggression," Mohamadi said. "It can result in the decrease in libido. It can result in issues related to liver failure. It's not the most benign treatment in the world. It can cause very significant side effects. But for muscle building, there's no question that it has very potent and very rapidly acting effects."
Mohamadi said drostanolone can be detected in the system as long as two months after being taken. Silva popped positive on Jan. 9, but two others tests -- on or around Jan. 18 and on fight night Jan. 31 -- have not come back yet.
Either way, Silva, the former UFC middleweight champion and legend of the sport, is facing a suspension and fine from the NAC. And at age 39, it's unclear if he will ever compete again.
"You can have an extremely profound effect in terms of muscle mass and strength without having to require too much time or effort into having that effect take place," Mohamadi said.
Either way, if Silva did indeed use those drugs, there would have been a competitive advantage medically speaking.
"It can have an extremely profound affect in terms of muscle mass and strength without having to require too much time or effort into having that affect take place," Mohamadi said.