This week the most stigmatized fighter for past Testosterone Replacement Therapy use, Vitor Belfort, denied any wrongdoing being quoted as saying that he never fought while on TRT “without approval of a commission and the UFC“.
Belfort goes on to note that “fourteen guys” on the UFC’s roster were also on TRT and were presumably granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the otherwise prohibited performance enhancing drug.
When Athletic Commissions, (or the UFC directly in jurisdictions where an anti-doping policy was missing from the regulatory scheme such as Ontario) grant a therapeutic use exemption for a prohibited drug it is not meant to be a rubber stamp process. Under Nevada law, for example, (also the framework the UFC supposedly used when self regulating events) WADA standards have to be used for TUE’s to be granted. The WADA test is as follows –
1. “The Athlete would experience a significant impairment to health if
the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method were to be withheld in
the course of treating an acute or chronic medical condition.” (Article
4.1 a. of the International Standard for TUEs.)
2. “The Therapeutic Use of the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited
Method would produce no additional enhancement of performance
other than that which might be anticipated by a return to a state of
normal health following the treatment of a legitimate medical
3. “There is no reasonable Therapeutic alternative to the Use of the
otherwise Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method.” (Article 4.1
c of the International Standard for TUEs.)
4. “The necessity for the Use of the otherwise Prohibited Substance or
Prohibited Method cannot be a consequence, wholly or in part, of
prior non-Therapeutic Use of any Substance from the Prohibited
List.” (Article 4.1 d. of the International Standard for TUEs.)
Let’s assume that Belfort and every other athlete granted a TRT TUE legitimately needed one and did not mislead athletic commissions to allow them to take otherwise banned performance enhancing drugs. How can any of these athletes continue to be fit to be licensed by an Athletic Commission?
Athletic Commissions exist first and foremost for athlete safety. If an athlete is suffering from a “significant impairment to health” and can no longer take the only “reasonable” medication for their condition they are by any sensible standard unfit to fight. Unless former TRT users had their past ‘medical conditions‘ coincidentally cured at the same time that TRT became prohibited then none of these athletes should be fit for a fighter licence.
If, on the other hand, athletes are prepared to admit they never needed TRT and lied to athletic commissions to receive a TUE then that ought bring its own repercussions.