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NYSAC vague on drug-testing plan for Chael Sonnen, Wanderlei Silva

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Bellator 170 Weigh-ins
Chael Sonnen was drug tested four times before his return bout in January.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) won’t say directly whether Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva will face out-of-competition testing ahead of Bellator’s New York debut.

Sonnen and Silva, who meet in the main event of Bellator 180 on June 24 at Madison Square Garden, are both coming off lengthy doping-related suspensions in Nevada. Silva is actually currently still serving a three-year ban and will be eligible to compete again officially in May.

When asked by MMA Fighting about the NYSAC policy regarding out-of-competition drug testing, New York Department of State spokesperson Laz Benitez said in an e-mail that the commission has the authority and discretion to administer drug testing, but declined to comment when asked specifically about Sonnen and Silva.

“The Commission’s normal practice is to conduct testing on any athlete who has a history of doping violations every time they compete in the State of New York,” Benitez wrote.

Whether that means pre-fight, out-of-competition testing is unclear.

Per NYSAC rules, every combat sports licensee must submit to a “drug and/or steroid screening in a manner directed by the NYSAC” as part of his or her medical examination. It’s unknown if that is a similar procedure to a random drug test analyzed for the full World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) menu, which has become the norm for commissions in Nevada and California and the UFC’s USADA program.

“The Commission gains authority over the competitors once they are licensed,” Benitez wrote. “Once licensed, however, the Commission may — in its discretion — require drug testing prior to the event.”

When asked to clarify about the particulars of the drug-testing plan regarding Sonnen and Silva, Benitez said the commission had “no further comment.”

Sonnen, 39, was suspended two years by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) in July 2014, ahead of, ironically, what would have been a fight with Silva. Sonnen tested positive for a host of banned substances, including anti-estrogen agents anastrozole and clomiphene and human growth hormone (HGH), recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

Silva, 40, was initially banned for life by the NAC in September 2014 for evading a drug test before the aforementioned scheduled bout against Sonnen. He admitted to using banned diuretics, which he said he was ingesting to help heal an injury. Silva took the case to Nevada civil court and a judge sent it back to the commission. He ended up being suspended three years, retroactive to May 2014, in a re-hearing in February 2016.

Sonnen returned from his suspension and retirement in January against Tito Ortiz in Los Angeles. Sonnen passed four drug tests in relation to that bout. The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) made Sonnen submit a negative test as a condition for licensure, administered two random, out-of-competition tests before the bout and also tested Sonnen on fight night, per CSAC executive officer Andy Foster.

Bellator president Scott Coker was asked at a Bellator NYC press conference Tuesday about any special drug-testing plan for Sonnen and Silva due to their histories and Coker referred to the NYSAC.

“When you look at our policy, our policy is to work with the athletic commission and to abide by their testing,” Coker said. … “When we huddle up with the New York State Athletic Commission, we’ll find out what they want to do and we’ll make it happen.”