Chael Sonnen’s steroid suspension is cut to six months

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The California State Athletic Commission voted 3-1 on Thursday to reduce its one-year suspension of UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen for banned substance use to six months.

Sonnen, who nearly won the UFC middleweight title from long-reigning champion Anderson Silva in August, will be eligible to compete again on March 3, 2011.

The former Olympic wrestling candidate had been notified on Sept. 2 that he’d tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone following his fifth-round loss to Silva at UFC 117 last August in Oakland, Calif. Sonnen was suspended for one year and fined $2,500 for the alleged infraction pending an appeals hearing, subsequently squashing a proposed rematch with Silva slated for this January or February.


On Thursday, the four-member commission opted to uphold Sonnen’s fine following nearly two-and-a-half hours of detailed, and sometimes sophisticated, testimony from both sides.

Sonnen’s urinalysis test results, which were provided by the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory in Los Angeles, revealed that Sonnen’s testosterone-epitestosterone ratio registered at a 16.9 during the Silva bout, with 4.0 being considered the acceptable threshold. Subsequent tests conducted by the same lab also indicated results “consistent with the administration of a steroid,” according to medical documents presented by the CSAC.

On Thursday, Sonnen and his legal team revealed that the fighter had been diagnosed with hypogonadism, a condition that impedes testosterone production in males, and was instructed to begin doctor-supervised replacement therapy beginning in 2008.

Sonnen’s physician, Dr. Mark Czarnecki, testified that’d he prescribed twice-weekly, self-injected testosterone therapy to address the fighter’s “extreme fatigue, exhaustion, and mental fogging” among other symptoms. Dr. Czarnecki stated that the therapy was mandatory for Sonnen and that he would not approve the fighter to compete without it.

“Chael’s body would not tolerate the extreme stress associated with such a sport [without the treatment],” explained Dr. Czarnecki.

Upon request, the physician provided detailed multiple documents recording Sonnen’s treatment and progress since 2008.

On Thursday, a state attorney general argued that Sonnen didn’t properly disclose his treatment to CSAC officials in a timely fashion in which they could have reviewed it for a possible medical exemption.

Sonnen had originally not listed testosterone on a pre-fight medical questionnaire he filled out prior to his drug testing, but later notified CSAC Executive Officer George Dodd in private that he’d taken a testosterone shot a day prior, which was recorded on a second worksheet.

Sonnen also claimed he’d been approved for an exemption under the previous executive officer’s supervision when he fought Yushin Okami at UFC 104 in October 2009 in Los Angeles. Dodd said there was no documentation in Sonnen’s file to verify this.

Initially, Commissioner Dr. Van Lemons made the motion to uphold the entire suspension and fine, but a 2-2 vote stalemated it.

A second motion was then made to reduce Sonnen’s suspension to six months. Commissioner Steve Alexander was the sole member to oppose the 3-1 motion.

--Loretta Hunt, reporting from Sacramento