Chael Sonnen's appeal hearing before the the California State Athletic Commission was a farce on many levels. Not only did the commission appear disorganized, under-informed and inconsistent, but Sonnen made a number of highly questionable claims. For one thing he claimed that he had informed Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer of his use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). Kizer has denied that on multiple occasions, initially to Cage Side Seats.
Dan Henderson recently told Bloody Elbow's own Luke Thomas (audio) that he had used TRT and been cleared by the NSAC. Now Dave Meltzer reports (subscription required) that former UFC heavyweight Todd Duffee had also been cleared by the NSAC for TRT:
In Nevada, it has only been approved for two fighters, Dan Henderson and Todd Duffee (before the Mike Russow fight on 5/29). The stories about Randy Couture linked to TRT in Nevada and having an exemption is an urban myth. Couture's name has been linked with it since 2007 when Joe Rogan, in an ESPN interview, when talking about Couture, made a mention of how with things like hormone replacement therapy, athletes are now able to compete at an older age than in the past. It should be noted that it is not believed Duffee's being let go by UFC after this loss had anything to do with this treatment. Henderson has been tested after all of his fights in Nevada and always fell beneath the 6-to-1 ratio. Duffee was blood tested leading to the Russow fight, but was not tested after the fight because he lost. Nevada usually tests winners and some losers at random, but not all losers are tested under the guise that if you lost, you didn't score an unfair win. Duffee was not in a title match or a main event where both fighters would automatically be tested. Only one fighter in California has ever been approved for testosterone replacement therapy, although the commission would not give his name.
Dr. Johnny Benjamin was very critical of Sonnen and his doctor:
Some common reasons for significantly low testosterone levels in an otherwise healthy young man are pituitary-gland issues, primary gonadal issues and/or side effects of anabolic steroid use. As an FYI, pituitary dysfunction was ruled out in Sonnen's case.
So, that leaves two likely choices with one being far more likely than the other.
...Sonnen was evaluated and treated by his local family practice doctor (Dr. Mark Czarnecki, D.O.) in Dallas*, Ore. After doing background research, I have no reason to believe that Dr. Czarnecki is not a fine, board-certified family-practice doctor of osteopathy. But a fellowship-trained expert in endocrinology he is not (and absolutely no disrespect is intended).
When Dr. Czarnecki was questioned during the hearing, he said that he was unaware of any drugs that could cause the condition for which he had diagnosed and was treating Sonnen. Sadly, by his own admission, this physician was unaware that testicular atrophy and subsequent low testosterone are common and widely known side effects of anabolic-steroid use.
This piece from S.C. Michaelson is a pretty essential primer on TRT in MMA for the uninitiated and how it can be abused by athletes looking to get around drug testing and still use PEDs.
More in the full entry.
The fans don't seem to care though. About 50% of respondents to this Sherdog online survey were either glad that Sonnen's suspension was reduced or were more concerned with the CSAC.
WWE commentator Jim Ross speaks for many fans:
Good to see that UFC star Chael Sonnen got his suspension cut in half. Heard the hearing was a joke. Between athletic commissions run by government appointees who are, at times, totally unqualified for their roles and the wacky judging of some MMA fights there is never a dull moment in the ever growing sport of MMA. Sonnen needs a solid fight and obviously a win to get back to the rematch phase with Anderson Silva in my opinion. In my opinion, Sonnen not having a fight prior to fighting Anderson Silva would be a strategic mistake.
Zach Arnold has some theories as to why the fans are siding with Sonnen:
What I found most interesting about the fan reaction to Koscheck is that it is largely the polar opposite to the fan reaction to Chael Sonnen these days. Judging by the amount of feedback I've gotten here, here, in e-mail, and offline, Sonnen is practically viewed as a hero for standing up to THE MAN on Thursday when he had his appeals meeting with the California State Athletic Commission board.
The disconnect between the fans, fighters, hanger-ons, etc. and the media covering this issue based on the facts is enormous. It's as wide of a gap as I can possibly recall on an MMA 'scandal' to this degree. I was struck by just how aggressive they were in their defense of Sonnen. I truly believe that they view Sonnen with admiration because he's got the nerve to do something that drug users in this sport don't have, which is come out and open up Pandora's box about what he did while proclaiming that it's above board and necessary. Who would have ever thought that a fighter's counsel would make an argument that he shouldn't be suspended because it would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act? You want to talk about bold!
There's plenty of fighters who are doping and testosterone replacement therapy is a growing practice. (Just look at pro-wrestling.) You damage your body by using anabolic steroids, you go see a (mark) doctor when your testosterone level is low, you get a prescription to use testosterone, and off you go. Because Chael Sonnen's defense has been so publicly blunt and aggressive, will his story give legitimacy to this kind of activity in the industry? Once the doors are open on this, who's to say we won't see an even bigger increase in doping that's not detected by drug testing?
The UFC has already signaled where they're at on Sonnen. Before the fight Dana White told Ariel Helwani, "there is more to this story" and now they're pushing Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva as coaches for an upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Zach Arnold comments on how that might force a showdown with Keith Kizer and the NSAC:
In perhaps the next step in what could end up being a bizarre proxy war, there seems to be a heat-up in a war of words between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva. How about that. These two have been rumored for over a month now to be the next coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. Sonnen coaching on a UFC program taped in Las Vegas where Keith Kizer has to show up for weigh-ins. The amount of messages that would be sent by the UFC for having Sonnen be a coach on The Ultimate Fighter would be enormous. It would be a total slap in the face to Kizer, given that Sonnen claimed that Kizer approved of him using Testosterone Replacement Therapy. Kizer completely denies this charge. Given this scenario, the idea of UFC using Sonnen as a coach and rewarding his behavior by putting him on national television week-after-week would speak volumes about the seriousness in which UFC looks at the issue of PED usage amongst fighters in MMA. It would all but eliminate UFC from publicly ever taking the high road on the matter, but of course the tradeoff would be significant short-term financial gains for a PPV match between Wanderlei and Sonnen.
* - Note from Mike Fagan: Dr. Mark Czarnecki's offices are in The Dalles, Oregon.