By Loretta Hunt
Say It 'Aint So!
UFC Champion Tim Sylvia Issued NSAC Complaint For Steroid Use

For a second time in less than two years, another UFC champion has tested positive for steroid use. Current heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia was verbally notified through his management a week after the fight that test results detecting anabolic steroid use had come back positive. As required by Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) regulations, Sylvia had voluntarily submitted to a urinalysis following his title defense victory over Gan McGee at UFC 44, held on September 26, 2003 in Las Vegas. A formal written complaint, filed by the NSAC, was faxed to Sylvia's management and a copy mailed out to his Bettendorf, Iowa home.

In the complaint issued by Keith Kizer, Chief Deputy Attorney General and acting legal counsel for the NSAC, alleged violations included the use of the anabolic steroid Stanozolol Metabolite, a drug or injection that is not approved for use by the NSAC. More familiar by its street name, Winstrol, the drug is utilized to promote body tissue-building processes.

As part of standard procedure adopted after January 1, 2002, the NSAC began regular steroid testing in title fights for all its unarmed combat sports. For UFC 44, Sylvia, Gan McGee, Tito Ortiz, and Randy Couture all went through the requisite steroid testing, as well as standard drug testing, which includes scans for marijuana, various foreign substances and masking agents. Sylvia's urinalysis was the sole sample to come back positive for steroids. Kizer could not confirm if the other fourteen UFC 44 competitors that night were drug-tested as well.

Waiving his right to answer these allegations within 20 days of notice, Sylvia's management has already verbally communicated, with Kizer, the champion's admission to the charges filed in the complaint. Sylvia and his camp also issued a public statement on October 7th stating such. In response, the champion has been asked to appear before the NSAC's five-member board, chaired by Luther Mack, at a previously scheduled October 15th meeting. Since Sylvia has already acknowledged his wrongdoing, the meeting will most likely move into the NSAC's disciplinary phase. "I assume that's how it will go," stated Kizer, "unless he changes his mind [referring to Sylvia's admittance of guilt]. For better lack of the term, Slyvia will have to 'throw himself on the mercy of the court' and give reasons, if he can, as to why they should be lenient." Marc Ratner, the Executive Director of the NSAC, will present the evidence relevant to the case at the proceedings, with Kizer there to assist him. Monte Cox, Sylvia's manager, will also be in attendance, along with representatives of Zuffa Sports Entertainment, the promoters of the UFC. At this time, Sylvia is not planning on using legal counsel. (If for some reason Sylvia fails to attend these hearings, a decision can still be reached in his absence.)

Once under disciplinary consideration, Slyvia's license to fight in Nevada could be suspended for any given period of time deemed appropriate by the Commission, including permanent suspension or revocation of license. The least severe response would be to give Sylvia a warning. In lieu of or in addition to the suspension or revocation of his license, the NSAC can also administer a penalty not to exceed $250,000 or 100% of Sylvia's fighting purse, whichever is greater. Sylvia received a purse of $30,000 to fight McGee and a bonus of $30,000 for his win. In the written complaint, obtained by FCF, recommendations issued on behalf of the Executive Director included both a monetary fine and action taken on Sylvia's license.

The NSAC's jurisdiction dictates over the sports of boxing, kickboxing, "Toughman" competitions, as well as MMA, which it sanctioned as a sport in July of 2001. Sylvia will be the fifth person, out of an estimated 200-plus matches, to be formally charged and (possibly) reprimanded for steroid use since January 2002. Kickboxer Rick Roufus, boxer Fernando Vargas, and mixed martial artists Josh Barnett and Mark Smith have all been penalized in the past.

Barnett's case was the first instance the Commission has ever had in which an unarmed combat sports competitor has tested positive for a performance enhancing agent. He denied allegations that he utilized three anabolic substances found in his body following his UFC 36 victory and was eventually handed a ten-month suspension (from the date of the fight) when he could not prove otherwise. Smith was suspended for a year for multiple steroid and drug-related infractions following his November 2002 King Of The Cage fight in Reno, Nevada. In addition, Kizer noted that the NSAC has been gradually adopting a more aggressive stance with its rulings.

Champion Tim Sylvia politely declined to speak yesterday on the situation, and requested comments be made on his behalf through longtime Team Extreme manager Monte Cox. Cox, who stated that neither he nor any of Sylvia's teammates at Miletich Martial Arts had any knowledge of the use prior to NSAC notification, had this to say. "It's not what people think, although people are going to believe what they want to. This isn't like Tim did a big cycle of steroids, he was stacking, and stuff like that. That's not what it was. He won the title. He's always been not too happy with his body and has worked hard to try and change it and he took a shortcut. It was a bad choice, but he made the choice on his own and people makes mistakes. He's a teammate and we're gonna support him." According to Cox, Sylvia told him he started a one-month cycle early into his eighth month layoff between his appearances at UFC 41 and UFC 44. "He did it well before the fight," relayed Cox. "It lasted about a month and he really didn't think it was that big a deal. He was under the impression it would be long out of his system. But, he was actually not familiar with it. He'd never done it before."

With regards to Sylvia's UFC heavyweight belt, as it was also with Barnett's case almost two years ago, the NSAC does not have any authority to revoke a title and/or overturn the decision of this or any other fight. Says Kizer, "We have no jurisdiction over any belt -- whether it be kickboxing, boxing, or MMA. It's totally up to the promotion." Kizer added the NSAC can make a recommendation on the matter if they so wish, but he doubts that will be the case.

Zuffa has made precedent in the past when it decided to adjust ruling on Josh Barnett's win over Randy Couture at UFC 36 to a "No contest." Barnett was also stripped of the heavyweight belt he had acquired in that fight. In Sylvia's case, however, this champion was defending his belt and a "no contest" ruling would erase the fight from the records, but not necessarily revoke him of his title.

Contact made to Zuffa today resulted in the following notification: UFC president Dana White has refrained from making any comments till after the October 15th proceedings, but did release a statement earlier this morning supporting Sylvia, as well as the NSAC in whatever action they make take in the matter.

As for Sylvia's second title defense against challenger Frank Mir that was slated for UFC 45 on November 21st in Connecticut, no formal announcement has been made as to if and what any alternate plans may be. Cox has not received any formal notification that Sylvia won't be fighting come November, yet feels it unnecessary. "They don't have to tell me. I know he's not going to fight in November. He's going to get a suspension for this, and even if he didn't get a suspension, mentally, he's in no way ready to defend his title in November. Mentally, it's taken quite a toll on him." FCF has learned that heavyweight contender Andrei Arlovski's camp has been contacted by the UFC and the two parties are in "discussions" now. UFC 43 veteran Wes Sims has also confirmed his ongoing contact with Zuffa regarding a potential UFC 45 fight and is currently training to step in if the opportunity should arise.

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