Interview conducted by Scott Petersen; Article compiled by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Just over a week after being ousted from the co-main event of the WFA’s “King of the Streets” pay-per-view due to a positive test for steroids, UFC and Pride veteran Kimo Leopoldo spoke with MMAWeekly about the series of events that led up to the positive test, his removal from the WFA card, and his immediate future.
Kimo was scheduled to face Bas Rutten in the co-main event of the WFA event on July 22nd, but rumors started to circulate a few days before the scheduled fight that Kimo had failed a drug test. While many forums and news outlets were reporting the news, it was Kimo who was seemingly the last to know, as he stated that he only found out about the results of the test on Thursday, July 20th, which was the day before the WFA weigh-ins.
This story dates back to May of 2005, when Kimo took on Marcus Royster in a heavyweight bout for the Rumble on the Rock promotion in Hawaii. Kimo walked out of the bout with a severely injured knee, which would eventually require surgery and rehab. During the time before the surgery, Kimo was offered a bout in Pride against Ikuhisa Minowa and fought with the injury, attempting to get by on his strength and weight advantage, but he eventually lost the fight by submission due to an Achilles lock. It was after this fight that Kimo underwent the necessary surgery to repair his knee, and Kimo tells MMAWeekly that he was prescribed a medicinal steroid to help in his recovery after the surgery.
“I actually had a prescribed medication that was in my system,” said Kimo. “I had a knee surgery that I had approximately a year ago, so my doctor prescribed me a few things to help me out in my recovery, and this was taken before I even had a clue about this fight with Bas. I was completely done taking it when I found out about this fight.”
The steroid in question is Stanozolol, which is commonly referred to as Winstrol by many athletes. Winstrol is an anabolic steroid that can be prescribed to help rebuild tissue that may have become weak after a severe injury. It can be used as a “stacker” that helps to increase muscle mass without the user gaining much extra weight, which is how it has been used by many other athletes who have tested positive with other professional sports and athletic commissions.
Stanozolol is the same drug that was found in the system of current UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia after a championship bout in 2003, and was also found in the system of former pro baseball player Rafael Palmeiro when he tested positive for steroids in 2005.
Stanozolol is also the same drug that was found in Kimo’s system after a June 2004 fight against Ken Shamrock in the UFC, which caused Kimo to be suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
On the subject of Stanozolol/Winstrol in particular, Kimo said, “It helps joints, and it’s not like a testosterone. Those are really bad. Winstrol helps your joints a lot, and it doesn’t stiffen ligaments and things like that. I was on it for about four months, and that was way before I knew about [the fight with] Bas, and the doctors don’t know for sure, but it’s supposed to be three to six months that it stays in your system. So, I went ahead and took the Bas fight.”
Kimo says that the medicinal use of the steroid was prescribed to him while he was rehabbing from his knee injury, and the treatments apparently stopped around March or April. Kimo added that he signed for his fight against Bas Rutten about two and a half months before the actual event was set to take place, and he believed that the steroid would have more than enough time to exit his system. Due to his previous drug test failure and suspension, Kimo would have to be tested before he could be re-licensed to fight by a major athletic commission.
“I really believed that it would be out of my system. I knew I was going to get tested, after my previous thing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission,” Kimo said in reference to the 2004 suspension. “I know no matter what now every fight is going to be like that. Now, knowing this and I’m a pretty intelligent guy, when I step into this doctor’s office, if I had any clue and I was going to cheat, I would have had fake pee. There’s a lot of ways around tests if you want to cheat, but I had no reason to do that because I felt I was correct.”
Once the testing was completed, Kimo returned to training in his final preparations for the fight with Rutten, only to have the officials from the WFA step in the day before the weigh-ins for the event to tell him that the test results had come back positive.
Regarding this sequence of events, Kimo told MMAWeekly, “What they said was, ‘Kimo, we had a problem with your test,’ and that’s what I explained to them that my doctor prescribed it, and they said, ‘We’re not making any promises, but we will review it if you can get your doctor to give the prescription to us, and we will review this and give you a conclusion.’ So, not even twenty minutes later, I had my doctor on the phone talking to them and he faxed all the information to them, and they didn’t tell me anything until maybe 12 o’clock that night. They said that they can’t let anybody in the cage that has tested positive for a steroid, but to me it doesn’t make sense because why would they have taken that information from me and wasted my time.”
Kimo is unhappy with the way that he was led to believe he would still have a chance to fight. “I don’t want to sound like one of those guys who says they were set up, but I don’t feel like I was done right,” said Kimo.
The WFA scrambled to find a replacement for Kimo, and the fighter who eventually filled that role was Ruben “Warpath” Villareal, who lost to Rutten by TKO. As for Kimo, he is still unsure about what his future holds in the WFA, and he has a hearing scheduled for August 8th with the California State Athletic Commission in order to discuss any punishment that he may incur.
“My relationship with WFA is pending. I have to go to Sacramento on the 8th to talk to the athletic commission and see what they’re going to say,” said Kimo
While it’s no secret that controversy has surrounded Kimo in the past, most notably with the previous steroid test failure in 2004, he spoke openly about that situation and how other fights in his past still haunt him to this day.
“I’ve been misrepresented my entire career,” said Kimo “It started from when I fought [Kazushi] Sakuraba, way back in his first fight, and I beat him. Half of the fight was a shoot, half of the fight was real. It was thrown by an independent promoter. It wasn’t thrown by Pride. I didn’t get that on my record as a victory. I didn’t say nothing to nobody. I didn’t brag… and then I fight [Tsuyoshi] Kosaka in the UFC, and let’s just say out of a fifteen-minute fight, thirteen of the minutes I dominated him. The last two minutes, I tried to throw an armbar and he got on top of me, and he got the decision… and then I go fight Bob Sapp [in K-1], and I’m not a kickboxer, but I know my ability. So, I go in and fight Bob Sapp, and not only do I get cheated out of the victory, and I got a little injury, and I didn’t get the purse I deserved for the victory, and that’s why I took the Shamrock fight.”
Regarding his fight against Ken Shamrock at UFC 48, Kimo said, “I wasn’t quite on par for that fight, and yeah, I did use some substances, and I did do some Winstrol in that fight, but at that time it was so early that I didn’t know I was going to be tested. That doesn’t justify it, but I wasn’t using it as a performance enhancer to be strong or whatever. It was just something… an extra little kick. Well, when I fought Shamrock, not only did I lose that fight that quick, but they [the Nevada State Athletic Commission] went ahead and gave me double the punishment. Previous fighters, I don’t want to mention any names, but they got three-month suspensions and a less of a fine. I got six months and I got a fat fine from them, which put me in a pretty bad situation.”
Kimo certainly has gone through a myriad of problems since he debuted in professional MMA back in 1994, but he remains steadfast in his fight to prove his innocence in this situation.
“I’m not making no excuses. I ain’t trying to convince nobody. I just want the complete truth of the situation out there to everybody involved,” said Kimo. “I didn’t think I was dirty. I legitimately, honestly thought I did the right thing to prepare for this fight and be in the right place and the right mindset. I felt like I was wronged, but it’s such a fine line right there. I was wronged, but yet I was guilty because the facts are the facts. The law is the law.”
Kimo certainly isn’t letting any of this dissipate the ill will that he has towards Bas Rutten. Kimo said, “This is the first time I’ve ever wanted to fight someone so bad. I want to fight Bas Rutten. Now that he’s already won and he thinks he’ll never see me again, he’ll probably retire again. I wanted this fight with Bas so bad that if I saw him, I might attack the guy.”
It will be interesting to see what happens at the California State Athletic Commission hearing on August 8th, and what affect (if any) the medical documentation of a valid prescription would have on the commission.
Having a valid prescription for an anabolic steroid like Stanozolol would mean that it’s not against the law just to possess it in the United States, but even if one does have a prescription, Stanozolol is still on the banned substances lists of all the major athletic commissions, including the CSAC. It’s not known if a valid prescription would influence the CSAC to be more lenient with Kimo’s potential punishment, and at the same time, it’s also not known if Kimo’s 2004 drug test failure in Nevada will influence the CSAC to be less lenient with Kimo’s potential punishment.
In any case, it will now be up to the CSAC to determine whether or not Kimo will get a chance to return to MMA competition anytime in the near future. The hearing is scheduled for August 8th, and we’ll keep you updated on this situation as it continues to unfold.
To his fans, Kimo says, “Don’t be disappointed, because I’m not done. I’ve been through so many different adversities in my life, and I haven’t quit, and I don’t plan on quitting, so don’t be disappointed. You know, sometimes things look bad at the moment, but things always seem to turn around later and work out for the good. In the Bible, it says, ‘All things work for the good for those who are in Christ, Jesus,’ and I believe it. I’ve seen it, and I have faith in it.”