Wanderlei Silva challenges Nevada's jurisdiction to order drug test

Kevin Iole
Wanderlei Silva has challenged the jurisdiction of the Nevada Athletic Commission to drug test and/or discipline him for refusing the test. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Wanderlei Silva's disciplinary hearing before the Nevada Athletic Commission on Thursday was postponed when Silva's attorney filed a motion questioning the commission's jurisdiction in the case.

A collector sent by the Nevada commission arrived at Silva's gym to randomly test him on May 24. Silva declined to be tested, saying he didn't speak English well enough to fully understand what was happening. He subsequently left the gym and flew to Brazil. He had been scheduled to fight Chael Sonnen at Mandalay Bay in the co-main event of UFC 175 on July 5 and had appeared at a news conference at the MGM Grand with Sonnen on May 23.

After Silva refused to take the test, he was yanked from the card and Nevada filed a disciplinary case against him. Nevada considers the refusal to submit to a test the equivalent of a failed test and sought to suspend him.

Attorney Ross C. Goodman referred to commission regulation 467.850, paragraph 6. That reads: "A licensee who violates any provision of this section is subject to disciplinary action by the Commission. In addition to any other disciplinary action by the Commission, if an unarmed combatant who won or drew a contest or exhibition is found to have violated the provisions of this section, the Commission may, in its sole discretion, change the result of that contest or exhibition to a no decision."

Goodman's argument is that regulation 467.850 (6) limits the commisison's oversight only to those it has licensed. 

In his motion to dismiss, he wrote, "It is abundantly clear that the NSAC lacks jurisdiction to take disciplinary action over Mr. Silva, a non-licensee, for not submitting to testing that the NSAC had no authority to order."

It is very common for a fight to be announced before a fighter has obtained a license to fight in the state where it will be held. The commission's argument has been that because Silva intended to fight in Nevada and that a formal announcement of the fight had been made in the media that Silva fell within its jurisdiction.

Silva is hardly free, however. Even if Goodman wins the case against the commission, which is far from a given, Silva will face significant hurdles in getting back into the ring. UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and president Dana White have said many times that they support the commission. In a similar case involving Vitor Belfort, White said the UFC would not book a fight until Nevada licensed him, even if the UFC planned to have him fight elsewhere.

Given that, it's likely that Silva will eventually have to answer the commission's questions about why he declined to take the test.

The UFC has been consistent in its position and is unlikely to challenge the commission's authority in a case like this.

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