Chael Sonnen on TRT Ban: “I May Have to Stop the Sport, and It’s as Simple as That”

March 8, 2014
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Chael Sonnen UFC 167 Post_9376The Nevada State Athletic Commission recently voted unanimously to ban applications for therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy for combat sports athletes competing in its state.

That is something that could force the retirement of several fighters, including Chael Sonnen, who is slated to face Wanderlei Silva at The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 Finale on May 31.

Sonnen, while revealing that retirement is a very real possibility for him, hasn’t yet given up hope, mostly because it’s too soon after the ruling to determine the road that lies ahead.

“There’s a lot of moving parts. I don’t have all the information,” said Sonnen on UFC Tonight on Wednesday. “The bottom line is that testosterone is out.” (Watch Sonnen’s interview here.)

Testosterone being out has already forced one major change for the UFC. The promotion pulled Vitor Belfort out of his UFC 173 challenge of middleweight champion Chris Weidman, citing too many risks in promoting a pay-per-view fight that may or may not face licensing issues.

Although Sonnen is scheduled to fight just a week after the date of the fight that Belfort was pulled from, he doesn’t face the same hurdles in licensing. Belfort had failed a performance-enhancing drug test in the past in Nevada and had recently undergone an out-of-competition drug test for which results have not been publicly shared, so there are potential stumbling blocks in him getting licensed in Nevada. The UFC didn’t feel it could take that risk.

But like Belfort, Sonnen faces the issue of having to adjust to training and competing without supplemental testosterone, which is something that he’s not yet sure he can do.

“I’ve had to stop testosterone with the hope that we can find a new way to gain results of upping testosterone and staying at a healthy level,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, I may have to stop the sport and it’s as simple as that.”

While many would argue that TRT is just leveling the playing field for athletes who, for whatever reason, have low levels of testosterone, others would argue just as vociferously that TRT is performance enhancing, even if only to bring a low testosterone level into what is considered a normal range.

At the end of the day, Sonnen says, it doesn’t matter what side of that argument you fall on.

“What we do know is testosterone is out,” he continued. “You can’t use it any more. We’re not talking about illegal substances here. We’re talking about perfectly legal things, but that doesn’t mean you can do it in sport.

“You have a license to fight. A person in this country can consume alcohol if they’re over 21 years of age. That doesn’t mean they can drive a car. And if they do those two things, they will have their license pulled because it’s a privileged license.”

It is, however, too soon to know if it will retire him or other fighters, as the ruling in Nevada came a mere week ago, and everyone is still scrambling to get as much information as possible in how to deal with the change.

As Sonnen said, if a fighter needed to be on TRT, it’s disingenuous for him to simply say that he can just stop using it and continue fighting without skipping a beat.

“The problem is it’s a little bit early,” Sonnen continued. “I don’t know myself. I have to sit down with my team, not only with management and understand the rules, but we also then have to talk with doctors.

“If this retires guys then it retires guys. The rules are the rules.”

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  • shelby


  • Darin

    I guess I don’t fully understand TRT. If someone has testosterone levels that are low enough to present a health hazard, wouldn’t a doctor give them just enough to keep them healthy, and not enough to be competitive as a professional athlete in what is one of the most physically demanding sports?

    If I have a disability that hinders my ability to walk, and there is a medication that helps with it, a doctor is going to give me enough to be mobile, not enough to be an olympic sprinter.

    Shouldn’t Belfort and Sonnen look like average guys? They’re both physical beasts, Sonnen looks like a body builder before he cuts for a fight.

    • Fern

      Doesn’t work that way.
      Testosterone REPLACEMENT therapy ensures that you have the upper most limit of allowed T in your body pretty much at all times. This bypasses the natural fluctuations you would get without injecting an endogenous substance and will dramatically improve strength, endurance and muscle, joint and bone recovery during training; therefore giving you an unnatural advantage.

      Your body’s T drops quite significantly after very rigorous training. This is because the body is in shock/survival mode and applies any and all energy left in your system to only your bodies most vital functions and organs; and synthesizing more hormones such as T that are responsible for building bigger/stronger muscles definitely is not on that list of survival priorities.

      However if you inject yourself with T, than you will counteract the natural drop in levels during training and won’t suffer as much from muscle degradation that is normally the case with rigorous physical exertion.

      There is also a giant mental advantage with TRT that people don’t often mention. You know your always at the peak of your performance, so this allows you to feel better mentally and train even harder knowing in the back of your mind that your recovery will be a breeze.

      • dgs

        So you’re saying, there is NO way someone with abnormally low TRT levels can be on TRT therapy, and have it mimic the way TRT behaves in the body naturally? I thought the whole point of TRT replacement therapy was to get a man with abnormally low levels to the level of a “normal” man. I view this as no different than someone tearing their ACL and having it repaired so that it functions like a normal person’s. Just like testosterone, it functioned normally at one point, and now it no longer does, so should it not be allowed to be repaired? Yes, a professional athlete replacing the leg with a bionic one wouldn’t be cool, put getting the ACL to operate as it once did should not be a problem, no?
        Keep in mind, I’m not being argumentative or sarcastic, this is an honest question. I have never shot anything into my body, so I’m no expert at all on things like steroids or TRT therapy.

        • MikeMcK

          Someone who gets the concept. The people who are attacking TRT are really just attacking the people who are abusing it. I’ll grant them that those people usually believe that they are all abusing it. Which could actually be true, but you shouldn’t risk the health of a few, just so you can be lazy and not police the ones breaking rules. (Nsac)
          The “just ban it” concept is the same idea that supported prohibition. Just because some people who do something are irresponsible doesn’t mean you ban the something they do.
          Those guys will easily find something else to be irresponsible with.

          • Fern

            No one is risking the health of these people. The commission doesn’t tell people what they can use in their private lives, they are just saying they think its unfair for competition.

            People like Vitor, Sonnen and all the rest will need to be on TRT for the rest of their lives because their endocrine systems have been permanently damaged (most likely self induced, its highly unlikely that it was an accident). Sonnen was correct in saying that if he doesn’t use TRT he will “die”. HIs levels are so low that he will eventually see major organ failure if he is not on TRT. The commission is simply saying, go live your normal healthy life with whatever prescription you need to stay healthy, but you just can’t compete.

            They are not being “lazy” as you suggest. Its an informed decision based on the risks during competition at such a high level.

          • MikeMcK

            I’ll agree that they are not directly hurting anyone. Creating a situation in which you know will temp people to harm themselves is debated as irresponsible all the time. Creating the situation of weight cutting would be much higher on the list than banning TRT. People have different views.

            However the “lazy” comment was absolutely correct. The nsac themselves said one of the reason for voting for the ban was because policing it would put a drain on their resources. There are people who believe they “know” that TRT gives an unfair advantage. The commission as a whole believes that in certain instances it “could.” They just choose to not use resources to find out, or police people using it. I define that as lazy. If you do not, then we interpret the dictionary differently.

          • L

            Exactly, you drive the problem underground, and now the only difference is, PEDs will cost more, be more experimental, and you will have to look harder to find a doc who will provide it.

        • Fern

          You’re somewhat correct in that prescribed TRT is trying to mimic normal levels of T in a male however,
          Mens’ T levels drop significantly after age 30. If you are on TRT after the age of 30, your T levels are going to be one of a normal male in their twenties. It wouldn’t make sense to go through a therapy only to have levels of a 40 year old. So the dosage given is one to maintain you at a young man’s level. This is also why non athlete men engage in TRT; to maintain that vigor of their youth (among other reasons).

          Its an issue of consistency as well. For example I have hypothyroidism and I take the thyroxin molecule to keep my thyroid stimulating hormones at normal level. However, thyroid hormone is not directly responsible for muscle building, strength and endurance. Its the biochemical nature of T that makes it an issue, and if taken consistently it can yield some tremendous results (as we’ve seen with Vitor’s “rebirth”) that otherwise, in a natural state and age, would not be there.

          The same way it would be unfair for you to kick me with your bionic leg, the same way it would be unfair for someone to go through an entire training camp injecting a hormone that is directly related to muscle recovery and growth that otherwise, because of their age, would be much less.

          When Vitor fought Rockhold, their T levels were probably the same (if not more for Vitor) where as if Vitor was not on TRT, (and assuming he didn’t abuse his endocrine system in his youth) his T levels would have been much lower than Lukes. Keep in mind you don’t need very much T to live a healthy life, but you do need a lot to be a professional athlete, and thats where the issue of fairness comes into play.

          Its not always about the end result of measuring levels either. Since your body is getting its hormone from an endogenous source, it doesn’t have to work as hard in synthesizing it. Making more room for energy to be used for other things as well.

          Its actually much more complicated than this but I’m simplifying it for the sake of this forum.

          • dgs

            Hey, thank you for the thorough reply.

            I do wonder what repercussions this is going to have on the sport? I guess it’s really going to be a young man’s sport now more than ever.

      • Darin

        Probably the most intelligent post on this page.

        • L

          Lionel Messi, widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all-time, has been using HGH since he was 14.

          I say let everyone (who is willing to ‘risk’ it) use HGH and T.

    • TheCerealKiller

      Ignore all they say and look at athletes of the past…

    • Mark McDowall

      Belfort is a unique case because he was caught with steroids in his system by the NSAC. Steroid abuse is one of the most common reasons for needing TRY later in life. He is a physical beast now…but…will that continue after he’s off the TRT…only time will tell.

      • MuayThaiFood

        Yes, unique in that he was caught, not unique in that he used steroids. There are other fighters who have been caught using steroids that are not on TRT so it’s possible that he either doesn’t really need it or that if he does it’s got nothing to do with the fact that he was popped for steroids.

        • Mark McDowall

          Agreed…but one of the most common needs for TRT is previous extensive steroid abuse.

          • robc

            Or drastic weight cutting… which most wrestling based fighters have done for years. Sonnen is from a wrestling background as is Henderson. Not saying that is the sole reason they need TRT but it can definitely be a big factor. Pretty much every fighter in the UFC cuts weights (except most of the heavyweights and even some of them do). I’d say that is the most common.

          • Mark McDowall

            That would make sense…but then what about guys like Evans, Bader, DC, Maynard, Hendricks etc etc…they don’t need it and they were all D1 and or olympic wrestlers. It could very well be a valid argument…but then you would think that eventually everyone who is in the UFC would need TRT eventually.

    • MikeMcK

      A doctors job is to put people in the best possible health. Medicine and sports shouldn’t have anything to do with each other.
      With TRT the doctors are suppose to try and put them at the healthiest levels. Not an arbitrary number set by an athletic commission.

      The guy above is explaining what guys do who are being dishonest.
      We don’t ban banks because people rob them.
      Banning TRT may persuade guys to risk health to fight.
      People are afraid a guy like Vitor might end up having twice the testosterone levels of a guy like weidman. However those same people don’t seem to mind Vitor fighting with half the testosterone of weidman.
      I’m guessing people are just bad with math.

      • Darin

        “We don’t ban banks because people rob them.” Irrelevant Analogy of the Year.

  • Done

    Nothing to see.. Lets all move along now.

  • TheCerealKiller


  • Mark McDowall

    The ONLY guy that is in the UFC that NEEDS TRT is BigFoot. Sonnen, Hendon etc could have naturally low T levels…OK fine…that just means your body isn’t cut out for you to continue fighting. A lot of men have low T levels when they get older…regardless of what they did in previous years that may or may not have caused it…who cares…The rule is now NO TRT….so they either fight with out it or they don’t fight. People can piss and moan all they like…unless you have a vote on the NSAC it doesn’t mean anything.

    • MikeMcK

      Just curious? Did you ever piss and moan about the use of TRT before the ban?

    • Rick

      Chael actually suffers from hypergonadism…are you stupid?

      • shogunvsgsp

        That’s the opposite of what Chael has dude. It’s hypogonadism. Are YOU stupid?

      • Mark McDowall

        And lets find out why he suffers from HYPOgonadism…

        So feel sorry for him all you like…but there are plenty of articles out there from REAL doctors that say the same thing about Sonnen.

        • TheCerealKiller

          Stop making sense Mark, their heads will explode.

          • Mark McDowall

            God forbid we use facts to argue our points on here!! I may have just lost my fan boy card…

      • YellowMonkey

        Insert foot into mouth.

    • AssPopper

      Of course you know this because you are a physician, dumbass.

      • Mark McDowall

        No I’m not a doctor…but if you do 5 minutes worth of research you can find numerous doctors…one of whom works for the UFC…say that because of Bigfoots previous medical issues he requires it to live. Sonnen for example…will survive if he doesn’t take it. Bigfoot would most likely die.

      • Pat Garret

        Luv your screen name.

  • George Sperry

    Now if they can just get him to stop shouting on the pre and post event shows…

  • AssPopper

    It’s futile for MMA fans, who are all retarded, to try to understand medicine.

    • Darin

      Odd, that a non-MMA fan would be on a MMA website, huh Mr. AssPopper?

      • DamianCross

        Don’t mind AssPopper, he’s Joe Rogan.

  • Jon Doe

    There are a few problems with TRT
    1. Testosterone levels can be artificially lowered.
    2. Testosterone levels reduces with age, its natural, its a part of life. We all would love to be in our 20’s forever but unfortunately we can not. When your times up, its up
    3. TRT can be abused rather easily, just like any other prescription drug people tend to use more than they should. There is absolutely no way to test for for levels unless mandated randomly and that is just not feasible. Time, cost, schedules, UFC overseas now, other orgs. They dont have the money or the man power like the NFL to stay on everyone. This is the truth

    • shogunvsgsp

      I disagree with the “when your time is up, it’s up” comment. I’m completely against testosterone usage in sports, but there is nothing wrong with using it outside of competition. Doctors have been trying to find the right blend of hormones to help women through the aging process for years. If TRT can reduce the negative effects of aging in men, that’s a good thing. But not in competitive sports.

      • Jon Doe

        Of course, your body, your decisions you can smoke crack for all I care. I was speaking in reference to the sport. Running Backs wear out at 30 but I bet they sure would like to hit 35. As for me personally I will do everything in my power to stay primed as long as possible. As long as I am not hurting anyone or anything my business is mine.


    They can go join Bellator or WSOF & fight in the states/city’s that alow TRT. ***The TRT League*** `_`

  • guest1

    What’s wrong with some off you…always pissed off at the world.

    • guest1

      *of you*

  • does it matter

    Nevada state Athletic Commission will change their mind when everyone fights somnehwere else and they lose all that $$$$

    • Piotr

      Except for the fact that everyone is doing away with TRT now.

  • brad king

    too bad for all those roiders now they will have to find a new line of work seeing that they wont have the “edge” no more.