Testosterone Replacement Therapy for fighters and why it’s not on.
There is a burgeoning trend among MMA fighters in the last few years. Legal prescriptions for therapeutic use of synthetic testosterone. This is to make up for naturally low testosterone production.
Anyone else see this as blatant cheating?
Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) was first developed for adolescent males who’s bodies was not producing enough testosterone naturally during puberty. This is referred to as hypogonadism. Doctors then started using TRT to treat older men trying for children.
Dan Henderson represented the USA in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. He has earned multiple medals in major Greco Roman wrestling tournaments. Henderson is now on the cusp of a UFC title shot. Dan Henderson is 41 years old.
Most 41 year old guys have had at least some symptoms of middle aged kick in. Hair loss, decreased muscle mass, increased body fat etc. This is normal for most men over 40. Not Dan Henderson.
Henderson is one of the few MMA fighters to have received a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for TRT. All he has to do is pass his pre and post fight drug tests and voila, he’s cleared to fight. This is done through a process known as ‘cycling’. You estimate how long the drug will take to leave the system and simply stop using around that amount of time before the fight.
This is essentially how steroid use has worked in sports since it’s inception and banning.
Maybe Henderson can’t function without TRT. Maybe he has trouble getting out of bed every morning. Maybe he doesn’t like to see his physique changing as he ages. Maybe he wants to secure a competitive advantage over an opponent who he already has an experience and technique edge on.
Todd Duffee was granted a TUE by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. He was 24 years old at the time. Duffee has comically large muscles, even by heavyweight standards. Generally, the lighter weight class have a huge amount of weight cutting. Fighters will strictly control their diet so they can fight at their optimum weight class. Naturally, the guys will have less body fat than their heavyweight counterparts.
Heavyweight fighters can weight in anywhere from 93 to 120kg. There is no need for a fighter at 110kg to have a herculean physique. Most UFC heavyweight champions have been slightly soft. Brock Lesnar is a huge guy, 120 kilos of anger. He is not going to win Mr. Olympia.
What caused a six foot three, 115kg, 24 year old man to have a significant drop in his testosterone levels? Similarly, why should Dan Henderson deserve to compete while using TRT?
Theoretically, Joe Bloggs goes on a steroid cycle for 6 weeks. During that time, his body naturally stops producing testosterone as it’s coming in artificially. It takes a few days to a few weeks for your system to go back to producing testosterone as normal. So, Joe Bloggs could go to the doctor, claim he’s lethargic, get his levels tested and get prescribed TRT.
Perhaps Mr. Bloggs had used so much steroids for such an amount of time that his own endocrine system is messed up and he needs artificial testosterone for life to bring his levels back to those of a normal man his age.
I’m not suggesting Todd Duffee is anything like Mr. Bloggs. I don’t know his personal circumstances. However, I do know this. Drug testing in sports is used to level the playing field so to speak. TRT is being used to level the players rather than the playing field.
Being a professional athlete is not a right. It is for the small subset of people that have the physical gifts to compete at that level. Using artificial means to get there has been outlawed for decades. TRT was developed for people who need it to carry on a normal life.
It’s not to help a 41 year old man recover faster and retain the necessary muscle mass to train and compete. Similarly, it’s not for a 24 year old jacked up goliath to potentially punch someone is the face harder than he could naturally.
This culture needs to be looked at extensively. MMA, as with many contact sports puts an incredible toll on the body. If you can’t handle it, you need to find a new occupation.