Chael Sonnen received some unwelcome news on Tuesday after it was revealed he tested positive for two banned substances during a random drug test administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission during UFC 173 fight weekend.
Sonnen tested positive for Anastrozole and Clomiphene, which are anti-estrogen drugs typically given to women although in men they reduce estrogen while sometimes helping to restart natural testosterone production.
Just before the test results became public, Sonnen appeared on FOX Sports Radio with host Jay Mohr to explain his side of the story and how this all happened.
According to the former top ranked middleweight contender, he started taking the drugs after the Nevada commission banned testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), a treatment he had taken for several years to treat a disease known as hypogonadism. As part of his plan to rebuild his body naturally after taking synthetic testosterone for so long, the anti-estrogen drugs were introduced to help him adapt.
"These are not secrets that I took these substances — this is what you have to take if you’re coming off testosterone. At any rate, it was picked up on the test. Now, they can handle it however they want. They can look at it and go ‘this makes sense to us’ or they can say ‘we don’t like this’. They can do either one, they’re the commission," Sonnen explained.
"The confusing part is that for a non-anabolic, non-steroid, non-performance enhancing agent that is perfectly legal and that I need for a healthy life, essentially, they’re saying you’ve got to choose between health and sport. It’s very tough for me too because I was very up front about this in a number of interviews about what I’ve done. So when this came back they said ‘why did this come back in your system?’ and I said ‘why is it in my system? Because I took it’. I’ve been taking it and I had to take it because you guys changed the rules."
Sonnen went into further detail about the timeline for taking the drugs while he was not booked for a fight in the UFC to allow his body to adjust to life after TRT. He started the new drug protocol as a way to counteract his body’s natural reaction to no longer having injections of testosterone introduced into the blood flow.
It’s well known that the introduction of synthetic testosterone can ultimately lead to the human body no longer producing the correct amounts of natural testosterone. In this way for many users of TRT, it’s a lifetime commitment.
"I took my oars out of the water in the meantime, meaning I didn’t fight, I didn’t ask for a license, you had to wade across 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," Sonnen said. "That wasn’t a surprise."
The timing of the test and Sonnen’s failure contradict this statement, however, because he was licensed to fight at UFC 175 during a meeting with the Nevada Commission on May 13. It was the same meeting where fellow teammate Dan Henderson, a previous TRT user as well, was also licensed for his fight at UFC 173 in May.
Sonnen’s random drug test was given to him the weekend of UFC 173, which took place on May 24. In other words, Sonnen was licensed for a fight when the test was given and produced a positive result.
The Oregen native also went into further detail about using the drugs while ‘out of competition’, meaning he was doing this in his own time away from fighting or without a fight being scheduled.
"What’s interesting in my case is we’re out of competition," Sonnen said. "These are not things I showed up with on game day, this is out of competition due to a rule they changed. This is kind of an odd spot for me, but that’s what’s happened, that’s what they’ve done."
The red flag is raised once again with this statement as well because the drugs Sonnen tested positive for are on the banned substances list by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) whether in or out of competition. The two drugs Sonnen was taking were certainly prescribed to him by a doctor or endocrinologist, but they are still illegal to use when being tested within the parameters of a sport or competition.
Neither are allowed to be used in or out of competition, so regardless of when the test was administered, Sonnen would have returned a positive test and he would be subject to penalties and fines. The only caveat to any drugs being listed as illegal and still allowed would be if an athlete files an exemption with a commission or governing body. For instance, insulin is also on the banned substances list from WADA but athletes diagnosed with diabetes would be allowed to use it under an exemption and doctor’s supervision.
It is on the banned list, but that’s for competition. If this is game day, I’m not making any of these statements
— Chael Sonnen
Sonnen continued to echo the same statement in a second interview with FOX Sports One show ‘America’s Pregame’ where he again stated there is a major difference between fight day and out of competition testing. He did add, however, that he plans to appeal the decision from the commission and will go before them in a hearing to have his day in court.
"It is on the banned list, but that’s for competition," Sonnen said. "If this is game day, I’m not making any of these statements. On game day you have to come in right. Out of competition an athlete cannot take an anabolic, he cannot take a performance enhancer, and he cannot take a steroid. The former executive director has many quotes out there that I will download and I will bring into the commission when I appeal this thing stating there is a significant difference between game day and the other 364 days a year."
UFC president Dana White also appeared on the show to explain what happened in the Sonnen situation. He stated the blame for the entire fallout from the TRT ban lands on the shoulders of the Nevada State Athletic Commission as well as Sonnen for not disclosing that he was using these substances.
"I think the Nevada State Athletic Commission could have laid it out better for how they were going to end this thing, what would be banned and what wouldn’t be banned and the guys coming down off it. It’s a matter of they’re not very educated on TRT," White said. "It’s Chael’s fault, too, because Chael should have called the athletic commission and said ‘this is what my doctor told me I need to do to come off this stuff’. He absolutely should have done that."
Sonnen stated several times that he never had the opportunity to disclose the drugs he was taking, but he did appear in front of the athletic commission a month ago for his licensing hearing and at that time he did not mention any drugs he was taking as a result of coming off TRT. Either way, the substances remain on the banned list and if they are found during a test, it will return a positive result and the consequences that go along with it.
The drugs Sonnen took also assisted him with a fertility problem, which resulted in his wife recently becoming pregnant with a baby on the way in nine months. All told even with this fiasco unfolding on Tuesday, Sonnen says if he had to do it all over again he would.
"I know what I have done and if I had to do it again I would do it 20 more times," Sonnen said in closing.