Well, that took long enough.
Late last night, ESPN's Josh Gross and MMA Weekly's Damon Martin reported that UFC fighter Chael Sonnen has been suspended in California for the second time. This time, it's over concerns about his apparent perjury during the hearing to appeal his previous suspension and his guilty plea on money laundering charges.
Fully annotated refresher course time:
- After a series of interviews full of bizarre comments and offensive trash talking, Sonnen challenged Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight Title at UFC 117 in Oakland, CA on August 7th of last year and lost by submission in the fifth round after dominating the very exciting fight up to that point. It seemed like his impressive performance earned him a rematch, but...
- He tested positive for anabolic steroids by virtue of having what was later reported to be a 16.9:1 testosterone to epitestosterone ratio. The threshold for failing the test is 4:1. At first, rumors were planted that it was "a natural steroid" (whatever that means), but they were quickly refuted. Reports also came out that he had told a commission inspector about his testosterone use on the day of the fight. An exemption for testosterone cannot be requested on short notice, as blood tests are required far in advance, but the commission couldn't keep Sonnen from fighting based on just the declaration without a positive test result. Sonnen was suspended for a year, but he decided to appeal the decision. In the meantime, he kept a low profile.
- In the weeks before the hearing where Sonnen would appeal the suspension, the details of his defense came out. He would be claiming that he was using the synthetic testosterone legitimately for testosterone replacement therapy to treat hypogonadism, and was under the impression that he had been cleared to use it since his fight with Yushin Okami in Los Angeles, CA on October 24, 2009 at the latest. Since this an an ongoing condition, that would mean that he was also on the testosterone replacement therapy for his fight with Nate Marquardt on February 6th, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. I asked Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer about this, and he noted that he Sonnen had never applied for a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone in Nevada.
- On December 2nd at the hearing, Sonnen got his suspension reduced to six months. His defense basically consisted of claiming that Kizer had cleared him in Nevada and that he had submitted proper paperwork in California that the commission couldn't find, having his (uninformed and spaced out) "personal physician" Dr. Mark Czarnecki D.O. testify on his behalf, and saying that he had told UFC-employed Dr. Jeff Davidson about the testosterone use, figuring that he would somehow do the legwork with the athletic commissions. According to Gross's article about the new suspension, Davidson has submitted a written declaration that he was aware of Sonnen's testosterone use but never informed the commission about it. It was an embarrassment of a hearing, made even worse when I contacted Kizer, who clarified that he had never spoken to Sonnen about any topic, before adding that he may require Sonnen to explain himself before getting re-licensed in Nevada. Normally, a fighter would be able to get a new license administratively, but that wasn't going to fly here.
- It was announced on January 3rd that Sonnen was pleading guilty to money laundering charges related to his real estate business. At first, UFC was saying he would be fighting Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 128 before quickly changing gears and suspending him indefinitely themselves.
- Sonnen buried himself further when he appeared on ESPN's MMA Live. He said that Kizer was doing the right thing, claiming that as a government employee, Kizer was bound by the Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) from discussing Sonnen's actual medical details. Kizer told us that this was false, because HIPAA "does not apply to the NSAC as we are not a medical provider."
- A week after that, Sonnen's management claimed that UFC didn't suspend him. At best, they were was nitpicking about terminology.
- Sonnen tried to stay in the public eye and get back into the thick of things by trash-talking Silva again and then demanding a fight with Michael Bisping.
- UFC wanted Sonnen and Bisping as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter Season 14, but that would require getting Sonnen re-licensed in Nevada as a second, where the show is shot. With the NSAC feeling that Sonnen used their executive director as a prop in committing perjury to cut down the California suspension, UFC was in a bind. To facilitate some kind of resolution, Sonnen, Dana White, Lorenzo Fertita, and other top-level UFC officials had a private meeting with Kizer. Sonnen's latest excuse was that he had misspoken, and that his manager Matt Lindland had spoken with Kizer in February of 2008 about Sonnen getting an exemption in time for his fight with Bryan Baker at WEC 33 on March 26th of that year. Kizer recalled the conversation with Lindland, but noted that it was about the procedure itself, not a specific fighter. He said that nothing was approved and Lindland never followed up with the commission in any form. Lindland disagreed and said he followed up by email, but neither side could produce a copy of the message in question.
- A few days after that news broke, Kizer noted that Sonnen specifically said that when he said "I" during the portion of the hearing in question, he meant to say "my manager." Kizer straight up told Sonnen "That's a ridiculous explanation."
- A few days after that, Sonnen was sentenced on the money laundering charges to two years probation, a $10,000 fine, and forfeiture of his real estate license.
- With the sentencing taken care of, Sonnen told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour that "My focus is making things right with Director Kizer."
- A few weeks ago, Dave Meltzer dropped the bomb on Wrestling Observer Radio that in addition to Sonnen's Nevada hearing being pushed back from April 27th to the middle of this month (well, that's changed now), the California commission was looking into re-opening his case.
CSAC Executive Officer George Dodd told Gross that "My commission is concerned with that because if one commission approves [the use of prescribed medication], it could sway how the vote would have come out. They're looking at that allegation." He was a bit more blunt when talking to MMAJunkie's Steven Marrocco, saying "The commission wants to review his testimony, and they felt they need to suspend his license because they felt there was some false testimony given to the athletic commission when he appeared back in December. That way Chael can come explain himself. Obviously, there were comments made during that commission meeting that have come up to be false, and so we're going to review those, as well. [...] His license in California will be suspended until the commission feels he's provided rehabilitation, or whatever the commission feels that needs to be done in order to re-grant his license." He explained to MMAWeekly.com that the new suspension is officially through the expiration of Sonnen's current license and Sonnen decided to appeal when notified of it.
As would be expected since the commissions respect each others' suspensions, Sonnen is effectively suspended in Nevada as well. Kizer told Marrocco that the Nevada hearing is now on hold pending the results of the California hearing, which will take place a week from today in Los Angeles. Deputy Attorney General Karen Chappelle will represent the state of California and Dodd will be there to testify if called to do so, since "I'm kind of at the center of certain subject matters that have been brought up, so I'll be there."
To clarify and add to what was already reported, I called Dodd a few minutes ago to ask the questions I had after reading what's come out since last night.
- The most interesting response was with regards to when he was first made aware of Kizer's comments. Dodd actually found out during the original hearing, but since he was not sure about what the exact circumstances were, he couldn't testify about it.
- The letter to Sonnen notifying him of the suspension was sent during the third week of April. The timetable was based on working with Kizer to straighten out what happened and what Sonnen's claims have been. It seemed like the "I meant to say 'my manager,' not 'I'" meeting may have dug him into a much deeper hole.
- For now, it's an athletic commission matter. The rest is up to Karen Chappelle. If she feels that criminal charges are warranted after the commission hearing, then she could move forward with them, but there's no way to be sure for now. It's only a criminal case if she decides to make it one.
- Finally, there may or may not be a live video stream of the hearing like there was last time because it's in a different location that's not already set up for that. It's being looked into and there should be a more concrete answer at the beginning of next week.
It just keeps going and going and going, doesn't it? I'm still trying to dig up some more information, but I'll stop here for now and put up another post later as I find stuff out. Chael Sonnen is quite the character who has made quite the mess for himself.