Former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin recently commented on the media firestorm surrounding the recent failed drug tests of pound-for-pound great and one-time Octagon adversary Anderson Silva.
The Spider was given a temporary suspension by the Nevada Athletic Commission in a February hearing and will face further discipline at a commission meeting later this month. Franklin, who lost his title in lopsided fashion to Silva at UFC 64, told Submission Radio that the positive tests overshadow what was an otherwise surefire Hall of Fame-caliber career:
Anderson’s had this long run and then of course when something like this happens the fans are going to start asking, "Well how long has he been on this stuff?" It’s a shame to think that that is going to tarnish his reputation. I don’t know how they do it, like with masking agents and I’m not saying that that’s the case with Anderson, but if people are going to start questioning that and wondering that, and it’s just....like honestly, my heart bleeds for the guy man.
Silva most recently fought at UFC 183 in a middleweight encounter with former Strikeforce welterweight titleholder Nick Diaz. The 39-year-old conquered the Stockton slugger on January 31, but had his unanimous-decision victory overturned to a no-contest following the failed tests.
Silva failed a pre-fight drug test on January 9, which yielded positive results for the steroids Drostanolone and Androsterone. He also flunked a post-fight test for the anti-anxiety medications Oxazepam and Temazepam.
The fight with Diaz was his first bout in over a year after The Spider was shelved and forced to recover from a disturbing broken left leg injury suffered at UFC 168. As word of the failed tests came out in early February, many mixed martial arts pundits—including Franklin—called Silva's 10 title defenses into question:
Listen, to say that thought never crossed my mind would be a lie. I don’t know if he was using it back when he fought me or not. I’m not sure it would have made a difference and I don’t want to blame a loss on that kind of stuff or anything. I would probably lean more towards in the Anderson case that this was something that helped him recover from his injury and all that kind of stuff, and on the back end he ends up getting caught doing it.
Was Silva's use of performance-enhancing drugs solely for purposes of rehabilitation, or has his career been fueled by obtaining a competitive advantage over his Octagon foes?
It appears, though, as if we are on the verge of receiving our answer. On the eve of his March hearing with the Nevada Athletic Commission, the Brazilian and his camp are prepared to argue that his use of PEDs was therapeutic, as per MMAjunkie's Brent Brookhouse.
A report by Brazilian website UOL (h/t Brent Brookhouse) states, "Silva representatives will claim the dosage of the anabolic steroids was low enough to not provide any competitive advantage and that they were not intentionally deceptive in their usage of the drugs."
Silva's time in the Octagon was already slowly coming to a halt. Pending the punishment handed down by the Nevada Athletic Commission, the soon-to-be 40-year-old cannot keep competing at the high level he has been accustomed to for much longer.
His commendable, but average, performance against Diaz just over a month ago had fans wondering if he'd ever return to his previous, destructive self. Meanwhile, over the past few years, friend and current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has taken out former champs, etching out his own place on MMA's Mount Rushmore.
"I'll never look at Anderson as a cheater. What he's been able to accomplish throughout his career is just unbelievable," Jones told MMA Fighting. "He's still a guy I admire and look up to tremendously and I'm pulling for him to just get through all this and continue being the champion that he's been."
Similarly, training partner and current UFC middleweight Lyoto Machida sung Silva's praises:
"I'm very surprised, but I think he's [Silva] a victim, he's a story," Machida told MMA Digest. "I prefer not to talk about that because it's a very difficult situation. I have a lot of confidence in Anderson."
Silva's fighting career is in the hands of the Nevada Athletic Commission. Later this month, we will find out if the punishment fits the crime.
Not only will he face disciplinary action from the commission, but also from his employer. Based upon the UFC's newfound stance on PEDs, it could be a long time before MMA's GOAT sets foot in the Octagon again.