As Anderson Silva prepares to return from a one-year suspension stemming from multiple failed drug tests in January, the former UFC middleweight champion says his "conscience is clear" regarding any use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Silva, 40, is scheduled to return to the Octagon opposite Michael Bisping on Feb. 27 at O2 Arena in London. It will mark his first appearance since a decision win against Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on Jan. 31. The result of that fight has since been changed to a no-contest.
Twenty-two days before UFC 183, Silva (33-6) submitted a random drug test to the Nevada State Athletic Commission that tested positive for the anabolic steroid drostanolone and a form of androstane. On fight night, he again tested positive for drostanolone, as well as a banned anti-anxiety medication. The bout went on, however, as the NSAC did not receive results of the prefight drug test until after Jan. 31.
Widely considered the greatest fighter of all time, Silva has claimed innocence in regard to the failed tests. In August, he claimed the banned substances came from a contaminated sexual performance-enhancing drug he acquired from Thailand.
Speaking through a translator Tuesday, Silva said his attorneys at that August disciplinary hearing came off as "clowns." He maintained that he never knowingly ingested any banned substance.
"Inside the Octagon, there's no way to really lie," said Silva, who recorded a UFC-best 10 consecutive title defenses from 2007 to 2012. "I've been fighting my whole career and never tested positive. My conscience is clear. I've never purposefully taken any banned substance. I made an error in taking a substance that was contaminated. I never cheated. In this sport, at the end of the day, whoever is best prepared is going to show on that night."
Drug testing within MMA has come a long way in recent years, as athletic commissions have spearheaded efforts to test fighters randomly during training camps as opposed to waiting to do it the night of a fight. In Silva's case, it was the first time he had been tested away from competition.
In response to a rash of positive tests in 2014 and early 2015, the UFC partnered with the United States Anti-Doping Agency this year to implement its own random drug testing program. Since going into effect in July, the program has administered 349 tests, according to USADA records.
Bisping (27-7), who trains out of Southern California, has long chased a fight against Silva, but he hasn't minced words when it comes to the Brazilian's failed drug tests. The 36-year-old Brit has never fought for a UFC championship and has suffered losses to multiple opponents who have experienced licensing issues because of PEDs, including Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort.
"The fact of the matter is Anderson Silva tested positive for not one, not two, but three banned substances," Bisping said. "While I respect him as a fighter, I've got to say, I lost a lot of respect for him for that. This fight represents me beating all those people who want to cheat the system. I have never taken a performance-enhancing drug in my life. Anybody that does should be ashamed.
"To call yourself a martial artist and then take a performance-enhancing drug is the biggest contradiction you could ever make. He should be ashamed of himself, and I feel this should be talked about more. I want to be tested throughout camp. I hope that happens, and I hope Anderson is tested."
Silva's failed tests stemmed from his only fight in the past two years. In 2013, he surrendered the UFC middleweight title in a knockout loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 162. Later that year, he suffered a broken leg in a TKO loss to Weidman in a title rematch. The injury kept him sidelined for all of 2014.
Despite the hit his legacy has taken from the one-year suspension, Silva says he's not returning in 2016 with any added motivation to prove himself. He says his goal is to reclaim the title, which wasn't the case before the Diaz fight.
"I'm very motivated to come back. Over the past two years in my career, I've had some bumps in the road and some adversity to overcome. But I'm very motivated, very focused in coming back and bringing this belt back to Brazil."
"I don't feel I have to prove anything to anyone," Silva said. "I don't feel I have any sort of redemption. I feel I'm coming back because I'm motivated to follow my dream. I'm ready to be tested any time. You guys can test me as much as you like."
The non-title middleweight fight headlines UFC Fight Night, which will air on the promotion's digital service UFC Fight Pass.