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Chael Sonnen Granted Therapeutic-Use Exemption for Testosterone in Nevada

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Not only will Chael Sonnen get his long-awaited rematch with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in Las Vegas at UFC 148 this July, he’ll also get to do it with the aid of synthetic testosterone, thanks to a ruling from the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Monday.

NSAC officials voted unanimously to grant Sonnen a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) for the use of testosterone after Sonnen and his manager, Jeff Meyer, made their case in front of the commission. According to Dr. Timothy Trainor, who phoned into the meeting as medical consultant for the commission, Sonnen was "inaccurately" diagnosed with primary hypogonadism in 2008, but more likely suffers from secondary hypogonadism.

"The bottom line is, he still probably does have hypogonadism, but primary is not the correct diagnosis," said Trainor, who added that Sonnen’s current paperwork appeared to be in order, and that the fault for the original misdiagnosis lay with the fighter’s doctor, and not Sonnen himself.

Sonnen, who told commissioners that he’d "never heard of low testosterone" before a doctor informed him that he might be suffering from the condition after a physical exam prior to a WEC fight against Brian Baker in Las Vegas in March of 2008, said he has been using injections of the hormone ever since.

"I got sick probably about three times a month for my whole life, but I didn’t know that was weird," Sonnen said, adding that he had always attributed his repeated illnesses to the stresses of training, travel, and cutting weight.

Sonnen began undergoing testosterone treatments in 2008, he said, but as NSAC commissioner Pat Lundvall pointed out, he failed to disclose that fact in pre-fight medical questionaries on file with the state of Nevada. Sonnen could explain that, he said, and then proceeded to lay much of the blame on former manager and ex-UFC fighter Matt Lindland.

"What had happened was the manager that I had at the time alleged we were given approval from [NSAC Executive] Director [Keith] Kizer, with one condition: don’t bring it up again," Sonnen said. "He said that director Kizer had told him, ‘You’re cleared, you don’t need to mention this again.’ So we relied on that information, and roughly two years ago Director Kizer said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not the conversation we had.’"

Lundvall countered by asking Sonnen if he was claiming that he’d been told to "lie on your form as to whether you’re taking this prescription," to which Sonnen responded that he "wouldn’t use those words."

"I certainly wouldn’t use the word ‘lie,’" he said. "My manager did say it was cleared through Director Kizer, and Director Kizer’s statement to him was, ‘Don’t bring it up again.’ I do not contend that that conversation happened. I contend that I was told that it happened."

Kizer has repeatedly denied ever having any such conversation with Lindland, and did so again in his comments following Sonnen’s testimony on Monday.

When asked by Lundvall whether he had "any qualms" about signing his name to a form that he knew to be omitting information on his testosterone treatments, Sonnen replied simply: "No."

Still, when it came to rule on his TUE application the NSAC commissioners praised Sonnen’s honesty and forthrightness, and even asked if he would be willing to "assist the commission from time to time in an advisory capacity to Mr. Kizer," which Sonnen said he would. According to Meyer, Sonnen also applied for exemptions in Illinois and Texas before recent fights, and though he received no written approval, "he was given a license, which we took as an implicit grant of the TUE," Meyer said.

Sonnen will now be allowed to continue taking what he described as bi-weekly injections of testosterone before his scheduled bout with Silva on July 7, though he will be subject to increased testing, including testing on the day following the fight. He must still test within the pre-set range of allowable testosterone levels in Nevada.

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