UFC 183 Doping Scandal – Some Important Questions for the NSAC

Kevin Iole Tweet Silva Diaz Drug Tests

(Update September, 2015) the State of Nevada profited a further $165,000 from this affair which was the amount Nick Diaz was fined for his marijuana infraction.

(Update  August 14, 2015Anderson Silva’s fine came to $380,000)

(Update February 4, 2015 – a few further developments worth noting.  Kevin Iole conducted an interview with the Lab director explaining the timelines involved which is worth reading.  It notes that delay is sometimes part of the process.  At the same time, NAC Executive Director Bob Bennett has indicated that the turn around time can be 7 days noting “We’ve made arrangements with the lab to make sure we get the results within seven days and they are working hand in glove with us on this“.  Lastly, LA Times Sports Reporter Lance Pugmire tweeted that “Told by Nevada commision’s Bob Bennett that he did not place expedite on test but will from now on.”)


Earlier today Kevin Iole broke the news that both UFC 183 headliners failed drug tests.  Nick Diaz failed a post fight drug test for marijuana.  Perhaps more newsworthy, Anderson Silva failed an out of competition test taken some three weeks prior to the event testing positive “for two anabolic steroids, drostanolone and androstane“.

If these reports are accurate Silva has tarnished his lifetime of work as a mixed martial artist.  He is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time.  That legacy gets cast into doubt by a single tweet.  Questions, however, need to focus on the Nevada State Athletic Commission and an explanation for the timing of these test results.

The NSAC, like all State athletic commissions that regulate combat sports, exists for the protection of the fighters.  The NSAC’s Mission Statement asserts that they exist  “to ensure the health and safety of the contestants.“.  However, the NSAC and other athletic commissions often appear to have an unwritten goal as well that is not reduced to writing, to operate at a profit, not deficit.  Consider, for example, Tennessee and the reason why the government is apparently considering scrapping their Athletic Commission.

With these competing and conflicting interests in mind, some questions need to be asked about why the Silva v. Diaz bout was allowed to proceed.

Drostanolone is prohibited by WADA both in and out of competition.  That means that Silva, who apparently was on the substance during his pre bout test violated the WADA rules which Nevada adopts.  If this result was known ahead of time the fight should be cancelled if the NSAC is ‘ensuring the safety‘ of the contestants.  This of course was not done.  Here are the questions to ask –

1. Were the results known ahead of time?  (According to the NSAC they were not and I should note I’m not aware of any statements that contradict this).

2. If not, why did a sample taken on January 9 not have the results reported until February 3?

3.  Could anything have been done to expedite this time line?

4.  If so, why were the results not expedited?

Also, consider the following matters –

1. UFC 183 brought a $4.5 million gate

2.    NRS 467.107 provides that each Promoter will pay a licence fee of “Six percent of the total gross receipts from admission fees to the live contest or exhibition of unarmed combat

3.  Six percent of $4.5 million is $270,000

4. NAC 467.255 holds that if an advertised main event is changed, if “any patron desires to have the price of his or her ticket refunded, the promoter must refund the patron’s money if the patron presents the ticket or the ticket stub at the box office before the opening contest or exhibition of the program is scheduled to begin. The box office must remain open a reasonable length of time to redeem such tickets.”

5.  If the main event was cancelled ahead of time the live gate would have undoubtedly been lower, perhaps even the entire event would have been called off.

6.  When fighters fail drug tests they are exposed to financial penalties often equaling a sizable percentage of their purse.  These penalties are payable to the government.

7.  Diaz’s reported purse for UFC 183 was $500,000 and Silva’s was $800,000.

8.  The NSAC boasts of top boxing gates and top MMA gates on their website.  Facts that have nothing to do with their mission statement of fighter protection.

With all of the above in mind the question boils down to this, is the NSAC fulfilling their mission statement of ensuring the health and safety of contestants, or is their duty conflicted with pressure to ensure lucrative events take place in their jurisdiction?  Perhaps there is a benign answer to this question.  Perhaps they never turned their mind to the timelines for obtaining the test results.  Perhaps the turnover time cannot be achieved faster than it was. If so I would love to hear it as it would be a sad state of affairs if profit ever trumped safety in the regulation of combat sports.

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