Three months later, Rothwell (36-11 MMA, 6-5 UFC) can hardly contain himself as he approaches the first rematch of his 50-fight career, a second go-around with ex-UFC champ Andrei Arlovski (27-18 MMA, 16-12 UFC) at UFC on ESPN 4.
“It’s just the whole (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) thing bothered me so much,” Rothwell told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at a media day for Saturday’s event at AT&T Center. “It was just such a dark time for me, the whole situation.”
What Rothwell is referring to is a two-year suspension he served when an out-of-competition drug test revealed an “anabolic androgenic steroid of exogenous origin.” He took the punishment and returned to face former WSOF and Bellator champ Blagoi Ivanov. But Rothwell seethed at the way he and others had been treated by the UFC’s anti-doping partner.
“It was what happened after the fact with other fighters, this whole leniency and inconsistency that bothered me,” Rothwell said. “I feel most for guys like Tom Lawlor and Lyoto Machida and Josh Barnett. These guys had years taken off (their careers), and now you see other people having the same issues getting six-month suspensions. It’s just not right.”
Lawlor, Machida and Barnett all ran afoul of USADA for violating the UFC’s anti-doping program. Although their cases were all different, and Barnett managed to avoid a suspension, Rothwell believes they were treated unfairly.
On his own case, Rothwell faults USADA for not looking at the full picture. He maintains he took testosterone as part of a legitimate treatment for hypogonadism following a car accident in 1999. He received an exemption for testosterone-replacement therapy in connection with a 2013 fight, but was later suspended by the UFC for elevated levels of the hormone.
“USADA could have come out and said, ‘This is an unfortunate situation. This is what happened. But this is our regulations, and this has to be it.’ Just at least notify that hey, Ben wasn’t cheating.
“Everything changed when they started talking about levels of things. When they started saying, ‘Oh, the levels were low, it didn’t matter for these other people.’ Well, then mine should have been part of it, because there was no cheating. Everything was regulated. All the testing was done by my doctors. Everything was shown where they’re at, why they’re doing it, why the therapist couldn’t treat me, because I had physical conditions and then when that was fixed, my therapist could treat me. But by that time, USADA had already done everything.
“One of the greatest challenges of my life was getting through this. And I did. I did get through it, and I can honestly say I feel stronger than I ever had in my life.”
Now 20 years into his career as a mixed martial artist, Rothwell said he’s still learning and is in better condition than ever. Despite his challenges, he’s grateful for the UFC and all he’s been through in the sport. Even feeling like his back is against the wall, he’s more determined to show he can prevail.
Participating in a worldwide sport has given Rothwell a purpose. Without that, he said, he’d be dead or working in a factory. And he is convinced he hasn’t given his best.
“MMA saved my life, and I feel like God has given me a purpose, and I have to see it through,” he said. “And I’m not done yet. For me, it’s now or never. Back’s against the wall. You guys have seen me down and out before, but this is different.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Ben Rothwell opens up on 'dark time' after USADA suspension