Can the UFC Outright Ban TRT?

banning trt image

For those of you not up to speed on the topic, the use of TRT is generally prohibited in sanctioned MMA as the use of testosterone replacement agents runs afoul of anti-doping regulations.  There is a concern, however, that athletes are abusing a Therapeutic Use Exemption, and getting around this prohibition to gain an unfair advantage.

In Canada and the US, regulated MMA usually falls under various State and Provincial Athletic Commissions.   These often adopt or largely mirror the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances.  This, as a starting point, makes the use of TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy)  prohibited in sanctioned MMA.  The loophole, however, arises by something known as the TUE (Therpeutic Use Exemption).  You can click here to read the general guidelines for obtaining such an exemption.

The TUE, in theory, exists when a “medication an athlete is required to take to treat an illness or condition happens to fall under the Prohibited List, a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) may give that athlete the authorization to take the needed medicine.“.  Such exemptions can and have been given by various athletic commission for TRT use in MMA.  (You can click here to read a persuasive medical argument as to why the TUE for TRT should not be used in the MMA context.)

While there are various solutions to TRT abuse, such as more comprehensive athletic commission testing, given Dana White’s voiced concerns that using TRT is “cheating” and that he is “100% against TRTa question worth asking is why doesn’t the UFC, or other MMA organizations for that matter, outright ban the use of TRT?

Article VIII of the UFC’s standard fighter contract deals with “fighter’s conduct” and prohibits the use of “controlled or banned substances“.  This section can, in theory, be expanded to specifically prohibit the use of TRT in any circumstances. The stumbling block, however, lies in Human Rights Legislation.

In BC, to take one example, the Human Right’s Code prohibits discrimination in employment based on “physical disability“.  Such language is standard fare in Human Rights legislation across Canada.  If a sporting organization disallowed therapeutic use exemptions, they would likely run afoul of the protections offered by the Code.   One need look no further than Oscar Pistorius to appreciate that medical accommodation, provided it does not give a competitive advantage, is the new normal in sport.

Appreciating that this would likely bar the UFC from imposing an across the board TRT ban, the solution likely lies in testing.  One can hope that Athletic Commissions won’t allow the wool to be pulled over their eyes when it comes to reviewing TUE applications.  Subject to budgetary concerns, Athletic Commissions can also impose more vigorous testing.  Budgetary concerns are a reality, however, and this leads to the last and probably best solution – organizational testing.  There is nothing stopping the UFC and other MMA organizations from contractually mandating athlete testing.  They can be as vigorous as they want it to be.  If the UFC wants to weed out TRT abuse the power is in their hands.

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