Chael Sonnen had "one shot" to beat Anderson Silva and couldn't get the job done, though he spent each of the first four rounds doing his best to dominate "The Spider" at UFC 177 on August 7, 2010. Unfortunately, it turns out that Sonnen's one shot was full of testosterone, over 4 times the threshold limit allowed under California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) rules.
Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but the latest revelation that Sonnen admitted a day prior to the fight that he took testosterone is troubling. What's worse is Sonnen seems ready to mount some kind of explanatory defense by bringing in an attorney specializing in steroid defense cases.
Sonnen hired Howard Jacobs, who has a client list that includes Sean Sherk, Antonio Silva, Marion Jones, and Floyd Landis. Sonnen will face a hearing December 2, 2010 on his one year suspension and $2,500 fine, and the theory is that he will try to argue the legitimacy of his need for therapy for low testosterone.
This rumored defense, if it is what Sonnen plans to claim, would still be inconsistent with rules in place that mandate prior approval for Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). Fighters can actually use testosterone in cases where medical records, doctor reccomendations, and other evidence are submitted in advance to gain official sanctioning of the use of TRT before a fight. There is no evidence the CSAC allowed any therapeutic use of testosterone for Sonnen, though. And, even if they did, the threshold ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone is still 4.0 either way. Sonnen's ratio was tested at 16.9.
Sonnen's trash talk before the fight predicted a win in stunning fashion and raised a lot of controversy. "I can drag Anderson Silva out of a hotel and beat up him anytime I want," said Sonnen prior to the showdown. "I've made a commitment to wait until August 7th and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure millions of people watch me do it." This was the tame stuff, though.
Sonnen went off the deep end when he suggested Lance Armstrong gave himself cancer:
This is ironic now that Sonnen's got the same lawyer cyclist Floyd Landis used for his doping defense, and Landis is one of the people who accused Armstrong of cheating in the same fashion.
Whatever Sonnen's defense may be, the real part of this story the mainstream combat sports media isn't focusing on is why did this fight still happen if Sonnen put it in writing beforehand that he took steroids? There ought to be some investigatory process involved where the fighter is questioned in relation to an admission like that and an expedited test gets done.
Lying about taking steroids sounds pretty far fetched unless you're lying about not taking them. If the UFC got this paperwork before the fight, why wouldn't they step in to stop it? The commission stance is apparently due to the potential for a finding of liability against them if he tested negative. What about the liability involved in letting a guy hyped up on steroids fight a guy who is going in without any extra advantage? The UFC, if they reviewed the paperwork, were best suited to step in and do something to prevent the fight from going forward until the tests came back after Sonnen's admission.
This situation harkens back to the Sean Sherk vs. Hermes Franca fight when both guys were caught in a positive test for steroids after the bout. The California State Athletic Commission did that testing as well. Antonio Silva was also tested positive for steroids in California. It begs the question: How strong is Nevada's drug testing, and is it a coincidence these guys are getting bagged in California but not so much in Nevada? The UFC has had a cozy relationship with the commission in Nevada, and Lorenzo Fertitta was once on it. It wouldn't be the first time someone called attention to the method of testing in the state where most of the UFC's events have been held:
Maybe that's why Nevada recently changed their testing policy:
The whole issue is important to keep an eye on, considering MMA has enough of an uphill climb to gain approval in states that still don't allow it. More black eyes for the sport caused by steroid problems will only make those states more unwilling to consider the sport as acceptable. Also, it doesn't seem like the punishment really fits the crime. So many fighters bounce right back after testing positive, they fight again like nothing ever happened, and their fines are minimal. Sonnen made $95,000 for that fight, including a $60,000 fight of the night bonus. A $2,500 fine is meaningless to apply to his situation.
How about taking half of that bonus away? With testosterone levels like that, the drug itself earned just as much of the bonus as Sonnen did. So it would make sense to take a stand and do something more than give him a slap on the wrist. The year's suspension is rough, but it's not like Chael Sonnen can't coach and find other income through appearances and other gigs.
The only saving grace is Sonnen will probably have to pay a fortune for this great lawyer who is just going to go in and maybe get a small reduction on the suspension time at best. As Don King would say, "Only in America."