Ricardo Abreu failed a drug test while serving a two-year suspension from USADA, but that doesn’t matter to the UFC middleweight after all.
"Demente", who is suspended until June 2018 after testing positive for anabolic steroid metabolites norandrosterone and 19-noretiocholanolone in June of last year, told MMA Fighting on Friday that he expected to fail a drug test and announced his decision to retire from the sport to focus on his health and family after battling depression. Combate first reported Abreu’s retirement.
The reasons why Abreu failed a drug test is that he was under treatment, he explains.
“Nothing happened overnight,” Abreu told MMA Fighting. “I had symptoms of depression for a long time, but I didn't know about it. I had a lot of changes in my life, leaving Las Vegas, where I had the support of Wanderlei Silva and his lovely family for a long time, to live and train in California. I got a sponsor while living in California so I could finally stop teaching and focus on training and fighting only and still pay my bills. That's what I wanted.
“Living in California was too expensive, though, and since the sponsorship money was coming from Brazil, the crisis there impacted everything,” he continued. “I had a fight in New Orleans and lost a close split decision. After that, I decided to move to Albuquerque, which was cheaper to live than Los Angeles, and train at Jackson's. But the crisis in Brazil just got worse, and my sponsor notified me that they couldn't sponsor me anymore because of it. That was right after the Reebok deal with the UFC.
“You make a living with sponsors, not with the purse the UFC pays you. Sometimes the money you make through sponsors is bigger than the fight itself. But it doesn't make sense to sponsor a fighter if he can’t use your brand in the UFC. I understand them. I’m not criticizing the UFC. I love the company, it’s one of the biggest companies in the world, but that was the reality. That’s what happened.”
After moving to a different city in the United States and close to becoming a father for the second time, things got difficult for Abreu. His wife couldn't work in the United States due to her visa, so he was the only one bringing money home. Coming off a loss and with no sponsors, “Demente” felt all the pressure over his shoulders.
“I already had a three-year old son and my wife was pregnant, and I had no idea if we would have money the next month,” Abreu said. “I was afraid, and that fear dominated me. I was already a little depressed, and that depression only got bigger. I was afraid of everything. I had no courage for nothing, no energy. I thought nothing would work. I started to go down.”
“I decided to visit a psychologist after some time and he said I had depression,” Abreu continued. “He said it wasn’t severe, but it wasn’t light either. It was horrible. The idea of taking medication, I thought it was something for weak people, crazy people."
Abreu wasn’t in the right place, mentally speaking, and felt that his body responded the same way.
“I had no will power,” the jiu-jitsu expert said. “I had no desire to teach and train, no desire to talk to people, and my work depends on that. Nobody wants to train with someone who looks like sh*t and is depressed. I got to a point where I thought about going back to Brazil to live with my parents, but how would I do that with my wife and kids? It’s impossible. Family is what matters the most to me in this world.”
“I said I was sick, sent (the UFC) a letter saying I wasn’t fit to fight, and started the treatment,” Abreu said. “I got better right away. I was happier. I don’t regret doing it. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done because I finally had energy, I was optimistic, I had hope. I started teaching again. I was back to normal.
“I was getting better from the depression, but my body still felt weird. My doctor asked me to do a blood work and check my levels, and my levels were all over the place, so he suggested doing a bioidentical hormone replacement.”
That’s when USADA showed up for a random test, “Demente" says.
“I never considered fighting in the UFC during the treatment because I would need clearance from my doctor after the depression, and USADA came to test me,” Abreu said. “I told them I was under treatment, and they tested me. I didn’t even ask to test the B sample because I knew what was going on since the beginning. I never blamed tainted meat, tainted anything. And they showed up a few weeks ago to test me again, and it’s obvious that some traces of the medication would still be in my body."
“I never hid this from anyone,” he continued. “I think that they releasing this now, that I failed another test last year, is a misconception of what is really going on with my life. People will see me as a cheater, but it’s not the case. I’ve got to a point where my body doesn't produce the things I need."
Abreu says the treatments he’s been doing have benefited his life immensely, and that’s why he’s choosing his life over his UFC career.
“This retirement is to prove that this is my focus,” Abreu said. “Feeling better, living with my family and friends, enjoying life, having energy to play with my kids, that's what matters to me. Unfortunately, I can’t get a medical license from the UFC to get treatment, so this happened. But now I have time to take care of myself and be happy. Life is good.”