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NSAC rebuts Sonnen's expected claims of approved testosterone use

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In the November 8th edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (first published online on November 3rd), Dave Meltzer gave this update on Chael Sonnen's failure of his UFC 117 drug test for using synthetic testosterone:

Chael Sonnen's hearing before the California State Athletic Commission regarding testing positive for testosterone is scheduled for 12/2 in Sacramento. Josh Barnett will also be applying to get licensed on that date. The talk was Sonnen would argue based on being medically prescribed testosterone due to a low level in his system. The issue would be whether or not he informed the commission ahead of time, because in cases like that, at least in Nevada, you have to ask for an exemption well in advance, have the commission doctors and your doctors talk and get it approved, and you still can't have a higher than normal level in your system when being tested which requires additional lab work. Those type of exemptions being approved are rare.

Now, a discussion between Meltzer and writer/German UFC commentator Oliver Copp on Meltzer's subscribers-only message board has revealed a lot more details.  First, Copp chimed in:

It'll probably be a slap-on-the-wrist suspension until, say, February. Then CSAC can claim a victory over Sonnen for failing to declare while Sonnen will be fine at the same time and can do Ultimate Fighter with Bisping or fight, whatever comes first.

These are the facts, as best I can ascertain.

- Sonnen is on Hormone Replacement Therapy.
- HRT is a "permanent therapy" and not something you do for three months and then are done with it.
- When he fought Okami in LA, Sonnen declared it, jumped through hoops and did the entire shebang.
- CSAC approved it.
- Sonnen came back to fight in Cali again and, since HRT is a permanent therapy and in his case had been approved by CSAC before, he didn't think he'd have to jump through hoops AGAIN.
- Unbeknownst to him, CSAC had changed since his last fight in California and the new commission wanted to turn over a new leaf and be nothing like the commission of old.

Opinion part:
In other words, Sonnen got caught in a political crossfire. If he's guilty of anything, he's guilty of being a dumbass and assuming, instead of going through the process. I will cut him some slack for being down with the flu leading up to the fight, with his main priority being getting better so he can get through the week and the fight.

A lot of guys who have cut weight from an early age develop testosterone deficiency. The exact mechanism isn't fully understood yet but dehydrating your body badly and rehydrating over an extended period of time increases the chances of doing damage to your endocrine system by as much as 5,000 percent.

After taking your hit, your levels are all over the place for an hour or two until they settle in a normal region. If they tested Sonnen during that time, his levels will have been WAY high.

Meltzer replied with this:

The problem is if you look at photos of Sonnen from fight to fight, you notice far bigger and more muscular for Marquardt & especially Silva as compared to all of his previous fights.

It's possible he has legit reasons for it. However, I do recall when the subject came up in 2008 that he California commission said they had never approved of anyone using hormone replacement therapy and gave the indication they likely never would because of the ease for abuse. Obviously that's pre Okami fight and the guy in charge of the commission changed to someone not nearly as much of a hardass on the drug issue.

But in OVW and WWE pre-Benoit, everyone was able to do that as a gimmick, get the prescriptions and it was a gimmick. Even after, when WWE cracked down, there were a few exemptions and the doctor in charge felt every single one was shady.

WWE now will not hire someone with that prescription, or allow any prescriptions for test, as company policy.

To which Copp replied:

Look at Matt Hughes physically in the Serra fight and then the Gracie fight. Compare that to how he looked in the Almeida fight. Guess when he started going on HRT.

I think this is all somewhat murky water, and I sincerely feel that if Sonnen has ANY case, the Cali commission will want this to go away without much in the way of coverage.

If this is true, then Sonnen probably deserves either a light punishment (for not listing the testosterone when you're supposed to list all medications being taken) or none (since he was sick and expected them to follow-up on an ongoing issue like that).  That said, it looks like he's lying.  Again.

Sonnen fought Nate Marquardt in Nevada this past February, after the Okami fight, so I called Keith Kizer, Executive Director of the Nevada commission.  According to Kizer, Sonnen never applied or was approved for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).  Not in February or any of his previous fights in Nevada.  Before the Marquardt fight, he applied and was approved for Soma/carisprodol (a muscle relaxer recently banned completely by WWE because it can cause intoxication while others don't and are more effective) for sleep as long as he didn't take it the night before and doxycyline (an antibiotic) for acne.

The only name fighter who has applied for and gotten the exemption is Dan Henderson, who tests at below-normal levels even while receiving the TRT.  Any fighters undergoing TRT in Nevada still need to test as levels where a fighter without an exemption would pass.  Also, the rules were recently changed so that fighters who are undergoing TRT because their natural production of testosterone was damaged due to previous steroid abuse would not be granted an exemption.   As Meltzer noted, in WWE, wrestlers can get TRT approved if they damaged their natural production through steroid abuse, but nobody undergoing TRT will be hired.

Since Matt Hughes started TRT after his last fight in Nevada and doesn't have any fights scheduled there at the moment, he didn't come up.

It's one thing to claim that he didn't do an interview that was obviously him, but how the heck did Sonnen think he'd be bulletproof here?  Why didn't he apply for the exemption in Nevada in February if he was really undergoing TRT since at least the previous October?  I highly doubt that he just stopped his TRT: He would've crashed, not won a fight against a top level opponent, much less have a fight so exciting it got the fight of the night bonus.

Maybe "some hispanic guy" actually failed the drug test.

Edit: Just to clarify and simplify everything since for whatever reason some people are missing the point: Both Meltzer (also of Yahoo Sports) and UFC employee Copp are saying that Sonnen's defense will be testosterone replacement therapy.  Copp is also saying that Sonnen has been undergoing TRT since before the Okami fight and that he got a therapeutic use exemption from the CSAC for that fight, but didn't realize he needed to do it again for each fight.  This would presumably be because it's a maintenance medication for a permanent problem.  If he's on a maintenance medication for a permanent problem, then why didn't he even ask for a therapeutic use exemption for his next fight, presumably his first in Nevada since starting testosterone replacement therapy?  If Copp is telling the truth about this being Sonnen's defense, then it doesn't make any sense unless Sonnen's not really undergoing testosterone replacement therapy.

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