It wasn't supposed to end like this. All throughout the buildup to Stephan Bonnar's fight against Anderson Silva at UFC 153 the narrative revolved around a likeable journeyman who helped put the sport on the map getting his last shot at greatness in the form of an unlikely main event against perhaps the best fighter of all time. Even if few gave him a chance at victory against the preternaturally talented Silva, Bonnar did his best to paint himself as a Rocky-like underdog with the opportunity to shock the world. Beating Silva would have provided a storybook ending for a career spent chasing a moment as significant as the first Griffin/Bonnar bout. That didn't happen, however, but even though he was outclassed by Silva the fight still served as a memorable final moment in the spotlight for one of the sport's most endearing figures. When Bonnar announced his retirement earlier this week it felt like he walked away from the sport on as high of a note as could realistically be expected given the trajectory of his career.
Now with the revelation Bonnar failed a post-fight drug test for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone, that high note has been forever marred by a discordant undertone.
According to a report by MMAFighting.com's Dave Meltzer on the Wrestling Observer website (subscription required and highly recommended), sources within the UFC state Bonnar didn't deny the test results when informed of them. Given that Bonnar is now retired he doesn't have any motivation to deny the failure other than preserving his reputation as a clean fighter. Unfortunately, that was already tarnished years ago when he tested positive for a metabolite of the anabolic steroid Boldenone following UFC 62.
The sad fact of the matter is that Bonnar was caught using PED's not once, but twice during his UFC tenure. As much as he will forever be remembered as one half of the most significant fight in the history of the sport, he's also going to have the dark cloud of repeated anabolic steroid use hanging over his career.
Going forward nobody will be able to write about Bonnar's role in the UFC 153 main event without mentioning his test failure. Of course after the one sided beating he took from Silva nobody was ever going to be raving about his performance in the first place, but it begs an interesting question: what if he had done the unthinkable and beaten Silva? The victory would have been overturned in light of the test failure and the highlight of Bonnar's post-TUF career would have been reduced to a vexing asterisk in the annals of UFC history and a cautionary tale for fighters looking to take advantage of shortcuts via performance enhancing drugs.
According to Meltzer's report on the Wrestling Observer, "Drostanolone is a steroid used by fighters usually to maintain strength while doing a hard weight cut." Given that Bonnar was in semi-retirement when he was offered the Silva fight and only had a few weeks to prepare, it's not difficult to imagine what his motivation may have been for using Drostanolone. Bonnar was offered the opportunity of a lifetime but didn't have sufficient time to get back in fight shape. The temptation to turn to a little chemical assistance may have been too much to resist given all that was at stake for him.
When all was said and done it didn't effect the outcome of the fight. Bonnar's best efforts were still rendered ineffectual by Silva's superior skill no matter what shortcuts he may have taken to get himself in shape. If by some chance he had connected with a hard shot that had enough behind it put Silva away it wouldn't have mattered anyway given the test failure. As things turned out, not only did Bonnar disrespect Silva by going into the fight with with an unfair advantage, he also disrespected himself by indelibly casting the specter of PED abuse over his memorable career.
Ultimately only Bonnar himself can say whether or not it was worth it.
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