The Nevada Athletic Commission issued Wanderlei Silva a lifetime ban and a $70,000 fine in September of last year, but the fighter has received a reprieve.
Nevada District Court Judge Kerry Earley filed an order on Friday reversing the NAC’s initial punishment, but the judge upheld the commission’s jurisdiction in the matter.
That means that although the court found Silva’s punishment “arbitrary, capricious and not supported by substantial evidence,” it denied Silva’s petition to rule that the commission was acting outside of its jurisdiction in punishing him in the first place.
The matter stems from an out-of-competition drug test for Silva’s scheduled UFC 173 bout with Chael Sonnen. Following a May 23 press conference promoting UFC 173, including the Silva vs. Sonnen bout, a commission representative visited Silva’s gym on May 24 to collect a drug test sample. Instead of submitting the requested sample, Silva fled the gym, avoiding the test. He later admitted that part of the reason he fled the test was because he had been taking diuretics, which are banned substances.
When called before the athletic commission for a disciplinary hearing, Silva’s attorney, Ross Goodman, filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying that the commission did not have jurisdiction over Silva because he was not a licensed fighter in Nevada at the time the sample was requested.
Judge Earley ruled otherwise, citing Silva admittedly being contracted to fight Sonnen at the time and his promotional appearance at the May 23 press conference.
“The court finds that the Commission properly exercised jurisdiction over (Silva)… (Silva), who as a contestant and unarmed combatant, failed to submit to required drug testing while in preparation of a contest and is, therefore, subject to discipline for this act which is detrimental to the contest. The Commission’s authority to discipline (Silva) for his acts in violation of Chapter 467 is supported by law and record.”
However, the judge also ruled that the NAC overstepped its bounds in issuing Silva a lifetime ban and a $70,000 fine, noting that the commission itself questioned whether it was appropriate to levy such punishment at the time it was issued.
“The Court finds that neither of these disciplinary actions is supported by substantial evidence in the record. The record is replete with the Commission’s own concerns that the sanction is indeed arbitrary and not supported by any type of sentencing guidelines, or within standard norms. This Court agrees and finds that both the lifetime ban in the State of Nevada and $70,000.00 fine are arbitrary and capricious.”
As such, the court ordered that “the disciplinary actions ordered against (Silva) are SET ASIDE and this matter is REVERSED AND REMANDED to the Commission for re-hearing on the appropriate discipline for (Silva’s) actions.”
The NAC recently voted to revise its penalties for drug testing violations, including avoiding a test. The new guidelines would enact a 48-month suspension and a fine equal to 75-percent of a fighter’s purse for a first infraction. A second offense would amount to a lifetime ban and a fine equal to 100-percent of the fighter’s purse. Those penalties, however, were not in place at the time of Silva’s initial hearing and do not go into effect until Sept. 1, 2015.
In a statement to ESPN.com, Goodman said that while they “are pleased that the court set aside the disciplinary actions ordered against Mr. Silva,” they were evaluating their options in regard to their belief that the NAC violated is jurisdictional limitations, leaving the matter open for a possible appeal.
Whether or not Silva intends to appeal the matter of jurisdiction will likely dictate when he might go before the commission for a revised punishment, unless, of course, such an appeal were successful in ruling that the commission did not have jurisdiction, as Judge Earley determined.