Having represented the National Basketball Referees Association and Professional Soccer Referees Association, legal expert Lucas Middlebrook has had his fair share of adversarial defense hearings.
But few would really leave the sort of impression he felt when representing UFC welterweight Nick Diaz in his hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission last week.
“We had watched previous hearings with the commission,” Middlebrook said on The MMA Hour. “We were familiar before going in with the individual commissioners. We knew going in we weren’t presenting to an impartial body that was going to give us a fair hearing that we’re used to in a different context.
“We were prepared for that type of environment.”
Middlebrook and Diaz weren’t going into this empty-handed; they knew they had some pretty compelling evidence to refute the commission’s case. Diaz, as it turned out, passed two of three drug tests examined at WADA-accredited labs — countering the commission’s tie with the single failed test administered by Quest after his UFC 183 bout with former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in January.
To many, the facts alone should have been enough to either dismiss the case, or further examine the possible causes of the failed test.
Still, an experienced lawyer like Middlebrook would know better than to celebrate a premature victory.
He said on The MMA Hour Monday:
“Once we saw the concentration values [for] the three different tests, we knew we really had some solid evidence that the Quest test was an outlier. As we started to dive into that and discuss it with our expert, yeah, we felt very confident about the facts in the evidence. But I don’t think we ever went in, going into the commission with any false aspirations that those facts and evidence were going to lead to a great result from the commission.”
If anything, Middlebrook said, presenting the facts in the proper manner would only prepare Diaz and his legal team to take the issue to a higher judiciary body later on, which — surprise, surprise — they’re going to have to do now that Diaz was issued an unwarranted five-year suspension.
Not only that, but many in the industry feel Nick Diaz was punished for being Nick Diaz. That’s to say, he wasn’t punished solely based on his failed drug test, but for his refusal to show the commissioners the respect they — and only they — felt they deserved.
A lot of that apparent disrespect stemmed from Diaz’s decision to plead the fifth amendment and not answer any of the commission’s, including commissioner Pat Lundvall’s, questions. But there they sat, asking question after question, knowing very well Diaz had no intention of offering any sort of an answer.
Despite getting an apparent negative reaction out of the commission for advising Diaz to plead the fifth, Middlebrook said he doesn’t regret his choice.
“It was the right decision. Nick was not going to get up there and presented with an impartial or examiner. I still feel like the commission was out to embarrass and, for lack of better terminology, to trip him up,” he said. “We did not see any positive value coming from having him answer any of their questions. Instead, he invoked a right that everyone in this country has, under our constitution — to not testify against yourself. And that right includes that a negative inference cannot be drawn against you for invoking [it]. We firmly stand by that decision.”
But they did invoke a negative inference. A big one. While Diaz merely made use of his constitutional right as a free American citizen to remain silent, the Nevada State Athletic Commission punished him for it. As the UFC’s Vice President of Athlete Development and Government Relations Matt Hughes — who, in fairness called the punishment excessive — put it, “you can’t walk in there like a punk and expect leniency.”
There’s no word on how soon Diaz and his legal team will look to address the suspension with a higher court.