Anderson Silva is an MMA legend, by anyone’s standards.
He holds UFC record after UFC record, including the longest reign as promotional champion — in any division. The “Spider” scored ten straight title defenses in an almost seven year reign as UFC middleweight champion. He was seen as the sport’s best, pound-for-pound, for years.
At one point, Silva won sixteen bouts in a row in the UFC – another record. He has also finished the most opponents than anyone else in the promotion’s history.
He didn’t just “ply a trade” in those wins, either. Sometimes, he seemed to re-define his trade. Silva used an unorthodox fighting style which kept opponents guessing, fight after fight and year after year. His famous knockout of former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin, where Silva danced about the cage before flattening Griffin with a straight punch while moving backwards, stands out among many highlights.
But simply put, he was always something to behold.
So, when Silva appeared yesterday before the Nevada State Athletic Commission in a disciplinary hearing for his failed drug tests earlier this year, it was a spectacle. But, it was the wrong kind of spectacle; and anything but a win for the ex-champion (who also enjoyed title reigns for Japan’s Shooto and the UK’s Cage Rage earlier in his career, after winning several bouts in his native Brazil.)
Silva’s team produced perhaps the most ridiculous defense imaginable: describing the MMA legend as taking a sexual performance drug which was “tainted” with anabolic steroids. An off-brand version of Cialis was given to Silva by a friend who lives in Thailand.
Silva trusted his friend, the story goes, that the clear liquid in the blue vial from Thailand was 100% legitimate; even though (again, per the story) it isn’t available legally in Brazil or the US.
Why didn’t he disclose it? “He though it was a private matter”, went the testimony.
Why didn’t he simply take responsibility for what he had put in his body? Well, looking back it was a mistake, went the testimony.
It seems the idea was to come up with something embarrassing; as Marc Raimondi of MMAFighting puts it:
So Anderson Silva used the this-is-so-humiliating-they’ll-have-to-believe-me defense today and it didn’t work.
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) August 14, 2015
The defense was ridiculous and perhaps worse, the team failed to properly document it. A member of Silva’s team testified that the mysterious clear liquid in the blue vial was tested and was likely the source of the steroids – but then, they didn’t have any actual documentation.
What we can document is that this episode was the first time Anderson Silva was ever tested under today’s enhanced standards – with random, out of competition urine and blood samples taken in the weeks leading up to competition.
And – he failed. Nevada brought down the hammer. He’s suspended a year, lost 30% of a $800,000 purse and a $200,000 win bonus besides.
Fans, we’re in a new era. The legends of the past – of even a year or two ago — had different rules in the cage and out.
There’s nothing wrong with looking up to those figures. I still look up to Anderson Silva.
But we need to be honest about the fact we’re in a transition now. If you want the sport to be fair, you need to say hello to new PED testing standards, and goodbye to a few of those old legends.
Saying goodbye isn’t always easy, sure.
But, it sure beats watching “The Spider” get squished by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.