He says he’s not, but should Anderson Silva sue USADA?

July 25, 2018

On Ariel Helwani’s show this past Monday, Anderson Silva stated that he would not take legal action after USADA determined that his failed drug test came from a compounding pharmacy.  But, a legal action could facilitate a change to the current UFC Anti-Doping Policy.

The former middleweight champ said he has lost 4 sponsors as a result of his absence from the Octagon.

Silva’s statement of losing sponsors could be a claim for damages in a lawsuit against USADA and Zuffa.   Based on the USADA ruling, it absolves Silva of wrongdoing in the matter as he ingested a contaminated supplement.  He unknowingly took a supplement from a pharmacy that made the supplement in-house rather than receiving it from the actual manufacturer.  The issue of “compounding pharmacies” has come up with several tests that were flagged by USADA.  This includes Junior Dos Santos and Antonio Rogerio Nogueria.  All have been reinstated after an investigation revealed the source of the failed test.

In a lawsuit, the broader problem is that Silva would likely have to bring an action against USADA and the UFC for its policy.  Since Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC is the organization that unilaterally (very important) implemented the policy, you would need to sue them.  Certainly, a daunting task for any fighter considering the lawsuits pending regarding Mark Hunt and the ex-UFC athletes in the antitrust lawsuit.

But, Silva would have been a great plaintiff to disrupt the current state of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.  Granted, his UFC 183 NAC drug test failure was embarrassing to his legacy, but he has maintained a popularity with most MMA fans.  Stepping in on short notice to face Daniel Cormier at UFC 200 was legendary because it was clear that he was not in shape to go in and fight but did it to help the company.

So, why sue the company that he has been a part of for years?

The UFC Anti-Doping Policy has flaws and there is no way that they can be amended since contracted athletes have no leverage to influence policy.  Project Spearhead among other entities have attempted to organize but those efforts are still pending.

A lawsuit which would include USADA and Zuffa would bring attention to the perceived unfair policy developed by the organization.  While the intent of the policy is for the greater good of the sport in that it prevents the use of performance enhancing drugs, athletes have complained about the testing measures and the collection process.  Josh Barnett, who successfully defended himself at arbitration over a failed drug test, left the UFC due to the lack of trust he had in the process.  Despite the fact athletes may absolve themselves of wrongdoing, athletes are immediately put on a provisional suspension pending adjudication which takes a lengthy amount of time to complete.

Moreover, the standard for which athletes must prove their innocence is a huge obstacle considering that the UFC Anti-Doping Policy operates on a presumption that the athlete is responsible for anything he or she ingests.  Thus, the issue of compounding pharmacy or taking a tainted supplement already makes the athlete culpable.

A lawsuit is a long, arduous process that costs a lot of money.  Silva is 43 and would like to fight before his time is up.  So, not filing a lawsuit is prudent to finish his career in the UFC.  But, his legacy could be more than this if he were to take legal action.  It would be likely that a lawsuit would necessitate a response short of a trial. Meaning, the USADA and Zuffa would want to solve the issue prior to judicial resolution.  The loss of sponsors, assuming they were due to in-ring inaction rather than another issue, may be a viable claim for lost wages due to an unfair system.

Legal action is not always the way to resolve disputes, but at the present time if athletes want a change to the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, filing a complaint might be the way to do it.

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