Chael Sonnen shocked the world with his recent announcement that he failed an on-the-spot drug test conducted by Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) on May 24. Sonnen recently retired from MMA but has continuously expressed his continuing passion for the sport. This new information has astonished the world of MMA. Sonnen is known for his prodigious stamina and excellent wrestling, but now fans and fighters find themselves asking the same question: can his dominating performances be attributed to testosterone replacement therapy, or was he actually that good?
After recent events, it’s a question worth asking.
Sonnen spoke out on Jay Mohr Sports on FOX Sports Radio to justify his perspective on the recent events.
"They changed the ruling in Nevada. Earlier this year, they did away with what's known as TRT—Testosterone Replacement Therapy—in Nevada, and I was on that. So when they changed the rule, we all had to go through a transition phase. For me, for the transition, I had to take a couple of things: one is called clomiphene and the other is called HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). So this is what we did. And I took my boards out of the water in the meantime, meaning I didn't fight, I didn't ask for a license. You had to wait to cross this bridge, if you will.
"In the interim, they did a test. I tested positive for these things, which I should have. I took them. They were in my system. That wasn't a surprise. These aren't anabolics, these aren't steroids, these aren't performance-enhancers. None of that stuff. But they have deemed that they are banned substances.
"What's interesting, in my case, we're out of competition. These are not things that I showed up with on game day. This is out of competition due to a rule that they changed. So this is kind of an odd spot for me.
"What happens is they do out of competition testing, and the lab that they went to is the USADA [United States Anti-Doping Agency] lab. Now the USADA lab is the greatest lab in the world. It's a very sensitive test. We had done our own tests, at our own labs, and we thought that everything was out of the system. These were not secrets that I took this stuff. This is what you have to take when you're coming off testosterone. But any rate, it was picked up on their test. Now they can handle that however they want. They can look at that and go, yeah, this makes sense to us, or they can say, you know what? We don't like this. And they can do either one. They're the commission. I just got to be a reactor and live with it. The confusing part is that this is for a non-anabolic, non-steroid, non-performance enhancing agent that is perfectly legal that I need for a healthy life; essentially they're saying you gotta choose between health and sport.
"It's very tough for me too because I did a number of interviews talking about what I've done, whether it's on UFC Tonight, Canada, UK, Brazil ... I couldn't have told any more people. So when this came back they said, why did this come back in your system? I said, why did it come back in my system? Because I took it. I've been taking it. I had to take it because you guys changed the rules. So I did feel a little bit frustrated in that regard. And they may listen to me, they may agree with me, but the way this works is I now have to go to a hearing. And that hearing gets kicked down the road who knows how many days. I have a fight in 30 days, there's no way the hearing will be before then.”
According to NAC chairman Francisco Aguilar, Sonnen did not notify the commission that he was using Anastrozole and Clomiphene, both prohibited substances on the USADA banned substance list, before the test. During the recent hearing with Nevada Athletic Commission, Sonnen pleaded guilty to all allegations.
Although it has not been acknowledged as to whether Sonnen was using both the prohibited substances in competition, the committee states that they are prohibited in any context as a MMA fighter.
During the hearing, Sonnen stated: “I’m guilty and I’m sorry and I don’t want to offer defence at all.” The chair then questioned as to whether there was anything else that they should be aware of that may come out to which Sonnen replied “no.”
Sonnen concluded his trial with:
"There is a little bit of confusion on the rules. It's kind of tough where you're like, oh, really? This is a banned substance? Where do we find that? Who exactly do we go to for clarity on this? And the commission has always been very clear. Whether it's the Nevada Commission, and now there is a new guy at the helm [Bob Bennett], but the old executive director [Keith Kizer], I've got quotes I downloaded right off the Internet, but he has been very clear that there is a clear distinctions between game day and out-of-competition testing. Now you could never take an anabolic or anything, I understand that. This is not an anabolic. This is not a steroid. These are just the substances I had to go to transition, who's also having—this is a very private part of my life I wasn't planning to share with anybody—but I'm having fertility issues."
As a result of the exposure of Sonnen's failed drug test, the NAC unanimously decided to suspend Sonnen for two years.
"It's not a year or two [suspension], it's 'don’t come back,'" lead Commissioner Anthony Marnell told Sonnen, and recommended to his peers a lifetime ban for the retired fighter.