Every story has an ending, and Anderson Silva’s is no different.
The screen has faded to black, and the credits have rolled. Somewhere out there, a grown man is balling his eyes out. But no one would dare judge because we’re talking about Anderson Silva, the crowning jewel of this MMA era.
Go ahead and lick the last remnants of popcorn butter from your fingertips before standing up and giving a hearty applause for a job well done. It was a stupendous show while it lasted. Most would agree it was the greatest show MMA fans have ever seen. Highlighted by outlandish knockouts and barbecue references, it was a show that most of us took for granted.
Now the curtains have closed and seats have emptied, with ghosts of Bruce Buffer’s voice echoing, “And still UFC middleweight champion of the world, Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva!” Never again will there be a show quite like it, even if we didn’t get the ending we hoped.
A fairy-tale ending would have been Silva’s return to prominence after back-to-back losses to Chris Weidman and a leg injury so gruesome it would make Tuco Salamanca cringe. Initially, the story went as hoped. Silva overcame the odds and got to go to the ball at UFC 183, where he defeated MMA’s anointed antagonist Nick Diaz.
It was an ending full of smiles and celebration. Silva embraced UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones, a future all-time great. UFC President Dana White was grinning from ear to ear, as he had just witnessed the resurgence of his perennial cash cow. Usher was probably dancing backstage. It was a beautiful night that really put into perspective Silva’s value to the MMA community.
However, an unexpected twist emerged merely a few days after the torrential downpour of confetti.
According to MMA Fighting, Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Bob Bennett revealed Silva had tested positive for two types of steroids, Drostanolone and Androsterone, in an out-of-competition drug test conducted on January 9. For fans, it was like getting punched in the gut with a sack of bricks.
This was the same guy who could light up an entire room with an infectious smile and share a concert stage with Justin Bieber. It was a man who represented the real-life version of Mr. Clean, image-wise, in the UFC.
A plethora of reasons and excuses can be given for Silva’s failed drug test. Perhaps he became obsessed with returning and righting the ship after consecutive losses. SB Nation medical expert Dr. Ali Mohamadi, an endocrinologist, told MMA Fighting that the cocktail of steroids allegedly found in Silva’s system could have helped his rehab for his leg injury go much smoother.
“These drugs wouldn’t speed bone healing itself, but it’s possible the increased muscle mass could make rehab easier than it otherwise would be,” said Mohamadi.
Maybe this is all just some misunderstanding. UFC heavyweight Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva seems to believe so. He recently implicated Dr. Marcio Tannure, Anderson's physician, in a possible blunder that led to the failed test.
When speaking with Extra (via BloodyElbow), Bigfoot claimed Tannure was responsible for messing up his testosterone replacement therapy in late 2013, which resulted in a nine-month suspension.
“Anderson was a victim. I think that people from NSAC should verify this. It's not the first time for this doctor,” said Bigfoot. “I had a problem with him and ended up getting a nine-month suspension. It was when TRT was allowed. I was cleared to use it but the dosage that he gave me was too high.”
Silva vehemently proclaimed his innocence in an official statement released to MMA Fighting through his manager, Ed Soares:
I’ve been competing in this sport for a very long time. This is my nineteenth fight in the UFC. I have been thoroughly tested many times and have never had a positive drug test. I have not taken any performance-enhancing drugs. My stance on drugs is, and will always be, the same. I’m an advocate for a clean sport. I’m consulting with my advisors right now to explore all of my options and intend to fight this allegation and clear my name. I will not make any further comments until my team advises me to do so.
As expected, the MMA community has broken off into its own little Twilight subgroups to show support for either Silva or the NSAC. It is a meaningless debate that could go on for eternity.
The vast majority doesn’t care about a scientific explanation or the inner workings of drug testing. The universally accepted definition of ‘roids is a liquid concoction from Bruce Banner’s basement that turns average men into freakishly strong mega-humans. All casual fans need to know is Anderson Silva popped dirty, and to them, that’s all that really matters.
Silva might as well print out a label with the letters "C-H-E-A-T-E-R" and stamp it on his forehead. The dark cloud from this positive test will hover over his career like a darkened halo. Firas Zahabi, Georges St-Pierre’s longtime trainer and friend, even went as far as comparing Silva to disgraced former world champion cyclist Lance Armstrong.
“We have to drop Silva. If he really cheated, we can’t set this example for the youth. It’s ridiculous,” Zahabi told La Presse, (via MMA Fighting). “Is Lance Armstrong considered the best cyclist of all time? No. A few years ago, the answer would have been different.”
Bottom line: There is no leeway or remorse for cheating in sports. Years ago, Marion Jones, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, cried at a press conference in a genuine and heartfelt admission to using performance-enhancing drugs. People cried alongside her and gave her a big pat on the back, while the mainstream sports media and fans buried her.
Steroids are like that tattoo of a beer keg you get on your neck on a drunken night out (true story). It never goes away. Even if the NSAC finds an error in the lab or a hiccup on the doctor’s part, it would do little to stop the rising tide of vultures picking at the scraps of Silva’s legacy.
There is no beginning or end for Silva. Who’s to say he hasn’t had similar issues in the past? How deep does this thing go?
Surely, every clean opponent he’s ever fought is probably scratching his head right now, thinking of all of the endless hours spent in a gym training and sacrificing everything, only to find out that his opponent entered with a competitive edge.
Only Silva has the answers to these lingering questions. It took the 39-year-old legend years to climb up the wall and create one of the greatest legacies in the history of sports, only to tumble to the depths below at the tail end.
Like Humpty Dumpty, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to put Silva's image together again.