UFC fighter Nick Diaz went before the Nevada Athletic Commission on Monday to address charges that he tested positive for marijuana metabolites in relation to his UFC 183 main event bout with Anderson Silva.
There was an air of confrontation from the opening moment of the disciplinary hearing. Diaz’s attorney, Lucas Middlebrook, immediately declared that his client would not testify during the hearing, invoking his constitutional right not to incriminate himself via his testimony. That raised the ire of commissioner Pat Lundvall, who declared Diaz would have to do so on a question-by-question basis. Middlebrook said that was fine, if Lundvall wanted to draw out the hearing.
When it came down to the substance of the hearing, however, the battle was over three drug test samples that were collected within hours of each other on Jan. 31, fight night; specifically arguing over how they were collected, how they were processed and by whom.
The first and third samples – collected at 7:12 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. – followed World Anti-Doping Agency procedures by Sports Medicine Research & Testing Laboratory (SMRTL). Those two samples returned consistent results, showing Diaz was well under the legal limit for marijuana metabolites.
The second sample, which was collected by Quest Diagnostics at 10:38 p.m., but not under WADA certified procedures, returned a positive result for marijuana metabolites nearly five times higher than the 150 ng/mL commission limit.
Middlebrook argued that the 10:38 p.m. Quest collection could not be considered valid. He added that if the commission deemed it fit to arbitrarily penalize Diaz for the non-WADA-accredited positive result in light of the two WADA accredited negative results, such a determination would be “ripe for judicial review and reversal.”
Middlebrook’s argument that the 10:38 p.m. test should be considered invalid was largely based on the testimony of Dr. Hani Khella, who testified that it would be “medically implausible” that Diaz could have ingested enough water to dilute his urine and alter the result between the two sample collections at 10:38 p.m. and 11:55 p.m., therefore, the lone positive must have been faulty.
Of course, Nevada Deputy Attorney General Christopher Eccles had two witnesses, as well, a toxicologist from each of the labs that conducted the fight-night drug tests, that each stood by the findings of his company. Eccles argued that all the tests were valid.
Once they got past what seemed to be a credible discussion about the legitimacy of the testing, the hearing once again devolved into a simple process of going through the motions of legal posturing, likely setting up a future battle in the courts.
“Respectfully, I’m not going to answer the question,” Diaz responded when Commissioner Lundvall tried to question him. Whether it be about his background in fighting or the drug testing itself, question after question, Diaz simply responded, “fifth amendment,” at the direction of Middlebrook.
Middlebrook tried to halt Lundvall’s numerous questions, saying it was an exercise in harassing Diaz, who was simply going to plead his fifth amendment rights to all of them. Lundvall agreed that a future legal proceeding would likely make that determination, but continued with an onslaught of questions, to which Diaz continued to respond, “fifth amendment.”
At the end of the day, the commission was inclined to uphold the findings of the positive test and the idea that Diaz would have had to use marijuana within 30 days of his fight, thus leading to him lying on his medical questionnaire, as he didn’t disclose the marijuana use.
The commission held a lengthy debate over Diaz’s case, which it determined didn’t simply come down to a failed drug test for marijuana or faulty information on a questionnaire.
Across the board, led by Lundvall, the commissioners all weighed in about Diaz’s multiple offenses and his lack of respect for the sport and the commission by his refusal to comply with the state’s regulations.
“We have an athlete that came before us in 2007 and he promised, I’m not going to do this again, and then he was in front of us again in 2012,” said Lundvall. “Here he is again… and it doesn’t seem any of these proceedings have had an impact on him. He’s exhibited no respect.”
While all the commissioners on the four-member panel were in agreement with that sentiment, commissioners Skip Avansino and Anthony Marnell had a difficult time coming to grips with Lundvall’s initial motion to hand Diaz an outright lifetime ban.
Further discussion led to a revised motion that passed unanimously.
The Nevada Athletic Commission suspended Diaz, who is 32 years of age, for five years, fined him 33-percent of his $500,000 fight purse (approximately $166,667), and required him to reimburse Nevada for the costs and fees associated with his drug testing and disciplinary hearing.
Silva also faced his own trials and tribulations with the Nevada commission related to the fight with Diaz, when he twice tested positive for steroids. He was eventually suspended for 12 months, stripped of his $200,000 win bonus, fined 30 percent of his $600,000 show purse, and the win over Diaz was changed to a No Contest.
Middlebrook threatened future legal action if the commission penalized his client, so we’ll now have to wait and see how that plays out.