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Lyoto Machida says he didn't know substance was banned, because USADA failed to educate properly

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Lyoto Machida is a man known to carefully choose his words. So on the rare occasion the former UFC light heavyweight champion issues a strong opinion in public, it's going to garner attention.

Several days after learning that he has been suspended 18 months by USADA for taking the banned substance 7-keto-dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) prior to a scheduled April fight with Dan Henderson, Machida is still upset with his penalty.

In his first interview since he was first flagged for the violation, Machida says he is disappointed and the process was not a fair one.

"When the UFC brought USADA in, I thought it was to instruct and educate all the fighters," Machida said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "But instead they came in to punish in a very unreasonable fashion.

"I want to say that I'm very disappointed in USADA. I think it is all extremely unfair. I take the blame for taking 7-keto. It was banned substance, since I bought it over the counter at a supplement store, when it stated on its label 60 vegetarian capsules."

Machida is pointing the finger at USADA for what he considers to be an insufficient amount of information on what is and isn't banned, saying he wasn't even made aware of what was and wasn't banned until after he got in trouble.

"For me, USADA didn't give us proper instruction, and I think they failed in giving us an education about everything," Machida said. "So, they only sent me a proper list of banned supplements after they decided on my suspension, so they sent me maybe two-to-three days later, they sent me the list of the supplements so I could understand everything. But before it was where it was supposed to be, it didn't happen."

Further, given that USADA has been seemingly inconsistent with its sanctioning since it began its UFC testing program -- throwing the book at some while reducing suspensions to as low as six months for others -- Machida was stunned to find that he got an 18-month suspension. After all, he volunteered that he had taken the substance, and Machida insists he was not using it for performance-enhancing purposes.

"Not to enhance my performance, to provide stress relief, I think the punishment would be six months because of my mistake, they could consider my honesty," Machida said. "That's the thing, because the intention it means so many things, then intention. If you don't have intention, it means a lot of things. In my case, I didn't have any intention. It's already proven."

Machida was pulled from his UFC on FOX bout with Henderson in Florida the week of the fight, and recalls being in a state of disbelief when he was informed the fight was off.

"It was very [surprising] to me, I was very stressed at that moment," Machida said. "I never imagine it I could happen in my career. I expose it for everyone, because I have my principles I was taught by my father based on honor and integrity, and suddenly i was exposed to the world, now everything thinks Lyoto (cheats). It was very hard to me, at that moment I was so nervous because I didn't imagine that situation in my career, but I had to face everything."

With the suspension back-dated to April, the 18 months will elapse in October. 2017, upon which Machida will be eligible for reinstatement. By that time, Machida will be 39 years old.

While Machida will spend his time focusing on his new Machida Karate Academy in Gardena, Calif., at no point did he ever contemplate retirement.

"It's my life, I want to compete again, I think I have a lot of things to do, a lot of things to give my fans still," Machida said. "So I'll be back stronger I will be back better and now its time to to like inside, to check my academy, to push my academy more and give more support to my students.  But I'm always training, it doesn't matter what happened in my career because training is my life. I'm a real martial artist, my father always taught me that some way I have to train every day, no matter what happens your life. Its not just about competition, it's my life, my lifestyle. So I train every day and I feel very good, because sometimes training is like meditations for me, it's a good escape to me to the problems for everything."

At the end of the day, given what he's been through, Machida wonders if the benefits of USADA are worth the time and effort the UFC has put into it, considering what the results have been for fighters like him.

"I want a clean sport and people should have to pay for their mistakes, but it has to be fair," Machida said. "I didn't have the proper permission, but I wasn't using it to cheat."

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