For the second time in less than one month, the mixed martial arts community is left with the question: How was a UFC fighter allowed to compete after he failed a drug test?
The Nevada State Athletic Commission revealed on Tuesday that Anderson Silva had tested positive for two steroids, drostanolone and androstane, prior to defeating Nick Diaz via unanimous decision on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas.
Last month, the NSAC revealed that UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had tested positive for traces of cocaine prior to a title fight against Daniel Cormier at UFC 182 on Jan. 3 in Las Vegas. Jones was allowed to still compete, as cocaine is not technically a banned substance "out-of-competition" in the state of Nevada. He defeated Cormier via unanimous decision.
In Silva's case, the NSAC has stated it did not receive the results of the test, which was administered on Jan. 9, until Feb. 3 -- three days after Silva (34-6) competed in the Octagon.
Had the commission received those results prior to the fight, NSAC chairman Francisco Aguilar told ESPN.com he would have been forced to cancel the non-title middleweight fight, which drew a $4.5 million live gate at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
According to Silva's lab report, the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) in Salt Lake City received his sample on Jan. 12. Urine samples are allowed to be transferred by mail, which is a potential explanation for the delay in the lab's receipt.
Dr. Daniel Eichner, executive director of SMRTL, made it very clear to ESPN.com that the lab never deals with specific names regarding samples. Each sample is identified by number only -- meaning, the SMRTL would not put a rush on any sample analysis based on the magnitude of any event.
The fact that Silva's sample was tied to a multimillion-dollar event in Las Vegas is irrelevant and unknown, as far as the lab is concerned.
"Blood and urine samples have unique sample ID numbers, and we never see a name," Eichner said. "We see a number. We then screen those biological samples for any prohibited substances and if we see something, we then confirm that. Sometimes it may be more than one substance.
"We have a confirmation process to make sure that what we've seen is absolutely prohibited and absolutely confirmed. Sometimes that can take time."
Eichner, who has been the executive director at SMRTL since October 2011, could not speak on any specific case, only in generalities. According to Eichner, the SMRTL lab processes approximately 30,000 samples per year.
The World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab -- one of 32 in the world -- differs from a drugs of abuse lab, which can turn out results very quickly. Due to the necessary confirmation process and data entry, Eichner says certain samples can take time to analyze.
In Silva's case, from the time the lab received the sample to reporting the results, it took 22 days.
"We're totally different than a drugs of abuse lab," Eichner said. "If you look at a place like QUEST, they can get a sample in that day and get it on an instrument that night. That's not realistic in the kind of work we do. We do much different work with much different instruments. If you're comparing the turnaround time in the WADA community to the drugs of abuse community, you're not doing a fair comparison.
"One thing I will never apologize for is sending an adverse finding to one of our clients that may take a little bit longer than we would have liked. We will never send a report before it was ready and sometimes they can take longer, depending on the substances we are trying to confirm."
According to NSAC executive director Bob Bennett, he has spoken with Eichner regarding a quicker turnaround on NSAC administered tests. Bennett said that beyond unique circumstances, his expectation is to receive results in seven business days.
"The NSAC is constantly making strides to improve our policies and procedures," Bennett said. "It's a very unfortunate situation that our out-of-competition testing took place on (Jan. 9) and I just received the results yesterday. Typically, it doesn't take three weeks. Obviously, that's unacceptable.
"Dr. Eichner and I have come to an agreement that in the future, I'll get these results in seven working days. Barring extreme circumstances, I should get them in seven days."
Silva and his team have already inquired about testing the 'B' sample from Silva's positive test. Silva was also tested out-of-competition on Jan. 19 and again on the night of the fight. Those results are unavailable at this time.
"They wanted the 'B' sample to be analyzed by a second lab," Bennett told ESPN.com. "We can't accommodate them because that's not keeping with WADA standards, but we did inform them that should they want to have the 'B' sample done, they are welcome to fly to Salt Lake City, observe the 'B' sample to make sure it wasn't tampered with and wait there until the results come in."
Bennett said he relayed Silva's team its options on Tuesday and has not heard back yet. In light of the results, UFC president Dana White promised to support Silva, and that he would get his due process. He also said the fighter will continue his role as coach of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil as the process plays out.
“We fully support the [NSAC]’s out-of-competition drug testing program, which we have financed when requested over the past two years," White said. "Testing of this nature is important to help keep the sport clean. [Dr. Daniel Eichner] at the laboratory in Salt Lake City has now explained the timing of Anderson’s test results and why the Commission and the UFC did not receive the results until Feb. 3, after the fight.
“Once all the results have been made public and the Nevada State Athletic Commission has rendered its decision, we will respect the process and move forward accordingly.”