TUE and PED’s: A Growing Epidemic
By Jason Kindschy
With the recent announcement that the California State Athletic Commission has amended its rulebook to allow exemptions for Medical Marijuana, and Testosterone Replacement Therapy, any fan of this sport has to be concerned with what this means for MMA.
After watching Kenny Florian make his opinion clear on PED usage in this sport, I couldn’t help but wonder what the CSAC’s recent announcement meant for this growing epidemic. Sports Illustrated reported the commission voted Monday to allow what they call a TUE, a Therapeutic Usage Exemption, to combatants for both medicinal marijuana usage, and the dreaded testosterone replacement. This amendment attempts to model the World Anti-Doping Agency’s standards for medical exemptions regarding Olympic athletes. The CSAC also made it very clear that these exemptions will only be granted to fighters who require, “medication needed to maintain health and not obtain an unfair advantage over an opponent during a match.”
I know some of you are wondering how difficult it is going to be to for a fighter to receive these exemptions.
Whether or not you believe Chael Sonnen needs PED’s to compete amongst the top fighters in the business, hypogonadism is a real condition. Hypogonadism is a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough testosterone, you could be born with hypogonadism, or develop it later in life from injury or infection. Some types of male hypogonadism can be treated with TRT. Shortly after Chael’s condition went public, other fighters came out about having the condition as well. Most notably Nate Marquardt after being cut from the UFC over an undisclosed failure to meet all the license requirements in Pennsylvania. The PA Commission was not specific about what medical requirements he failed to meet, and that he did not fail his drug test. After Nate disclosed his condition to the world, one would guess he didn’t follow PA’s regulations for such an exemption, and thus was not licensed, that is just speculation on my part though.
So there are apparently fighters who legally do use TRT and adhere to all the requirements to do so. But my next question is how does a fighter prove he has low testosterone?
This is how I have come to understand the process.
You go to your primary doctor and say you have been feeling weak and fatigued; you have an erectile issue or whatever the case is. That doctor will then say he wants to test your testosterone levels. The male human body produces its highest amount of testosterone in the morning, and it declines gradually throughout the day. So the doctor will tell the applicant to wake up early, not eat anything, and come right to his office to test the levels.
The issue with that is if the applicant wakes up lets say, 3-4 hours before the doctor asked, his levels will be lower.
After reading into this subject, I took a look at what people on the steroid forums thought of TRT. To no surprise, they all call it “legally juicing.” One user mentions that if you do a cycle of anabolic steroids without taking estrogen blockers, and wait 2-3 weeks, your testosterone levels seem very low.
Now I do not question the integrity of the CSAC by any means, but this does leave me worried about where this thing could go. How strict will the guidelines be to determine who is exempt for TRT and who isn’t? If it is really that easy to cheat, how many fighters will be lining up at the local anti-aging clinic for their treatment?
Listen, we all know these guys are competitors, and they are under a huge amount of pressure to win. So if the system makes it easy to cheat and not get caught, why would anyone play by the rules? No fighter wants to lose, and if that fighter can gain an advantage over an opponent through means that are not so honorable, but the system allows it, you can bet more fighters will be getting into TRT.
My hopes would be that the CSAC, and any other athletic commission that allows these exemptions, require incredibly strict rules for such exemptions. Like putting a cap on the allowed levels of a fighter who gets exemption, and subject them to several random drug tests throughout the year. I would also say that the CSAC should require the applicant carry a long paper trail of all their appointments, the levels at each appointment, and the levels after the treatment. Only then can they really keep this thing from becoming an epidemic.
Like Kenny Florian said, this is mixed MARTIAL ART’s. This sport is about PURE competition and also about honor. We need to hold these athletes to a higher standard that reflects the martial way. What do you guys think?