Wanderlei Silva admits taking banned substance and skipping out on drug test (UPDATE)

Wanderlei Silva's punishment still forthcoming after latest hearing

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

After weeks of speculation and excuses, Wanderlei Silva finally appeared in front of the Nevada Athletic Commission to answer for a random drug test he skipped that caused him to be pulled from his scheduled bout against Chael Sonnen at UFC 175.

At the time, Silva released a video claiming that the commission’s representative showed up at his gym asking him to sign something and because he didn’t read English very well he asked for his lawyer to read over the documents first.  At that point, Silva says he left the gym where the test was supposed to take place at because he had obligations that day for UFC 173 in Las Vegas.

On Tuesday during the commission’s scheduled meeting, executive director Bob Bennett presented the case against Silva, although this served only as an information gathering meeting and no punishment was handed down.

Bennett allowed his sample collection agent, Jim Gernsey, to read from his very detailed notes kept on the day he was sent out to submit drug tests for both Silva and his opponent, Chael Sonnen.  The fighters were required to do blood and urine samples on May 24, but Gernsey struggled to track Silva down during the day.

Finally, Gernsey found Silva at his gym in Las Vegas where he informed him who he was and why he was there.  Silva agreed to take the drug test, and that’s when everything went haywire.

"He asked me if he could speak to his manager or trainer.  I asked him if this person was at the gym and he said yes.  I told him that was fine and I gave him a little space," Gernsey said during the meeting.  "I think he had just finished working out and he went up to the front steps and I followed a little way behind him, he went into an office in the middle of the gym and came out after just a few seconds. He went back to the front counter and back past the office towards the back of the gym and around the corner to the right. 

"I casually followed behind him, when I turned around the corner I realized there was an exit there and a bathroom. I didn’t see him anywhere.  I went into the bathroom and looked around and didn’€™t see him there.  I looked around a little bit more and couldn’t find where he went. I came to the conclusion that he left."

Mr. Silva, regretfully at that time, began taking diuretics. He was taking diuretics for the sole purpose of minimizing the inflammation, to decrease the water retention. He now realizes that he should have submitted the drug test

— Ross Goodman (Wanderlei Silva's attorney)

When the news about Silva skipping the test first came out, Sonnen claimed that the former PRIDE champion literally ran from the gym as opposed to submitting the sample, and now with testimony given by the collection agent it appears that was a true statement.

Both Gernsey and Bennett attempted to track down Silva for some time after the initial test was supposed to be given, but they were unable to locate him.  At that point, Bennett notified UFC executive vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner of what had just happened with Silva.

Following Bennett and Gernsey’s statements, the commission then turned the floor over to Silva for his reply to the comments.  His attorney spoke on his behalf before dropping the bombshell that everything the executive director and his collection agent said Silva did that day was true.

"He doesn’t dispute anything the executive director said.  But he’s here to say in February of this year at The Ultimate Fighter Brazil, he injured his wrist.  He was prescribed by the UFC doctors anti-inflammatories.  He was scheduled to fight on the May card.  Early in May, I believe May 10, 2014, he had an x-ray and it confirmed that he had fractured his right wrist.  The UFC then moved that fight on the May card approximately six weeks to the July 5 card," Silva’s attorney Ross Goodman explained.

"Mr. Silva, regretfully at that time, began taking diuretics.  He was taking diuretics for the sole purpose of minimizing the inflammation, to decrease the water retention. He now realizes that he should have submitted the drug test.  He was surprised, this was the first time in his career where something like this out of competition showed up at his gym.  That doesn’t negate or minimize what Mr. Silva did.  He wants to apologize to the commission.  He was concerned the diuretics would show up on his sample."

Diuretics are banned by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) due to their use in the aid of shedding water weight while also acting as a masking agent for performance enhancing drugs.  Diuretics by definition force water out of the body via urination, and in drug testing this can dilute the sample given by an athlete, masking certain markers used to identify performance enhancing drugs. Diuretics are typically used to lower blood pressure and heart problems, but can be used to reduce swelling in tissue.

Still, the drugs are illegal when used by an athlete in or out of competition and any exemption must be approved before being allowed.  Obviously, Silva didn’t file any kind of exemption with the commission, especially considering he admits to taking the diuretics after the May 10 diagnosis about his wrist. 

The commission gathered all the information and concluded that they will hold a disciplinary hearing for Silva’s infraction at a later date.

Also at the meeting on Tuesday, former UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen appeared via phone to answer for his positive drug test given the same day Silva skipped out on his drug test.  The commission opted to hand down a temporary suspension of Sonnen’s license, and will hold a full hearing at a later date to discuss the case in full.

Sonnen retired from active competition last week, but will still go through the hearing with the commission as they dole out any punishment based on the positive drug test.


Following the hearing this week, Silva released a video two days later documenting his journey to appear in front of the commission while expressing relief once the truth of the matter was out there.

"I have nothing to hide and I am glad we solved this," Silva said in the video.  "Now I’m waiting for (Chael) Sonnen’s suspension to end or (Vitor) Belfort to get licensed. Let’s go to the next!"

Unfortunately whether Silva acknowledges it or not, this situation is far from over.  Tuesday’s meeting served as a fact finding investigation, but Silva will have to appear before the commission to answer for skipping out on a drug test while also admitting to taking a banned substance.  Diuretics are banned 365 days a year for athletes competing in sport, so Silva would face punishment for that regardless of the reason he was taking the drugs.

While the commission can’t technically suspend Silva because he wasn’t licensed in the state at the time of the test, he could face a similar punishment that Alistair Overeem did in 2012 when he tested positive for elevated testosterone ahead of his scheduled bout against heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos.

In that case, Overeem was denied a fight license under the condition that he would undergo additional testing and not apply for a license with any commission for at least nine months.  If those conditions were met, Overeem could then re-apply and be licensed in Nevada.

It’s likely Silva will face similar or possibly worse charges due to the fact that he skipped out on the drug test and then admitted taking a banned substance.  In other words, this situation is a long way from being over.