Cristiane Santos, who was suspended Friday by the California State Athletic Commission for testing positive for an anabolic steroid and subsequently stripped of her Strikeforce featherweight title, blamed a tainted dietary supplement for her failed test.
Santos, better known as "Cyborg," released a statement Saturday saying she took a dietary aid because she was having trouble getting her weight down to the 145-pound featherweight limit.
"I am ultimately responsible for everything I put in my body, and at the end of the day, there is no excuse for having a prohibited substance in my system," she wrote. "I do not condone the use of any performance-enhancing drugs by myself or any other professional athlete and willingly accept the penalties and fines that have been handed down to me by the California State Athletic Commission and those of the Strikeforce/Zuffa organization."
The length of Santos' suspension was not specified on Friday, and CSAC executive director George Dodd could not be reached for comment. The usual protocol for a steroid test failure in California is a one-year suspension, although in some cases an appeal process can reduce the length. The time frame of Santos' ban would begin Dec. 16, the day of the test she failed and the day before she defeated Japan's Hiroko Yamanaka in just 16 seconds in a championship defense at San Diego.
"While I was preparing myself for my last fight, I was having a difficult time cutting weight, and used a dietary supplement that I was assured was safe and not prohibited from use in sports competition," Santos wrote.
"It was never my intention to obtain an unfair advantage over Hiroko, mislead Strikeforce, the commission or my fans. I train harder than any fighter in MMA and do not need drugs to win in the cage, and I have proven this time and time again! My only mistake is not verifying the diet aid with my doctor beforehand and understanding that it was not approved for use in the ring. Unfortunately in the end I suffer the consequences and must accept the responsibility for my actions."
Santos tested positive for Stanozolol, also known as Winstrol V, a veterinary steroid used mainly on cattle. It is popular for use in sports with weight classes because it allows one to keep strength and muscle size while dropping weight. Many popular steroids that retain water aren't as effective in the final phase of fight training because they make it difficult to shed the water necessary when fighters routinely drop 15 or 20 pounds of water in the last week in order to make a weight class.
Santos, in particular, walks around significantly heavier than 145 pounds and frequently has been much larger than her opponent once the match starts.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said his organization would let the process with the commission reach a conclusion before making a decision.
"Strikeforce has not seen the test results regarding Ms. Santos," Coker said in a release. "However, we have a consistent and strong stance against any use of performance-enhancing drugs. We also have a long history of supporting effective drug testing of athletes by authorized regulatory bodies. Therefore, we will closely monitor the matter, and will work with the California State Athletic Commission regarding any information we may be asked to provide. We also recognize that Ms. Santos has administrative process rights under California law, and we hope that she is not prejudged before she has the opportunity to exercise such rights."
But on Friday, UFC president Dana White texted Yahoo! Sports that the 26-year-old Santos was being stripped of her championship. In a Friday radio interview on the MMA Insiders radio show in Las Vegas, White also said the women's featherweight division likely will be dropped.
"We were going to hold that division and just do fights with Cyborg whenever there was a new contender," White said on the show. "She's getting stripped of the belt. This pretty much kills the division."
The other top female fighters under contract with Strikeforce are bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, former champion Sarah Kaufman and former Olympic judoka Ronda Rousey, who all now compete at 135 pounds.
Rousey had fought at 145 and won a 2008 Olympic bronze medal at 154 pounds, but she was dropping to 135 as a tactical move for a company-desired fight with Tate for the championship. The ultimate goal was to set up a champion vs. champion potential showdown with Santos, considered the premier women's fighter in the world.
However, Gina Carano's return could bring the division back. Carano (7-1) remains the most popular name in women's fighting though she hasn't competed in nearly 2½ years. She was scheduled to fight last summer until a medical condition forced the fight's cancellation. Carano, 29, competes at 145 pounds, and her lone career loss was to Santos. She has struggled with making weight, particularly at a weight lighter than 145.
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- Cristiane Santos