Chael Sonnen's suspension corrected
Two days after indefinitely suspending Chael Sonnen's license through May 18, 2012, the California State Athletic Commission corrected an application of a rule regarding the date the UFC middleweight contender could reapply in the state, thus freeing him to fight anywhere.
The regulator body admitted "an error" regarding Rule 399, which states revocation or denial of a license included a one-year prohibition on reapplying.
"Since the commission did not revoke or deny Mr. Sonnen's license, the rule does not apply," read the statement.
"Given that Mr. Sonnen's license will expire on June 29, 2011, the suspension imposed upon the license will be extinguished by operation of law. Therefore, Mr. Sonnen may reapply for a license at any time following that date. He will, however, be required to appear at a commission meeting to have his application considered. If the commission denies his application, Mr. Sonnen will have to wait one year from the date of the denial."
CSAC executive officer George Dodd said that while the state continues to consider the suspension "indefinite," it will cease to apply once Sonnen's license has lapsed.
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On Wednesday, Dodd said he had to inquire with the commission's legal counsel before knowing when Sonnen would be free to reapply. He reported Thursday that based on the commissions interpretation of the rule, Sonnen was ineligible to ask for a license in the state for up to one year.
Dodd continued discussions with Deputy Attorney General Karen Chappelle and Spencer Walker, legal counsel for California's Department of Consumer Affairs, to determine what they could and could not do based on the rule. Because legal counsel was tied up in other matters, Dodd said, the correction was not made until Friday.
"That's what we came up with," Dodd said. "That's why I needed to go out there with this and set the record straight that he can apply after June 29, after his license does expire, because that's the legal jurisdiction we have to the end.
"Rule 399 was treated as almost a revocation or denial, but you can't do that.
"I'm the one that put it out there and the error of putting it out there rests solely on me, but we're going to correct the situation as we should."
Sonnen is technically allowed to apply anywhere even as he serves his suspension in California. It's up to individual regulatory bodies to allow him a license or not, though most choose to honor fellow commission's rulings.
It seemed unlikely that he could be licensed in another state, or would be booked by his promoter while under a year-long suspension in California. Friday's correction gives the 34-year-old Oregonian a chance to get back in the cage this summer.
On June 29, Sonnen's name would also fall off the MMA registry used by regulators, where California placed a note asking jurisdictions to contact them if Sonnen attempted to apply.
The 4-1 verdict against Sonnen on Wednesday came during a special hearing in which he appealed an indefinite suspension imposed by the CSAC because the body felt he was less than truthful at his appeal last December after being suspended one year following a failure to notify officials of a prescribed testosterone injection treatment that combats hypogonadism, a condition that prevents the body from producing normal levels of testosterone.
Sonnen tested for an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio following his Aug. 7 fight against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in Oakland.
During his appeal in Sacramento on Dec. 2, Sonnen testified that he takes testosterone as part of an approved use exemption while competing in Nevada, and made several statements to that effect.
Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer denied that he or the state approved or knew of Sonnen's testosterone treatments, which became the basis for California's concerns when it suspended him again on April 19.
Sonnen served a reduced six-month sentence following the December hearing, and paid a $2,500 fine. The reduction came in part because it took Sonnen's apparent ability to compete under similar treatments in Nevada.
Sonnen on Wednesday said he was set to appear as a coach on the fourteenth season of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter," after which he would fight Michael Bisping to be the No. 1 contender in the UFC middleweight division.
However he needed to be eligible to apply for a license by June 5, which was the last day he could submit an application for a corner's license in Nevada and do the show. Unless production is pushed back, Sonnen will have lost what he called a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Sonnen did not respond to a request for comment about California's correction.
Josh Gross covers mixed martial arts for ESPN.com.