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The elephant in the room no one is addressing in regards to Chael Sonnen

By Zach Arnold | May 19, 2011

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Without testosterone shots, will he physically be anywhere near the same fighter as he previously was in the UFC before he got suspended by the California State Athletic Commission?

That simple question is often overlooked in all of the melodrama surrounding the hearings Mr. Sonnen has had with the California State Athletic Commission. We know about the back-and-forth in regards to his claim that he needs TRT for ‘survival’. We know Keith Kizer disputes what Sonnen claims in regards to asking for TRT approval. In the grand scheme of things (as Josh Gross pointed out), the CSAC looks pretty bad for not doing their own investigative work as opposed to simply taking Chael Sonnen’s testimony at face value. Of course, we all know what happened once last December’s hearing took place. There was the mortgage fraud situation in Portland.

Whether Chael’s license in California is revoked or not, in the bigger picture he can still fight down the road. All this talk about heading into retirement is that — talk. It certainly provides an interesting test case in regards to UFC. If the promotion wants to book him on foreign soil or book him in a state with a commission that isn’t so strict, it can be done. Keith Kizer, who I have long criticized as a do-nothing athletic commissioner, has had no problems watching what has taken place in California because someone else is making a decision for him. He just sits back, waits, and reacts to whatever the fallout is from another jurisdiction. In the past, I discussed the idea of Keith Kizer getting into a PR Battle with UFC and just how untenable of a situation that is given that Zuffa is the whole MMA business on a major-league scale at this point in time.

Many will argue on Twitter, on FB, on web sites that Mr. Sonnen has ‘paid his dues’ and should return to action shortly. OK, if you believe that, then you believe it. Ultimately, the call on what Chael Sonnen’s fate is happens to be in the hands of Zuffa management. Most people are now at the stage of debate as to whether or not Chael Sonnen can make Zuffa enough money to justify all of the hassles he has put the organization through. Well, we will find out shortly what Zuffa thinks. If they want to push the envelope and push the issue, they will book him. Simple as that. If they do, then it means they’ve made the calculation that he can generate good revenue for them.

However, what if the company decides to wash their hands of him? Will it be in part because they don’t want to deal with the headache any more? Or will it be in part because they are afraid of what he will become as a fighter if he isn’t using testosterone? Without testosterone, would he still be a Middleweight? Would he balloon up in size or shrivel to a lighter weight class? What would his physical condition be as a fighter now that he’s on a short leash with major American athletic commissions?

My mailbox and media accounts were flooded with very angry Chael Sonnen supporters who think that what has happened to him is a travesty and that it’s become a witch hunt. Even Michael Bisping thinks that is the case. Of course he would, given that he and Sonnen would have been paired against each other on The Ultimate Fighter. In the end, perhaps Mr. Bisping should take this as a blessing in disguise given how bad the show has become on a lot of levels.

I do think it is amazing how much martyrdom there seems to be in the eyes of many MMA fans when it comes to Chael Sonnen. He has been lionized to an amazing degree after his performance against Anderson Silva. It’s as if many have forgotten that he lost that fight. He gave Anderson everything he could, but he did lose that fight. One unique phenomenon about Chael that I’ve noticed is how dichotomous the rationale is amongst his most ardent supporters, a mixture of humanization and dehumanization. Humanization in that he claims he suffers from hypogonadism, has had personal problems in regards to mortgage fraud, and should be able to earn a living. Dehumanization in the sense that people should somehow not take what he has to say seriously because he’s an entertainer, MMA is as much show-business as it is a sport, a large amount of fighters are supposedly doping as well, so on and so forth.

You can have your own opinion on Chael Sonnen, love him or hate him. While everyone is caught up in the moment, the most important question to ask is whether or not the man will have a functioning career if he isn’t able to use testosterone like he previously was.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 38 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

38 Responses to “The elephant in the room no one is addressing in regards to Chael Sonnen”

  1. Jason Harris says:

    The punishment doled out to Sonnen is unusually harsh. I have not ever heard of someone’s life outside of the ring (IE criminal convictions) being used as evidence for licensing. Really bizarre.

    That said, Sonnen seems to be digging himself deeper and deeper. How he thought he’d get away with lying about talking to the NSAC etc. I have no freaking idea. It was a stupid move and based on that alone I am not surprised that CSAC is making an example of him.

    On the other side though, why does CSAC have SO many more problems than the other big commissions? It’s a laundry list of guys who have problems with CSAC and nowhere else.

    • Norm says:

      How stupid does the CSAC look in all of this now? They reduced his sentence from 1 year to 6 months at a trial where they felt he was lying!

      Was there not enough sense in the room at the original trial to call his shenanigins and be done with it? The CSAC is glossing over their ineptness by taking it out on Sonnen.

    • Tomer says:

      Muhammad Ali was stripped of his license to fight after being arrested for refusing to enter the US military, so it’s actually happened before.

  2. Zach Arnold says:

    The punishment doled out to Sonnen is unusually harsh. I have not ever heard of someone’s life outside of the ring (IE criminal convictions) being used as evidence for licensing. Really bizarre.

    Yesterday, I compared this to the Al Capone method in terms of what was used to nail him.

  3. Norm says:

    In the first part of the write up, why is it implied that if he were reinstated he could not use TRT?

    So long as he got it approved with the SAC, he’d be good to go right?

    Or with his past transgressions does that not allow him to compete with the appropriate medication for his condition?

    • Zach Arnold says:

      That’s the next part of the story that has to progress. Open-ended answer right now.

    • Jemaleddin says:

      I think this is all resting on the idea that he would be able to show that he actually needs TRT. Do you believe that he does? Because the rest of us think that whole thing was an excuse to use steroids.

  4. Mark says:

    Like I said yesterday: Yes, he got a harsh punishment. But anybody surprised must not understand how state/federal officials on a powertrip can operate. He told a very stupid lie he should have known would be exposed in a matter of days, and AC’s have shown they always stick together. So since he made them look bad by lying, they gave him the full wrath because they can. Blame Chael for being stupid.

    And if you don’t believe me, go lie about your taxes, or in court about something a DA or judge told you in private, or even to a zoning board and see what happens.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    People go to Federal Jails for lying to the government.

    I think it’s silly most of the time, but that’s how life currently is.

    So what Sonnen did was stupid.

    Just imagine if he won that fight against Silva.

    For as much problems as Silva has caused the UFC with his fights against Cote and Leites…. He completely redeemed himself with that submission victory which helped the UFC avoid a “UFC Champion” being in the press about all of this stuff.

  6. sam says:

    How is this penalty unusually harsh?

    Can anyone cite a comparable scenario where someone got a lighter punishment?

    When has someone been caught doping, then been proven to have lied to the commission during the hearing for doping?

  7. Light23 says:

    What sort of time frame are we looking at for getting Chael re-licensed? Are they just going to leave him in limbo forever? A year? A few months? Until he gets his act together?

    • Mark says:

      Probably a full year. Remember Mike Tyson was going to be banned forever and ever and ever for the ear bite incident, but they brought him back around a year later.

      But the issue is: with his age, how good is he going to be coming back rusty at 36? That’s the age most guys start planning for retirement, but he’s going to be looking for the biggest paydays he can get since his stupidity cost him millions of dollars at his peak. He’d better hope Anderson Silva is retired by then and they’re stuck with Middleweight champion Michael Bisping so they can be desperate for his services. Can he be Randy Couture and get better with age? Or will he get blown out in his first fight back to show MMA passed him by?

      • The Gaijin says:

        “Can he be Randy Couture and get better with age?”

        Speaking of guys with allegedly dubious backgrounds regarding hormone use…

        • edub says:

          Has anything ever been linked to Randy. All I have ever seen on it is his weight fighting Sylvia and Gonzaga compared to his Lesnar and Nogueira fights. He was around 230 against Tim and Gabe. He was less than 220 against the latter 2.

          Don’t forget about Dan Henderson either. He’s been on the TRT for a while now. Not to mention the “I’m still under 25, and have never wrestled past highschool” Todd Duffee.

        • The Gaijin says:

          No I don’t think anything has ever been definitively linked to Randy, hence the old Fox News “allegedly” (maybe I should have went with the “Randy Couture, HGH and Steroid user?” – lol).

          The only stories linking Randy to it that I can recall are the UFC Unleashed episode where they talked about him using HRT (which interestingly has never been re-aired) and Joe Rogan running his mouth on numerous occasions. And there’s some odd interviews with Randy talking about all this “blood chemistry” work he has done…and of course lots of whispers about him using HGH/HRT. But again, nothing that has been greatly substantiated.

          That Duffee thing just reeks of a “mark doctor” like that ones that prescribed all those steroids/etc. the WWF guys back in the day.

        • Jemaleddin says:

          The only thing suspicious about Randy (besides his longevity) is the number of former juicers that go to Extreme Couture and then never get caught juicing again. It could be that he’s reforming them, but it might be that he’s got the scoop on not getting caught.

          But I’m not trying to accuse Randy – just saying that when NFL players serve their suspension for steroid use at Extreme Couture, it raises flags for me. 🙂

        • Mr. Roadblock says:

          How about doing a side by side comparison of Randy’s head today vs his head in say 2003. Then do the same thing for Barry Bonds 2006 vs 1990’s.

      • Mr. Roadblock says:

        Unless I’m mistaken, Tyson never got reinstated.

        He just went and fought in Memphis, TN where there isn’t an athletic commission.

  8. Chris says:

    No travesty and no miscarrige of justice. Sonnen made his bed, and now he has to lay in it.

  9. Vic Mackey says:

    “he claims he suffers from hypergonadism”

    I believe he claims to have hypogonadism.

  10. EJ says:

    Actually the only elephant in the room that almost everyone including you Zach, seem to not be addressing is the CSAC’s disgracefull behaviour and mishandling of this entire situation.

    I’ve read countless articles and it seems that only a handfull of mma fans seem to be the one’s discussing the CSAC. Everyone else is in Sonnen overload and letting their own personal bs with him dictate their opinions when it’s bigger than him.

    The CSAC is a joke, they’ve lost any last bit of credibility that they had and have proven that they are the most inept AC in sports. Everyone should be up and arms that they are handling mma in a huge and important state and yet just like with the Sherk debacle most mma writers seem to have turned a blind eye to this its incredibly frustrating.

    • edub says:

      No where in any of this do you point out why people should be paying attention to the CSAC. What are the exact things they did wrong? How did they mishandle, and what does it excuse Sonnen of?

      Gaij and I had a pretty good discussion on this yesterday. The only real thing the AC did wrong is not bringing it up fast enough.

      • EJ says:

        Have you missed all my post on this matter?, everything about the system that the AC has set up to deal with these matters has been exposed. They supposedly cleaned house after the Sherk debacle in which they screwed him over and took a huge hit in their testing and appeals process credibility.

        Then this whole Sonnen nonsense happened and they’ve been proven that their AC is still the same inept bunch that it was before the new people took over.

        Their appeals process is still a joke and fraudulant, it’s not a real appeals process is a show court that doesn’t have anything to do with facts but how well you can bs them.

        Then when that gets exposed and Sonnen makes them look like idiots by getting his suspension reduced. They turn around and basically have another joke of a hearing in which they want to play tough guys and now he’s out much longer than anyone else under the same circumstances.

        Yet none of that is talked about it’s all about Sonnen, not the CSAC’s behaviour which led to this situation in the first place. It’s really comedy hour and the fact that people just gloss over all of this simply baffles me.

        • The Gaijin says:

          Sonnen’s suspension is up June 29, 2011. That’s less than a year after he got caught (August 7, 2010). How is that “longer than anyone else under the same circumstances”?

        • edub says:

          Still not a single point you make EJ.

          “Then when that gets exposed and Sonnen makes them look like idiots by getting his suspension reduced. They turn around and basically have another joke of a hearing in which they want to play tough guys and now he’s out much longer than anyone else under the same circumstances.”

          So you want them to completely forget the fact that he lied to their faces? He perjured himself during the appeals process, and he made them look like idiots. It’s not surprising at all they punished him for it. Just the time frame they tood to implement it (as I stated yesterday).

          Look at what you wrote down man. You’re basing your opinion on a commission that isn’t even around anymore (The ones who dealt with Sherk are now gone), and that they are treating Chael Sonnen unfairly (The guy who lied to them during his appeals hearing, and then got convicted of Federal money laundering).

          The only things that could be argued as ineptitude are waiting til now to call him out for lying to their faces. And using a non-violent crime against him when he’s already been punished by the federal government. The second one I changed my opinion on though. I have a job working with the government where I need certain levels of a security clearance. If I were to be convicted of his crime I would lose my clearance, my job, and subsequently my whole career. Sometimes the things you do in your personal life effect your professional one.

        • Fishbowl says:

          I agree that the timing of it is terrible. Really? You couldn’t have brought this up prior to his 6 month suspension? But as far as the appeals process is concerned, I really don’t see how the appeal itself was mishandled. As far as I know, he was further suspended two weeks ago for lying under oath. This appeals process was for Sonnen to prove that he did not commit perjury.

          From what I’ve seen on various websites, his defense consisted of his mom giving giving a character witness on behalf of her son (yes, the same mother involved in the kickback scandal, talk about desperation time), a written testimony from Lindland (not accepted), and Sonnen saying that Dana White said he might as well retire if he can’t get relicensed (playing the pity card). His defense was not sufficient to prove that he didn’t lie and he was punished accordingly.

          As others have mentioned, the timing was terrible and his fraud case didn’t need to be mentioned. However, even without factoring these into the equation, they still would have a good case to suspend him. I’m not seeing the injustice here.

          Gaijin,

          I believe he cannot reapply for a license in CA until June 29, 2012. I’m not sure how that’s gonna play out though.

        • The Gaijin says:

          I just read Sonnen can’t reapply for a license until 2012, which may be what you’re (EJ) referring to.

          But on a closer look, “TITLE 4. BUSINESS REGULATIONS
          DIVISION 2. STATE ATHLETIC COMMISSION” of the California Code of Regulations clearly states:

          “§ 399. Procedure When License Denied Or Revoked –

          [First para omitted – re license denied]

          Anyone who has had his license revoked may not petition for reinstatement or apply for a new license until one year after the date of such revocation. Any petition for reinstatement filed within the one year period may be denied without the necessity of a hearing.”

          I’m sure once his suspension is up on June 29, 2011, he can apply to other commissions and they’ll be able to choose to license him or not as he’ll no longer be suspended, but he just can’t get licensed in CA .

        • edub says:

          I don’t know if this is misquoted or not, but on Junkie it has Kizer saying that Sonnen can apply for a license there after his initial suspension is up in California (June something).

          That strike anyone else as odd, or is he just saying that to be a dick (because he will be denied anyway)?

        • Mark says:

          My comments aren’t being posted, so I’ll put it in a nutshell

          #1 Sportswriters always take a harsh stance against athletes accused of steroids, so nobody should be surprise they are in the Sonnen case.

          #2 No writer (outside of the Eddie Goldman and Josh Gross anti-everything-UFC’s of the world) had issues with Sonnen until he lied. Sonnen was fawned over as much as anybody when he morphed into “Rowdy” Roddy Piper last summer. So to act like they’ve always had a grudge against him, when they made him what he was by promoting his promotion, is just not the case. People dislike liars. Look at Josh Barnett: beloved wronged fighter for 7 or 8 years, then he kills Affliction in 2009 and he’s the scum of the earth to his former big fans. The same thing has happened to Sonnen.

        • EJ says:

          “So you want them to completely forget the fact that he lied to their faces? He perjured himself during the appeals process, and he made them look like idiots. It’s not surprising at all they punished him for it. Just the time frame they tood to implement it (as I stated yesterday).

          Look at what you wrote down man. You’re basing your opinion on a commission that isn’t even around anymore (The ones who dealt with Sherk are now gone), and that they are treating Chael Sonnen unfairly (The guy who lied to them during his appeals hearing, and then got convicted of Federal money laundering).

          The only things that could be argued as ineptitude are waiting til now to call him out for lying to their faces. And using a non-violent crime against him when he’s already been punished by the federal government. The second one I changed my opinion on though. I have a job working with the government where I need certain levels of a security clearance. If I were to be convicted of his crime I would lose my clearance, my job, and subsequently my whole career. Sometimes the things you do in your personal life effect your professional one.”

          Honestly I can’t help you if you can’t see how inept and corrupt these guys are nothing has changed about how they run things it’s just different people doing the same thing.

          It just continues to amaze me how people can’t see what’s clear as day and right in their faces. Everything about the CSAC from their sham appeals process which is what caused this in the first place. To the even more laughable do-over hearing which was clear from the start that Sonnen was screwed regardless of anything he presented. It’s all a joke but instead of talking about any of that people still want to make it about Sonnen? smh. It’s not about him it’s about what’s supposed to be the sacred AC that oversees the sport and they have no credibility thanks their actions in this case.

        • edub says:

          “It just continues to amaze me how people can’t see what’s clear as day and right in their faces. Everything about the CSAC from their sham appeals process which is what caused this in the first place.”

          Which is what caused this in the first place? It’s their fault for Chael lying to them during a process set up for him defend himself against a failed drug test? What do I need help with EJ? Really? I mean how in the world do you come to that conclusion.

          “To the even more laughable do-over hearing which was clear from the start that Sonnen was screwed regardless of anything he presented.”

          He didn’t present anything. All he did was explain what happened was a misunderstanding instead of him lying. Played the pity card and said he would retire if he wasn’t aloud to fight, and say he had TUF set up with Bisping.

          “It’s all a joke but instead of talking about any of that people still want to make it about Sonnen? smh.”

          Yes it is a joke. But them being a joke doesn’t excuse Chael from failing a drug test because of him “forgetting” to inform anybody from the commission about his TRT. Then lying to the commission about speaking with Keith Kizer about the situation.

    • Mark says:

      There are several explanations for what you’re suggesting.

      #1 Steroid outrage is the favorite topic of discussion for sports writers everywhere, including MMA writers.

      It’s easy because it’s polarizing. It’s easy because you can recycle the same factoids to fill paragraphs. It’s easy because generally the people who get caught up in the controversy (ie Barry Bonds, Shawn Merriman, A-Rod, Floyd Landis, and Chael Sonnen) are hot topics to begin with, since they tend to be love them or hate them athletes. So writers know they get a bunch of page hits and comments without even really trying because the haters will come in to demand their suspension and their fans will come in to defend them.

      And they almost always take the hardest stance you can take on the issue. Listen to sports radio or watch those douchebag ESPN talking head early evening shows: they are OUTRAGED~! Sports are sacred, damn it! Children look up to every athlete ever! Think about all the dead guys who missed out on pharm-greatness! So, you’re going to the wrong place if you expect writers to join the Martyr Sonnen bandwagon.

      #2 Since when have writers had personal issues with Chael? My God, do you not remember them gushing like schoolgirls having their first crush when he turned into “Rowdy” Roddy Piper for the Silva fight hype last summer? Everybody followed his every move. All of his Tweets, all of his interviews, all of his planted gossip was taken damn near as a King’s Decree. They didn’t turn on him until he got caught in a lie. And I don’t think it was just because it was Chael Sonnen, I think anybody would get the same treatment. Josh Barnett was pretty popular once too, but since he killed Affliction after he lied about steroids, he’s a joke to the MMA community as well. He went from a guy everybody but the biggest Zuffaite was backing as a travesty he didn’t get a shot in the UFC, to a guy people have zero respect for. MMA fans are fickle, yes, but lots of times they have legit reasons for jumping off a bandwagon.

      #3 As I and countless others have pointed out, the California Athletic Commission is acting like any other state agency would if someone they’re investigating told a lie to the public that made them look bad. You don’t screw with somebody who has all the power over you. Chael’s ego was either too big or his brain too small to realize how stupid he was playing with fire. The C.S.A.C. weren’t going to be MMA fanboys laughing off his BSing as part of his charm. They take what they do very seriously. He carried on his worker mentality too far. Blaming anyone but him is ridiculous. You don’t have to like what was done, I wish he could come back and salvage his career too. But to paraphrase another worker who takes things too far: Chael Screwed Chael.

  11. The Gaijin says:

    Dick Ebersol resigned (see: got canned) as head of NBC Sports and Mark Lazarus is stepping in to replace him.

    I think that should be considered a positive for Zuffa/mma fans, as Ebersol was pretty anti-mma if I recall correctly. As for Lazarus, I don’t know a whole lot about him, but I believe he was a Comcast guy before the merger and would have been overseeing Versus which ran WEC shows and picked up the UFC. It’ll be interesting to watch what happens with NBC Sports given the catastrophe Ebersol’s run was at the end.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      NBC Sports has fallen so low…. Just like NBC itself. Comcast makes a lot of money off the UFC with PPV’s. Right off the bat, that makes the relationship between the two companies good.

      When the NBC/Comcast merger was first discussed, I thought it could have long term benefits for the UFC. That potential is still there.

      What is good for the UFC is that NBC doesn’t have a high standard of ratings anymore. So it’s probably the easiest network to please if they can pull in 5 million for a show.

  12. Chromium says:

    Recipe for re-licensing Chael Sonnen:

    1) He needs to stay f***ing clean! Even if he’s a worse fighter for it (which he will be). Jesus Christ, he should find some other way to push himself, it’s not like he was taking giant amounts of HGH (afaik).

    2) Have him write a formal apology to the NSAC and CSAC, as well as Keith Kizer, for his lies. Yes this is a bitter pill to swallow and would harm his smug, smarter-than-thou heel “persona,” but he brought it on himself. In the real world it does not make him less of a man at this point to admit he really fucked up bad.

    3) Have his next fight be on foreign soil, like the U.K., against a mid-level guy who is theoretically an easy win but also someone that can be capitalized on if Sonnen loses. Maybe someone like Kyle Noke, or the loser of Sakara vs. Rivera. Have Sonnen tone down the trash talk a bit for this one.

    4) Have a third party conduct testing that includes blood tests to WADA standards for the event, and obviously Chael would have to be tested.

    5a) If Sonnen loses he’s in a bad way here, but his credibility will have taken such a hit that saving him is not a huge priority.

    5b) If Sonnen wins but tests positive again, then his fighting career in the UFC is over. Maybe offer him a job as a paid consultant to help fighters with their promos, as a lure to keep him from Bellator (if he loses and pisses hot then well, just cut the sorry guy and be done with him).

    5c) If he wins and tests clean, he just might be able to get a license in a place like Texas now and they could go the Josh Barnett route with him keeping clean and rehabbing his image until eventually the CSAC might relent and lift his suspension. If not, repeat steps 3) and 4).

    This is the only way I see him keeping his career, at least as a relevant fighter (let alone an elite one).

  13. The Gaijin says:

    Funny the Sonnenite’s are screaming for blood because he “won 4 rounds against Silva” and “almost beat him”, but completely ignore that he was juiced to the gills in order to do it and he still lost.

    And of course they’re pretty much all the same people that discredit Barnett’s win over Couture because of steroids, but they are frothing at the mouth to expedite juicer Sonnen back into the title picture for a rematch of a fight he lost to Silva. smfh.

  14. zack says:

    If you feel like a 93 year old when you’re not on drugs, you shouldn’t be a pro athlete. Stick to being a Realtor…oh wait.

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