“I don’t know how steroids got into my system”, fighter Josh Barnett

The Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix final announced for May 19 is ready to go ahead in California.

Finalist Josh Barnett was granted a conditional licence to fight in the state by its athletic commission on Monday as part of a special hearing convened to allow the veteran fighter to present his application.

Josh Barnett was denied a licence to fight in California before a scheduled fight against Fedor Emelianenko in August 2009 due to a positive pre-fight test for anabolic steroids.

He is scheduled to meet Daniel Cormier and the event is expected to take place in San Jose.

Barnett, who was denied a fight licence before a scheduled bout in Anaheim against Fedor Emelianenko in August 2009 due to a positive pre-fight test for anabolic steroids, met with the California State Athletic Commission to plead his case to be able to fight again in the state, where he has twice before.

“I live to be a fighter, not just in and out in the ring, but in terms of presenting a positive interest in the sport,” Barnett said in his opening statement.

He went on to describe mixed martial arts as one filled with dynamic and exceptional athletes and “amazing personalities” with the potential to have a positive influence on people.

During a grilling session from the eight-member panel of commissioners who asked him about the circumstances surrounding his positive test and how he can ensure that it won’t happen again, Barnett maintained his innocence as he has in the past.

“I did not take steroids,” Barnett said. “The whole process of having my licence denied for that fight was devastating. I was in utter shock, I couldn’t believe it.”

One commissioner asked him to clarify what he meant, wondering why the test would be positive if he didn’t take steroids. Barnett replied that it may have been from a tainted supplement he took, or that there may have been some issue with the testing equipment.

“I do not know how a steroid ended up in my system,” Barnett insisted. “I did not knowingly or intentionally take steroids.”

It wasn’t the first time Barnett fail a drug test — he was stripped of the UFC heavyweight belt following a win over Randy Couture in March 2002 for testing positive for banned substances. Barnett admitted to being young and foolish but also said that back then testing and regulations were not the same as they are now and called the supplement industry “the wild west.”

Barnett said he is more careful now with regard to what supplements he takes. Upon being challenged on the point, he said he does more research on the supplements he considers taking and pays attention to the companies and their track records.

While commission chairman John Frierson said he didn’t believe Barnett’s claim about being shocked when he failed the test in 2009, he conceded that Barnett had paid for it with his suspension and has passed drug tests since as he competed for Strikeforce in Texas and Ohio last year.

Frierson felt it worthwhile to grant Barnett, who is based locally, a licence in time for him to compete in the proposed Strikeforce show in mid-May and for the organization to have enough time to promote it.

“We need good fighters in California,” said Frierson, noting that “his boss” the governor constantly asks why there aren’t more big fights in the state.

Frierson then proposed a motion to grant Barnett a licence with a condition that he’ll undergo random urine testing before the fight and the commission panel voted 4-2 in favour of it.

“Please don’t let us down,” Frierson said in closing. “The reason is we need fights here in California. We need good fights and we need good people.”

In a short closing statement, Barnett promised to be good.

“I want to make believers out of you more than anything else. So I hope to see you at the fight and I hope to change your opinions and satisfy any of your doubts in time.”

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