Sylvia Comes Clean

By Mike Sloan Oct 13, 2003
A day following UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia’s admittance of using steroids and testing positive for the illegal substance, I was able to sit down and chat with the giant Miletich fighter for a few minutes. Now the second UFC fighter to test positive for illegal steroids (and second UFC heavyweight champ, coincidentally), Sylvia deeply regrets what he did.

He feels as though he completely let down his fans, the UFC and his team. Since the Sylvia bashing had already begun, I felt it was necessary to speak with Tim so he could get his side of the story out and openly apologize to everyone he has hurt in the process.

A true warrior and classy guy, Sylvia, reeling from the disappointment he holds against himself for the terrible mistake he made, took the time out of his schedule to speak with me. Here is what he had to say about the whole steroids situation:

Mike Sloan: What’s up, Tim?

Tim Sylvia: Hey, man, what’s up?

Mike Sloan: Listen, man, I’m not going to keep you long. I’m mainly calling you so you can give your side of the story before everybody starts bashing you on the Forums.

Tim Sylvia: I think they already started doing that, bro (laughs).

Mike Sloan: First off, though, I’d like to congratulate you on your knockout of Gan McGee.

Tim Sylvia: Thanks, man.

Mike Sloan: How long after that fight did the test results come back?

Tim Sylvia: I just found out the beginning of this week.

Mike Sloan: How were you informed that you had failed the urine test? Did someone call Miletich or did they call you?

Tim Sylvia: No, actually Dana White called me and wanted to know what was going on and wanted me to be honest with him. He asked me if I had ever used the steroids. I then told him that after I fought Ricco, I was in for a long layoff. I decided to try some things and maybe change my physique a little bit and get in better shape. But whatever I used, it came back positive. I don’t know how that happened. I did it so long ago and I was way off it before I fought McGee. I think they found it in my fat cells. I guess it stays in there for a while, huh?

Mike Sloan: Some steroids only last a few days, others last weeks, sometimes months.

Tim Sylvia: Yeah. This has been a couple of months, so…

Mike Sloan: Did you take pills or did you use needles?

Tim Sylvia: I used, uh… I really don’t want to elaborate on it too much, but it was needles. Yeah… I just don’t want to elaborate on it right now, though.

Mike Sloan: I understand. Now, with the whole Josh Barnett scandal last year, didn’t that ever come into consideration as to why you’d do something like that? Why would you even consider using steroids?

Tim Sylvia: Uh… (Short pause) Like I said, it was right after Ricco and I thought I would have plenty of time (to get it out of my system). I heard what Josh had used, so I used something different and I was only using it to trim my physique. I thought that what I was using, it was going to be out by the time I fought McGee. I fought Gan and apparently it wasn’t out.

Mike Sloan: I’m kind of on the fence in regards to the entire steroids issue. I’m not for them by any means, but then again, I’m not 100% against them when it comes to fighting. Steroids don’t make you a better fighter at all. It didn’t work for Fernando Vargas, obviously-

Tim Sylvia: (Interrupting) Well, there are several different kinds and what I used pretty much burns your fat at a high rate and allows you get more ripped and gets rid of the body fat.

Mike Sloan: The whole thing with the steroids situation is that for one, I’m not a steroid expert. My brother is a body builder and has several body builder friends. After talking to them, they told me that steroids make you slightly stronger and get you bigger a lot quicker, but they don’t automatically make you a better fighter. It doesn’t make someone tougher by any means.

Tim Sylvia: Right.

Mike Sloan: Dr. Flip Homansky and I have spoken on numerous occasions about the subject and I know steroids are extremely dangerous. When it comes to the fight game, I guess it could give you an advantage in strength, maybe, but they don’t make you better defensively, they don’t make you quicker. Though I am not for the usage of steroids, I can’t say that I am fully against them because, to me, I honestly don’t see them as making anybody a better fighter.

Tim Sylvia: Right. It doesn’t make you a better boxing and that’s what it came down to between me and Gan. We were boxing each other.

Mike Sloan: You have a hearing on Wednesday, October 15th at the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s offices. Have you heard any word on whether you’ll be stripped, fined and suspended?

Tim Sylvia: I don’t know. My managers have been talking with them and trying to make them not to because I won the belt on a clean slate against Ricco. This was my first defense, you know. This situation is different than Josh’s in that I have openly admitted it and Josh will be denying it to his grave. We don’t know exactly what is going to happen just yet. It’s pretty much up to the NSAC and the UFC.

Mike Sloan: How long of a suspension do you anticipate?

Tim Sylvia: We still don’t know. It could be anywhere from three months to a year, I guess. Basically, what I’m doing is preparing myself for the worst. I’m preparing myself for a suspension. I’m preparing myself for a fine. I’m also preparing myself of being stripped of the belt. Hopefully all three don’t happen and my spirits will be uplifted a little bit. Whatever happens, I’m going to take it as a man, sit back, realize that I screwed up and deal with the consequences. Whatever they decide to do with me, I agree with because I screwed up.

Mike Sloan: Of course you’d be pissed off if you got stripped-

Tim Sylvia: (Interrupting) I wouldn’t say that I’d be pissed because I screwed up, you know? If they decide to do that, it’s nobody’s fault but my own. I’m the one who chose to do what I did.

Mike Sloan: I meant pissed off at yourself, not UFC or the NSAC.

Tim Sylvia: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Mike Sloan: Say the UFC does in fact strip you of your belt, the two other heavyweights that might fight for the vacant title would be Frank Mir and Ricco.

Tim Sylvia: That’s what I’ve heard as well.

Mike Sloan: That would probably eat away at you to see a guy you already beat in Ricco, and another guy who lost not too long ago in Mir, fight for your title.

Tim Sylvia: Well, hasn’t Mir already lost twice? He lost to Freeman and then Wes Sims stomped his head.

Mike Sloan: (Chuckles) Well, the fight with Sims goes on Mir’s ledger as a win, but, true, he did get his head stomped and was hurt pretty bad.

Tim Sylvia: Yeah (laughs loudly). But it doesn’t matter. If I lose the belt and the UFC allows me to come back, I’m knocking out whoever’s got it to take it back.

Mike Sloan: Though I haven’t spoken with anybody over at Zuffa since the news broke besides Dana’s secretary, Donna, but whenever I talk with them, they always speak highly of you.

Tim Sylvia: Well, I get along with them really, really well and I treat them the way I way to be treated. I don’t ask for big contracts; I just ask for what’s fair, that’s all.

Mike Sloan: When Josh tested positive, twice, actually, it appeared to me that Zuffa kind of turned their backs on him, probably because he denied usage of steroids and also because it happened twice.

Tim Sylvia: When you say he tested positive twice, what happened? Did he re-test? What happened?

Mike Sloan: What happened was that after UFC 34 in November of 2001, he tested positive for two types of illegal anabolic steroids. Dr. Homansky and the NSAC alerted everyone at Zuffa and all the parties involved agreed that steroid testing would be commonplace in the UFC, kickboxing and boxing in Nevada. Josh was slapped on the wrist and was let off with a warning, actually. Then he tested positive again after UFC 36 when he won the title in March of 2002, but this time his urine came back with three types of steroids. That’s when everything caved in for Barnett.

Tim Sylvia: Oh… I never knew that.

Mike Sloan: Yeah. So, in my opinion, Zuffa pretty much turned their backs on Josh. With you, though, I honestly don’t see that happening because you get along with them, you’ve admitted it immediately and you have that crushing knockout power. Barnett didn’t admit to it and he lacks the raw KO punch. I honestly don’t see Zuffa turning their backs on you and disallowing you to fight again in the UFC. I just don’t see that happening.

Tim Sylvia: I hope you’re right.

Mike Sloan: What type of steroids did you use, by the way?

Tim Sylvia: That’s something I really don’t want to elaborate on right now, if you don’t mind.

Mike Sloan: No, I understand, Tim.

Tim Sylvia: Everyone knows what I did and I just want to put it behind me.

Mike Sloan: What statement do have for your fans who are let down by all of this?

Tim Sylvia: I just deeply apologize to all my fans, friends, family, teammates, UFC, NSAC. I seem to have a 75% ratio of people liking me and I just feel so bad for what I did. Hopefully they’ll stick through this with me and when they do, I’ll realize who my true fans are and who my true friends are.

Mike Sloan: Look at it this way; Vargas tested positive and took full responsibility. His fans didn’t turn their backs on him at all. Since he was honest, people tend to flock towards that.

Tim Sylvia: Right, right. And if I do get stripped, I don’t see myself in having too much trouble getting it back. But if I do only get a three month suspension, then I can still keep the belt and have the #1 and #2 contenders fight each other in November. They’ll be off for the next UFC and then the one after that, I’ll be ready to come back and so will they. But I’m just so sorry to my fans.

Mike Sloan: True. And if that does happen and you beat whoever it is and you’ll be totally clean, people will forgive and forget.

Tim Sylvia: That’s what I’m hoping for.

Mike Sloan: Well, Tim, that’s really all I got. I know you have things to do. Hang in there, be positive and remember that and FightSport Magazine are on your side, man.

Tim Sylvia: Well, thank you. Thanks, even though you guys at Sherdog do sponsor Gan McGee!

Mike Sloan: (Laughs) Hey! I’m just the writer. I have no say in who sponsors!

Tim Sylvia: (Laughs, too) That’s alright, Mike, I’m just kidding.

Mike Sloan: Take it easy.

Tim Sylvia: Same to you, man, see ya.
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