One thing that most mixed martial arts (MMA) fans have come to accept is that there will always be performance enhancing drug (PED) usage in the sport. While the fighters are tested to whatever standard is set by the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC), it doesn't take a genius to realize that despite some positive tests, there are many who slip through the cracks.
The latest appears to be testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which is used to help males normalize if their levels of testosterone are below a 1:1 Testosteron to Epitestosterone ratio. It's a completely legal treatment in the United States as long as you can find both an endocrinologist and clinic that will give you treatments.
There's just a few problems.
The first is that that ratio tends to drop naturally as an adult male gets older. The second is that there are many different things that can affect that ratio artificially. The first is stress, which is a completely natural way for levels to drop. But, more important, past PED usage, which raises a body's testosterone levels, can cause the body to stop producing the hormone later in life.
Again, that's important to note as a reason many athletes take steroids is because it allows them to train harder and longer. The biggest physical benefit is that the body recovers quicker, thus allowing more physical exertion. But, there's also the psychological benefit of knowing you're an absolute beast in the gym.
The list of fighters who have applied for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) has grown over the years. Dan Henderson was one of the first. Then Chael Sonnen made TRT the sexy new abbreviation after testing for an insane 16.9:1 ratio following his first loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 117.
The latest has been 36-year-old Vitor Belfort, who initially attempted to avoid answering any questions regarding his use of TRT, but now credits the therapy as just leveling the playing field for him and his opponents. The issue for many is Belfort's positive test for 4-Hydroxytestosterone following Pride 32 in Las Vegas, Nevada, several years ago.
UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo recently spoke with Tatame, one of Brazil's premiere sources for MMA news, about PED usage in MMA. The first detail of note is that it's his belief that PED usage is a lot more widespread than many believe. The other is that he doesn't believe Randy Couture was always "The Natural."
"Randy Couture fought until he was 50, and you say he was clean? If the doctors prescribe you and you’re on the limits, OK, I see no problem."
Couture's MMA career lasted an astonishing 14 years. In that time, he fought all over the world and never once tested positive by an athletic commission. However, in Aldo's mind, if there was ever a fighter who would be a candidate for TRT, it would be Couture. He was a champion well into his 40's and competed at the highest level before retiring at 47 years old.
And he owes it all to a custom supplement program, not PEDs or TRT, whether Aldo -- or most MMA fans -- are willing to accept it.