Lawyer: NAC has no jurisdiction to punish Wanderlei Silva for evading drug test

Wanderlei Silva skipped out on a drug test from the Nevada Athletic Commission in May.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

There is no doubt Wanderlei Silva skipped out on taking a drug test. But Silva’s lawyer is questioning whether the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) had the authority to give his client a drug test at all.

On Thursday, Silva’s attorney Ross Goodman filed a motion to dismiss the case against Silva with the argument being that Silva was not licensed at the time by the NAC and therefore not under its jurisdiction.

"The NSAC has never been vested with the authority to direct or order non-licensed persons to submit to a chemical test," Goodman wrote in the motion to Christopher Eccles, Nevada’s attorney general, which was obtained by FOX Sports. "Consequently, the NSAC lacks jurisdiction to seek disciplinary action against Mr. Silva, and any attempt to do so, clearly exceeds the NSAC’s limited statutory jurisdiction."

Silva, an MMA legend, was scheduled to fight Chael Sonnen at UFC 175 on July 5. An NAC official showed up at Silva’s gym in Las Vegas to give Silva a random test in May. Silva, a Brazilian, said at the time that his English was not good enough to understand the language of the paperwork and then left the gym through the back door.

The NSAC has never been vested with the authority to direct or order non-licensed persons to submit to a chemical test.

-Ross Goodman, Wanderlei Silva's lawyer

The former PRIDE champion was given a temporary suspension in June, pending a hearing. Silva admitted at the time that he was on banned diuretics to reduce inflammation in his injured wrist. That temporary suspension will also hold after Silva’s hearing was postponed until further notice Thursday after the motion was filed.

Goodman said the NAC has removed the word "licensee" from its complaint against Silva, though the language appears in its official rules.

"It is abundantly clear that the NSAC lacks jurisdiction to take disciplinary action over Mr. Silva, a non-licensee, for not submitting to testing that the NSAC had no authority to order," Goodman wrote. "The NSAC tacitly recognizes their lack of jurisdiction to discipline Mr. Silva by removing any reference to licensee under the Jurisdiction section of the Complaint 1-4. A review of other Complaints for Disciplinary Action consistently relies on the unarmed combatants’ status as a ‘licensee’ as the jurisdictional basis for the NSAC’s authority to seek discipline. Here, the NSAC cannot cure this jurisdictional defect by eliminating the phrase ‘licensee’ and simply refer to Mr. Silva as an ‘unarmed combatant.’"

Silva was pulled from the Sonnen bout after failing to take the drug test. It didn’t end up mattering since Sonnen failed two tests, it was discovered in June.

Sonnen, who is also represented by Goodman, was hit with a two-year suspension from the NAC in July. The commission also attempted to stop Sonnen from competing in a grappling exhibition earlier this month in Los Angeles, threatening the former UFC middleweight No. 1 contender with hefty fines.

Silva is facing a lengthy suspension if he fails to win this motion. A standard suspension for failing a drug test is nine months, but rarely has an athlete evaded taking one altogether. There is little precedent for such a case.

Silva and Sonnen were supposed to have their long rivalry come to a head last month. The two coached opposite each other on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 in the spring and got into a scuffle during the taping of the show. Now, it doesn’t appear that fight will ever happen.