What Will the UFC Do About Chael Sonnen’s Failed Drug Test?

Kevin Iole talks to Dana White and clarifies the consequence for Sonnen (emphasis mine): That will mean no lucrative championship rematch with Silva in January or February, which in and of itself will cost Sonnen hundreds of thousands of dollars. When you add in the fin…

By: Nate Wilcox | 13 years
What Will the UFC Do About Chael Sonnen’s Failed Drug Test?
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Kevin Iole talks to Dana White and clarifies the consequence for Sonnen (emphasis mine):

That will mean no lucrative championship rematch with Silva in January or February, which in and of itself will cost Sonnen hundreds of thousands of dollars. When you add in the fine and the loss of a fight, plus what likely will be a drop in endorsement income, it will probably wind up costing Sonnen in excess of $1 million.

“When one of them fails a test, the government is going to fine them and suspend them and tell them they can’t make a living for a year. So should I come in after they’ve already lost the ability to make a living for a year and been fined all this money and, in the worst economic disaster in the history of the world, fine them another huge amount and take away their ability to make a living even longer?

“These are guys with homes and families and personal lives and bills and debts and obligations, just like me and you,” White said. “After they lost all this money already, money that, A, they’ve probably already spent and B, which they owe taxes, do I fine them another huge amount? What else do you do to a human being?”

First off, let’s note that Chael Sonnen has not been fined or suspended, nor has he had a chance to tell his side of the story. 

Some fans are very vocal about wanting fight promoters to also act as judge, jury and executioner and boycott fighters whose rule violations have exceeded some sort of imaginary level. But that is a patently unrealistic position. Fight promoters are in this business to promote fights and make money. It’s up to state athletic commissions to issue licenses, conduct testing, assign punishment as required and suspend fighters.

Once fighters have served their legally mandated suspensions and paid their fines, they’ve paid their debt to society as it were. If fans want to boycott them and the promotions that they fight for afterwards, that’s perfectly fine. Regardless, it is neither realistic nor appropriate to expect promoters to act as enforcers above and beyond the athletic commissions. 

But I do want to take exception to one statement made in Iole’s fine piece (emphasis mine): 

Yet, despite the UFC’s attempts to educate and the various state athletic commissions’ rigorous testing procedures, fighters continue to use, clearly because they believe the reward outweighs the risk.

I understand the PR value of wishing to pretend that the current testing regime is rigorous. It is anything but. First off, not every fighter is tested at every event. Secondly, since only urinalysis is conducted and no blood tests, there is no chance of catching athletes using HGH — human growth hormone — and other advanced agents. Thirdly, since the benefits of using drugs like that can remain with an athlete for life, even long after he has stopped using, it is a problem that simple testing cannot eliminate.

If we really want to ensure the safety of athletes and even the playing field, it will require fans to demand that a larger percentage of the money we pay to see fights goes to more rigorous testing procedures — including blood tests and random year round testing of all licensed athletes.

I’m more than happy to spend an extra $2 per PPV to subsidize such testing in MMA.

But in the meantime, let’s not pretend that the current testing regimes are “rigorous” or that only the fighters who test positive are using performance enhancing drugs. Shane Carwin, for example, was named in a federal courtroom as an athlete who had received illegally prescribed drugs and he has never failed a single drug test. 

Chael Sonnen has apparently run afoul of the current procedures and likely will be punished. Let’s not add insult to injury by hypocritically pretending he’s the only Mixed Martial Artist who has used PEDs.

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of BloodyElbow.com. As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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