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Rich Franklin ‘likes to think’ Anderson Silva took PEDs to overcome his leg injury

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

With Anderson Silva’s legacy now shrouded in controversy after testing positive for steroids at UFC 183, fighters who’ve stood across from him in the cage are reflecting. One of those is his early UFC rival Rich Franklin, whom Silva won the belt back in 2006.

Franklin, who is now the Vice President for the Singapore-based promotion ONE Championship, was cut down by Silva brutally at UFC 64, and then again in a rematch a year later at UFC 77 in his hometown of Cincinnati. In light of Silva’s recent positive tests for drostanolone and androstane, Franklin admits that he can’t help but wonder how far Silva’s use of performance-enhancing drugs goes back. 

The former middleweight champion appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, and said that -- though he’ll never know if he faced a clean Silva or not nearly a decade ago -- he wants to give the UFC’s greatest fighter of all time the benefit of the doubt.

"To say that that thought didn’t cross my mind, I would be lying," he told Ariel Helwani. "Even if he was [using] -- whether he was or wasn’t -- I’m not sure it would have changed the outcome of the fights that I had with him. I don’t want to be so bold as to say that, ‘you know, I think he was, and that’s why I lost,’ that’s not what happened. Anderson was a better man that night and beat me.

"But yeah, you start thinking about that. I you start thinking about all the opponents that I’ve had that I’ve won or lost to that are associated with TRT at this point in time, and PEDs. And so you start thinking about that kind of stuff. Yeah it makes you think a little bit."

Silva will appear before the Nevada Athletic Commission in April for a hearing in relation to his positive tests. Speculation has run rampant as to the severity of the punishment that he’ll receive, some proffering that he could be suspended for 18 months. With Silva turning 40 years old on April 14, a big suspension might signal the end of his career.

And it’s a career that’s really been remarkable. Silva went 16-0 in the UFC and defended the 185-pound belt 10 times before finally losing the title to Chris Weidman at UFC 162 in 2013. He lost the rematch at UFC 168 later that year, and in the process shattered his tibia and fibula attempting a low kick. That gruesome injury, together with the rehabilitation time required to overcome it at his age, has led some to believe that Silva took PEDs to perhaps expedite his recovery.

Franklin was one of those who thinks that might be the case.

"I don’t know if this is the right reaction, but I feel bad for the guy," he said. "I would just say that, my gut reaction on the whole situation is Anderson got hurt. He was looking to get back into competition as quickly as possible, resorted to using them. This is a guy -- and this is conjecture, this is not fact… I am not stating fact here, so don’t quote me as factual -- but he probably used performance-enhancing drugs to speed up that process. To expedite things for him. And in that situation, he got caught. And I feel bad for him.

"I would like to think that that is the story, and it wasn’t the fact that he’d been using them his entire career. I don’t know one way or the other, but just the thought of that happening to him, and that’ll be kind of…like how in baseball, they had certain players that have asterisks by their names in the record books and stuff like that. This is going to be that blemish or that thing that he’ll be remembered for. So that was my reaction."

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