Ben Rothwell tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone following his victory over Brandon Vera on Aug. 31 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee in a heavyweight bout at UFC 164. MMA Junkie's Steven Marrocco broke the news.
Rothwell had received a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) from the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, which regulated the bout, to use testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
He escaped punishment from Wisconsin when his levels were outside the acceptable range, but he didn't get away so easily from the UFC. Marc Ratner, the UFC's vice president of regulatory affairs, suspended Rothwell for nine months. Even though he had the TUE, he was still required to test in the normal range, but on the night of the fight, he fell outside of it.
Wisconsin regulators wrote Rothwell an administrative letter warning following the test result, but issued no other penalty. In a statement given to MMA Junkie, Rothwell wrote, "I was told they didn't think I tried to cheat, but felt some punishment was necessary."
But Ratner told Yahoo Sports on Thursday that the reason for the suspension is that Wisconsin only recently began regulating mixed martial arts and has nothing in its regulations regarding suspensions.
"The state had never given out a TUE before and there was nothing in their administrative laws and statutes that allowed them to do more than write him a letter," said Ratner, the long-time former executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission. "We always try to do the right thing everywhere. If he had had this result in Nevada, he'd have gotten a nine-month suspension, so we felt that was the appropriate thing to do in this case, to suspend him for nine months."
Rothwell did get one benefit from having had the elevated levels in Wisconsin. He is able to keep the win, because Wisconsin does not have a regulation that allows for removing a win. Had it been in a state like Nevada with such regulations, the result of the fight would have been declared a no contest.
In his statement to MMA Junkie, Rothwell said he had successfully passed a series of tests.
Following my victory at UFC 164 I was informed I tested for an elevated level of testosterone. This came as a shock because I had applied for and was granted a TRT exemption and was doing so under the supervision of a doctor. I was tested every week for eight weeks prior to the fight and was well under the acceptable level each time.
I had applied for TRT after an endocrinologist and Wisconsin athletic doctors diagnosed me with hypogonadism. They felt it was caused by a car crash in 1999 that left me with severe head trauma and in a coma. Doctors told me TRT was something that could stop the hypogonadism from degrading my body.
After getting the news of the elevated test, I spoke with the Wisconsin Athletic Commission and they decided to give me an administrative warning. I was told they didn't think I tried to cheat, but felt some punishment was necessary.
I have now been informed the UFC has elected to suspend me for nine months. I am not going to fight the suspension as I feel ultimately it is my responsibility to make sure I stay under the acceptable limit. I am deeply sorry for this mistake and apologize to my fans, family and friends.
Rothwell will be able to return to competition on June 1, 2014.