It was the kind of surreal moment that only Chael Sonnen could produce. Hours earlier, news broke that the UFC fighter and Fox Sports mixed martial arts analyst had tested positive for two banned substances and would not be able to fight at UFC 175.
The quick-witted Sonnen almost instantly went from on the hot seat to in charge of the conversation with Fox Sports 1 host Mike Hill when he managed to wrangle an apology from Hill before he even discussed his failed test.
Sonnen tested positive for two banned substances, Anastrozole and Clomiphene. Both are on the World Anti-Doping Agency's 2014 prohibited list, for in-competition and out-of-competition use.
On the Fox Sports 1 interview, Sonnen attempted several times to say the drugs are legal for use out-of-competition. However, on WADA's site, it says in all bold face capital letters, "SUBSTANCES AND METHODS PROHIBITED AT ALL TIMES (IN- AND OUT-OF-COMPETITION)". Below that is a list of substances, of which both Anastrozole and Clomiphene are included.
Travis Tygart, the CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said there is no ambiguity. Neither Anastrozole or Clomephine are permitted at any time.
"Both of those are prohibited in- and out-of-competition," Tygart told Yahoo Sports. "The reason why is because they can maximize the effects of testosterone use or other anabolic steroids use, as well as in and of themselves providing a performance-enhancing benefit."
Later, WADA has sections that list substances that are banned in-competition but which are permitted out-of-competition.
"Yes they can [test me 24-7-365]," Sonnen told Hill regarding the Nevada commission's right to test him. "But there is a distinction drawn. It doesn't matter if you're talking NCAA Division I, the IOC or this commission. There has always been a distinction between game day and out of competition. And when you're out of competition, if you're not on anabolic; if you're not on illegal substances; if you're not a steroid or a performance enhancer of any kind, that is acceptable."
He's wrong and the WADA rules clearly denote that. But here is the problem Sonnen faces: Even if the drugs are permitted out-of-competition, Sonnen was in-competition when he tested positive.
He was licensed to fight at UFC 175 on May 13. On May 23, he was given an unannounced, random test by the Nevada commission, which it had the perfect right to do since he is licensed and since he had a fight coming up.
Sonnen may try to argue that he took the drugs prior to being licensed, and that may be. But there is no gray area, as Sonnen said there is, in the rules. It is the burden of the licensed athlete to provide a clean test whenever tested by the commission, whether or not there is a fight.
Sonnen, though, was licensed AND was tested on May 23 shortly after his news conference at the MGM Grand Garden to announce the main card of UFC 175.
The rest of his comments were nothing more than red herrings that were used in an attempt to obfuscate the real issue.
Sonnen said he was taking the drugs as part of a course to wean himself off of Testosterone Replacement Therapy, which the Nevada commission banned on Feb. 27. Sonnen had a Therapeutic Use Exemption to use TRT until the Feb. 27 ban.
He also said because he suffers from hypogonadism, he is infertile and needed the drugs to help he and his wife conceive.
It's entirely understandable why Sonnen would want to be able to father a child with his wife. But if he planned to do that given his medical situation, he should have held off on applying for the license until qualified medical personnel told him he was clear.
He did not wait and made the laughable excuse that there was no way to find out the rules. Both Nevada's rules and WADA's rules are easily accessible online; further, the commission has repeatedly told athletes to call if they ever have any doubt whether a substance they want to take is legal according to its rules.
UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports that there is not a rampant drug problem in the promotion. He said the company has spent $100,000 on drug testing through 19 events so far this year.
But he said the positive test and others like it are the aftermath of when TRT was legal.
"When these guys [who had TUEs to use TRT] are done, then all of this [expletive] will finally be over," White said.
Asked by Yahoo Sports whether someone at the UFC or with Sonnen's management should have advised him not to apply for a license until he was sufficiently weaned off TRT and able to pass a drug test, White sighed.
"You know, nobody thought of that," he said. "There was never a [expletive] plan put in place for these guys who were getting off of it. We were like, 'Now they're off it; let's move on.' But now it's illegal. Now they're off it but none of it was thought out very well."
A complaint will formally be filed against Sonnen at the commission's June 17 hearing in Las Vegas. He and his attorneys and doctors will have the opportunity to review the complaint, and a formal disciplinary hearing will be scheduled later, usually within 60 days.
Sonnen tried to fast talk his way through this, however, instead of coming clean.
It would have been far better had he said, "Hey, I made a mistake. I should have waited longer and gotten better advice." He did not say that, though, and he's undoubtedly going to be suspended again.
This could mark the end of his career.
While his trash talking, boasting and TRT usage in the past have turned off many among the UFC's fan base, he was an exciting fighter who was willing to fight anyone at any time.
That type of fighter is very valuable, and White loves him as a result.
But what the UFC needs most are fighters who are willing to compete against anyone at any time and who can pass a drug test no matter when it is administered.
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