UFC welterweight Hector Lombard broke his silence on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, speaking publicly for the first time since the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) handed down a one-year suspension to Lombard as punishment for the fighter's failed UFC 182 post-fight drug test.
Lombard, a former Olympian and Bellator champion, tested positive for the anabolic steroid desoxymethyltestosterone (DMT) on Jan. 3 following a unanimous decision win over Josh Burkman. In an emotional hearing with the NAC last month, Lombard testified that the culprit for his failed test was a pill given to him by a "friend of a friend," Canadian Olympian Julie Malenfant Northrup, which he took on Jan. 2 to help combat flu-like symptoms after weigh-ins.
Lombard said he took the pill on good faith, and he reiterated that statement on Monday, denying any ill intent and expressing remorse for his decision.
"I'm very disappointed in my stupidity," Lombard said.
"It was one of those things that was meant to happen. I never expected that a pill would have such a strong -- I thought when you kind of get caught is when you're injecting yourself with something or whatever. But she was like, this pill, you can take it over the counter and stuff like that. But obviously that was wrong."
Lombard received the medication from Northrup prior to arriving in Las Vegas and under the belief that it was an "all-natural" treatment. Lombard elected not to disclose the pills to his coaches or NAC officials, but his sickness during fight week grew bad enough that, according to the welterweight, he nearly passed out several times in training and was unable to speak throughout his first few days in the desert.
"If I would've felt good, I wouldn't have been experimenting with something new or experimenting with things that I don't take. In the back of my mind, it was like, ‘I need to get better, I need to get better,'" Lombard said.
"Joe Rogan, all these people, they were saying ‘man, that thing has been around forever. That thing doesn't even do anything to you. You won't perform with that thing that much. What's that thing going to do to you?' It's an older thing that's been around forever, the name of that, whatever it is. I didn't try to avoid the system or anything like that, otherwise that would be something different. But I thought it was just a normal pill that would make me feel better, because of my conditions. And it didn't happen that way."
The fallout from Lombard's decision was swift and dramatic. In addition to imposing a one-year suspension rather than the usual nine-month sentence for first-time offenders, NAC officials overturned Lombard's win and also fined Lombard his entire win bonus and 33-percent of his show money, bringing his total fine to a hefty $70,490.
Lombard's pleas for leniency were ignored, and now the veteran fighter will be approaching the age of 38 once he's cleared to return to action on Jan. 3, 2016.
"Of course it was unfair," Lombard said of the NAC's punishment. "Have they done it before? No. (They) made an example out of me. I mean, come on. But what can I do. It's always that way. When the time comes for Hector, it's always that way, looking to set an example.
"I do believe that if it would've been somebody else, it would be different," Lombard added. "But obviously it's me. It's good that it happened, though. It's good to see, when you're on the bottom, who are the ones who are going to kick you."
The irony of the situation is that, prior to his failed test, Lombard was an outspoken critic of PED use in MMA. Over the course of 40 professional fights and an extended Olympic career, Lombard never once failed a drug test -- yet news of his failed test was still greeted with eye rolls from cynical fight fans who viewed the welterweight's chiseled physique with suspicion. Lombard, though, isn't surprised.
"It doesn't hurt my feelings because it's always been that way when things come to me," Lombard said. "Either in that situation, or you see a fight and we go to the scoring decision.
"I have to win convincingly, a fight, to get the fight. I fought Jake Shields and there was a [judge] who gave a round to Jake Shields, when I'm like, for real? So you know, you see what happened with Tim Boetsch. It's always been like that ... but I'm used to it. I swear, it's not my fault that I look this way. There's a lot of people, and I'm not going to mention names, but they look like they're fat and they're using [PEDs] for their career. But because of the way I look, obviously there's going to a lot of criticism."
For now, Lombard is simply hoping make the best of a bad situation. He plans to compete in a handful of grappling competitions while he waits out his suspension, and he's determined to not let this chapter be the death knell for his UFC career.
"I haven't (ever taken any PED prior to any fight)," Lombard reiterated. "I mean, there is no secret. Every fight before, I got tested. The one thing that's going to keep me going now is going to be this, this whole situation. This is what's going to keep me going, I've got to stick around for a few more years to prove that I don't need none of that.
"I'm not going to stop. I'm going to keep going, and next year I will be back."