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Chael Sonnen’s training partner Neil Melanson: It always seems that positive test results happen mainly in California

By Zach Arnold | September 28, 2010

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Watch Neil Melanson Comments on Chael Sonnen’s Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs on

A very fascinating interview. Don’t just read the transcript — watch the interview to catch some of the nuance. I’ll leave a comment to this post to give you my response to what he said.

INTERVIEWER: “You trained Chael Sonnen before his Anderson Silva fight. Were you surprised when you found out that he popped positive for performance-enhancing drugs?”

NEIL MELANSON: “I was really surprised but um… you know, it seems like everybody that gets caught with something gets caught in California and even Sean Sherk got busted in California and he took a lie detector test to try to clear his name and he passed a lie detector test and, you know, so now he’s under, you know, what, did he really do it? Did he beat the lie detector test? I think Chael’s kind of in that spot where, you know, I just texted Chael quick just to say, hey man, whatever happens, you know, you still have friends out there and he said that this was basically B.S. and now he’s got to spend his time, you know, clearing his name instead of fighting but he doesn’t strike me as the type but you don’t know but he’s… he’s a real hard-working guy. I don’t know what he need, I mean unless he… I know he did have a broken foot during that camp, so he trained that whole camp with a broken foot but the guy’s an animal, he’s not a crybaby. So unless he took something or he thought he got something cleared maybe and it wasn’t cleared, I don’t… they haven’t really come out with what it is was as far as I know, if it was a steroid….”

INTERVIEWER: “High levels of testosterone they said.”

NEIL MELANSON: “Oh really? Well, I guess depending on the levels if it was pretty high than maybe he did take something and…”

INTERVIEWER: “Chael Sonnen is a very hard-working fighter. We saw that performance, he never stopped working in that fight. He also didn’t stop working when he was smack talking the entire time, hyping up the event. Do you think that maybe when you’re hyping up a fight that much you put too much pressure on yourself and that could be a reason why he popped positive?”

NEIL MELANSON: “I don’t know if he felt a lot of pressure. I know that he wanted to win and maybe he, I thought he was trying to get in Anderson’s head and make Anderson emotional by trying to make it sound like it was personal and going after him and trying to break him a little bit. So… I thought it was just a tactic but I guess he’s been kind of doing it on everybody so it’s kind of become more a spectacle and a comedy show but, you know, I don’t really… when people talk like that, you can’t really read into it because they’re just having fun, I don’t think they’re really trying to make a statement or anything, he’s just trying to entertain.”

INTERVIEWER: “When I found out about the positive test, it worried me because people already ask me how legitimate this sport is. Do you think that something like this can damage the reputation?”

NEIL MELANSON: “I don’t think this is as damaging as others think. I think, you know, all athletes, you know, in all sports, there’s always some athletes get caught with some type of drug so I mean performance-enhancing, it’s a very physically demanding sport. I think the thing that can hurt the sport is that the fact that anybody can do it, so there’s times where people are fighting that… they don’t mean to try to hurt the sport but it’s like… I never played football in my life but if I just started to train football one day you think I’d be able to get in the NFL? Not in a million years, but some of these guys that play football all of a sudden they just want to fight and they train for a year and next thing you know they’re in the cage or even less and it kind of makes it look like anybody can do it and because anybody can walk in there. I think is that that’s bad for the sport because people see ‘oh this guy is a big athlete or he’s a stud and he’s out there’ and the fight is ugly and they think, wow, this is what MMA is and then you end up watching really good fighters and you see, wow, this is a lot different and unfortunately sometimes the technical, the good fighters… they get a lot of attention, which is a good thing, but these other guys that have no ability but they have the name or whatever, they get a lot of attention.”

INTERVIEWER: “I understand that, but Chael Sonnen is a very high-profile fighter and so when he pops positive, does that damage the reputation of MMA?”

NEIL MELANSON: “I don’t think it does. I really don’t.”

INTERVIEWER: “A lot of MMA media figures, including Josh Gross, have been saying that there should be zero tolerance from fight promoters, that once a fighter pops positive, cut him. But Dana White himself disagrees and says that the year-suspension and a year of not being able to earn an income and just the personal damage it does to their own reputation is punishment enough. How do you feel?”

NEIL MELANSON: “I agree with Dana White, you know, it’s… You know… If you want to know how to run a successful promotion or a successful business, ask people that run successful promotions and businesses. Dana White is successful at what he does. I think when he forces an opinion about something, especially like that, then you should take that into consideration because he’s obviously making a ton of money and he’s basically… the Godfather to the sport at this point and, uh, you know, a lot of these columnists and I’m not disrespecting, you know, Josh Gross, if that’s his name because it’s good to have other opinions and other thoughts, but I think it’s good to have that devil advocate and that media that kind of brings up that other side but the reality is, you know, talking about people… that’s like saying you hate fat people because you’re skinny you’re whole life and then, you know, you don’t realize what it’s like to be hard to be fat and it’s not easy to lose weight. You’re judging something that you have no experience or really no knowledge. These guys that get popped for steroids maybe once in their career, maybe it was the one time they screwed up and they deserve a second chance because maybe they did it because they’re injured or whatever it was and they shouldn’t be demonized for the rest of their life and be forced to give it up. To me, that’s very unfair. I mean… it’s ridiculous, I mean… Nick Diaz got busted for being high on marijuana, should he be completely demonized as a fighter when he’s putting on great performances? He’s one of my favorite fighters to watch, you know, to me it’s like if he wants to do something, who’s he hurting? It’s like, yeah he should be clean the day of the fight, OK, fine, suspend him but don’t tell me he’s got to go find another job, you know, a whole another career. I think that’s ridiculous.”

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 14 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

14 Responses to “Chael Sonnen’s training partner Neil Melanson: It always seems that positive test results happen mainly in California”

  1. Zach Arnold says:

    The response about the majority of test failures in California is clever by half. Yes, California has had many scandals and protests over their drug testing, but by phrasing it that the failures happen mostly in California, it’s a statement that makes the drug testing in other states look impotent.

    The answer to Josh Gross’s assertion that promotions should cut fighters for failing drug tests is answered by saying that whatever Dana says (because he makes a lot of money) therefore should be the primary answer? Spoken like a politically-smart guy who wants no bridges burned.

    I don’t think Sonnen himself failing a drug test is damaging, but I think the culminative effect of so many guys being suspected on PEDs in MMA makes the perception of the sport as one that is not as legitimate as other combat sports.

  2. David M says:

    Why would fighters be banned for life? Why would Menalson have to answer that seriously, when it was not a serious idea from Josh Gross anyways? Saying fighters should be banned for life for testing positive for roids once is a worthless, baseless, attention grab, the mma “journalist” version of the preacher in Florida who said he was going to burn Qurans. Gross is just trying to get his name out there in various media outlets, and his fellow mma scribes eat up his bullshit with a spoon.

  3. Jonathan Snowden says:

    I didn’t grasp what made this interview standout. Also, Neil isn’t “Chael’s training partner” rather he’s Randy Couture’s grappling coach who worked briefly with Team Quest guys.

  4. Jemaleddin says:

    While I don’t think that there’s anything statistically significant to this whole “California steroid” thing, it is interesting.

    Now that there’s been some turnover in the commission and they’ve been testing at one of the best labs in the world, I wonder what the implied claim is? Are they saying that California is faking positive results? What would they gain from that?

    A more likely suggestion would be that the California commission has less to lose and is therefore MORE honest than other states. Are they suggesting that Nevada is passing people who ought to fail?

  5. DanMMAGospel says:

    Keep in mind Jemaleddin, that California also has a record of a much higher percentage of FALSE positives than other states as well. Its not that California is more effective in their testing, its that they drop suspensions at the drop of a hat. The CSAC levies fines and suspensions before they even get the carbon 12-13 tests back to determine what caused a trigger.
    A little insite as to how these urine tests work. They are done in two parts. First, they test for triggers, abnormally high testosterone ratios, the presence of certain chemicals such as THC (from pot) benzoylecgonine (cocain) or 6-acetylmorphine (opiats such as pain killers or heroin), or other protiens.
    When the first test pops hot for a trigger substance, they test a second sample to confirm the substance that caused it.
    In the case of an abnormal testosterone ratio its called a carbon 12-13 test. This test is used to identify specific metabolites that indicate a seroid or other substance.
    The CSAC has a problem with issuing suspensions, fines, and statements BEFORE confirming their test results. This blows up in their face fairly often as there are legal substances that elevate these ratios and may pop hot (similar to poppie seeds causing a false + on older heroin tests) especially if the athlete has high testosterone levels naturally as many do.

    • Jason Harris says:

      How soon people forget that the CSAC had to replace their top executives, and even completely suspended drug testing for several events because their current drug testing procedures were so broken.

      You look back at the situations that guys like Bigfoot Silva went through and the sentiment was that the CSAC was incompetent and screwing with guys’ careers, and now people act like CSAC is the righteous justice fighter who’s brave enough to stand up to steroids.

      What a difference a year makes.

    • robthom says:

      “Its not that California is more effective in their testing, its that they drop suspensions at the drop of a hat. The CSAC levies fines and suspensions before they even get the carbon 12-13 tests back to determine what caused a trigger.”

      Thats kind of funny to me.

      Almost everything is a fine or a fee in CA.

      Its standard practice because they’re always needing more money.

      (Because of constantly pissing it away on ideological agendas, but thats an issue for another discussion)

  6. Kamander says:

    Have to agree with Snowden. I’m left wondering what’s even news here, not to mention fascinating.

  7. 45 Huddle says:

    So let me get this straight…

    Since the start of the TUF era…. In title fights for the UFC and WEC (Feather & Bantam)… both champion and challenger…

    No Heavyweight has tested positive. 13 Fights, all clean.

    No Light Heavyweight has tested positive. 12 fights, all clean.

    1 Middleweight has tested positive. 11 Fights, 1 positive fighter.

    No Welterweight has tested positive. 10 Fights, all clean.

    2 Lightweights have tested positive. 8 fights, 2 positive fighters (in the same fight).

    No Featherweight has tested positive. 10 fights, all clean.

    No Bantamweight has tested positive. 9 fights, all clean.

    If my math is correct, that is 73 title fights an only 3 positive fighters. I might have missed maybe one positive test at most.

    Hardly an issue that Zach is trying to make this out to be. Some fighters get caught. Most don’t. Fans don’t care. They want to see high level competitive fights.

  8. Fluyid says:

    As recently as 5 years ago in Nevada, some fighters were using other people in their dressing room to piss for them. No one was watching the pissing, so they could have someone else go fill up the thing. I can’t speak for anything since then.

  9. robthom says:

    “…but by phrasing it that the failures happen mostly in California, itโ€™s a statement that makes the drug testing in other states look impotent.”

    I didn’t take it that way.

    Combined with all the other troubles MMA has had that have seemed uniquely related to california events ever since it was regulated, I just saw the statement as his assertion that it was more of that.

    Ca is getting better, but it hasn’t been that long since the Garcia regime.

    I’d believe that it was more of Ca track record of flub ups than everybody else who’s been doing it longer has been doing it wrong the whole time.

    (I dont know if its the case here though. I’m leaning towards Chael is guilty because of his lack of response even to the allegations that he admitted it.)

  10. Bob says:

    Anybody know what he actually tested in the (+) range for? Some reports have mentioned a Testosterone/Estrogen ratio and others a Testosterone/Epitestosterone ratio. I emailed CSAC and they have yet to reply.

  11. mma shorts says:

    Im still surprised Daley gets kicked out and sonned just gets 12 months and that wasnt off UFC!


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