Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal maintains his innocence. | Photo: Sherdog.com
The always quotable Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal was not his usual jovial self as he talked Thursday evening with Sherdog.com in Hawaii.
The former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion spoke in a somber tone as he described the last two days since news broke that he had tested positive for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone following his one-sided technical knockout over previously unbeaten Lorenz Larkin on Strikeforce’s Jan. 7 card in Las Vegas.
Lawal maintains he is innocent of the charges he is facing after winning his ninth fight in 10 tries. The former NCAA wrestling standout said his long history of clean tests over a period spanning more than a decade should give people pause when looking at the allegations he is now confronting.
“My track record speaks [for itself],” implored Lawal. “I’ve been through college and NCAA drug testing, you see what I mean, I’m a clean athlete. I’ve been tested through USADA [United States Anti-Doping Agency] and WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] for international competition and I’ve always been clean … This is my first positive test for anything, I don’t even know what to say. All I know is that the truth will come to light and I know that I’m a clean athlete, I know that I can guarantee that I am a clean athlete.”
Asked if he had ever utilized any kind of performance enhancing drug at any point in his competitive career, Lawal categorically denied using.
“I’ve never used any performance enhancer in my life,” declared Lawal, who along with manager Mike Kogan seem to be targeting a sizeable stash of supplements and anti-inflammatory injections for a troublesome knee injury leading up to the fight as the potential cause for the positive test.
“Right now we’re just looking over everything and trying to come to a conclusion [on how this happened] because it’s ridiculous, man,” said a frustrated Lawal. “I’m in shock. All I can do is keep on looking at my supplements. I don’t even know what to do. I just keep looking over my supplements to see what we can find.”
The anti-inflammatory Kogan stated Lawal was injected with following a procedure to drain fluid from the knee is Dexamethasone, a member of the glucocorticoid steroid class, which is banned only during competition by some commissions and WADA. Kogan told Sherdog.com that the Dexamethasone treatment was performed approximately three-to-four weeks before the Jan. 7 bout, which would make the procedure a non-factor. Kogan further insisted that he personally verified with the physician that the injection was nothing that would cause problems with his fighter’s pre- and post-fight drug screenings.
That likely leaves the list of supplements as the main focus of hope for reversing the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s positive test result.
And while Lawal put on a brave face and claimed he would eventually be cleared of any wrongdoing, it is apparent his manager has no delusions when it comes to the realities of positive PED tests.
“It’s unfortunate in this scenario -- not just our scenario -- but this scenario when anyone tests positive you are kind of doomed if you do and doomed if you don’t,” said Kogan. “It’s not innocent until proven guilty; it’s guilty even if you are proven innocent. The only way to reverse people’s perception is if your test was a false positive, period.”
The nature of the anabolic steroid Lawal is accused of ingesting has added to the consternation of the fighter and his manager.
“We were unaware of this drug, both of us ended up spending most of the day Tuesday Googling the s--t just to figure out what it is and once we found out what it is and what its primary use by athletes is we became even more baffled then before,” explained Kogan. “It’s primarily used to maintain muscle mass while cutting weight, it’s basically a weight cutting supplement. It’s something Anthony Johnson should be looking into so he can make weight, not something an athlete who walks around at 212 pounds in camp and 208 after a training session would need. If anything, it would hinder his performance; it would dehydrate him and make it impossible for him to train.”
One thing the tandem doesn’t seem inclined to do is engage in a back-and-forth debate with the NSAC. Kogan made it clear they don’t feel they are being persecuted in any way. Their position is that there was either an anomaly in the testing procedure or Lawal’s positive test was the result of a tainted supplement.
Both propositions seem a bit dicey and they are aware of it.
“Our position is not necessarily that we are challenging the commission’s findings,” said Kogan. “As a matter of fact, our position is not to challenge the commission’s finding or their chain of custody or who touched the pee or who moved it where and who did what because then you just start to raise a bunch of conspiracy theories and unnecessarily cloud things and make things more complicated than they are.
“Mo has never knowingly and never will knowingly put anything in his body that is illegal or is somehow enhancing his performance … All we can do is present his track-record and his past history and make a statement as to what he himself has knowingly done and let the chips fall where they may. We’re not going to spend the next year running around taking polygraphs, yelling from the top of tall buildings that we didn’t do anything because the more you do it the more guilty you look.”
One option they still have at their disposal is to have Lawal’s “B” sample tested independently. Kogan wasn’t sure that was the right thing to do at this point, although he does envision a setting where that may be their last viable option.
“We have not requested the “B” sample to be tested, simply because we’re still trying to figure out what could have caused this under the assumption that all the tests were done accurately. Now, if we go through all of this and try to dissect as much of this as we can and talk to as many people as we can who can help us understand this stuff and what have you, and we find absolutely nothing that could have even remotely come close to testing for this stuff, then we will request the “B” sample to be tested just in case something went wrong or something was inaccurate.”
For his part, a muted Lawal continues to maintain a positive outlook in the face of the test results and the subsequent trial in the court of public opinion.
“Everyone has obstacles they have to overcome and this is just going to be one of them. I just have to start moving forward and keep being positive. I can’t worry about what other people are saying or doing.”
It is his close-knit relationships that he credits as keeping him levelheaded in these trying times.
“I appreciate my family and friends and real fan support and those staying behind me and I’m going to clear my name and then it will be back to fighting. I’m looking forward to getting back in the cage and having fun doing my job. I love competing. It’s what I love to do and I’m looking forward to doing it again.”
History tells us doing what Lawal loves may not be possible in the United States for 6-12 months. If the past record of those hoping to have their offence wiped from the record is any indication of what Lawal has to look forward to, he stands to be heartily disappointed. The long odds and the potential consequences don’t seem to be at the forefront of the former champion’s consciousness.
“I’m pretty confident my name will be cleared. I’m pretty confident about that. I haven’t even thought about any punishment at all. I’m staying pretty positive … if you think about the worst-case scenario you’re going to stress yourself out. I’m not trying to think about the worst-case scenario at all. I’m just trying to stay positive and hopefully we’ll get through this and everything will be on the up-and-up.”