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Why did Silva's test take so long? It's a 'vast and extensive screening process'

Lab director Daniel Eichner explains just why a test like SIlva's takes so long.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first questions on everyone's lips, following the February 3rd announcement that Anderson Silva's pre-fight drug test had come pack positive for two different steroids, was "Why did it take so long to get the results?" The test was conducted on January 9th, and it took almost a full month (and coincidentally the day after UFC 183) for the results of Silva's test to be made public. Well, Daniel Eichner may have some answers as to the reason for the delay. Eichner is the executive director of the Sports Research & Testing Laboratory the WADA accredited lab where Silva's test was processed. He spoke to Yahoo Sports recently to explain exactly why processing a sample like Silva's can take as long as it does.

In his words, it's a "vast and extensive screening process." And one in which the testing analyst has no idea whose sample they're processing or what event it might be attached to.

We're independent and we have no knowledge of who is getting tested when," Eichner told Yahoo Sports. "We get a unique sample, a biological sample that is either urine or blood, sometimes both, and it comes in the mail to us. We log it into the system. The analyst will go through that sample and depending upon what kind of testing is requested, whether it's a full WADA screen or whatever, and they'll look for the illegal substances.

"It's important to remember that the analyst only sees a sample number and has no idea whether it corresponds to any particular athlete or any particular event. If there is an event coming up and we get a sample from an athlete in that event, that analyst would have zero idea that that's what this is."
...
"Would we like to get the reports out before an event? Of course. Of course we would. But think of the Olympic movement: You strip people of gold medals. You don't stop them from racing. Sometimes these things take longer and then you have to go back and sanction after the fact."

The long term fallout could mean that even with more random pre-fight testing, we wont be seeing more cancelled fights due to those drug test failures. Not unless screening starts at least a couple months out before the fight.