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Chael Sonnen suspended two years by the Nevada Athletic Commission for failed drug tests

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Retired UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen was handed a two-year suspension from mixed martial arts by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) at a Wednesday hearing in Las Vegas. In addition to the suspension, Sonnen will be required to pay any and all doctors' fees for the random drug tests he failed on May 24th and June 5th, as well as be expected to work with the NAC to educate fighters and the commission to improve drug testing measures in the future.

"I don't want to say anything to you that comes off as an excuse," said Sonnen, who aside from the testing costs did not receive any additional monetary penalties. "I am guilty. I am ashamed, and I don't have any attempt to put up a defense."

A two-time UFC middleweight title contender, Sonnen tested positive for the banned substances anastrozole and clomiphene on May 24th in a random drug test in Las Vegas ahead of his planned UFC 175 fight against Wanderlei Silva. Sonnen retired from the sport following the test, stating that he required the substances to help his transition off of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) as a result of the NAC's ban of the treatment.

Sonnen subsequently failed a second random drug test taken on June 5th in Portland, Oregon, testing positive for human growth hormone (HGH), recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO), and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which led to Sonnen being terminated from his role as an analyst at FOX.

Appearing at the NAC meeting on Wednesday, Sonnen was remorseful regarding his guilt in failing the two tests, and did not dispute the commission's findings in any way.

NAC Commissioner Pat Lundvall initially proposed a one-year suspension for Sonnen with no significant monetary penalty, on the condition that Sonnen supports the commission to help educate fighters in regards to awareness of banned substances. NAC Chairman Francisco Aguilar agreed on the need for the latter terms, but countered by proposing a two-year suspension due to the "cocktail" of five banned substances found in Sonnen's system.

That punishment was ultimately agreed upon unanimously, however fellow commissioner Anthony Marnell expressed grave concern that a two-year suspension was an inadequate measure for what Nevada deputy attorney general Christopher Eccles called "brazen cheating," and that a lifetime ban from competition would be more appropriate.

"I apologize to my fellow commissioners," Marnell stated. "I played baseball during the steroid era, I watched protection of men on 40-man rosters, I watched that stuff in the minor league locker room. I watched guys climb their way to the top because of that protection. I walked into rooms and got drug tested when 40-man guys didn't, and I watched the advantage they had over all of us who were fighting for our life, having to do it the legitimate way.

"And I also have grave concern for fighters who get hit in the head by somebody who has superhuman powers. There's a lot of other things that go on here other than somebody just cheating. People are at risk. The brain, we already know, has a hard enough time taking the shots that it does, but now we do it with somebody who has the power of somebody who shouldn't be that way. This goes on and on and on, and it's bad. It's bad from every angle."

Sonnen (28-14-1) will be 39 years old once his suspension expires. Should he wish to emerge from retirement, he will be required to appear in front of the NAC to apply for a license of reinstatement.

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