Thursday, 11 February 2016 04:00

Boxing and MMA | Is Testosterone Replacement Therapy the Wave of the Future or Cheating?

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A controversy dominating the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a procedure known as Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).

TRT is a medical procedure that treats low testosterone males.

As a man grows older, the level of testosterone in his body gradually declines. This decline, which occurs naturally, starts in the late 30s and continues throughout life.

High profile MMA fighters Frank Mir, 33, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, 34, and Forrest Griffin, 33, are just a few of the many fighters who have been cleared by doctors for Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).

How can these professional athletes, all in the same sport, just happen to be suffering from a condition that's not typical in men under 40?

The benefits of testosterone therapy are tempting, and include:

  • Memory enhancement
  • Aggression
  • Increase in sex drive, decreased sperm production
  • Increased lean muscle
  • Decreased body fat and
  • Higher energy levels

Can some of TRT's benefits, such as increased muscle and elevated energy levels, give fighters an unfair advantage?

Many have mixed feelings about the procedure including the ultimate flip-flopper himself, UFC president Dana White. He recently told Fox Sport's MMA Intensity:

Pictured: UFC President Dana White
Courtesy of Daniel Henderson, Sherdog 


"Here's the thing about TRT. It's absolutely 100% legal. As sports medicine continues to advance, this is one of those things where every guy's testosterone level starts to drop as they get older and this is basically sports science now where they can bring it back up to a normal level. And I think it's great, it's absolutely fair, it's legal."

But UFC's president, in stark contrast to his more recent statements, told ESPN a month ago, "If you don't abuse stuff earlier in your career, you'll never need to use that kind of junk."

FEB 17, 2013 UPDATE: Since this article's publish, White has had a change of heart.

If you asked me three months ago, it's legal. It's sports science, but everybody figures out a way to take a great thing and cheat and make it bad," said White.

"Those of you who know what testosterone replacement is, if you're older, your testosterone starts to get lower. They can give you testosterone to get you back up to (the level of) a 25-year-old."

"What guys are doing, I believe guys are doing, is jacking up this stuff through the roof through their entire training camp then getting back down to normal levels right before the fight, which is cheating. I hate it. I don't like it."

"I'm going to fight it. And if you are using TRT in the UFC, we're going to start testing the (expletive) out of you, through your entire camp," White added.

MMA legend Bas Rutten, in a heated debate about the procedure with UFC veteran Dennis Hallman, said on HD Net's program Inside MMA:

"The moment you’re taking it, you’re weak in the mind, that’s what I’m saying. If it’s up to you that you have to take all that sh*t, that’s what I call it, to compete with the other ones, then don’t compete."

Hallman, who has used the procedure himself and is a very strong advocate of TRT, angrily responded, "What if you are weak in the body?" He then went on to argue his case that he is truly in need of TRT because he suffers from Celiac disease, an intestinal disease that negatively impacts testosterone production. Hallman claims fighters like himself should be able to use the procedure for medicinal purposes.

But despite Hallman's plea for understanding, many do not accept TRT in professional sports. 

On Fuel TV's program UFC Tonight, a panel of MMA fighters that included Kenny Florian, Reshad Evans, Michael Bisping, and Dominick Cruz discussed the legal implications of TRT. Kenny Florian insisted, "Either everyone should be able to use it across the board, or it should be banned."

Michael Bisping, the most vocal of the group, asserted TRT was "nonsense."

Dr. Armand Dorian, a board certified emergency physician, appeared on Spike TV's program MMA Uncensored and stated, "Some of those people have low testosterone because they were shooting up testosterone and shutting down their own ability to produce testosterone."

It's an interesting theory. After all, top UFC heavyweight contender Alistair Overreem was recently busted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for elevated levels of testosterone with a ratio of 14-to-1, well over the allowed ratio rate of 6-to-1.  

Video: SPIKE's MMA Uncensored Live: Dr. Dorian Breaks Down The TRT Issue In Sports.
Can TRT cause cancer?

As a result of Overeem's test results, the big man lost his title shot against UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos and was replaced by Frank Mir, a fighter who was, ironically, granted a therapeutic usage exemption for TRT.

Many columnists and fans believe Alistair obtained TRT while cycling off an illegal Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) that unnaturally boosted his testosterone.

Pictured: MMA Heavyweight Contender Allistar Overeem
Courtesy of Sherdog 


Although TRT has yet to infiltrate boxing, there's already been one high-profile case involving the procedure. Jr welterweight Lamont Peterson tested positive for synthetic testosterone, a form of TRT, during a random test in March. Peterson, 28, said he took synthetic testosterone as a valid treatment for abnormally low testosterone levels but his failure to notify the Nevada Athletic Commission resulted in him being stripped of his WBA 140-pound title months later.

WBO Welterweight Champion Timothy Bradley, when recently asked his thoughts on TRT by Fight Hub TV, replied, "Never heard of that."

It's quite surprising that TRT has yet to make a full transition to boxing - or has it?

Regardless, promoters and commissions should be prepared to address this very controversial procedure. MMA was seemingly caught off guard and still has yet to make any movement with regards to controlling it.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) will inevitably cause some very heated debates in boxing and the proceedure itself will surly make its way to the sport in full force if it has not already.

Mir image courtesy of Sherdog 

Video: Timothy Bradley talks Testosterone replacement therapy "It's Cheating"