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Well, this is interesting. The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t grant any new therapeutic use exemptions (TUE’s) to fighters for last Saturday’s UFC 162 event but they did grant the first ever TUE for prescription opioid Suboxone to Chris Leben.
The middleweight lost a split decision to Andrew Craig at UFC 162. He has been winning an even more important battle for sobriety, however.
MMA Junkie has been following the story. “The veteran fighter’s exemption offers proof of his efforts to get clean following a well-documented struggle with drugs. In November 2011, he tested positive for oxycodone and oxymorphone following a loss to Mark Munoz at UFC 138 and was suspended by the UFC for one year. It was the second time the promotion benched him following a positive test for the synthetic anabolic stanozolol in October 2008,” they wrote.
Leben has been to rehab and says he’s been sober for fifteen months. Addiction to pain killers is one of the least-talked about pandemics in MMA so Leben deserves credit for making his struggle public.
The NSAC also deserves credit for recognizing when certain controlled substances should be allowed for use by athletes. Better that Leben take a strong opiod under a doctor’s care while during the training and fighting that causes his body pain, than he self-medicate unbeknownst to anyone.
As for his active MMA career, Leben has now lost three fights in a row, and four out of his last five. He is only thirty two years old but has been fighting professionally for eleven years and that takes a toll on the body and mind.
For his part, Dana White told reporters after UFC 162 that he is concerned for Leben, unsure if the TUF 1 veteran will be kept on in the UFC as a fighter but also seem to express a desire to help Leben stay productive and make a living. ”Chris Leben has the type of personality that can go off the deep very easily in a lot of negative ways. I really care about the kid,” White said.
“I like him a lot. I love him. So I’ve got to figure this thing out.”