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17th Sep 2016

Chael Sonnen’s contract could be the answer to cutting out drug cheats from MMA

This is ingenious - could it work in other sports?

Ben Kenyon

Everyone wants all top sports to be drug cheat free – and the UFC might just have stumbled on the best way to do it.

Nate Diaz accused everyone in the UFC of being on drugs in the run up to his first fight with Conor McGregor at UFC 196.

While this might be a wild and somewhat unfounded accusation, it’s undeniable that there have been more and more professional fighters falling foul of anti-doping regulations.

Fighters including the UFC’s Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones are just the latest to have failed stringent drugs tests and there will undoubtedly be more.

It’s clear organisations like the UFC are taking the doping issue very serious in a bid the clean up the sport and stake its claim for legitimacy in the mainstream – that’s why they’ve drafted in the ultra-strict USADA to root out the drug cheats… and they’re not fucking about.

But while lengthy bans are being handed out for fighters caught with banned substances in their system, are bans really enough of a deterrent?

The stakes are high but the rewards are higher in making it to the top of the fight game and it seems some fighters are willing to take the risk to get there.

So that’s what makes Chael Sonnen’s return to MMA interesting as a milestone in the fight against PEDs. The former UFC fighter was hit with a two-year ban for doping after testing positive for due to the presence of human growth hormone and several other banned substances.

But now aged 39, the American is making a comeback to the sport after signing a multi-fight deal with Bellator.

While Sonnen insists that his doping episode is behind him, telling a press conference ‘he’s on the other side of the tracks’ from PEDS now, many will remain unconvinced.

But just to underscore his point, Sonnen, who has already had four clean USADA tests this year, revealed there is one binding part of his contract that he claims will compel him to stay clean.

If he’s caught doping again he will be fined his entire fight pure and an additional $500,000.

“I don’t like those things I did,” said Sonnen, according to ESPN. “They embarrass me. I steer into it sometimes, but the truth is that stuff embarrasses me.

“It was a different world with different times, and you have to change with those times or you’re outside the lines. I was outside the lines. I should have been suspended [in 2014]. I was, and I did my time. I can tell you I’m not going back.

“If I was to fail a test under my Bellator contract, it would cost me 100 per cent of my purse and $500,000. That is in writing.

“Now, I understand for you guys that’s not as good as a clean test, but boy that’s gotta mean something. If you think I didn’t read that part of it before I signed it, I did.”

This is a wise move by Bellator. If the threat of lengthy bans doesn’t deter drug cheats, then maybe hitting them where it hurts – in the wallet – may be a more effective deterrent at keeping fighters on the ‘right side of the line’.

Mark Hunt called for Brock Lesnar to hand over his $2.5m purse following his failed drugs test in the wake of his heavyweight victory over the New Zealander at UFC 200…and maybe he’s onto something. Take away the financial incentive and you take away the problem.

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