It feels like years ago that Stephan Bonnar ended his MMA career on an incredibly sour note.
After news leaked that Bonnar was close to retiring but wanted just one last big fight, he got his wish in the form of a main event tilt with the greatest of all time, Anderson Silva. It was not at all surprising that Bonnar was knocked out cleanly by “The Spider.”
The surprise came a few weeks after the fight when news broke that he had tested positive for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone. It was the second time the TUF1 finalist had been caught red-handed for steroids.
UFC President Dana White, a long-time supporter of “The American Psycho” made it perfectly clear that he was both angry and disappointed with him. Bonnar seemed to pick up on the general vibe that was sent his way by the MMA community (summed up perfectly here by B/R's own Jeremy Botter), and went into a deep exile, retreating almost entirely from both Twitter and public appearances.
The short version of his explanation for how all this happened, basically, is that he was mostly retired and was taking Drostanolone to help recuperate a sore knee. “Experts” (he does not define who they were, nor what credentials they had in terms of determining how likely you are to test positive for anabolic steroids) said that, given how he had ceased using the banned substance two weeks earlier, he would be clean by fight time.
If you listen to it yourself, it's hard to believe Bonnar is lying. He is clearly saddened by the way things played out, knows his legacy is tarnished, and regrets disappointing the UFC brass. Not to mention, if he was going to lie about it, he could simply use the “S-Mass Lean Gainer” defense, which is actually a legitimate issue in the supplements industry.
That said, while his story was honest and his tone guilt-ridden, he ultimately admitted to many of the negative assumptions surrounding his failed drug test.
He came short of saying “it was my last fight, so I just did whatever,” which is something. However, he admitted to knowingly using PEDs between fights. Not only that, but at no point in the transcript of that interview does the word “doctor” or “prescription” appear.
The cherry on top? “Experts” told him that it would be out of his system by then and, ultimately, that would make it cool, right?
This is not to kick Stephan Bonnar while he is down. He sounded genuinely remorseful and there is no denying the fact that he has suffered more for this failed drug test than perhaps any other fighter in MMA.
Really, though, there is no positive way to spin what he owned up to. There is no good way to say “It was between fights, so I was on steroids and I thought nobody would notice.”
The crux of his defense is twofold; one, that he was using the anabolic steroid to rehab his knee, not gain an unfair advantage, and two, that he was “semi-retired” and was not anticipating a fight to come to fruition in the near future, if ever. Both those, however, don't pass the sniff test.
The “I only used it to recover from an injury” line is as old and worn as PED scandals themselves. Baseball fans have heard it from many of the greats of the 1990s that were discovered to be users, including Mark McGwire and Andy Pettitte. They still received little quarter in the court of public opinion.
As for his semi-retirement, that would have worked as an excuse if he was actually, officially retired. In fact, it basically would have completely absolved him of any wrongdoing (PEDs are only really PEDs when there is a P to E, after all).
But he wasn't retired. He was trapped between fights in a division struggling to differentiate between middling veterans and actual title contenders. An ugly situation, sure, and he may have been strongly considering hanging up his gloves.
But, again, he wasn't retired. He was still on the UFC's active roster of fighters and when that's the case, you shouldn't be taking anabolic steroids.
It's hard not to feel bad for Bonnar on a personal level. Even while writing this, I had to hold back the urge to soften my words at points. However, when you simply look at his words and his actions, they're no different from any other disgraced athlete.