If ever there’s been a man who knows a thing or two about doping in sports it’s Chael Sonnen. The former multiple time UFC title contender and Bellator heavyweight Grand Prix tournament competitor has been nothing if not entirely open about his own history of PED use during his time as a professional athlete.
“I get asked by people, ‘Did you ever take anything that was an enhancer?’” Sonnen recalled in a 2016 interview with ESPN. “I never took anything that wasn’t an enhancer. That’s the only reason I would take something, is if I thought it would enhance me.”
Sonnen has, at various times, debated the exact nature of—and reason for—the substances he took during his competitive MMA career (explaining that he was largely taking testosterone to combat a hypogonadism diagnosis, rather than using other synthetic steroids). But then he’s not shy about leaning into more nebulous lingo when the moment requires. Like his recent interview with Ariel Helwani, where the ‘American Gangster’ not only admitted that he “had more juice than Tropicana” for his light heavyweight title fight against Jon Jones, but that he believes Jones was doping at the time as well.
“No. Heavens no,” Sonnen exclaimed, when asked if he thought Jones was clean for their fight. “Oh my god. Oh my GOD! Oh, Ariel, we know our own. Yes. Yes, I could tell, very easily, yes.”
Chael: I had more juice than Tropicana and he pushed me around like a Mack truck…#TheMMAHour pic.twitter.com/9SxBMNQEZ6
— Jed I. Goodman © (@jedigoodman) February 27, 2023
“Sure, it would be the body,” he continued. “I mean, it would start with your delts, it would go to your nipples, then it would be the upper abs—are the three big tells. But, yes, of course. I had more juice than Tropicana, and he pushed me around like a Mack truck vs. a Volvo. As soon as we locked up with each other I thought, ‘Ooh, I know your—” as he’s pushing me backwards. Before he caught me with his big spinning elbow I remember thinking, ‘I know your secret! Because I got the same one!’
“Yes, they tested. But back then it was an IQ test, not a drug test. We didn’t have USADA, so they had to tell us when they would come in and test.”
Funny enough, the Tropicana/Mack truck line is one Sonnen repeated almost word-for-word to Helwani back in 2017.
The longtime Team Quest talent has talked in the past about how he would game the classic ‘in competition’ drug testing measures used by commissions, noting that he’d test himself out of competition and wouldn’t accept a fight until his results came back clean. It was only with the advent of more stringent, randomized testing that he started getting caught.
Outside of Sonnen’s allegations, Jones has had his own lengthy history with drug test failures and the resulting clouded legacy that comes with them. Jones first tested positive for clomiphene and letrozole (two substances commonly used for steroid cycle recovery) in 2016. Although that test was traced to a contaminated dose of sexual-enhancement medication, Jones was suspended from competition for 1-year.
Jones was flagged again in 2017, this time for trace amounts of the Turinabol M3 metabolite, an anabolic steroid. That result prompted his UFC 214 victory over Daniel Cormier to be overturned, and for Jones to be stripped of the light heavyweight title for the third time in his career. He continued to ‘pulse’ positive for a low level of the substance for more than a year after the positive test, however USADA reduced his suspension from 4-years down to just 18-months following “substantial assistance” provided by Jones to the drug testing agency, and their determination that the fighter “was not intentionally cheating.”
Back in 2019, USADA adjusted the threshold for a positive Turinabol drug test failure—setting the bar at 0.1 ng/ml for the M3 metabolite among other levels established for Clomiphene, Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators and GW-1516 metabolites (all substances that have caused failed drug tests for UFC talent). As a result, Jones recently stated that he feels he’s been “officially cleared” of wrongdoing and that “there will be no asterick [sic] next to any of my performances.”
“It’s good the rest of the world can see what I’ve known this whole time,” he wrote in a post to his Twitter page. “My only advantage over my competition has been pure Hard work.”
About the author: Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. Host of the MMA Vivisection and 6th Round, he has covered MMA and the UFC since 2013.(full bio)
About the author