Chael Sonnen, a 37-year-old mixed martial artist, was recently dropped from UFC 175 following a failed drug test administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. UFC 175, expected to take place on July 5, would have seen Vitor Belfort face off against Chael Sonnen after a planned bout between the American and Wanderlei Silva fell through. Concerns over doping in mixed martial arts have been prominent over the past months, particularly in regards to the controversial Testosterone Replacement Therapy undergone by fighters such as Vitor Belfort.
The randomly administered drug test found traces of Anastrozole and Clomiphene in Sonnen’s bloodstream, both of which are on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances. However, Sonnen has been quick to protest his exclusion from UFC 175, citing legitimate medical concerns as the reason he was taking the aforementioned substances. Both Anastrozole and Clomiphene are considered to be anti-estrogen treatments, and there have been assertions that Sonnen was using these substances only as a means of weaning himself off of Testosterone Replacement Therapy.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy has been banned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and Dana White, the president of the UFC, has said that drugs such as Anastrozole and Clomiphene are merely the responses to this ban, as mixed martial artists need to transition safely from TRT. This is the second failed drug test of Sonnen’s career, as he was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission in 2010 for failing to disclose his use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy. However, Sonnen maintains that this most recent drug test is an entirely dissimilar case, as there was no disclosure procedure associated with the drug test.
Furthermore, Chael Sonnen has maintained that this failed drug test provides no reason for him to be removed from UFC 175, as the test took place outside of competition. Using Vicodin as an example, Sonnen argued that drugs taken outside of competition for legitimate medical purposes, whether or not they are impermissible for an athlete on the night of the competition, should not be deemed as violations of the anti-doping policies. Sonnen went on to explain that, in complying with the TRT ban imposed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, he was forced to choose between his health and the sport.
This decision seems to have backfired on Sonnen, and although he will allegedly appeal the decision of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, analysts have speculated as to whether or not this latest test will prompt the retirement of the three-time UFC title contender. This speculation has been fuelled by the fact that, in March, Sonnen contemplated the possibility of retiring if he could not find any way to maintain his testosterone levels at a healthy equilibrium.
If Sonnen is unable to successfully appeal the ruling of the Nevada State Athletic Commission he will likely face a significant suspension from mixed martial arts, much like the six month suspension imposed following his 2010 bout with Anderson Silva in California. The effect that such a suspension would have on the career of Chael Sonnen is indeterminable, but the failed drug test is likely to have a significant impact in the athlete’s professional life.
Commentary by Nicholas Grabe