Dr. John Pierce (pictured), an anti-aging doctor who has been linked to middleweight title contender Vitor Belfort, has apparently had multiple fighters inform him that they would rather go to the black market for performance-enhancing drugs, than get a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) for testosterone.
And now that the TUE program has been shut down? Dr. Pierce tells MMAJunkie – in a rather candid interview – that he believes those fighters will now go another route; the illicit route.
“What they’ve in essence done is taken people that were forthright about their usage of testosterone for a medical purpose and punished them for it,” Pierce told MMAjunkie. “That makes no sense because, bottom line, it’s going to happen.
“Instead of having a physician involved in the care of a patient – monitoring their levels, where you’re getting a test all the time, much more so than you would a normal patient because of the nature of their work – you’re going to get people doing it underground, using black market steroids, not bio-identical hormones that have not been tested. They could potentially get themselves sick injecting themselves with whatever.
“And then, at that juncture, they’re cheating because they’re not being forthright about it.”
MMAJunkie went on to ask Pierce if the now-defunct TUE program was actually helping athletes come out of the shadows of the black market, and into the offices of medical professionals. And while Pierce hadn’t spoken to any athletes first-hand that had benefitted in such a way from the TUE program, he did say that “It had the potential to do that, and in my experience, it did do that.” Pierce added “I actually have had people tell me that doing it the illicit way was much easier. They wouldn’t even consider doing it the legal way, because it would be much easier to do it the illicit way. They wouldn’t be under as much scrutiny.”
In the case of TRT’s most talked-about fighter, Vitor Belfort? Pierce told MMAjunkie he could not confirm he treated Belfort due to medical privacy laws. But Pierce was able to speak on the biggest “foul” that TUE detractors cite, when speaking about Belfort: the belief that past steroid abuse triggers the low-T condition, and is one of the main causes for athletes to need a TUE in the first place.
“[The link between previous steroid use and low testosterone is] the biggest crock of nonsense I’ve ever heard.”, Pierce told MMAJunkie. Pierce also backed a colleague’s study, in which a link between head trauma and low testosterone is being looked at; an interesting – and plausible – possibility, considering the nature of the sport in which TRT is most often used. (Although one would have to wonder why the sport of boxing and football fail to see as many TUE exemptions being offered up, if this were the case.)
And what about Belfort’s abilities, before and after TRT?
“Is [Belfort’s] level of performance going to drop? I don’t know,” Pierce said. “That all depends on his training. Does testosterone help? Absolutely. Can he still function and perform? Absolutely. Will his testosterone levels be where they were when he was on testosterone therapy? Who knows. The idea is that if he’s truly hypogonadal and incapable of producing that on his own, and he needs exogenous testosterone to maintain a decent level, then he won’t be able to get to those levels. So there’s going to be some adjustment. But as with anybody in the world, we have the ability to adapt.”
When MMAJunkie pressed Pierce for a comment on whether Belfort should continue to compete or not, he mentioned that Belfort (or any other fighter using TRT) would be at a “marked disadvantage” if he is to fight at a level below those accepted by endocrinology experts.
“Everybody who likes NASCAR, it would be like when you start with NASCAR, this is car that you can get, and you can’t change it. So 10 years down the road, the new rookie comes in, and he’s got a car that’s brand new, and you can’t beat him. Why? I’m a better driver, I’m better than everybody. He’s got a better machine. To me, athletes are machines. You’re asking for a high level of performance from them at all times. It makes it more difficult for them, but it doesn’t make it impossible.
“I truly hope for [Belfort’s] sake that he can compete at the same level, and then all the naysayers can just button their lips and say no more. Because it seems to me that everybody’s trying to take away from this particular individual’s accomplishments, and all the time and effort that he’s put into his career.”John Pierce, middleweight, mma, MMA NEWS, PED, TRT, TUE, ufc, ufc news, Vitor Belfort