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By Zach Arnold | July 2, 2014
Well, well, well. It appears that it’s not only MMA’s bad boys getting permission slips to use testosterone. We knew that there were murky waters on this front in the major American sports, but now a new book on tarnished baseball star Alex Rodriguez claims that he was given an Exemption by Major League Baseball to use testosterone, the base chemical of anabolic steroids, in 2007. Rodriguez’s excuse? Hypogonadism. You don’t say. Plus he was allegedly given a pass to use a fertility drug, the same drug in question for both Chael Sonnen (UFC) and Robert Mathis (Indianapolis Colts).
The book further claims that over 100 players were granted some sort of Exemption by MLB.
What’s interesting to note right away is the contrast in the way the sports media is covering this newest development versus the lack of coverage (until now) that we’ve seen on the steroid epidemic in combat sports. Wally Matthews for ESPN New York already has written a great column on MLB’s alleged enabling of Rodriguez’s drug usage. He rightfully pointed out that if the book’s claims are true about Rodriguez getting an Exemption, then he got one after supposedly failing a drug test in 2003.
So while it may be hard to believe that a reputable doctor would diagnose low-T and prescribe testosterone to a man with the body, physical abilities, and history of Alex Rodriguez, that is precisely what happened.
A North Carolina physician, Bryan W. Smith, approved the medical exemption. Smith was the IPA — independent program administrator — appointed jointly by MLB and the MLBPA, but supposedly not answerable to either.
Requests for comment from Dr. Smith on Wednesday were rejected, and all calls were referred to MLB’s public relations department.
No wonder Steve Austin reacted the way he did recently when discussing Sonnen getting busted on two random Nevada State Athletic drug tests.
And that’s precisely what Sonnen can rely upon right now. He’s currently being castigated as MMA’s version of Alex Rodriguez & Jay Mariotti combined. The problem for Sonnen’s critics is that he became a beloved bad boy figure after admitting testosterone usage. Notice that the American MMA fighters using testosterone drew, at best, minor scoffs but the foreign fighters using testosterone, like Vitor Belfort, became heavyweight heels on Twitter. Absurd, but that’s what constitutes for MMA’s current fan base.
This is why I will remain steadfast saying that Chael Sonnen will be back and back with a vengeance for the UFC in due course. He’s the best guy, outside of Dana White, that they have in marketing fights. He’s also a guy who knows some of the UFC’s skeletons in their closet. They protected him and he protected them. The current firing is just business, nothing personal. What made the firing from Fox so interesting is the fact that Ariel Helwani, UFC Insider for Fox Sports, claimed that both Sonnen and UFC were notified of the Nevada drug test results last week before the news leaked publicly on Saturday night during UFC’s double-header in Auckland & San Antonio. In other words, Sonnen wasn’t instantly fired. There was time to deliberate what to do with the guy and whether or not the storm would blow over. And Fox Sports dragged on until 2 AM EST on Saturday night/Sunday morning to briefly address the latest Sonnen news.
Not exactly an act that could be labeled as a profile in courage, but what else would you expect?
We have a UFC PPV this weekend with Chris Weidman & Ronda Rousey. The ceiling for them seems to be around 400,000 to 450,000 buys. Same with Jon Jones & Johny Hendricks. All four stars are going to have to continue major winning streaks in order to gain an aura like Anderson Silva & Georges St. Pierre. The one guy who figured out how to draw attention without having to undertake a massive winning streak? Chael Sonnen. He figured out how to push the right buttons like Tito Ortiz did.
The UFC can’t afford for Chael Sonnen to be gone forever. And Chael Sonnen can’t afford to be without the UFC. They need each other. And the media writers putting Sonnen on full blast today will be the first ones interviewing him when he returns to the public spotlight.