Today at the California State Athletic Commission hearing that myself and Kevin Haggerty liveblogged (the livetweets of), Chael Sonnen's indefinite suspension in California was upheld with 4 to 1 vote. The dissenting vote came from Anthony Thompson, who wasn't a commissioner at the time of Sonnen's December hearing. All of the details about what led up to this are in my post from seven days ago when the suspension and hearing were announced.
The short version (which doesn't do the situation justice, so read that other post if you're not up on the details) is:
- Sonnen tested positive for steroids via elevated levels of artificial testosterone and was thus suspended for a year.
- He lied about having a therapeutic use exemption in Nevada during the hearing where he appealed the suspension and got it down to six months in the process
- CSAC Exeutive Officer George Dodd started investigating because NSAC Executive director gave statements that conflicted Sonnen's.
- Sonnen pleaded guilty to money laundering charges.
- The CSAC suspended him indefinitely a few weeks later over concerns about the money laundering charges and the lie under oath during the appeal hearing.
Sonnen's latest defense (which goes back to his meeting in March with the NSAC to get a second's license so he could coach on The Ultimate Fighter) is that then-manager Matt Lindland (who was out of the country for a fight and couldn't testify) told Sonnen that he had procured the exemption for him and the rest was him misspeaking. He was a bit overdramatic, saying that testosterone replacement therapy was required for his "survival." The commission members weren't buying it this time, with Dean of Commission John Frierson telling Sonnen that "It's very hard for me to believe in your second chance."
When the motion to uphold the suspension was brought up after the testimony, it was quickly seconded. Before the vote, public comments were allowed. Three people commented, all supporting Sonnen:
- Marika Taylor, a woman (His girlfriend? It wasn't made clear.) who "[spoke] passionately on behalf of Sonnen" according to ESPN's Josh Gross.
- Raffi Nahabedian, one of Sonnen's lawyers, who did the same.
- Sonnen's mother, who didn't give her name. Yes, wrestling fans, Chael Sonnen is now Marcus Bagwell. According to Gross, "She said she went to doctor w/ Chael and is convinced he needs testosterone whether he competes or not. Just to get out of bed in morning." She then added/asked/hypothesized (it isn't clear from Gross's Tweet, but reading it as her asking an honest question I started laughing out loud when I read it) "Did he really lie the last time he was here?"
After that, the commission voted 4-1 in favor of upholding the suspension. As explained by Gross in his ESPN.com article and Steven Marrocco and John Morgan in their MMAJunkie article, Sonnen's license expires on June 29th, less than a month and a half from now and he can't apply for a new one until a year from that date. He will be listed in the suspension registry and can apply for licenses from other commissions, but the other commissions must notify the CSAC if he does. During the hearing, Sonnen said that Dana White told him he was done in UFC if the suspension was upheld. That may not be one of his famous lies. He still has no license in Nevada, where he had been scheduled for a hearing for some time this week before it was rescheduled pending the results of today's hearing. Kizer has made it clear that he will not give Sonnen a license without a hearing, and if he applies for one in Nevada and is turned down, that's another strike against him.
The reporters did develop some sympathy at the hearing from the reporters in attendance, and I can understand that to a degree. The result of the hearing today may signal the end of his tenure with UFC and his career in regulated jurisdictions in the United States. He'll probably be able to make decent money internationally for a while, but the big money is gone. He has pretty much lost the ability to do the jobs he knows, and I have sympathy for that in the way that I do for people in pro wrestling who I don't like but never held any other kind of regular job and then got spat out by the business.
That said, he brought this all on himself by laundering money as well as cheating and then lying about it. If Chael Sonnnen's latest version of what happened is the truth then he's pretty much a slightly more functional version of Ralph Wiggum from "The Simpsons." Given his history, the more likely scenario is that he he thought he could lie his way out of anything until he laundered money and used a prominent public figure in a lie under oath to get from under being caught cheating at prize fighting. He deserves everything that has happened to him, and we shouldn't pity him.