Silva returns to drug weary MMA scene

As he prepares to take on Alexander Gustafsson on Saturday at the UFC’s first-ever show in Sweden, Thiago Silva finds himself at an interesting time to return from a drug suspension.

Or -- in the interest of accuracy, I guess -- a drug-related suspension.

After all, Silva didn’t get handed a one year ban from competition for shooting an illicit substance into his spine prior to UFC 125 so much as what he did to try to cover it up. Instead of taking the rap for the injectable itself, Silva opted for what is probably the most hilarious way to fail a commission administered drug test: Submitting a sample that ultimately proved “inconsistent with human urine.”

If you know you’re going down, might as well go down in flames, right?

At the time, we all had a good laugh. Fast forward a little more than 12 months, however, and Silva is about to step back into an MMA landscape riddled with high-profile steroid scandals. After Quinton Jackson voluntarily confessed to hormone replacement therapy, Cristiane Santos got pinched for using an old school bodybuilding drug and Alistair Overeem submitted a urine sample consistent with a human who is totally jacked out of his mind on testosterone, fight fans could conceivably be in a fairly unforgiving mood these days.

There is no telling how this second tour of duty might go for Silva. With a record of 14-2 (now with one no contest), his only previous losses came against former 205-pound champions Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida but he also hasn’t exactly defeated a “who’s who” of top talent during his UFC career.

Prior to his suspension, Silva had bounced around the outskirts of the light heavyweight top-10, but after spending a year forcibly removed from the action, his most notable Octagon wins over the likes of Keith Jardine, Houston Alexander and James Irvin suddenly don’t seem overly extraordinary anymore. Most recently, he’d also been slowed by the back injury he eventually blamed for his drug use.

Silva remains something of an interesting talent, but the lack of big wins, the injury trouble and the drug suspension all make it difficult to nail down what kind of future he might have.

Luckily for him, his employer appears ready to forgive past transgressions, accepting his time served and inserting him directly into a nationally televised main event bout against Gustafsson in his first fight back. Even if it is one where Silva enters as close to a 2-to-1 underdog against a hometown hero who some observers expect to mature into a future foe for champion Jon Jones, it’s probably a better assignment than Silva might’ve expected, or deserved.

Perhaps such surprising post-suspension treatment can be chalked up to good behavior. Fact is, Siva was actually refreshingly honest about his drug snafu, at least once it became clear that officials had him dead to rights.

“I used a urine adulterant when giving a sample following my fight with Brandon Vera,” Silva said last year via a prepared statement. “I did so in an attempt to alter the results of the test and knowingly broke the rules of the Nevada [State] Athletic Commission. This was a terrible decision on my part for which I will be punished. I am prepared to accept this punishment, learn from it and move on. I apologize to the commission, the UFC, Brandon Vera and the MMA fans.”

For an MMA drug test mea culpa, that’s about as good as it gets. In light of it, perhaps fans and promoters alike will be willing to give Silva a second chance.

Make that a last chance, as he prepares to reenter a culture that by now should be about one steroid scandal away from its breaking point.