Remember the days when UFC and other Mixed Martial Arts athletes were legally allowed to use steroids (testosterone)?
If not here’s a brief reminder. Athletes wanted exogenous testosterone. A prohibited substance both in and out of competition. The loophole? They would tell athletic commissions (or the UFC in events they self regulate) that they suffered from chronic medical conditions and needed testosterone on a therapeutic basis otherwise it was unsafe for them to compete. Under Nevada law an exemption could not be provided unless the athlete would suffer a”significant impairment to health if the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method were to be withheld”.
Now that the testosterone era is largely in the rear view mirror there are skeletons lingering. The biggest is the paper trail from all the athletes who represented that they needed the ‘Prohibited Substance‘ in order to safely compete in the sport. This paper-trail is long and spans many athletic commissions.
I have obtained, via a public documents request, the paperwork from several athletes who represented they needed testosterone to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. From a modern regulatory perspective these documents paint a troubling picture.
Some of the athletes are still competing and the question regulators must grapple with is whether these people remain fit to fight given their previous representations?
Under Nevada law (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 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.
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.
Although many of the records obtained were redacted and very well may contain troubling details,
the disclosed records reveal as follows
- NSAC TRT TUE Applications were made under penalty of perjury
- One fighter, who is still competing, told the NSAC that he has “been diagnosed with hypogonadism and have been on a medically approved regimen of testosterone replacement therapy since 2011“, had no problem obtaining medical evidence that”it is medically safe to grant….a licence in Mixed Martial Arts” after TUE’s for his medically required medicine were banned
- Another fighter told the NSAC that he was “receiving…testosterone replacement therapy for my diagnosed condition of hypogonadism with chronically low testosterone levels“. This “chronic” ailment apparently no longer needs treatment now that TRT TUE’s are banned and this fighter continues to be licenced by Athletic Commissions.
- One fighter apparently was granted a TRT TUE (or at least disclosed testosterone use to the following commissions who still licenced him to fight) by Nevada, Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, California. All jurisdiciton ripe for further public records requests to see what further details can come to light
- Many of the fighters had a letter of support for their TRT TUE request from the same physician who also represented safety to fight after TRT TUE’s were banned.
- Another fighter who claimed to suffer from hypogonadism and needed TRT presented evidence that “he is likely permanently hypogonadal” and that “(testosterone) replacement will likely continue for a lifetime” and if it were discontinued he would suffer “fatigue, weakness, memory disturbance and lack of stamina“. Once TRT TUE’s were banned the same fighter obtained a doctor’s note claiming “it is medically safe” to grant him a licence without this medicine despite a note disclosed to another commission that “It would be medically unsafe for such an individual to compete on a world class level with this magnitude of deficiency“.
- One fighter previously was given a TRT TUE (or at least disclosed testosterone use to the following commissions and was licenced) Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, Illinois, Texas.
MMA’s TRT Era has yet to be exposed to judicial scrutiny. Some fighters, such as Mark Hunt, are becoming increasingly vocal about the damage they have been exposed to by PED using opponents. If and when litigation arises the TRT TUE papers will come to light and, if the above scratch of the surface is any indication, the full records will not paint a benign picture.