Sonnen suspension cut to 6 months at appeal hearing
December 5, 2010
As many of you know, UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen reduced his year long suspension to 6 months this past Thursday at his appeal hearing before the California State Athletic Commission. With his attorneys, Sonnen used several defenses claiming that the protocol of the CSAC did not provide a mechanism for him to reveal his reasons for using testosterone.
Hypogonadism. This was the primary argument made by Sonnen’s defense. In sum, Sonnen lacks testosterone of normal men. As a result, he allegedly did not go through puberty. The legal theory behind this is that since Sonnen suffers from hypogonadism, he is protected under the American with Disabilities Act and should be able to fight. As the Fight Opinion points out, the ADA was not drafted to cover Professional MMA Fighters. The argument is artfully crafted, but practically illogical. A person whose profession is mixed martial arts, claims he has a disability which requires them to use a substance known to enhance athletic ability. Another interesting argument provided by his counsel was that at UFC 117’s pre-fight drug screen Sonnen felt uncomfortable about writing down that he used TRT because he was in a room full of fighters. Did Sonnen need to show the rest of the fighters what he wrote down or did the commission representative state out loud what everyone other fighter was using.? In his own testimony, Sonnen said that he did not want to relive being teased as a child and thus did not disclose TRT use.
At the hearing, Sonnen claims that he was told by Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer that he did not need to disclose the fact that he was using testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). Kizer denies that he ever told Sonnen this. Yet, this claim creates an ambiguity for the public to question whether Kizer had spoken with Sonnen about TRT. Thus, it wasn’t Sonnen’s fault that he didn’t disclose because Kizer told him he did not need to. It seemed that Sonnen’s defense team tried to use the NSAC as a template for what Sonnen thought would happen with the CSAC.
In their opening statement, Sonnen’s counsel laid out its defense and testimony, notwithstanding objection, which was much more persuasive than any testimony they could have ellicited that day. It can be argued that they basically read their arguments into the record to ensure the arguments were clearly articulated rather than rely on witnesses. The attorney for California made reference that the Commission comment on the record the credibility of the witnesses if this case were heard in a court of law.
Sonnen’s physician was not a credible witness. Although the hearing was not a court of law, I would think that the doctor would have dressed up a little more for it. It looked like he was just reading off of script and being fed line by line testimony.
The CSAC appeared unprepared, unorganized and not in control of the hearing. They were concerned about time and someone had to leave early. I was put off when the commission asked, “Who is Dana White?” Yes, the commission does cover a lot of issues, but shouldn’t it know the head of the UFC? Perhaps the UFC should do more in getting its name out to the commissions that regulate it? (I’m somewhat joking). Truly not its best hour.
After the hearing, Sonnen took part in post-hearing damage control by appearing in an exclusive interview with Mike Straka on Inside MMA:
Prior to seeing the hearing, I followed the hearing via tweets and summaries on the internet. My initial reaction was that the defense was swinging for the fences in trying to clear Sonnen’s name. After viewing the hearing on ustream (h/t Fight Lawyer), I thought the Sonnen defense created enough of a defense for CSAC to cut his suspension in half (although the fine remained the same). The hypogonadism defense was “creative” and provided pretext for the underlying argument about the lack of protocol for informing officials about TRT.
The attorney for the State of California was decent. He did bring up the Casey Martin case when addressing the ADA claim. In their closing, Sonnen’s attorney seemed to back of the ADA argument.
It will be interesting to see when Sonnen will next appear in the UFC. When he returns, will Sonnen continue to use TRT, and if so, will he be cleared to fight by a state commission. What about if the fight was in Vegas? Would Keith Kizer let this happen?
As for Sonnen’s post-hearing interview, like a politician, he provided his talking points about the commission’s lack of protocol in informing about TRT usage. The questions were not biting or hard, but more of feeding Sonnen so that he was able to get out his major points. Also, Sonnen introduced a “red herring“, a federal government investigation. He did not go into specifics, but it has to do with the reason he had to pull out of the state senate race in Oregon.
Not to neglect a sponsorship opportunity, Sonnen wore a GreenLightDaily.com t-shirt. Does anyone know what it is? The web site doesn’t have much on it.