The Nevada Athletic Commission voted unanimously to suspend former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva for one year as punishment for a pair of failed drug tests in relation to his Jan. 31 bout at UFC 183. Silva was also fined his full $200,000 win bonus, as well as 30-percent of his $600,000 show money, and his victory over Nick Diaz was overturned into a no contest.
The NAC handed down the sentencing at a hearing Thursday in Las Vegas. Silva's suspension is retroactive to Jan. 31, meaning he'll be permitted to return to professional fighting on Jan. 31, 2016 as long as he provides a clean drug test. Silva is also required to reimburse the commission for legal and additional testing fees.
Silva, 40, twice tested positive for drostanolone metabolites ahead of his UFC 183 fight against Diaz -- first in a Jan. 9 out-of-competition blood test, then in a Jan. 31 fight night urine screening. Silva also tested positive for a second anabolic steroid, androstane, in the Jan. 9 test, along with temazepam and oxazepam, two benzodiazepines which are banned for in-competition use by the NAC without a therapeutic use exemption.
Drostanolone and androstane are classified as exogenous anabolic androgenic steroids, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, meaning they are substances not naturally produced by the human body. Temazepam is commonly used as a sleeping aid, while oxazepam is commonly prescribed as an anti-anxiety medication.
Silva repeatedly denied Thursday ever knowingly or intentionally taking anabolic steroids.
Silva's lawyer, Michael Alonso, argued that a tainted sexual enhancement supplement was the root of the two failed tests for drostanolone. Silva claimed he received the off-brand liquid supplement in a blue, unmarked vial that was purchased in Thailand and given to him by a former training partner, Marcos Fernades, because it was unable to be obtained in the United States or Brazil. The substance was frequently referred to as Cialis, though Silva was unable to produce a specific name for it when asked.
Silva's defense claimed to have tested the sexual enhancement supplement independently, discovering that it contained trace amounts of drostanolone, but neither Alonso nor Silva's expert, Paul Scott, brought any evidence of their findings to the hearing.
Silva said that he started taking the supplement prior to starting his fight camp and stopped taking it on Jan. 8. Following damning testimony from Dr. Daniel Eichner, Silva acknowledged that he also took the substance intermittently up until the week before the fight.
Silva added that he did not disclose the supplement on his pre-fight questionnaire because he was "uncomfortable" admitting it to the commission and did not expect the sexual enhancement formula to come to light -- an omission which commissioner Pat Lundvall called "intentional falsification."
Silva was largely evasive when it came time for questioning. At one point commissioner Anthony Marnell asked him straight, "Did it ever cross your mind that taking a clear substance in a blue vial from a friend that came from Thailand, being a fighter of your stature, and all that you have on the line and all that you've come back from, might not be a good move?"
"No, that didn't go through my thought process," Silva responded through his manager and translator, Ed Soares. "I'm human and I make mistakes, and this definitely was a mistake. If I would have known that this supplement that I was taking for something else would've had this sort of a problem, I would've never taken it in the beginning."
Silva admitted to using the two benzodiazepines the night prior to the fight as a means to ease stress and help him sleep, claiming the medications were prescribed to him by a doctor in November for sciatic nerve pain.
Silva's team was unable to explain the presence of androstane in the Jan. 9 test.
Alonso requested leniency throughout his defense, citing Silva's status as a first-time offender while also appealing to alleged erraticism of NAC testing procedures by pointing to a pair of drug tests, one on Jan. 19 and one after the fight, which Silva passed.
The NAC ultimately rejected Silva's defense and instead suspended the fighter under the commission's former drug guidelines, which were in effect at the time of Silva's failing.
Chairman Francisco Aguilar pushed for a 12-month suspension, the most severe suspension the commission could levy on a first-time offender. Aguilar cited the inconsistencies in Silva's testimony and his belief that Silva failed to display adequate remorse during the proceedings.
Marnell concurred, stating, "I don't know any other way to say it, but I don't feel like we're getting the whole story. I'm not going to say that's a lie. I'm not going to say you're not telling the truth under oath. But I'm not getting the whole picture here.
"I'm not taking anything away from Mr. Silva's career. I think he's done excellent things. He's by far one of the top fighters in the world. But this is the first time he's really been subject to enhanced testing, so it's hard to put a lot of credibility into his prior test results -- not his career, but his prior test results.
"I feel that there's some intention here to use a product to come back from a devastating injury," Marnell continued. "I feel that. I'm not saying that's it, but I've got that feeling in my stomach that we're not getting the whole story. There's definitely knowledge of what's going on here, and we're just playing games. Hence my frustration for the last two hours with all of this soft testimony."
Silva (34-6) is generally regarded as one of the greatest fighters to ever compete in the UFC. The legendary middleweight captured the UFC title in 2006, then held the belt over 16 straight victories and 10 straight title defenses -- both UFC records.
Silva ultimately forfeited his title to a second-round knockout at the hands of Chris Weidman in 2013, then lost a rematch after suffering a broken leg midway through the bout.