It’s hard to generate sympathy when it comes to fibbers. I would say habitual liars, but there’s a charisma factor in the case of Chael Sonnen that has you reaching for softeners. It just feels better to use the less offending word, because you sense some goodness in the scaffolding. Sonnen has a charm and gallantry about him, even when he’s feeding us that good hooey and taking for granted that his audience is comprised of…well, gullible idiots.
How do we justify that? By saying, "now that’s entertainment!" And it is, for the most part. It is. We’ll let the truth lovingly become a casualty if it means he keeps us in the yuks. We love the way he winks.
Sonnen was at it again on Tuesday when he went on FOX Sports 1’s America’s Pregame to explain his latest hot drug test. The egg on his face looked delicious for people who’ve grown weary of his blowhardist ways -- especially after he denounced Wanderlei Silva just two weeks ago on UFC Tonight for escaping through a side hatch when Nevada officials showed up for a random drug test at his gym. For those people, it’s like the Kool-Aid Man just crashed through a karma barrier.
Sonnen’s apologists -- a group of fans (and media) who believe he is a blueprint for fight game idolatry -- are once again placed in the position to defend him. They are the ones who feel they’re in on the game with him, and from those shared heights can laugh along at the simpletons.
So here we go again. With Sonnen now removed from his fight with Vitor Belfort at UFC 175 (which was already circus matter), the onus falls to them -- Sonnen’s faithful -- to reshape the narrative.
On Tuesday, there was the "Gangsta from West Linn" talking about the offending agents from his random May 23 drug test (Anastrozole and Clomiphene), about how they aren’t banned substances "out of competition," and even if they were, he didn’t have "the opportunity" to look it up because that information is impossible to find ("Is there an 800 number?" he wondered). When pressed, he admitted he knew they were banned, but then talked faster. He weaved and bobbed like the politician of his past, and gave us doublespeak. He tied the truth in knots and challenged us to muster the energy to untie it.
(He knows how lazy we can be).
"There is a distinction drawn," he said at one point. "It doesn't matter if you’re talking NCAA Division I, the IOC or this commission. There has always been a distinction between game day and out of competition. And when you’re out of competition, if you're not on anabolic; if you’re not on illegal substances; if you’re not a steroid or a performance enhancer of any kind, that is acceptable."
This time Twitter was popping with face palms and cries of, "Do I believe my ears!"
It takes two seconds to see that Anastrozole and Clomiphene are on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s 2014 prohibited list, both in and out of competition. Sonnen, who tested for elevated testosterone in 2010 in California -- and who has been granted testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) exemptions in Nevada until the ban in February -- always has a series of excuses at the ready. In this case, he was tapering off TRT and besides that, there’s his own fertility to think about. He wanted to have children, and needed to take these legal (if banned) measures. Now his wife is pregnant, while the rest of us are urged to become junior pharmacists and figure out how estrogen blockers function.
By the end of the America’s Pregame segment, the interviewer was apologizing to Sonnen for…confusion? Sonnen, cocksure as the hero emerging in slow motion back from the bank of fog, forgave the man his indecency.
This here? You know what it’s called? This is what’s known as a fiasco.
Dana White appeared before Sonnen did and, after putting some blame on the NAC, explained that the TRT ban makes people like Sonnen vulnerable because the taper-down process requires extra measures, too. Measures like gradually weaning off through lesser-banned substances. Baby steps. Like methadone for the heroin user, or session beer for the whisky sot, or Earl Grey for the triple-espresso guy.
All very understandable, in that sense. Nobody would expect Sonnen -- or any of the "five" TRT users that had gained exemptions in the UFC -- to go cold turkey off of testosterone supplementation.
But why was he booked at UFC 175 on July 5, given these now obvious circumstances? Innocence…or its cousin, ignorance, depending on how you squint. White told Yahoo! that the UFC hadn’t really thought about the full consequences of a fighter like Sonnen weaning himself off of TRT.
"You know, nobody thought of that," White told Kevin Iole. "There was never a f---ing plan put in place for these guys who were getting off of it. We were like, ‘Now they’re off it; let's move on.' But now it’s illegal. Now they’re off it but none of it was thought out very well."
Because nobody did, this could be the end of the 37-year-old Sonnen’s MMA career. At the NAC hearing on June 17, a complaint will be filed. The commission will determine his fate. At that time, Sonnen can state his case, as well. For his sake he’ll want to state it better than he did on Tuesday, because not everyone is so dupe-able.
Or are they? You get the feeling Sonnen intends to find out.