MMA Analysis: Chael Sonnen's Indefinite Suspension From CSAC

| by

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” – Sir Walter Scott

The ripples of controversy have already begun to spread throughout the world of MMA as news broke yesterday that the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) voted to uphold their indefinite suspension of UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen. 

ESPN’s Josh Gross sums up the details of the special CSAC hearing Wednesday:

The California State Athletic Commission voted 4-1 on Wednesday at a special hearing to uphold an indefinite suspension of mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen.

The suspension, issued April 19, came after the commission's legal counsel felt Sonnen may have perjured himself during testimony at an appeal hearing in December related to his ban for elevated levels of testosterone following a UFC middleweight championship fight against Anderson Silva on Aug. 7. The commission also addressed whether Sonnen's guilty plea in January -- to money-laundering charges related to his real-estate business for which he was sentenced to 24 months probation, a $10,000 fine, and loss of his real-estate license -- brought "discredit" to the state as a licensee.

The indefinite suspension runs through June 29, when Sonnen's license in California expires. Sonnen will be placed on the MMA registry used by regulators to monitor medical and administrative suspensions. He is free to apply for licenses in other jurisdictions, but California requested that other commissions contact it in the event that Sonnen requests a license.

Sonnen's suspension last year was a result of his failure to properly disclose twice-weekly testosterone injections prescribed by Dr. Mark Czarnecki beginning in February 2008 for treating hypogonadism, a condition that prevents the body from producing normal levels of testosterone.

Basically, Sonnen, reportedly, notified a CSAC official prior to this fight with Silva in Oakland, CA about the possibility of his tests coming back positive due to his treatment of hypogonadism.  In the subsequent hearings regarding this and the positive test Sonnen stated that he had previously informed the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) of his testosterone treatments and that he had been given a therapeutic use exemption in 2008.  One small problem in Sonnen’s statement is the little fact that the NSAC had no record of ever speaking with Sonnen or issuing such an exception. 

As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!”

In a clear attempt at damage control, Sonnen insisted that his manager Matt Lindland had been the one who informed him that the NSAC has approved such an exemption, and that the CSAC would be okay with this and that no disclosure would be needed.  Of course, NCAC director Ketih Kizer denies such a conversation took place. 

With the CSAC ruling to uphold their indefinite suspension of Sonnen’s license don’t expect to see the loquacious middleweight in action anytime soon.  Typically, other states and jurisdictions will uphold California’s ruling thus negating the possibility of Sonnen getting licensed to fight in another state and going on about his career.  Obviously, the ramifications of this ruling put Sonnen on the shelf and his future with the UFC in serious jeopardy. 

For the past couple of months Sonnen had been campaigning for a fight with fellow contender Michael Bisping.  It was a fight that would sell itself as both fighters have a penchant to trash talk and the build up to such an event would be filled to the brim with humorous and press ready quotes.  In fact, there was even serious talks to make both fighters opposing coaches on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter in order to maximize face time and exposer for what would surly boil into a grudge match.  Alas, it appears that this fight will not materialize given the uncertainty of the Sonnen’s career as a fighter. 

Sonnen appears to be playing the victim card as he reiterated that without a license he is effectively now placed into forced retirement.  Of course, some would counter this with the timeless adage of you reap what you sow.   If Sonnen had truly been taking testosterone to treat his hypogonadism why not fully disclose it to the various athletic commissions?  Paperwork from his last few fights was presented in Wednesday’s hearings and not once did Sonnen disclose that he was receiving hormone injections.  If this treatment was to combat a serious medical deficiency then why the glaring omission in disclosure to both the NSAC and CSAC? 

Let’s not overlook that Sonnen has not exactly been the epitome of sound ethics.  His guilty plea to money-laundering charges and mortgage fraud that resulted in him losing his Oregon real estate license is specifically telling.  Obviously, Sonnen is not some martyr or persecuted saint as his fans would make him out to be.  It’s clear judging by the outpouring of Sonnen support from fans that his gutsy performance has lionized him to the hearts of many.  I don’t for one second doubt Sonnen’s legitimacy as a fighter, he’s a damn good one at that, but let’s not overlook the fact that not only has he pleaded guilty to fraud but his battle with the CSAC portrays him as a fighter who looked to get an edge in competition through the use of testosterone injections.  I know, I know, hypogonadism is the reason Sonnen received the treatments, but again, if this was truly a serious ailment then why no disclose of it to the athletic commissions? 

Chael Sonnen is a smart guy which is why his pleas of ignorance rightfully fell on deaf ears.