clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chael Sonnen's Credibility a Much Bigger Issue Than His Testosterone Use

If Chael Sonnen is to be believed, the California State Athletic Commission's decision to uphold his indefinite suspension means he is now "effectively retired" from the sport of mixed martial arts. But as we've learned in the past, that's a pretty big if.

Sonnen's credibility problem was at the heart of the CSAC's concerns at Wednesday's hearing. After telling California one thing and Nevada another – and let's not even get started on his media interviews, which at times have been so outlandish they bordered on performance art – the CSAC decided that they just couldn't trust Sonnen enough to license him. Not now, anyway.

That's somewhat understandable. Sonnen stands accused of misusing testosterone and misrepresenting who he told about it, and his arguments surrounding the latter are far less plausible than his story on the former. But before we salt Sonnen away and call it a career, we should remind ourselves that this case has too many moving parts and unpredictable variables to be closed so easily.

For starters, there's the meat of the issue: testosterone replacement therapy.

According to ESPN.com's Josh Gross, Sonnen told the CSAC that he needed the twice-weekly injections or else he'd have the testosterone levels "of a 93-year-old man." That seems a tad extreme, and I'm willing to bet that there aren't too many nonagenarians out there who could look like Sonnen even if they bathed in testosterone every morning, but it's almost beside the point.

The CSAC seems far less concerned with establishing guidelines for who is and isn't qualified to receive a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone – a tricky subject for any licensing body – and way more concerned with beating Sonnen over the head for lying to them about it in the first place.

Again, that's understandable, and something he should have obviously considered when he regaled the commission with tall tales about conversations that never took place.

But okay, so he lied about his testosterone use to try and save his hide. He's not the first PED user to opt for 'total freaking denial' in this particular Choose Your Own Adventure story. And unlike the ones who stand accused of steroid use, Sonnen actually has a defense with at least some degree of reasonable doubt built in. It's plausible that an MMA fighter might be able to get a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone. It just so happens that Sonnen wasn't that fighter, regardless of who he says told him otherwise.

Maybe that's why the CSAC decided to focus more on the lying than the testosterone. That, plus Sonnen's ill-timed guilty plea on felony mortgage fraud charges (not that there's a good time for that), made him look like a man who can't be trusted. And maybe he is. It does seem like whenever he's confronted with some wrongdoing he knows exactly who's to blame – Matt Lindland, some Hispanic guy, etc. – but that someone is never him.

And really, this is a much bigger problem for Sonnen than testosterone is. Which brings us back to his claim that a failure to get his license reinstated would mean retirement. Sonnen attributed that one to UFC president Dana White, suggesting that he believes the UFC would have no further use for him if he can't get cleared to fight (or coach on 'The Ultimate Fighter') right away.

That, too, seems implausible. Obviously the UFC would like Sonnen to put this mess behind him and get back to work, but he can reapply after his license expires on June 29. He could also fight elsewhere if the UFC truly is fed up with him after today. Trying to appeal to the CSAC's collective compassion by claiming that it's either a license or the retirement home for poor old Chael is the kind of thing that could blow up in his face if the UFC does not, in fact, decide to cut him rather than wait a couple more months.

Picture that scenario for a moment. Picture him getting chewed out by White, but keeping his job. Picture him going back to the CSAC next time, hat in hand, saying, 'That whole effectively retired bit? Yeah, that's not true either. Sorry.'

How do you think the commission will feel about his trustworthiness then? Sadly, that seems like just another tomorrow that Sonnen is incapable of planning for today.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting