Chael Sonnen and the F Word

Update October 15, 2014 – Sonnen confirmed the lengths he went to cover up his PED taking during the first episode of his podcast “You’re welcome with Chael Sonnen“.  Sonnen admitted to knowingly, intentionally taking banned PEDs and trying to outwit commission testing confessing as follows:

I thought it was out of my system. I had done my own tests and they came back hot. So I never asked for a license and I kept testing myself. I waited until they were clean, I then asked for a license. They gave me a license, and then they tested me. They sent it to a lab that was far superior than the ones I had access to, and they found the stuff in my system. That’s it. I’m beat. I took it and I did it.

This admission puts Sonnen’s actions squarely within the fact pattern that delayed the limitation period against Lance Armstrong as outlined below.


Chael Sonnen, who climbed to become one of MMA’s most marketable figures, is experiencing a sudden downfall after failing a drug test for the third time in his career.  The fall out not only led to his retirement from the sport but also to the termination of his broadcasting services agreements with the UFC and Fox Sports.

The simple lesson is that fraud, (yes seeking  advantage through the use of prohibited PED’s without a TUE is fraud) can come with steep consequences.

The above consequences, however, may not be the end.  Fraud, once uncovered, can trigger consequences years after the fact.   After Lance Armstrong’s sudden demise from the elite lofts of cycling, Sonnen leveled the following criticism:

When you screw up, you have to own it. That stuff really gets under my skin. Take Lance Armstrong. Lance Armstrong…He cheated, he did drugs, and he gave himself cancer. Well, instead of saying, ‘Hey listen, I cheated and gave myself cancer, don’t be like me.’ He actually made himself the victim and then went out and profited something like $15 million dollars from this ‘Hey, poor me, let’s find a cure for cancer’ campaign instead of just coming clean and saying, ‘Look, here’s what I did, I screwed myself up, and I hope people learn from my mistakes.’ You just watch these guys and can’t help but think, God, what a fraud.

Sonnen, and the MMA community can learn from Armstrong.  His fraud caught up with him and he paid the price.  As previously discussed, fraud also can stall the clock on limitation periods which can leave the door open to far reaching litigation.  Again the unwitting teacher is Armstrong where the Reasoned Decision of the USADA on Disqualificaiton and Ineligibility held as follows with respect to fraud and limitation periods:

A recent American Arbitration Association decision in a 
doping case addressed both the general principle that an athlete who fraudulently conceals 
doping cannot profit from that fraud by claiming that the statute of limitations has run, and the 
specific situation where the panel suspended the statute of limitation because the athlete denied 
under oath that he had doped. (USADA v Hellebuyck, AAA Case No. 77 190 168 11, Jan 30, 
2012) Similarly, under U.S. law, Armstrong should not be allowed to claim the benefit of a 
statute of limitation where his doping has been concealed, and the judicial process subverted, by 
his lying under oath and other affirmative actions which precluded the earlier discovery of his 
doping by USADA.

If Sonnen built his empire on fraud as Armstrong did, anyone who was financially harmed by his actions can seek to remedy this through civil action.  The clock does not start running until the fraud is uncovered.  If the MMA community ever digs into historic PED test results with the same vigour as the USADA did all ill gotten gains can be undone.

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