Chael Sonnen's suspension upheld
LOS ANGELES -- The California State Athletic Commission voted 4-1 on Wednesday at a special hearing to uphold an indefinite suspension of mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen.
The suspension, issued April 19, came after the commission's legal counsel believed Sonnen may have perjured himself during testimony at an appeal hearing in December related to his ban for elevated levels of testosterone following a UFC middleweight championship fight against Anderson Silva on Aug. 7.
The commission also addressed whether Sonnen's guilty plea in January -- to money-laundering charges related to his real-estate business for which he was sentenced to 24 months probation, a $10,000 fine, and loss of his real-estate license -- brought "discredit" to the state as a licensee.
Sonnen's license to fight in the state is set to expire on June 29. Per CSAC rule 399, which outlines the procedure when a license has been denied or revoked, the UFC middleweight contender is ineligible to reapply until May, 18, 2012.
]Any application filed within the one-year period may be denied without the necessity of a hearing. Any fighter who has had his license revoked may not petition for reinstatement or apply for a new license until one year after the date of such revocation. Any petition for reinstatement filed within the one year period may be denied without the necessity of a hearing.
Sonnen will be placed on the MMA registry used by regulators to monitor medical and administrative suspensions. He is free to apply for licenses in other jurisdictions, but California requested that other commissions contact it in the event that Sonnen requests a license.
"After May 2012 he may apply to have his suspension lifted but until his suspension is lifted he will remain on the suspension list," CSAC executive officer George Dodd said Thursday in an email.
Sonnen's suspension last year was a result of his failure to properly disclose twice-weekly testosterone injections prescribed by Dr. Mark Czarnecki beginning in February 2008 for treating hypogonadism, a condition that prevents the body from producing normal levels of testosterone.
The 34-year-old middleweight said he must undergo treatment for his "survival" or he would suffer from a testosterone level equivalent to a "93-year-old man."
Unlike Sonnen's seven previous fights since the treatment began, he tested positive for an abnormally high testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 16.9 after the Silva bout. California's allowed limit is 4.0.
During testimony, Sonnen stood by his statements from a Dec. 2 hearing in Sacramento, Calif. Sonnen said it was his "understanding" that the Nevada State Athletic Commission approved his use of testosterone replacement therapy through a therapeutic use exemption in 2008. He also said he was personally informed that he would not need to again declare testosterone on pre-bout medical questionnaires distributed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Sonnen "believed that this advice would apply" to similar forms in California, according to his declaration.
Keith Kizer, executive director of the NSAC, testified over streaming video from Las Vegas that neither he nor Nevada commission-licensed doctors granted Sonnen a therapeutic use exemption, which allows for prescribed medication to be used by a licensed competitor if it's deemed necessary for his or her well-being.
Sonnen, Kizer said, was never told he didn't need to disclose testosterone treatments.
"That is a false statement," Kizer said.
Sonnen said during testimony that if he was not granted a license Wednesday he would be forced to retire and would not be allowed to participate on the upcoming season of "The Ultimate Fighter," a reality show produced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Spike TV.
Sonnen would have had to apply for a corner's license in Nevada by June 5, and Nevada will not license a fighter under suspension by another regulatory body. Sonnen said a No. 1 contender fight for the UFC middleweight title was also hanging in the balance.
During public comments, three Sonnen supporters, including his mother, spoke passionately on his behalf. The five-member commission, however, was unmoved and quickly offered a motion to maintain the indefinite suspension.
Commissioner Anthony Thompson voted nay, expressing concerns about the indefinite length of the suspension. Commissioners Gene Hernandez, Van Lemon, Christopher Giza, and chairman John Frierson voted to maintain the suspension.
Sonnen fought in Nevada three times since 2008 and tested clean. For each fight, Sonnen indicated whether he was using prescription medication or over-the-counter supplements. Against Bryan Baker in 2008 -- Sonnen's first bout since the treatments started -- no mention of testosterone was included in pre-bout medical questionnaires. In 2009 against Dan Miller, Sonnen indicated he was taking an antibiotic. Later that year, before fighting Nate Marquardt, Sonnen listed an antibiotic and a drug for congestion.
"None of those instances did he mention anything regarding any type of testosterone or anything to that," Kizer told ESPN last year.
Until Sonnen approached CSAC executive officer Dodd the day before fighting Silva in 2010, California regulators said they were unaware of the fighter's medical history.
Until Sonnen approached CSAC executive officer George Dodd the day before fighting Silva in 2010, California regulators said they were unaware of the fighter's medical history.
Though it was not addressed at Wednesday's hearing, Sonnen said in December that he spoke to Dodd out of concern that the United States Anti-Doping Agency was regulating urine collection and drug testing for the Aug. 7 event, and he did not want confusion in case they were unaware of his treatments for low testosterone. USADA CEO Travis Tygart told ESPN.com that the organization did not preside over testing for UFC 117, and is not involved in testing conducted by California.
Mark Ratner, head of regulatory affairs for UFC, previously told ESPN.com that, until Sonnen tested positive following his fifth-round loss to Silva in Oakland, Calif., Ratner had "no knowledge whatsoever" of Sonnen's hormone therapy or a subsequent therapeutic use exemption. Ratner said if Sonnen fought in London against Demian Maia in 2009 while under the treatment of testosterone -- a bout that was regulated by the UFC, which hired an independent drug-testing facility to monitor fighters -- he would have known.
UFC-hired physician Jeff Davidson said in December that he learned of Sonnen's treatments before UFC 104 in Los Angeles -- Sonnen's bout following the fight in London.
Both Sonnen and Czarnecki said they spoke with Davidson about the treatments as early as 2008. It's unclear if anyone in the UFC was aware of Sonnen's treatment before Davidson in advance of UFC 104, where Sonnen defeated Yushin Okami. Czarnecki also said no one outside of Davidson inquired about Sonnen's treatments, and he was never contacted by "any state athletic commission."
According to Davidson's signed affidavit, the former NSAC-licensed physician told Sonnen to "make sure everyone involved with the August 2010 event was aware of his condition and approved of the course of treatment he was undergoing in advance of UFC 117."
During a March 4 meeting at the UFC offices in Las Vegas, Kizer testified that he spoke with Sonnen for the first time. Sonnen's manager Matt Lindland and officials from the UFC also attended the meeting. Kizer recalled asking Lindland if he told Sonnen there was no need to declare his testosterone usage based on previous conversations with the NSAC executive director. Kizer said Lindland denied telling Sonnen that.
"I told Mr. Sonnen that Mr. Kizer told me that once the treatment was approved, it need not be approved again in Nevada," Lindland stated in his written declaration, which was excluded from the official record Wednesday but obtained by ESPN.com.
Kizer, in testimony, did not remember specific conversations with Lindland about Sonnen's testosterone prescription, and reiterated the Nevada commission had no paper record of Sonnen's request or approval for an exemption to compete while undergoing testosterone treatments.
Lindland, who was not present because he's preparing for a fight in Poland, claimed to have forwarded a letter from Dr. Czarnecki to the NSAC. Lindland also said he spoke over the phone with Kizer on Jan. 25, 2008, regarding Sonnen's requirements for a therapeutic use exemption in the state of Nevada.
Kizer said he did not recall Lindland addressing Sonnen or the fighter's medical condition.
"I'd be very surprised if he did," Kizer said during examination from Thompson. "I think I'd remember if he had."
Josh Gross covers mixed martial arts for ESPN.com.