The old saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you.” For Chael Sonnen, this adage is now applicable to his situation. This is not his first drug-test fiasco, but his second.

Word came down that Sonnen had failed a random drug test administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission ahead of his fight against Vitor Belfort, which was scheduled for July 5 at UFC 175. Belfort himself was a replacement for Wanderlei Silva, who also had a run-in with the NSAC.

Now, however, Sonnen has also fallen out of the lineup. Much like his first fiasco due to elevated levels of testosterone, Sonnen would most likely also face a suspension for this, had he not opted to retire from active competition instead.

According to Sonnen, though, what he took was a legal substance, and it was done out of competition.

“Yes, it is on the banned list. But you have to understand, that’s for competition,” Sonnen said in an interview on FOX Sports 1’s America’s Pregame show. “If this was game day, I would not be making any of these statements I’m making to you right now. On game day, you have to come in right. But out of competition, an athlete cannot take an anabolic, he cannot take a performance-enhancer and he cannot take a steroid.”

It’s understandable that this was done out of competition, and he did so for various reasons. They aren’t performance-enhancers, much like marijuana isn’t, but the substances Sonnen used—anastrozole and clomiphene, a pair of non-steroidal, anti-estrogen medications commonly given to women—are banned. As a fighter preparing for his next fight, he should be ready to pass any and all drug tests.

One can see Sonnen’s point-of-view. It isn’t exactly rocket science, but, in the end, rules are rules. Bringing up the legality of the substance he took and using the excuse that he took the medications while he was out of competition doesn’t change the fact that it is a part of the banned substance list.

Sonnen was a licensed fighter in Nevada. In order to keep that license, he has to play by the rules, no matter how stupid they may seem to be. Just because testosterone-replacement therapy exemptions ceased from the NSAC doesn’t mean the drugs utilized to help a fighter move on from TRT are off the banned list suddenly.

Also on FOX Sports 1’s America’s Pregame show, UFC President Dana White stepped up to the plate on the issue to put the blame on both the commission and Sonnen.

“Both are at fault,” White said. “I think the Nevada State Athletic Commission could’ve laid it out better for how they were going to end this thing, what would be banned and what wouldn’t be banned for the guys coming down off it. Again, it’s a matter of, they’re not very educated on TRT. It’s the thing that’s made this whole thing impossible.”

It has been a confusing transition to the post-TRT era in MMA. White is correct to suggest that both Sonnen and the NSAC are at fault. The NSAC could have laid out a better plan, but Sonnen should be aware of the substances on the banned list. If there was any doubt in Sonnen’s mind, then he should have done what White would go on to say: Sonnen should have reached out to the commission.

All parties involved in this debacle are at fault, but the UFC is the least at fault. However, the promotion knows Sonnen has dealt with TRT exemptions before and might need a grace period to wean himself off of the therapy. Therefore, the UFC shouldn’t have scheduled a fight for him so soon. (Furthermore, it could have run into a similar problem with Belfort, another fighter who previously competed under a therapeutic-use exemption.

Sonnen in no way, shape or form is a cheat in this scenario, though. He made a mistake, plain and simple. Although I won’t sit here and absolve him for the failure, I can see the point he is trying to make. Somewhere along the line, somebody missed something. Whether it be the NSAC, Sonnen or the UFC, there was a big miscommunication that led to the second change to a single fight on the UFC 175 card…and to a fighter’s retirement from the sport.

You can’t blame Sonnen for choosing his health over fighting. However, he can be blamed—alongside everybody else involved—for this fiasco, depending on whose words you’re willing to believe. It’s up to everybody watching the firestorm to decide if they’re buying what Sonnen is selling.

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.