Ex Post Facto Testosterone Replacement Therapy Edition: A Week That Will Live in Infamy

March 2, 2014
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Vitor BelfortWhat a week.

During a meeting in Las Vegas on Thursday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission voted unanimously to put an end to therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy. Effective immediately, TRT is now banned in Nevada combat sports.

In the fallout of the ordeal, UFC 173 got a makeover for its main event, inserting Lyoto Machida in place of Vitor Belfort against Chris Weidman for a shot at the UFC middleweight title.

Belfort, to his indignation, has become the face of TRT, having been granted consecutive exemptions of late, which happen to coincide with a career rejuvenation. The three straight knockouts he’s recently collected – head kicks of Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and finally a rematch with Dan Henderson that led to finishes – have had the MMA community raising its collective eyebrow.

It’s become easy to question someone in Belfort’s position because TRT is a treatment that can help those with low testosterone as a result of past steroid use. In 2006, the fighter popped positive for an anabolic steroid after his Pride 32 fight with Henderson – who, coincidentally, later became a TRT user as well – and has since walked with the stigma of an association with performance-enhancing drugs.

Now that TRT is banned by Nevada, other athletic commissions, as well as the UFC, are following the state’s lead in kicking off the post-TRT era. Belfort has elected to stop utilizing the therapy and plans to now fight without the help of synthetic testosterone.

Try not to get caught up on the TRT-doesn’t-help-land-head-kicks talk because, much like Belfort’s lawyer’s opinion on the results of a drug test the fighter recently took, it’s irrelevant (for the record, the results of that test are without a doubt relevant). The fact is Belfort fought three times in Brazil, underwent a procedure that elevated his testosterone levels to a point past where his body naturally produces it, and walked away with one-sided wins over guys that were all formidable foes prior to meeting the self-proclaimed “Young Dinosaur.”

The standard for a performance-enhancing drug to be accepted inside the Octagon was set during this run, and it’s concerning.

Belfort said, according to his doctor, that he’ll need 90 days to come off his treatment for his body to adjust to the “extremely hard training routine.” Once his body has acclimated to being off the treatment, Belfort will then get a shot at the winner between Weidman and Machida.

What this basically means is Belfort will not compete with the assistance of a supplemental anabolic steroid in his system for the first time since 2012. The assumption is that he won’t be the same, and it’ll be noticeable in a five-round fight where 25 minutes may pass and exhaustion from lack of testosterone will start to show its ugly face.

But that’s the price Belfort will have to pay, and it’s for the greater good. It’s nothing against Belfort and his desire to take the steroid; it’s more so about the sport of mixed martial arts and its necessity to clean itself up. Allowing exemptions for testosterone was never a good idea for professional athletes, especially ones that are in their mid-30s or younger, which is at least 10 to 15 years before the target age for TRT patients.

If your body isn’t naturally producing the hormones it needs to compete in professional sports, and you need a performance enhancer to “even things out,” then it’s probably time to start buying three-piece suits and pick up a microphone for a post-fight career as an analyst. Word is it pays well; just ask Kenny Florian and Brian Stann.

Nevada made the best move it can make in dealing with one of the most controversial topics in combat sports, eliminating any leeway for it to be used with permission. But let’s not be naive and think this will clean up the sport. Whether or not Belfort or any other fighter was using TRT for the betterment of his health, precluding its use will not change the fact that there will still be abusers of artificial testosterone and other anabolic steroids, and until testing becomes airtight to the point of suffocation, the presence of performance-enhancing drugs will always be in sports in some facet.

Until then, those collective eyebrows will rise time and time again, wondering if something shady is going on behind the scenes. But it will no longer happen TRT with governing bodies or the sport’s largest promoter condoning it.

Baby steps.

(Follow @Erik_Fontanez on Twitter)

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  • gnodeb

    I didn’t like “legal” TRT usage and I’m glad there will be no more of it. But, while it’s tolerable that fans are talking about Belfort like he is the only who used it, I expect more from journalist.

    • Shocked_n_Awed

      So you don’t think Belfort’s the main focus of the story because he’s the one most directly impacted this week??

      C’mon, he loses his spot in a major main event fight for a championship because of this – if that doesn’t put the newsworthy spotlight on him in this story, I don’t know what does.

      • MuayThaiFood

        Problem is, Belfort was the lightning rod for this issue before the NSAC ruling. I’m quite convinced that it is his success while on TRT that has made him the focus. If someone has another theory, I’d like to hear it. I don’t agree with TRT and I’m glad for the ruling but I don’t think it’s really fair to focus on Vitor when arguably he’s not the worst offender. I’m also skeptical of the theory that past steroid abuse is the reason he has to have TRT. He’s obviously able to produce it naturally or he wouldn’t be able to compete after this ruling. What’s more likely is that he’s just not producing as much as he was when he was in his 20’s and he’s trying to turn back the clock with the TRT loophole the same way others are exploiting it. He lost to Dan Henderson in their first fight and tested positive for steroids after. They were both on TRT when they fought the 2nd time and Vitor destroys Hendo. I don’t know how TRT gets the credit for that. Hendeson was complaining that Vitor was getting the exemption before the fight but admits he doesn’t notice a real difference between being on TRT or off it. Obviously, his low T is normal for his age and not hypogonadism. Unless you argue that old age is a treatable disease then I don’t know how you can justify TRT during competition.

        • The Big G

          Mike Mckinney, your disadvantage argument is invalid. If your body does not produce enough testosterone for you to compete, you should not compete. This is especially true if you are taking TRT because of past cheating.

          Reading your posts, made my eyes bleed.

      • gnodeb

        He loses his spot while Hendo is allowed to use TRT for one more fight. Technically, Hendo is the only one who use TRT… he simply deserve spotlights…
        Just to be clear 🙂 I like Hendo way more then Vitor. This post was about journalism…

  • Cory Hurrle

    Absolutely irresponsible “journalism” here. Does the term “libel” ring a bell?

    • Shocked_n_Awed

      I’m assuming the term doesn’t mean the same to you as to a professional journalist… first of all, this piece is clearly labelled ‘editorial’, which means it’s an opinion piece, not a news piece.

      Besides that, ‘libel’ means essentially printing something that’s not true, which damages the reputation of an individual. What’s not true, and who’s reputation has been damaged here??

      If you disagree with the opinion, that’s one thing, and I’m sure your opinion would be welcomed. But to call the writer out as if he’s done something horribly wrong (which libel is), would be inaccurate and unfair. 🙂

      • Cory Hurrle

        So labeling something as “editorial” by a reporter with roughly 500 pieces on this site allows someone to disregard the rules of their profession?!? Are you defending Erik’s allegations that “…Belfort will not compete with the assistance of a supplemental anabolic steroid in his system for the first time since 2012.”?!? Belfort has passed every test for anabolic steroids since 2006. Even if MMA Weekly is protected from libel, Fontanez certainly is not.

        • Wolf Ticket

          How stupid are you? Testosterone is an anabolic steroid. TRT means you are taking anabolic steroids. What is it you don’t understand?

        • Shocked_n_Awed

          Yes, I’m defending Erik’s factual statement that, by his own admission, Belfort has used TRT since 2012 (at least). 🙂

          • Cory Hurrle

            That’s CLEARLY not what I asked and you know it. TRT is not an anabolic steroid (in general and by the NSAC’s definition) despite the fact that it has similar effects on the body.

          • Shocked_n_Awed

            You’re right, I had a smirk as I hit ‘post’. 🙂

            My whole point here is that Erik didn’t lie in his piece to besmirch the reputation of anyone, so it’s not libelous. And, since Belfort has been caught using steroids in the past, it could also be argued that you couldn’t tarnish his reputation by linking him to PEDs further than he already did to himself anyway. 🙂

          • Lucas Freire

            You know what TRT stands for, right?

        • Lucas Freire

          Dude, the fact that he didn’t fail any test doesn’t mean he wasn’t using an anabolic steroid, it simply means he wasn’t using it to go above the limits.
          For whatever reason he has low testo levels, he used synthetic testo to go up on higher levels, but still within the legal limits.

  • David

    Finally a post from MMAWEEKLY.COM. I agree with this a 100 percent. If possible can you guys have a doctor explain the risks of being off of TRT and if he was in legal limits could he still fail a test? I don’t believe Vitor of his lawyer i just wish i knew more about this subject.

  • Mike mckinney

    It’s kind of funny how this all gets treated. Very few want guys abusing any drugs, but that’s not what TRT is suppose to be about.
    If Vitor “abused” and was able to have twice the amount of testosterone as Weidmen many would consider that unfair. Now consider the ban. What if Vitor would fight with half the testosterone that weidman has? Why wouldn’t that be just as unfair?
    Everyone needs to realize almost no one is the same. Genetics play a larger role than drugs ever have. It’s never been an equal playing field.

    I’ve never understood why past use is relevant. (To getting TRT) if Vitor or others actually have a problem, why should anyone have a problem with him fixing it. Don’t trust his doctors? Have the nsac have doctors review his programs.
    Stripping someone of having better health is crazy. Especially if it’s only because the nsac is lazy, or the fans are to ignorant to understand what it is.

    • Shocked_n_Awed

      As the New Jersey commission said, if they had an applicant who needed TRT because of a war injury (an explosion causing the gonads to stop producing testosterone), or testicular cancer, that might produce a good reason for the need. This is why they’re saying they’re not going to follow suit on an outright ban. Rather, they’re going to judge on a case-by-case basis.

      Now, Vitor only needs TRT because of his past anabolic steroid use. It’s not because his body has naturally stopped producing testosterone due to an illness or injury – it’s because he already cheated. Actually, his age probably also plays a role.

      What you’re suggesting is, let’s allow people to use a substance to help them over the fact they cheated in the past. Or, use a substance to pretend time hasn’t passed, and years haven’t taken their toll on the body.

      The counter to youthful energy is experience. It’s not fair for an athlete to have both, or natural.

      • Mike mckinney

        It’s isn’t absolute fact that Vitor needs TRT because he cheated before. As you even said, it could be due to age. Though I do understand that it may be very likely from previous abuse of substances.
        The point is that it shouldn’t actually matter. If he’s currently going into the cage at a disadvantage it is just as wrong if he goes in with an advantage.
        I’m not a doctor, nor do I know all of Vitors medical history. What I am saying is its irresponsible for the NSAC to ban TRT across the board simply because they don’t want to have to do work.

        Some try to say that juicing creates a Safty risk for the opponent. Look at it this way. If weidman would be at risk if Vitor had 4x as much of a testosterone level because of juicing than Vitor would be at risk if he has 4x less than weidman. Regardless of the reason.
        I don’t have a clue if Vitor or any other fighter actually needs TRT. The nsac should be finding out though. Not just throwing their hands up because they don’t want to work, or think.

        • Cereal Killer

          Following your comments, you think everyone should have the same test levels to make it fair?

          • Mike mckinney

            It’s a bit more complicated than that. I don’t believe it is automatically unfair if someone is getting TRT. I used what I often hear others say “unfair advantage to use TRT because they’re raising T levels” to point out the reverse would have to be true.
            I can’t say that any UFC fighter should be able to use TRT. I don’t know. I do believe that its irresponsible to blindly say no one can have it regardless of their medical situation. As wrong as it is for one guy to have an advantage, it’s equally wrong if he has a disadvantage.

        • TrentSki

          Look at other sports, none of them have this trt thing, its only in mma, I think one boxer in the past 10 years got an exemption. Your talking out of your ass, it doesn’t look good

          • Mike mckinney

            I think you’re confused. What does any other sport have to do with anything?
            I will admit it doesn’t look good at all. It’s likely there’s a bunch of guys that are working the system. If people are “cheating” they should be punished.
            What the nsac did was silly. They banned something because there are people likely cheating a system. It would be like banning banks because people rob them, and police don’t want to have to catch the guys. It’s a lazy move.

          • TrentSki

            “I think you’re confused. What does any other sport have to do with anything?”
            Wow, you are confused, not bothering to read the rest of your comment

    • deepgrim

      it natural that some fighters will be at a disadvantage with their testosterone level just like it is natural that some fighters may have a disadvantage in certain skills in a fight, that the way fights are, you have just got to work around that and find a way to win.

    • Seth

      Everything that has to be said here is simple – If he fights with half of testosterone level that Chris has – that’s for a reason. Vitor was caught before cheating and that cheating process costed him lower testosterone now. Why would you want to give any kind of advantage to someone who was cheating and abusing rules set for everyone? He didn’t care about being fair in the past, so now we should care about him and his fair position? Nope. He f’d up his career on his own, I have no problem with watching him pay for his own mistakes.

      • MuayThaiFood

        Yeah, his career is really messed up. He’s most likely going to be fighting for a title this year. Sucks to be him.

        • Seth

          I was talking about him using TRT. Who knows if without it he would be able to score those 3 KOs? You don’t know. I don’t know that. He doesn’t know that. No one knows. But TRT was part of those, so you CAN NOT say that without TRT it would for sure, 100% go exact same way. Now as we speak about his BS title shot against winner of Machida/Weidman – he wouldn’t beat Weidman on TRT, so he will be smashed without it. Is it so great to be him then? You want to rank him high and give him a chance for the belt? Ok. But let him fight at least once without TRT to see how he does without it. Put him against other top contender and winner gets title shot. That would be at least fair.

          • MuayThaiFood

            Well, you said he f’d up his career and I just don’t see how. He’s fought for 2 different titles in two different weight classes and he’s on the verge of getting another title shot and somehow you can say his career is f’d up (your words, not mine). I’m sure he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
            While it’s true that nobody can say for sure what the outcomes would be if he fought those last three fights without TRT the same would be true if if fought them on TRT on a different night. I’m sure the TRT enabled him to be his best but it was his skills that put those guys out. Those kicks are a new part of his arsenal and he didn’t just magically get them when he did TRT the first time.
            You tell me I “CAN NOT say for sure that without TRT it would for sure, 100% go exact same way. That is true but then you go on to claim you have a crystal ball to tell you that he can not possibly beat Weidman. If that’s the case then you should put everything you own on that fight. I’m guessing you won’t though, so maybe nothing is a given in this sport.

          • Seth

            Well…He was using TRT during those camps. Which means his testosterone was higher than it should be at his age now and roids problems. So he had more energy, recovered faster etc. – without TRT he wouldnt be able to train so effectively as he did, which means his skills wouldnt be THAT good. So yeah – without TRT it would be completly different story.

          • Lucas Freire

            Would,could…what’s done is done, and gone. wut

            We can only think about the future, and I do believe he’ll get wrecked by any top5 MW he fights.
            But he didn’t fuck’d up his career. If he did one thing right, it was building his career. Got caught on steroids, and got up to two/three title shots.
            If I were him I wouldn’t complain about my career.

          • Seth

            Then wait till he’s next fight – if he ever make it to it – and you will see. Non-TRT Belfort is yet another vet who should retire a long time ago.

          • Lucas Freire

            Even without TRT I think he is a solid top10 on this new MW division. What you just said only proofs that he did great in his career. He should’ve retired a long time ago, but now he’ll get another title shot. You can’t say that’s a failure in his career

          • Seth

            I can, since he “earned” it on TRT. Same with Chael and his title shots and rest of the guys that fought on TRT for world belts. It’s just not fair and if you are fight fan, you should understand that unfair fight shouldn’t count.

          • Lucas Freire

            Again, Seth, it SHOULD not.
            But it does. =/

    • archaictext

      What people are saying concerning the test level issue, is that when you reach a certain point in your life, your test levels are lower than your younger opponents, but you have the experience of a veteran. People say it’s unfair for a man with 10 more years experience to be fighting with the youthful vigor and test levels of his opponent how hasn’t had the opportunity to gain that experience yet. Now, not everyone is created equal obviously, but say you make TRT ok now, but in ten years it gets banned again. The records process would get tarnished and all convoluted. It’s nonsense. Just deny TRT all together and keep it always a level playing field. You’ve got what you’ve got. If you decided to mess up your test levels by abusing steroids in the past, then that was a risk you took to reap the rewards at that time. By allowing TRT you then put pressure on all other fighters to use it as well. Just keep it as natural as possible.

  • TheCerealKiller

    “Belfort has elected to stop utilizing the therapy and plans to now fight without the help of synthetic testosterone.”

    Poor baby, F— Him!

  • Get2DaChoppa

    It doesn’t matter if it’s b/c of prior steroid use or simply getting older, the use of TRT in professional sports is BS. Anyone who uses the argument that a professional athlete should be allowed to use TRT or any other PED b/c they’re older than their competitor is a moron and lying to themselves. We all get older and yes it sucks. Sure, guys in their twenties can do things guys in their mid to late 30’s can’t…that’s not a justification to cheat that’s just the way it goes…there’s a reason people say getting older is bitch.

    Now, if Vitor wants to use TRT in his personal life b/c he can’t get it up, by all means go for it…just don’t bring it into the cage.