Chael Sonnen was popped for HGH and EPO, what are the possible implications of this for Mixed Martial Arts?
Chael Sonnen failed two drug tests in a span of a few weeks, with the second having him test positive for HGH and EPO. Although he has recently retired, this PED use has led to him being let go from his Fox broadcasting duties, a firing which Dana White says to have been a tough call to make.
So what does this test mean for Chael and for the sport in general? Well for one, Metamoris doesn't care about his drug test, nor do they test for PEDs, so he will still get a payday for a grappling match against Andre Galvao. As for the grand scheme of things, Dave Meltzer tried to answer that very question at F4WOnline.com (subscription required).
It wasn't (shocking) that Sonnen failed a drug test, or the revelation that he, or any of a number of top athletes in the sport may have been using Human Growth Hormone (HGH) or Recombinant Human Erythropoietin (EPO). The fact that one was caught doing so, a first for the sport of MMA, and an extreme rarity in the sporting world, is major news in both MMA and on the drug testing front.
For all the talk of steroids, the belief by athletes is that certain drugs, HGH, EPO and Insulin, provide a strong performance enhancing stack and can be used with limited fear of detection. The standard urine tests don't pick up those drugs. Blood testing, which is expensive and not used with much regularity, has limitations in detecting those substances. There is a short window of detection for HGH and EPO, and because the body produces Insulin, is almost impossible to test for added use. Most sports don't test for those drugs with the feeling it's not effective. In the major sports, there are union issues that haven't been worked through involving regularly taking blood samples. In those that do, there have only been a handful of athletes who have ever been caught using HGH despite the knowledge within the sports world that use is rampant.
Sonnen's failure may be breakthrough in itself, and an important message not just in MMA, but in all sports, that if testing is vigilant enough, perhaps the belief will change that you can use those substances with no fear of repercussions...
The circumstances of the detection methods, and if Sonnen is honest in addressing his time line of usage, at the scheduled 7/23 Nevada Athletic commission hearing, will reveal one of two things. Either Sonnen's failure was a fluke of timing, or it's a warning to athletes, as well as to the few top fighters who may be tested in the same manner he was before a scheduled major fight by the Nevada commission, that the game has the potential to change.
While there have been recent advances in how to test HGH and EPO, positive test results have been extremely rare in the past that it became widely considered to be basically 'undetectable' because of the short span in which you can test for it. This has led to people thinking these expensive tests can easily be skirted if you time it right.
According to Meltzer, while the standard HGH testing claimed to have a 3-day detection span, in reality these methods just had something close to 2-4 hours. This way, normal belief was that you can literally take it late at night and be pass a test even during the earliest time these random checkers can come in the morning.
Given this detail and Sonnen being one of the extremely rare few to ever have been caught, we can learn more once we find out more details on the timing. It's either Sonnen messed up and didn't take his PEDs late at night where he would've cycled off 'easily' as people used to believe, or these new drug testing advances really does have a longer detection span which puts more value and credibility on these tests.
It's too early to tell, but if it's the latter, this could be huge not just in MMA, but in sports in general.