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Viscardi Andrade says he was ‘pressured' to accept two-year USADA suspension

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MMA: UFC Fight Night-Walsh vs Andrade Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Almost one year after being flagged for a potential USADA violation, Viscardi Andrade was issued a two-year suspension from the United States Anti-Doping Agency on Tuesday. Yet, the Brazilian fighter still claims that he is innocent.

Andrade was tested 12 days before his UFC Fight Night 85 clash with Richard Walsh in Brisbane, Australia, but the results only came back shortly after his unanimous decision victory.

Flagged for the anabolic steroid stanozolol and its metabolites, Andrade’s defense was based on the fact that the Rio de Janeiro lab that conducted the drug test lost its WADA accreditation a few months after his test was analyzed. According to a report by Reuters in June 2016, prior to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the lab suspension was due to false positives.

"We’ve battled this result for a year,” Andrade told MMA Fighting. "I don’t accept it, I was always blaming the lab, and they are protecting the lab. We got to a point where we asked for a letter explaining why the lab lost its credential, because they claimed it wasn’t because of false positive results like the media reported. They never sent us this letter.

"We insisted, asked to go to arbitration, and they were pretty clear: 'this argument you’re using, another athlete tried it and it was denied, and it won’t be different with you. You will waste your money for nothing. We’re telling you know that it will be denied.’"

One year after his suspension started, USADA reached out to the UFC fighter and told him to make a decision, Andrade said.

"On Monday, they told us to accept this, or they would stop counting this year off, and my suspension would only get longer,” Andrade said. "They told me to make a decision. I talked to my team and we decided that there was nothing we could do, so we accepted it. They asked us to sign a term admitting what happened, but we didn’t. I made it clear that I don’t accept it. That’s the situation. I was pressured (to accept the suspension)."

"I told them I wouldn’t sign (the term) because I don't agree with the test, that it was flawed,” he continued. "At first, I felt they didn’t know how to handle the situation, they never had to deal with this kind of situation before."

The other Brazilian athlete who tested positive for a prohibited substance in a sample analyzed by the Rio lab was Felipe Olivieri. He went to arbitration in his case with USADA and an arbitrator determined that he should get the maximum two years for testing positive for methyltestosterone, despite the Rio lab losing its WADA accreditation months later.

“A suspension some three months later of the laboratory’s accreditation does not mean that the sample analysis in March was incorrect or flawed,” the arbitrator, Richard H. McLaren, wrote in the decision in January.

In a statement, USADA spokesperson Ryan Madden said Andrade had a right to arbitration and chose to forego it. The full facts of the case would have been made public had he gone to arbitration, Madden said.

“Of course we have full confidence in the results and outcome of this case,” Madden said. “And it’s important to remember that under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, the athlete had the opportunity to have this case heard by an independent arbitrator. Instead, he waived his right to arbitration – where all the relevant facts of the case would have been published publicly – and instead chose to have the sanction imposed against him. Any claims to the contrary are inaccurate.”

Andrade will have his win overturned, dropping to 2-1 with one no-contest under the UFC banner. The Brazilian welterweight will be 34 years old by the time he’s cleared to get back inside the Octagon.

"It sucks, man. I’ll tell you, it sucks,” Andrade said. "I already lost two years of my career due to injury, and when I’m coming back, I have to stay out for two years again. It’s terrible. I didn’t change anything I was doing. It’s pretty clear to me that it was the lab. They won’t accept this because it would open the possibility for many athletes, and USADA would lose its credibility.

"I was mentally prepared to stay out for a long time. I knew it was a tough case to solve. At first, I thought it would be solved, but after six months, I realize it would not, so I started to prepare myself mentally for this because it’s frustrating. I’m still training, following my routine. The truth is, sometimes you want to stop training and see what you wanna do in a year, but I move on. I’m teaching, training, staying busy."

Andrade hopes to fight immediately after his suspension is over. In the meantime, the jiu-jitsu black belt does what he can to make money and pay his bills.

"I have a gym with a lot of young talents, and I hope they are signing with big promotions soon,” Andrade. "I’m also working as a matchmaker for a few promotions, too. I’m working because I have bills to pay. I have to work."