Yoel Romero admits he failed a USADA drug test, but never consciously took a banned substance.
The UFC middleweight contender and his manager Malki Kawa were on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. Kawa and Romero explained that Romero took a supplement after his fight with Ronaldo Souza in December and that supplement turned out to be contaminated.
"The substance has a label with a bunch of stuff on it," Kawa said. "None of that is illegal to take. What he got popped for is not on the label. So it's obviously not his fault that he popped for this."
Kawa said his team and USADA both sent out the supplement for testing and it came back that it contained a banned substance. That substance was not listed on the label, Kawa said. The manager said he did not want to reveal the name of the supplement or the substance, because USADA is currently investigating the issue.
Per USADA's rules, Kawa said Romero is facing a penalty as little as a public warning up to a two-year suspension.
"I don't expect it to be two years," Kawa said. "I don't think two years would be fair."
In a statement, USADA confirmed that Romero tested positive for a banned substance and added that the investigation is ongoing.
"At this time we are investigating the circumstances surrounding his positive test to determine the appropriate outcome, in accordance with the rules," the statement read. "It is also important to remember that there is a full and fair legal process to handle the adjudication of any case, and all athletes are provided full due process before any decision is reached."
The manager did acknowledge that Romero ingested the substance and will likely be penalized by USADA in some way.
"He did take the supplement," Kawa said. "If you take a supplement, you run the risk of this happening. The responsibility does fall on Yoel."
Added Romero: "I think it's my responsibility when I take something. But I think maybe a public warning [would be a fair punishment]. I don't know. ... Nobody knows. When you see the supplement, outside it says it's clean, you can take it."
Romero said it would make no sense for him to risk taking a performance-enhancing drug, because MMA is how he pays his bills and feeds his family and he could not afford a lengthy suspension. Romero said it would be "stupid" and "not logical."
"My whole entire life, I've trained very hard," Romero said through a translator and Kawa. "I abstain from a lot of stuff in life. To reach not just the world title, but also to maintain my family. If I would have committed what they're saying, I'm running the risk that I can't support my family. I think more about my family than I do a title. I'm conscious that if I take one of these supplements, they're going to catch me."
Kawa said Romero passed both his pre-fight and fight-night tests. Kawa said it "bothered" and "hurt" Romero that some of his UFC peers ripped him on social media when the UFC announced he was provisionally suspended last month.
"Now he's a little bit more relieved, but he's still pissed off," Kawa said.
Kawa said he's hoping things with USADA will be cleared up by the end of the week. Romero defeated Souza at UFC 194 and was in line for a middleweight title shot against Luke Rockhold before the failed drug test.
UFC welterweight Tim Means was recently flagged for a potential UFC anti-doping policy violation by USADA and he also has claimed that he took a contaminated supplement.