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UFC’s Sonnen can’t talk his way out of this one


In another life, Chael Sonnen would be a filibuster. He would talk out a bill with the best of them, extending the debate for an infinite period of time, delaying any sort of action, obstructing all avenues that might lead to making a decision.

He would even convince most of those listening that his stance is correct — hook, line and falsehood.

Sonnen is an athlete who understands those strengths that best coerce others into buying his argument. He is smart, well-spoken, always forthcoming with an opinion.

He’s more persuasive than Vito Corleone, only without the horse’s head.

But in the world of those who break rules to gain a competitive advantage within the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Sonnen was no different than the frightened light heavyweight who ran from a gym when commission officials showed up to administer a drug test.

He just told a better story, is all.

He told some whoppers.

Maybe he was a fisherman in another life.

Sonnen is out of UFC 175 because he tested positive for two banned substances, after which he went on national television Tuesday and did his best Strom Thurmond impression by trying to babble his way in and around and out of the real issue: He screwed up. It’s all on him. One-hundred percent.

It appears out of UFC 175 also means out for good for Sonnen, who announced his retirement Wednesday.

The positive test was more a black mark on Sonnen than anything. In the way that mainstream media hasn’t yet — or perhaps never will — jumped with both feet into full-time coverage of mixed martial arts, the UFC will again simply move onto its next pay-per-view event, its status largely unscathed by this recent transgression.

The UFC won’t be hurt by Sonnen’s plight any more than it has been by others who have failed tests or, in the case of Wanderlei Silva, made like Usain Bolt out a back door when it came time to give a sample.

The same Silva that Sonnen then publicly ripped for his disappearing act.

Irony. It’s a wonderful concept to demonstrate on the way out your own door.

But little to none of this will touch the UFC in a negative manner, at least not in the eyes and wallets of those who have always weighed the entertainment value and excitement of supporting and following the sport over the obvious presence of drugs in it.

In this realm, the UFC is no different than most professional leagues in 2014, where doping and positive tests for banned substances have at some point directly or indirectly touched competition.

There remains a large faction of society that overlooks such truths, intent to embrace a view that all sports are contaminated at some level and that the interest in a game or fight still outweighs any of those dirty little secrets.

Simply, the majority still doesn’t give a damn if athletes cheat.

Some do, but not to the level where MMA or boxing or football or baseball are greatly influenced. It was no surprise that the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) took to Twitter following the news of Sonnen’s positive tests, again calling for the UFC to provide random unannounced tests for performance-enhancing drugs to all fighters, that hundreds of competitions are held outside Nevada with no oversight, no commissions, no drug testing program with any sort of teeth and that the promotion should finally wake up and test each and every competitor.

I’m thinking those at VADA shouldn’t hold their collective breath awaiting a reply from the UFC, much as it didn’t receive one when VADA offered to set up a drug testing program involving random blood and urine tests with no administrative costs for the first year.

VADA might be the most self-serving, publicity-craving organization of its kind, but its protocol is one of the strictest available, and yet you can be sure the UFC believes its enhanced random testing program is enough.

It’s not, of course, but that doesn’t matter much to most paying to watch fights.

Which seems fewer and fewer of late.

Put it this way: If the UFC is indeed experiencing a drop in popularity, it has far more to do with an oversaturation of its market than fans caring whether anyone tests positive.

So a fighter, or now ex-fighter, like Sonnen can spend 20 minutes on national television telling an unprepared interviewer that his positive tests for Anastrozole and Clomiphene came during out-of-competition use and yet failed to mention those substances are included on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list for what it banned at all times. Misleading doesn’t begin to describe Sonnen during the interview.

Oh, yes. And for the second time in his career, he failed to disclose use of a banned substance.

But, hey, he sure could talk.

Perhaps his post-fight career should begin with a run for Congress.

There has to be guys not drug tested much there, if at all.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.