Tim Means knows one of two things to be true in the wake of his potential USADA violation.
Either the testing equipment used to evaluate his sample was tainted or one of his supplements did not accurately list its ingredients. To him, there's no other option, and it's driving him crazy.
"I’m losing sleep over this because I don’t know where it’s at," Means told MMA Fighting on Thursday. "I don’t know whether something was tainted or it was a supplement. That’s the thing that’s annoying me, that I can’t put my finger on it.
"And if you look at my backstory, I own up to everything I do wrong. If I made a mistake in a fight, I live up to it. I don’t blame my coaches. I made a mistake with drug possession in the past and drug abuse in the past – I accepted those responsibilities and had to admit to it. I don’t have problems admitting to my issues, and this is not one of my issues. I ingested something accidentally or it’s a botched lab test on their part."
Means, who was scheduled to face Donald Cerrone Feb. 21 at UFC Fight Night 83 in Pittsburgh, was pulled from his upcoming main event, the UFC announced Wednesday. Means said a drug test administered by USADA showed a low presence of ostarine, a drug which is defined in a class of SARMS (selective androgen receptor modulators). Its effects are generally the types of things people expect when they hear of an athlete "doping" – lean muscle gain and fat loss. SARMS are similar in effect to anabolic steroids, but they generally do not carry the same negative side effects in men, such as prostate issues and hair loss.
To Means, this fact adds another layer of confusion to his current situation.
"I’m being accused of using this supplement that’s supposed to have all these muscle-gaining abilities, it’s supposed to help you out so much with lean muscle," Means said. "Well, it left my muscle behind, and I just got the hot pee for it."
Means first found out about the test from his wife. When he was sure she was playing a mean joke, he went about his day, packing up and getting ready to head out for a day of training.
"Then she said, ‘Open your email,'" Means said.
When he did, he found a notification from USADA, informing him of the failed test. Immediately, Means phoned the organization and the UFC's vice president of athlete health and performance, Jeff Novitzky. After arranging to submit a written request to have his B sample tested to possibly eliminate the effects of tainted lab equipment, he turned his sights to his supplements.
"I’m on Intek, it’s a company I’ve been with for years now," Means said. "They’ve always been supportive. It’s a supplement I trusted, that I’ve been drug tested on before. It just came right out of left field, man. I can’t even be mad. I just have to backtrack and try to think of what turn did I take to get to this point?
"It’s not making sense for sure, man. It’s not my style to cut corners, it’s not my style to point the figure and not take responsibility for the things I do wrong. I’m not sorry in this instance. I haven’t done anything wrong. I did not intentionally ingest an anabolic agent...I think I’m completely done with supplements, man. I’ll get it through food and take my chances with nutrition that way."
Should the full investigation yield no evidence to drop the violation, Means said he is currently facing a two-to-four-year suspension.
"At the moment, I’d have to get another job for sure," Means said. "I have bills and responsibilities on the table. I wouldn’t be able to think about mixed martial arts right now, so we’d have to come around whenever the suspension is done. But I’d have to get another job in the meantime for sure."
If the investigation does reveal tainted lab equipment or an improperly labeled supplement and he's able to fight again in the near future, Means still recognizes the weight this moment will carry for the rest of his career. He's seen the comments on social media, and he's none too pleased with the "guilty until proven innocent" standard that's been enforced.
"It’s easy to judge when you’re sitting on the outside looking in," Means said. "I guarantee if the tables were turned and one of those individuals had to sit inside that fire, they’re going to want people to let the system play out. Let the findings all be heard and let both sides be told."
Getting somewhat lost in the midst of the potential violation is the fact that Means isn't fighting in a high-profile showdown – his first UFC main event – as expected. After "looking forward to" his fight with Cerrone for some time now, the simple fact that he's sidelined adds even more irritation to the situation.
"The judgement doesn’t seem fair for me having to sit out and watch," Means said. "I understand USADA’s concern. But yesterday I was fighting. I had my mind set to get in a scrap here soon, and now I have to turn that mindset off and settle back down to my roots of responsibility here at home.
"I just have to let everything play out, man. People are jumping the gun, you know, making me guilty right away, but I’ve been in these situations before – maybe not with this type of issue – but with other issues where I was sitting in a jail cell and I’m being judged before found innocent. Things work out, life moves on, and I’m expecting the best out of this."