NSAC Shows True Colors During Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort Hearings

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2014

Chael Sonnen, left, speaks during a news conference in San Francisco, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010. At right is Ricardo Almeida. Sonnen is scheduled to fight Anderson Silva, of Brazil, for Silva's UFC middleweight title at UFC 117 on Saturday in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The Nevada State Athletic Commission put together a star-studded hearing Wednesday. 

Serial woman abuser (who moonlights two or three times a year as a boxer) Floyd Mayweather Jr. was the biggest name in attendance. Money showed up to ask for the NSAC's approval to move forward on starting his own boxing promotion: Mayweather Promotions. 

Logically, that should have resulted in serious questions regarding his history of out-of-the-ring violence (which most recently surfaced in May when his entourage destroyed a Fatburger during a melee with rapper T.I.). Heck, it should have at least yielded a token level of inquiry regarding his ability to juggle the livelihoods of young fighters. Instead, the NSAC tripped over themselves fawning over the man who pays a sizable portion of their salary.

This NAC panel is very complimentary. Mayweather just got accused of being "good vicars" for Nevada, kicking off a long string of niceties.

— Chuck Mindenhall (@ChuckMindenhall) July 23, 2014

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort was also in attendance. He was there to address the random drug test he failed in February due to elevated levels of testosterone.

He had elevated levels of testosterone, of course, because he was undergoing testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which he used (and, evidently, abused) while actively avoiding the Nevada State Athletic Commission because they likely would have refused to grant a therapeutic-use exemption.

Logically, this should have led to a lengthy inquiry regarding why he needed TRT in the first place, why he hadn't fought in Nevada since 2011 or anywhere in North America since 2012. It should have led to intense discussion regarding how long a suspension and how hefty a fine he would receive.

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Instead, the NSAC gave the UFC the go-ahead to award him an immediate title fight, levied no punishment for his failed drug test or years-long gaming of the system and joked around about how he will be facing an increased drug-testing program, labeling him their "new best friend."

NSAC's Marnell to a smiling Vitor Belfort: "I consider you to be my new best friend" WHAT

— Adam Martin (@MMAdamMartin) July 23, 2014

Plenty of other boxers and fighters phoned in or appeared, and many had served prison sentences for charges ranging from possession of marijuana to driving their car through an airport. No biggy, though. The NSAC was making it rain licenses up in there!

Then came Chael Sonnen, the most despicable man to ever walk into that hall, apparently. Charged with taking legal substances he legally obtained from his licensed doctors, the NSAC had the media on the edge of their seats as they discussed whether they should ban him from competing for two years or life.

To say the NSAC was disproportionately harsh on Sonnen would be a profound understatement. Sonnen did not dispute the allegations against him, admitting to taking HGH, EPO, hCG, clomiphene and anastrozole and actively avoided opportunities to defend his actions. 

Considering there was basically no discussion between opening statements and the ayes and nays for any other business during the hearing, all involved parties should have been out in time for brunch.

Not so, however, as each individual commissioner and each individual expert witness stepped on top of Sonnen's Dogeza-ing back and took the opportunity to build their own brand. Each made sure to throw out words like "steroids," "deceive" and "cheater," and comparisons to disgraced athletes like Manny Ramirez and Lance Armstrong were made.

The NSAC wanted to send a message here, of course. They are cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs. Raking Sonnen over the coals during a broadcast hearing sends a big message.

That's what they wanted to say. What they really said was they are going after users harder than ever...as long as it doesn't cost them much money.

Sonnen retired from MMA in June. While he may or may not have been planning a comeback, his days as one of MMA's biggest draws by a sizable margin are definitively a thing of the past. That isn't the case with Mayweather or Belfort, though. 

The NSAC's preferential treatment of Floyd Mayweather, who brings the state tens of millions of dollars every time he fights, is well-established and was best demonstrated when he was licensed to face Miguel Cotto as he was also gearing up for a prison sentence for slapping around his girlfriend. They also gave Vitor Belfort a free pass after Belfort's lawyer floated out the UFC was prepared to offer him a lucrative title fight opposite Chris Weidman.

Andre Penner/Associated Press

Sonnen, however, was an easy target. More importantly, he was a cheap target.

Make no mistake, Sonnen deserved to be raked over the coals. There shouldn't be a place in this sport for fighters who use HGH and EPO, but the NSAC decided to both have and eat its proverbial cake on Wednesday.

They could have turned the boxing world upside down by holding Mayweather to the same standards as any other fighter, but they didn't. They could have set a new standard for toughness on fighters by pulling a title shot away from somebody who actively gamed the system, but they didn't. Instead, they opted to take the man who had the weakest career footing and bury him alive.

Maybe I'm just naive in my belief in things like equal treatment and the integrity of the sport, but that doesn't sit well with me.