Less than two weeks ago, the main event of UFC on Versus 4 was turned on its head when it was announced that Nate Marquardt had failed his medicals and would not only be scratched from the headlining bout, but would "never fight for the UFC again."
Since then, fans have been subjected to much speculation, including Marquardt issuing a teary-eyed interview on "The MMA Hour," explaining himself and his use of testosterone replacement therapy, something Chael Sonnen made famous after testing hot after UFC 117.
State athletic commissions, too, have had to deal with the issue and its legality, including New Jersey, which knew about Marquardt's testosterone treatment prior to his UFC 128 fight against Dan Miller and still allowed him to compete.
On Monday night's episode of Pro MMA Radio, New Jersey Athletic Commission counselman Nick Lembo discussed in detail how everything played out and what led up to the final test that caught Marquardt red-handed.
This is a can't miss interview and he starts from the beginning below:
Pro MMA Radio: To take people back, Nate comes to you for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) and the thereputic use exemption would allow him to test for certain banned substances etcetera and be excused for that. He's scheduled to fight Dan Miller in New Jersey at UFC 128 in March. When does he first approach you? Take me through that process. What does he supply you? Take me from there for starters.
Nick Lembo: The fight, I believe was March 19, 2011, and he approached us on February 11, that's when everything started ... He's providing medical documentation, medical records and medical advice records ... The first contact on this was from Nate directly and then the records were sent from Nate's doctor ... I know he wasn't a board certified endocrinologist, that I do know. That was one of the requirements that our reviewing physicians had.
Pro MMA Radio: He said that there were things in the paperwork that you guys weren't satisfied with. What was it with the paperwork that led you not to grant the TUE initially?
Nick Lembo: One of the things was that he did see a board certified endocrinologist and that he come off treatment for a minimum of two months and that we had more of a background and medical record at the time ... That's a medical requirement. It helps to ensure that there's an actual need for this treatment as opposed to other instances and situations where you can get your testosterone low and make it appear you need this therapy when you really don't.
Pro MMA Radio: You turned him down initially when you got the application. Take me through exactly what you did grant him to take for the fight with Dan Miller.
Nick Lembo: The first issue is that we decided at that point in time, it was February and we can't grant the TUE because we need more documentation. Nate could have pulled out of the fight or he could have agreed to testing from that point and testing after the fight and monitoring, which ceased on June 23rd from this commission, which was a four and a half month process. Nate agreed to this testing and requirements and he was pretty compliant up until the end and basically our first concern was, people asked, "Why would you let him fight Dan Miller if you weren't sure you were going to grant him a TUE?" Again, he's getting documents from a licensed medical physician and he's a good amount of medical documentation at the time and you can monitor this because one of the things he agreed to was to be subject to random blood testing twice at times and dates of our choice. Twice before the fight, on the night of the fight and twice immediately thereafter. We decided it was something we could tell if his levels were improper or performance enhancing or outside normal limits and he agreed to that testing and did undergo that testing and was okay with that testing. He was allowed to fight Dan Miller and his fight night and post-fight testing came back as acceptable levels and that's why his decision wasn't named to a no contest. Then we began the next step, which was getting him off and complying with the rest of the requirements.
Pro MMA Radio: I want to divide this into two levels of testing. One, the testing you did in and around the fight. The week of the fight, the night of the fight and the fights right after. Was that blood testing?
Nick Lembo: Yeah, he underwent blood testing and urine testing. He had to be not at a competitive advantage against Dan Miller on March 19th and the result was not changed, which means he passed that testing.
Pro MMA Radio: Okay, so he fights Miller, he beats Miller at 128 and he does the immediate post-fight testing, but now he has the second level of testing. He's told that if he wants to be granted the TUE, part of that is he has to come off whatever he's on for an eight to 12 week period and have several blood test to determine if he really had low testosterone in the first place. Is that correct?
Nick Lembo: Yes, he had to also visit with a board certified endocrinologist of his choosing.
Pro MMA Radio: How many tests did he go through after the Miller fight? Not the immediate post-fight tests but the ones after?
Nick Lembo: Several. Not only more tests, but several more evaluations and again, Nate was compliant until the end when, as he stated, he left the treatment of the board certified endocrinologist and went back to his original physician and we had an issue with the results of a test that we'd required to be taken between June 16th and June 20th. When we got those results, that's when this unfortunate series of events followed. A TUE was never actually granted, he'd only passed the initial pre-stated requirements, the pre-established requirements for his post-fight activities that were elaborated back in late February. We had asked for more tests yet.
Pro MMA Radio: When he finished the established testing protocol and had tested within normal limits, he then went back to the original doctor for treatment and then went to the injected testosterone, which was something he said he hadn't been on before, he'd said the two prior medications were oral. The doctor has said something, I'm paraphrasing here, but something like, "with the fight only three weeks away, we'll take a more aggressive treatment," which was the injections. Did that strike the New Jersey Athletic Commission as odd, that he'd left the board certified endocrinologist and went back to the same physician that the Commission wasn't entirely satisfied with and had questions about with the initial paperwork that was submitted.
Nick Lembo: Yes.
Pro MMA Radio: Now is that what triggered wanting to take another test? Now you test Nate sometime after that and that's when the test comes back high.
Nick Lembo: I'm sure it had a place in all of it, yes.
Pro MMA Radio: Tell me about the failed test. When did that test take place and when did you get the result?
Nick Lembo: June 16th I believe the test was taken and we got the results I believe June 22nd.
Pro MMA Radio: If my memory served me right, I believe the event was June 26th so 10 days prior to Story-Marquardt, you take another blood test, which is a random blood test not in the initial series of test you told him he had to do right?
Nick Lembo: Correct
Pro MMA Radio: Okay, so he wasn't expecting the test. So you take the test on the 16th and get the results back on the 22nd and those results come back that he is high out of range. What do you do at that point? Do you deny the TUE? What happens at that point moving forward.
Nick Lembo: On the 23rd, very late in the evening on the 23rd, we placed a call to the Pennsylvania commission and we followed it up with a letter with some documentation to the medical commission, notifying them of our concerns which also included notifying them of the denial of the TUE for Nate.
Pro MMA Radio: Is Nate contacted directly or his representatives? How does that part work?
Nick Lembo: At that point in time, the immediate concern was again the health and safety of the competitors and the opponent and the integrity of the contest so it was to get this information to the Pennsylvania commission and the Pennsylvania commission notified the parties and the fighter.
Pro MMA Radio: Here's my magic question. If you grant a TUE. Is it a part of every TUE in New Jersey that fight week blood testing of levels has to occur?
Nik Lembo: That's an interesting question. There are certain people that need TUE, whether it's testosterone or Adderral of something else. But, the hard thing is, you don't just make the determination, "Okay, we've spent the proper time and testing, this person has a genuine need for it." You have to continuously follow up to make sure they're not abusing that exemption so to do it right, it's very time consuming and it's a great effort. You look at the process here of what Nate went through, he's been tested and been submitted to medical exams, evaluations and documentation from late February to mid June. It's a long process. You've still got to monitor the person, you've still got to follow up. You can't give them an exact date. Who knows. Whatever the doctors want for whatever reason based on each specific case and circumstance. Unfortunately with the TUEs, they are ripe for abuse and that's a problem. That being said, there's still a lot of commissions unlike states like Nevada, New Jersey and California that don't do any drug testing at all and don't do any blood testing at all. Once you grant a TUE, you're responsible for that person whether they're in your jurisdiction or another jurisdiction.
So what do you think Maniacs?
Did New Jersey do the right thing? Are they not getting enough credit for doing all the legwork that caught Nate Marquardt? Should testosterone replacement therapy be allowed at all, even with fighters who have naturally low levels?
For more from Nick Lembo, check out the replay of MMAmania.com's exclusive presentation of Pro MMA Radio right here.