The news broke on Tuesday that UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen tested positive for banned substances on a drug test administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and was out of UFC 175. Sonnen appeared on the Jay Mohr Sports podcast Tuesday afternoon explaining what he tested positive for and why he was on the substances.
“They changed the ruling in Nevada. Earlier this year they did away with what is known as TRT, testosterone replacement therapy. And I was on that. So when they changed the rule we all had to go through a transition phase. For me, for the transition, you have to take a couple of things. One is called clomiphene. Another one is called hCG, so this is what we did. I took my oars out of the water in the meantime, meaning I didn’t fight. I didn’t ask for a license. You had to wait and cross this bridge if you will,” explained Sonnen.
“In the interim, they did a test. I tested positive for these things, which I should have. I took them. They were in my system. That wasn’t a surprise. These aren’t anabolics. These aren’t steroids. These aren’t performance-enhancers, none of the bad stuff. But they have deemed that they’re banned substances. What’s interesting in my case is we’re out of competition. These aren’t things that I showed up with on game day. This is out of competition due to a rule that they changed. This is kind of an odd spot for me. But that’s what happened. That’s what they’ve done,” he added.
The 37-year-old now has to attend a hearing to address the failed test, and he isn’t sure how the commission is going to deal with the situation.
“What happens is they do out-of-competition testing, and the lab that they went to is the USADA lab. USADA is the greatest lab in the world and it’s a very sensitive test. We had done our own tests at our own labs and we thought everything was out of the system,” said Sonnen.
“Now, these were not secrets that I took these substances. This is just what you have to take if you’re coming off testosterone. But at any rate, it was picked up on their tests. Now, they can handle that however they want. They can look at it and go, ‘yeah, it makes sense to us,’ or they could say, ‘you know what, we don’t like this.’ They could do either one. They’re the commission. I’ve just got to be a reactor and live with it. The confusing part is that they’re non-anabolic, non-steroid, non-performance-enhancing agents that are perfectly legal and that I need for a healthy life. Essentially they’re saying, ‘look, you’ve got to choose between health and sport.’”
Sonnen has been open about having to transition off of TRT. While speaking on the TRT ban in March, Sonnen admitted that he could have to walk away from fighting due to the ban.
“It’s very tough for me too because I was very upfront about this, did a number of interviews talking about what I’ve done. Whether it was on UFC Tonight… I did one in Canada. I did one in the U.K. I did one in Brazil. I couldn’t have told any more people. So when this came back and they said, ‘hey, why did this come back in your system?’ I said, ‘why is it in my system? Because I took it. I’ve been taking it. And I had to take it because you guys changed the rule. I did feel a little bit frustrated in that regard,” he said. “And they may listen to me. They may agree with me. But the way this works is I now have to go to a hearing. That hearing gets kicked down the road who knows how many days. I have a fight in 30 days. There’s no way the hearing will be before then.”
Sonnen maintains that he was not trying to break any rules and that he was simply doing what he had to do in order to remain healthy while coming off TRT.
“We’re not looking to do anything underhanded here, but there is a little bit of confusion on the rules. It’s kind of tough when you’re going, ‘Oh really? This is a banned substance?’ Well, where do we find that? Who exactly do we go to for clarity on this,” he questioned. “There is a clear distinction between game day and out of competition testing. Now you can never take an anabolic steroid or anything. I understand all these things. This is not an anabolic. This is not a steroid. These are just the substances I had to go to to transition.”
The recently married Sonnen also revealed that he and his wife are having difficultly conceiving and that also contributed to why he was on the drugs he was taking.
“This is a very private part of my life I wasn’t planning on sharing with anybody, but I’m having fertility issues. My wife and I are,” he said.
Sonnen could face a suspension, a fine, a combination of the two or other disciplinary action by the commission. He insists that he wasn’t trying to break any rules and that this is all simply a matter of a misunderstanding in the post-TRT era.
“I support the rules. We’re not really complaining here as much as this is just a little bit of confusion,” he said.
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