UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk, who successfully defended his belt July 7 in Sacramento, tested positive for the steroid nandrolone and faces a one-year suspension, the California State Athletic Commission announced Thursday.
Sherk's opponent, Hermes Franca, also tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug, drostanolone, and also faces a one-year ban from competition.
"This [testing] is our standard operating procedure," said Armando Garcia, executive director of the state athletic commission. "Unfortunately, it occurred with two outstanding athletes."
Nicknamed "Muscle Shark," Sherk, 33, won the fight by unanimous decision in a five-round battle that was mostly contested in a grappling position. It was his first title defense after returning from a shoulder injury.
Sherk's nandrolone level was six times more than a normal human's, and twice the amount produced by high-performance athletes, according to World Anti Doping Administration standards, Garcia said.
Sherk earned $28,000 for the fight. He was fined $2,500 for the positive test, and will be suspended from fighting in California until July 2008, Garcia said.
That one-year suspension is expected to be respected in states that also have athletic commissions, such as Nevada, Garcia said.
"Some promoters may try to get their guy to fight in states without commissions, and that's beyond our jurisdiction, but if it's a legitimate promoter like the UFC, they wouldn't do anything like that," Garcia said.
In a prepared statement released Thursday, UFC President Dana White said, "Our policy on fighters using steroids, illegal drugs or any banned substance remains the same -- you cannot use them. It's not only unhealthy and unsafe, it's against the law. The UFC fully supports the commission's efforts and we will continue to take measures that keep this sport clean and keep the athletes safe."
Sherk (36-2-1) has appealed his fine and suspension, and will be allowed to present his case at an Aug. 6 hearing in Los Angeles. Franca (19-6), who earned $14,000 for the fight, has not appealed his suspension or $2,500 fine, Garcia said. White will decide after the hearing if he'll vacate the lightweight title, a UFC official said Thursday.