This week UFC President Dana White came out vehemently against fighters with TUEs ( Therapeutic Use Exemptions) and the overall usage of TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy). At a fan Q&A in the UK, Dana first let the cat out of the bag that he had changed his stance, and then elaborated at the post-fight press conference following UFC on Fuel 7.
"We’re gonna start testing the sh** outta you, throughout your entire camp," White advised fighters who are currently benefiting from extra testosterone between fights. He did acknowledge his past stance on the issue also.
"If you asked me three months ago, it’s legal. It’s sport science, but everybody figures out a way to take a great thing and cheat, and make it bad. I’ve seen over the last year, situations where guys…What I believe guys are doing is jacking this stuff up through the camp".
While these statements are encouraging, and are certainly the building blocks to better, more comprehensive testing for PEDs in our sport, the question remains, what made Dana change his tune? Who are these guys that he has learned are ‘making it bad’?
Dana specifically mentioned fighters who are using TRT are who he intends to "test the sh– out of", so we can exclude all of our internal assumptions about who might be using PEDs, and who has tested positive in the past. Who are the fighters then, who took this concept, one that most of the mma media and fan community already knew of, and one which has been discussed at length in forums, message boards, on mma television shows, on radio shows, and made a true believer out of Dana White?
Rampage Jackson, in a 2012 interview with Fighter’s Only, provided some fighter-insight into the TRT process, describing that he suffered from low levels, and the fact that he wanted to fight on a certain date and testosterone would enable him to heal up quicker from injury were factors in his decision. Chael Sonnen tested above the permitted ratio after his first fight with Anderson Silva, and end result was simply the capacity building for him to get approval for normal levels in the future. Frank Mir and Shane Roller also lost fights while being on TRT, causing Roller, along with Nate Marquardt, who’s past with TRT includes being cut from the UFC for being unable to level-out at the right time before a fight, to stop seeking the exemptions, and get off of TRT.
I bring up these three sets of circumstances to provide some context into things that seemingly did not dissuade Dana in his opinion, even though they ultimately served to provide glaring evidence against TRT usage. He already knew about these things. Chael was within minutes of winning a title he would have been stripped of after the fact, and he got a rematch and coaching spot on The Ultimate Fighter. Marquardt already trainwrecked that UFC on Versus main event, and has since been let back into the fold. Rampage is another fighter who didn’t win on TRT, but he exited the UFC on his own accord. So we have all these cases of TRT mishaps, and still Dana wasn’t embracing ideas like the UFC testing fighters more often, or another entity like VADA aiding the process. Something made that change, a little anyway.
One point to make before any further negative public sentiment arises is that fighters who are on the TRT program are getting tested more than non-TRT fighters, aside from the VADA fighters, which are few and far between. These are the guys who at least on some level are being upfront about their usage of testosterone, and are coming in at normal levels at given intervals. Now, that being said, ‘fight time’ testosterone levels aren’t what changed uncle Dana’s mind about the stuff.
"I don’t like to see a natural, gifted athlete go in and fight a guy who’s been jacked up on TRT for three months."
Another relevant piece of information is the very curious case of Michael Bisping, who’s three biggest losses in the UFC, all of which were in no.1 contender fights, came against fighters using TRT. Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, and most recently Vitor Belfort all defeated the Brit in situations where a win for Bisping would have led to a title fight. Bisping released a public statement on the matter after the loss which included the following excerpt:
"Over the past couple years, and even right before the fight, I have made my views on TRT very, very clear. I don’t feel that I need to go into depth about it again right now. All I have to add, about this specific instance, is that it is very disappointing that someone who was caught cheating with testosterone in the past, now gets to use testosterone legally. A well known side effect of steroids is that it reduces testosterone, so I don’t understand how it would make sense to then grant someone an exemption to then increase testosterone."
We can only assume which fighters led Dana to rethink his TRT philosophy, and it’s safe to say that even though he’s going to be targeting fighters on TRT, he is starting to see the light when it comes to the tactics involved in PED abuse, and there are probably fighters who aren’t approved for TUEs who’s recent performance and behavior influenced his decision. One thing Dana did say though, that may have been the most fruitful of all his TRT sound bytes this weekend, leads us in a certain direction:
"If your test level isn’t high enough, maybe you’re too old to fight."
Let me know what you guys think on Twitter: @mikewellman88