LAS VEGAS -- A Nevada district judge has reversed a lifetime ban and $70,000 fine imposed on now-retired mixed martial artist Wanderlei Silva for fleeing from a random drug test last year.
Judge Kerry L. Earley ruled in favor of Silva's assertion the punishment, which was voted on unanimously by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in September, was "arbitrary, capricious and not supported by substantial evidence."
As part of the court's ruling, a rehearing has been ordered to allocate proper punishment for Silva's violation. Deputy attorney general Christopher Eccles was not immediately available for comment.
In May 2014, Silva ran from a drug test the NSAC attempted to administer at the fighter's Las Vegas gym. Silva, 38, later admitted he had taken diuretics, a banned substance. The NSAC handed down a lifetime ban for the infraction, and Silva subsequently announced his retirement from MMA.
Silva appealed the NSAC's ruling in January. In addition to challenging the terms of the punishment, Silva contended the NSAC lacked jurisdiction to even test him when they did, as he did not have an active fighter's license in Nevada. The NSAC has argued Silva was scheduled to fight Chael Sonnen at UFC 175 on July 5, 2014, which demonstrated his clear intent to fight within the state.
Judge Earley ruled in favor with the NSAC on that particular issue, stating the commission had "properly exercised jurisdiction over [Silva]."
In a written statement, Silva's attorney Ross Goodman applauded the judge's ruling on the terms of the sentence and left options open in regard to a further appeal on the matter of jurisdiction.
"We are pleased that the court set aside the disciplinary actions ordered against Mr. Silva and reversed its decision and remanded for a re-hearing after finding that the NSAC violated Mr. Silva's rights," Goodman stated. "While we believe this is the first step in the right direction, we are evaluating our options to appeal this order given the court's failure to specifically address whether the NSAC also violated [jurisdiction limits]."
The ruling comes four days after the NSAC amended several of its guidelines related to suspension lengths and fines amounts for doping violations. Under the new guidelines, which are expected to go into effect around Sept. 1, avoiding a test calls for a four-year suspension and a fine of 50 percent of the athlete's purse.
NSAC chairman Francisco Aguilar told ESPN.com last week that the commission is committed to harsh penalties for athletes who run testing procedures.
"You're presumed innocent until proven guilty and in that situation, you're taking advantage of the opportunity to show or give a sample of what we need to determine what is right," Aguilar said. "I think one thing athletes need to understand is that we're not playing games here. When we go to collect a sample, we're doing it to protect fighters' health and safety but also to protect the integrity of the sport."
Silva (35-12-1) is a former Pride middleweight champion. He has not competed since recording a second-round knockout win over Brian Stann at a UFC on Fuel event in March 2013.