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Attacking the rubber-stamping of testosterone usage in MMA

By Zach Arnold | May 24, 2012

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By now, everyone knows that Chael Sonnen got his hall pass to use testosterone while fighting in the state of Nevada. So, his fight with Anderson Silva on July 7th was a fait accompli.

Predictably, Nick Diaz got the book thrown at him with a year-long suspension for a second positive drug test (marijuana).

Boxing Insider: A crash course on testosterone, hypogonadism, and doping (in combat sports)

Ben Fowlkes at MMA Fighting adroitly pointed out that allowing testosterone while punishing marijuana use does MMA no favors. I’m reminded of this item at Pro Football Talk last week about how many football players use marijuana.

Marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug. If you want to argue that it should be a banned substance, make your case. If you are concerned about a fighter being high during the actual fight, I’m with you. However, to continue making public claims (like Keith Kizer has) that ‘theoretically’ marijuana usage is a performance-enhancing drug in combat sports is beyond bizarre.

Sadly, what’s more bizarre is that the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s assisting physician, Dr. Timothy Trainor, claimed that Chael Sonnen’s physician, Dr. Mark Czarnecki of The Dalles, Oregon, Czarecki, a General Practitioner and not an endocrinologist, wrote Sonnen’s prescription for testosterone and did so to a person suffering from ‘secondary hypogonadism.’ Trainor, who claims a belief that Sonnen has secondary hypogonadism, is not an endocrinologist himself — he’s an orthopedic surgeon.

Raphael Garcia (MMA Ratings): Sonnen’s TRT decision pushes MMA down a slippery slope

And, yet, Keith Kizer told Mike Chiappetta of MMA Fighting in the past that Nevada’s protocol for going through paperwork and processing a Therapeutic Use Exemption hall pass for testosterone takes 20 days. Yes, three weeks is all to process a hall pass. By comparison, a state like California wants to do a 4-to-6 month process (similar to international regulatory bodies that oversee granting TUEs).

California’s athletic commission, as we’ve pointed out in our on-going investigation, is a mess as well.

All of this led to a Wednesday commentary by Eddie Goldman on how much PR damage the NSAC will suffer from their Monday rulings:

“This is something that is absolutely disgraceful and with all the health problems that taking this testosterone causes that have been discussed many, many, many times, you have a situation where essentially the Nevada State Athletic Commission is enabling Chael Sonnen and other athletes to say, ‘Oh, I need a Therapeutic Use Exemption,’ giving it to them without using the world experts like the International Olympic Committee does but to just bring in some sports medicine doctor or some surgeon or somebody that’s based in Nevada and basically say, ‘OK, you applied for your Therapeutic Use Exemption,’ and then they sucked up to him in the end and they want him to be an adviser to the Commission on the issue of testosterone.

“This is such a farce. This is so disgraceful that there are only a couple of remedies that can be done at this point. The Governor of Nevada (Brian Sandoval) should immediately fire all members of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (Skip Avansino, Francisco Aguilar, Bill Brady, T.J. Day, Pat Lundvall) and also the Executive Director (Keith Kizer). But I think there has to be a broader investigation. I really don’t know what could be done under what I consider to be a ridiculous system in the United States where we have these local yokel state athletic commissions (with) small-time political appointees handling doping measures for international combat sports. To me, it is absolutely an absurd situation. It is terrible governance for sport but it also looks like this is what is done purposely in order to allow these billionaire promoters to get guys to do exciting fights, to throw a lot of bombs, and all this kind of stuff that goes on. This is so absurd. The world sees this and I think because organizations like the UFC claim that, well, they really can’t do anything more, they have to follow what these commissions say…

“I think it should be very clear that with this type of ridiculous regulation, if you can even call it that, that this international federation that UFC [apparently is] the only promoter that I’m aware of is supporting (in Sweden) should not be recognized by any of the international bodies because while they may claim they’re going to follow the World Anti-Doping code they don’t, they haven’t, and even if they do their own testing it’s very likely they won’t, they claim they might do their own testing but the interview that was given of (Dana) White of the UFC by Lance Pugmire (Los Angeles Times) doesn’t say well where, in the United States, outside the United States. White says we’re going to do our own testing. Well, the fact is they really should not be doing their own testing. They should be working with the affiliates of the World Anti-Doping Agency to do the testing. When international federations in international sport have done their own testing in the past such as the 1990s when some of their star athletes tested positive, they tried to hush it up which is why the independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was set up and that has proven to be, though it’s not perfect, much more successful.

“This is also why the arrogant fools who are involved with the Nevada State Athletic Commission should really be called the Sin City Clown Commission. (They) do not want anything to do with the US Anti-Doping Agency, with following the World Anti-Doping code. They may sometimes pretend that they do but they don’t have anything to do with what is being doing around the world.

“This also takes place in the context, where as I pointed out on shows before, the rest of the world wants to actually tighten up the WADA code. The Nevada State Athletic Commission is now attempting to loosen their so-called anti-doping measures by giving such easy Therapeutic Use Exemptions. The recent IOC Athletes Forum wanted to tighten up the penalties and increase the penalties for dope use, for substance abuse, for all this kind of stuff. This has not been done but it might be done when the World Anti-Doping Agency reviews the code in 2013. Interestingly enough, there is a proposal to take marijuana off the banned substance list for the World Anti-Doping Agency and that cannot be done before 2013 but some people seem to think that it should be done.”


“I think we have to some compassion for the athletes. But I have no compassion for the drug enablers. I have no compassion for the Nevada State Athletic Commission that wants to use these athletes, bring in a lot of money for the casinos and the fight promoters, and after they start to decline they will be thrown to the curb and you won’t hear about them any more. This is the way it’s done in both, general anyways, in Mixed Martial Arts and boxing and this is why these commissions exist — to exploit the athletes, to just go through the motions of doing the most minimal testing which a lot of people may not understand the nuances and all these kinds of issues there, and to make money off of it for all those involved… and then when the fighters have to suffer the consequences of all this drug abuse, throw them to the curb, put in some young meat again, and make some more money.

“That is why the Nevada State Athletic Commission members (Skip Avansino, Francisco Aguilar, Bill Brady, T.J. Day, Pat Lundvall) should be fired, including the Executive Director (Keith Kizer) and all five members of that commission. And that is why there has to be international scrutiny of the lack of proper anti-doping measures in professional combat sports in North America, such as boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, and other professional sports as well.”

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 21 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

21 Responses to “Attacking the rubber-stamping of testosterone usage in MMA”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    I thought if you got busted for taking steriods in the past that you were not able to qualify for TRT?

    Seems rediculous that he can be allowed to use it.

    The two biggest factors facing the UFC right now are all of this legal BS (testing, sanctioning) and how poorly the FX ratings are doing.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      Very perceptive and good memory on your part.

      We go a little bit further, we also require the athlete to give us something under oath, penalty of perjury, that he’s never failed a drug test before and that he’s never ever taken PEDs before because, for example, under WADA as well as Nevada Athletic Commission, if you’re deficient in testosterone because you previously used performance-enhancing drugs, you cannot get a TUE because you did it to yourself, self-inflicted injury. So, but if the athlete did be able to complete all those things, we have all the information from his doctor showing that it’s a legitimate medical need, it’s a legitimate medical treatment, it won’t put him in harm’s way nor will it give him an unfair advantage over his opponent and our doctor calls that doctor and clarifies all that stuff and we get the affidavit and there’s no other evidence that perhaps there was some prior PED usage, the person would be able to get a TUE along the guidelines set forth by our doctor and his doctor.


      • 45 Huddle says:

        Thanks for bringing up that link. I knew I heard it somewhere in the past.

        One of the reasons an athlete has low testosterone is that he was a past user. Sonnen was a past user. He shouldn’t be rewarded for his previous cheating.

        As a LONG TIME MMA FAN…. I’m talking about since probably 1997 or 1998…. My interest in the sport has certainly weakened considerably in 2012. And all of this TRT issues is definitely contributing to you.

        Zuffa feels like they are running in circles right now. And not putting a lid on this is the reason why.

        • Jonathan says:

          I share your sentiment. As a long-time fan (2003) of the sport, I can say that I am at the lowest interest-level that I have ever been, and I concur with your sentiment the the UFC is running in circles, and I am ready to get off of this ride

        • edub says:

          I try to invision ways that they can bolster my fandom (selfish thought obviously), but I really am having a hard time.

          I’m not sure if they have the power/balls to either get a waiver from the federal government/court system to be able to conduct all procedures on their own that a state athletic commission would normally handle. I simply don’t think they are a relevant need for the UFC anymore. The company is big enough that they can handle drug testing, fighter punishment, fighter safety, judging, officiating, sanctioning, and anything else that comes up. Having people like Keith Kizer and Pat Lundval involved with high level combat sports is a problem that the UFC simply shouldn’t have to deal with anymore.

          The other problems I see is that I just don’t get excited for much anymore. Last year I bought literally every UFC event, and every high level boxing event. This year I don’t think I’ve bought half of all the big ones.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Last year I was going to cancel cable, but balked at the idea due to all of the fights on cable.

          In a month I am cancelling cable. I can watch Bellator online. It costs like $20 for 6 months (with a PPV purchase) to get access to the Fight Vault. I will get basically all of the Facebook and prelim fights. The only fights I can’t get online are the main cards for the FX and FuelTV shows.

          And while I thought I couldn’t live without a year ago… Now I feel like I won’t be missing much.

      • Keith Harris says:

        I guess the argument would be that his LH/FSH results suggest he didn’t get hypogonadism from juicing, but that test doesn’t seem to be foolproof.

        It’s amazing how they hammered Diaz for not thinking ADHD was a serious medical condition and not telling them about his pot smoking, when they gave Sonnen a pass on the same day for not telling them about his hypogonadism and taking synthetic testosterone on multiple occasions in the past.

        • david m says:

          The UFC’s biggest problem is that their product is spread too thin. They are now approaching WWF syndrome, where they put fights on for free that would help buy rates. The fans are tired. Nobody cares enough to watch all these shows; I personally only care to watch if there is a major fight that I’m interested in.

    • The Gaijin says:

      I don’t ever want to discount Mir, as he’s a bad ass mofo, but I just replay the Big Nog fight and how badly Mir got lit the F up and looked really slow on his feet/timing, and shudder at what someone like JDS with his youth, size, speed and skills could do. Not only that but I don’t see his pride getting the best of him and trying to tap/sleep Mir at his own game…I don’t see this ending well for Francisco Miranda.

      • david m says:

        If Mir is conscious after 2 minutes I will be shocked. He has no chin, no speed, and no chance.

  2. EJ says:

    I don’t find it that amazing or surprising, one of the funny things about all this is how blind alot of people are to how corrupt and inept alot of these AC’s are. I’ve been railing about them for years now and it seems that finally alot of people are catching up to what has been a huge problem.

    The other funny thing is all the fanboys out there getting really up in arms about Sonnen being able to “cheat” against Silva. It’s incredible to think that the so called greatest fighter on the planet and p4p king and his fans could be so scared of a guy like Sonnen.

    • Kalle says:

      Is it so incredible to think that performance-enhancing drugs would improve Sonnen’s performance during the fight?

      That’s why Sonnen is taking testosterone, to perform at a level where he otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Is it incredible to think that it might give him the boost he needs to beat Anderson, a feat he otherwise might not be able to do? I’d love to see Sonnen’s wrestling tested against Anderson. Sonnen’s ability to get away with doping, not so much.

      • EJ says:

        “That’s why Sonnen is taking testosterone, to perform at a level where he otherwise wouldn’t be able to.”

        And that’s where we disagree, it wasn’t Testosterone that helped him domiante Silva it was his world class wrestling. Basically every excuse in the book has been made for Silva being dominated like never before against Sonnen and it’s a joke. So you can cling to the “rib injury” or steroids as to why but in reality it’s just a horrible style match-up for Anderson.

        • edub says:

          To be fair to the Silva argument Sonnen hadn’t performed at that elite level consistently in his career until he went on the run after being subbed by Maia. He’s a horrible style match up for Silva, there’s no doubting that.

          However, just like Henderson, when their reported TRT use started their performances sky rocketed. Where they debate comes in is are those injectiones just making them “normal” as they should have been performing at that level all along, or is there more to the story.

        • fd says:

          “To be fair to the Silva argument Sonnen hadn’t performed at that elite level consistently in his career until he went on the run after being subbed by Maia. He’s a horrible style match up for Silva, there’s no doubting that.
          However, just like Henderson, when their reported TRT use started their performances sky rocketed.”

          Except that according to the NSAC hearing, Sonnen started using TRT in 2008, months before the Maia fight. So his performance apparently didn’t start skyrocketing till over half a year later.

        • edub says:

          He also said in that same hearing that Kizer was privy to this. The problem is the facts of this are only testimony from Chael himself. However lets take “Early 2008” (his words) forward, compared to the rest of his career: 10-2 / 20-9-1.

          That would be skyrocketing.

    • Megatherium says:

      I’m up in arms about Sonnen’s license from the commission to cheat EJ. Sonnen cheated when he fought Anderson last time and came within a hairs breadth of a NC/ND. This would have tarnished the legend of a fighter who I have followed since 2000, who I have always believed was the greatest talent in mma history, even in the dark period of his athletic prime when Rudimar Fedrigo was actively ruining his career.

      It truly saddens me that this scenario could unfold again in the twilight of his career.

  3. Weezy02 says:

    WADA reportedly has rules in place that could potentially ban an athlete for 2 years for testing positive for marijuana. That seems absurd to me but their punishment is potentially far more severe than most athletic commissions stateside. If I’m not mistaken Chael Sonnen didn’t get busted for taking steroids. He was busted for having a hight T:E ratio. This was a huge red flag that he had taken a synthetic form of testosterone. We found out later why he claims to have done so. He hasn’t tested positive before or sense. I’m no fan of the guy and I do think that he cheated in that instance. If he doesn’t do it again, though, is it different than comparable athletic instances? Julius Peppers got popped for a banned substance years ago and never did again. There are countless other instances. Honest questions: Should TUE’s be never given? Should they be given in some cases? If the medical community considers advanced hypogonadism to be a disability, do athletic commissions run into possible legal issues relating to the ADA if they don’t make allowances for prescribed medications that return an athletes T levels to normal range? I don’t have the answers to these. Just throwing them out there to play devil’s advocate.

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