The history books will undoubtedly be unkind to the year 2014, the year the issue of synthetic testosterone blew up in the faces of athletes desperately trying to extend their careers and the year promoters were stuck cleaning up the resulting mess.
Yesterday, it was revealed that UFC star Chael Sonnen was popped for banned substances, the victim of the same kind of “surprise” Nevada State Athletic Commission out-of-competition drug test that threw pie in the faces of fistic brethren Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva.
As per MMAFighting:
Sonnen, a veteran UFC middleweight, FOX Sports analyst, and until recently, known user of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), tested positive for two banned substances — Anastrozole and Clomiphene — NSAC executive director Bob Bennett confirmed on Tuesday.
Both of the substances commonly serve as anti-estrogen treatment, which Sonnen claims to have needed in order to successfully transition off TRT following the NSAC’s recent ban.
“These are not performing enhancing drugs,” Sonnen said in a Tuesday interview with FOX Sports 1. “These are not anabolics. These are not steroids of any kind.
“[The NSAC] changed the rules, and I’ve got to comply with the rules. I don’t resist that at all. However there is a transition period, and I couldn’t have been more open or more transparent, whether it was UFC Tonight, whether it was different interviews in different places. Anybody that I could tell, that I could talk to about this, I did. These are the medications that you have to go on to lead a healthy life, and if you’re asking me to choose between my health and my sport, that’s not a choice I can make. I’ve got to choose health.”
This is, of course, a PR gaffe of epic proportions for the employer of Sonnen (and Belfort and Silva). And thus… came the damage control.
That so many of the sport’s stars have been living by the sword of TRT and dying so easily by the sharp edge of random, surprise drug testing is, perhaps, an indictment on the industry itself. At least, Zach Arnold thinks so.
As for Sonnen failing his drug test, there is a circle-of-life thing going on here. He was the kingpin behind the momentum for fighters to cry hypogonadism and a need for testosterone permission slips from athletic commissions. And the UFC was all too complicit in helping out grown, muscular men crying out at an alarming, abnormal rate that they, too, needed anabolic steroids to survive and make a living. It was Sonnen with his exploits in California that started this circle of embarrassment for MMA and basically confirmed that the industry is as dirty as horse racing.
Sonnen, Vitor, and Wanderlei getting nailed is living proof that guys are going to use testosterone whether or not they have a permission slip from an athletic commission. Getting the permission slips merely glorified the drug usage and built pressure on drug users to hit the anabolics rather than regulate an already-existing problem.
Have things truly gotten out of control? Is there an epidemic of artificial hormones raging? Is no fight card safe? Obviously, the answers to those questions depend on who you ask. But one thing is for sure: a few more surprise drug tests and the Nevada commission will eventually have identified all the culprits.