Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), is silently stirring up a storm in MMA. Many star fighters are getting licensed to use TRT, while other fighters, such as Tito Ortiz, are making very strong statements and urging the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) to stop granting exemptions. TRT has become an issue that must be addressed. Testosterone replacement therapy, a treatment to counter the effects of hypogonadism, is meant for use by middle-aged men who are declining in their body’s ability to produce a normal amount of testosterone, not for world class athletes who are in tremendous shape.
The first major case of an MMA star using TRT was Chael Sonnen, who tested positive and did not have an exemption. He received a 6-month suspension for the failed drug test, and more recently was granted an exemption for the drug to compete against Anderson Silva at UFC 148. According to BJPenn.com, Bloody Elbow interviewed highly touted MMA doctor Johnny Benjamin, and he stated, “if he has hypogonadism, it’s from one thing and one thing only; because he treated himself with steroids in the past and wrecked his testes. That’s it”. The question ultimately brought to the table, is: How many more fighters the commission will grant exemptions to before they realize these fighters shouldn’t be using it at all? Fighters such as Sonnen, Rampage Jackson, and Forrest Griffin have all been linked with exemptions. From a fan’s standpoint, none of these men seem to be lacking in testosterone, especially as we watch them grind through training camp, flex at a weigh-in, and go 3-5 rounds in a fight.
Most MMA fans aware of the TRT issue are in an uproar. They ask, ‘Where do you draw the line?’. The NSAC and other responsible parties are allowing athletes to use a drug that is an illegal substance, and to most considered a steroid. In the long run, these ‘exempted’ athletes are gaining an edge over their opponent. From an interview with Fighters Only Magazine, Rampage Jackson stated:
“I almost pulled out but then I went to see the doctor and he told me to talk to an age-management doctor. So I went and talked to them and they tested me and said my testosterone was low; they prescribed me testosterone, to bring my testosterone levels back up to levels where I can be like… so that I am the same as young people, like when I was 25, and it would help build my knee up. I hurt my knee like a month ago and I only did three shots of testosterone but it put a lot of weight on me, a lot of muscle on me but it healed me knee up good enough to where I could fight.”
Is it really fair for fighters who are at the end of their career, or have used steroids before, to be using a drug that makes them feel like they are 25? There is no early indication that exemptions and usage of TRT will stop, and if it does not, when will a fighter’s ‘prime’ really ever end? Dan Henderson, a known TRT user, is 41 years old, and he has shown no signs of slowing down. I’d venture to say he is feeling young again, as he in line to fight for the light heavyweight title of the UFC in 2 months.
There is no spot in MMA for this drug. A fighter that is granted an exemption for TRT has either taken steroids before, or are looking to extend their careers. If an athlete desires to take TRT for medical reasons upon retirement, then he or she should do so. Fighters such as Jackson and Henderson, already posses advantages in experience and fighting wisdom, to also “feel like they’re 25 again” is ludicrous. Honestly, I feel bad for the younger guys coming up, and aging fighters who are actually feeling old.
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