One More Opinion on TRT in MMA

One More Opinion on TRT in MMA

Irrationality is only so frustrating because of its pervasiveness. If it were a little more isolated, I think we could stomp it out in short order. If you speak rationally to most irrational people, they’ll go back to their equally illogical feedback loops they’ve created in order to justify their preprogrammed beliefs. They may consider what you’ve said, but will be fooled by the numerous derisively nonsensical criticisms of their cohorts. Thus the potential convert to the church of the painful truth is once again plastered securely back inside the brick wall of indifferent complacency.

However, imagine a world where you could take these illogical folks and speak good sense to them on a constant basis. Replacing the foolish ideas spouted by those who wish to control men, with the eloquent council of those who would enlighten them. It’s a happy fantasy that I don’t have much hope of seeing. Although it is certainly more possible now than ever before.

The problem with good sense is that it necessitates standards, which isn’t too popular in today’s culture. Contemporary wisdom says that everything must be flexible, open to compromise. It is holy writ that there should be no absolutes and that each man is in possession of his own truth.

High-minded ideas, but ultimately irrational.

Morality is a necessity for human advancement. If you have no absolutes, then you can have no morality. There must be a set standard by which we judge humanity. Otherwise you have a system that looks a lot like ours does now. A system where men live under laws so convoluted and deformed that one’s innocence or guilt isn’t so much a statement of fact, but more a presentation of social pull.

Let’s examine an example, shall we? P.E.D.’s or performance enhancing drugs. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it represents any chemically active substance that can be considered as giving a participant in an athletic competition an edge over his opponents.

Let’s be more specific.

P.E.D.’s in MMA connote banned substances and their legal counterparts, such as steroids and Testosterone Replacement Therapy, respectively. Recently, there has been a sort of firestorm going on in the UFC in regards to the use of P.E.D.’s. It has a long history, but the current controversy revolves around a few characters. The two I would like to address first are Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Allistair Overeem. These are a pair of the scariest men on the planet. Both are beasts, close to the pinnacle of human physicality. Both got busted for PED’s.

Rampage suffered a knee injury, and rather than dropping out of a fight in his former stomping grounds of Japan, he opted to take TRT. This is somewhat of an admirable act since he was doing it for the fans. Unfortunately, during the fight it became apparent that his knee was still a wreck. He was lumbering slowly and ineffectively into his opponent, Ryan Bader’s offence. Not only that, but he came into the fight significantly overweight. The really big problem though was he didn’t go through the proper channels to get it done. He went to some back alley doctor, who more than likely performs illegal abortions with coat hangers and vacuums, got a schoolboy’s excuse note, presented it to the principal, (Dana white) and claimed it was all legit.

And it was legit in Japan, I guess. Because he wasn’t suspended, not officially anyway. Let’s be clear though. He did NOT have a proper medical exemption for TRT in place before his fight, and was therefore using a banned substance to gain an unfair advantage without any worthwhile claims to the contrary. So this is a case of an athlete doing something that is clearly prohibited and getting away with it by misrepresenting circumstance.

Alistair Overeem is a similar case. He dodged a bullet by avoiding a random drug test before his fight with Brock Lesnar, but couldn’t make lightning strike twice before his match with Junior Dos Santos. Which royally pissed me off because, in my mind that would have been the most intriguing heavyweight title fight ever. Two supremely talented strikers that weigh a combined 500 lbs! Boxing vs. Muay Thai! Stylistic wet dream match-up to say the least. But I digress.

Now Overeem’s excuse is that he also had an old injury flare up, so he went to a doctor who prescribed him synthetic testosterone to help heal more quickly. Again, this was a somewhat questionable doctor and he did not go through the proper channels. Unfortunately for the Reem, his situation differed from Rampage’s in that he was supposed to fight in Vegas, where we have laws. The NSAC, or Nevada State Athletic Commission, handed Overeem a 9 month suspension for blowing a big money fight and making everybody look bad. Seems unfair compared to Rampage’s complete lack of disciplinary action. But Rampage was not a main event, so I reckon we can let it slide.

See where a standard of values might be nice here? Having two fighters making the same mistake and treating them differently based solely on location and marketability is clearly not a fair situation. Wait though, it gets better.

Let’s move on to Nick Diaz, who tested positive for Marijuana metabolites. Marijuana isn’t really even considered a PED in the first place, but it’s still a banned substance within competition. However, this is not the same as testing positive for Marijuana. There was no actual THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the sticky icky, in Nick Diaz’ system. There was only evidence that there had been Marijuana in Nick’s body at some point prior to his drug test, no clear timeline when. So here’s the thing: that’s not illegal. You can have all the metabolites in your system you want. It’s not against the law.

Another layer on the unjustly accused cake, Diaz has a medical marijuana prescription in his state of residence, California. So he was caught having legal remnants of a drug he legally uses for medical purposes. He presents all of this as evidence in a hearing with the NSAC. He very reasonably explains his case and maintains that he has done nothing illegal whatsoever. So does he get the same treatment as Overeem? Nope. 12 month suspension and a giant portion of his purse from his fight was seized from him by the government. For doing things he’s supposed to be allowed to do. Kind of an unbalanced picture is beginning to emerge.

Next on the list is Chael Sonnen. A particularly interesting case with many twists and turns. Chael was originally busted for using TRT after a post fight drug test. He was suspended a year, and fined much like Diaz. I don’t think Sonnen was fined near as much though. This is odd, because his was a much bigger fight, and the circumstances surrounding his case are much foggier than with Diaz.

It’s been pretty well documented that Sonnen flat out lied about some meetings he had with NSAC officials. These are meetings he apparently imagined. They found out his T/E ratio was 16/1. If you’re not familiar with the stats, that’s a staggering number. He got a year off and a fine. I suppose you could call this the standard treatment. Now, upon his return, he actually has received an exemption for TRT use. The exemption was procured through the proper channels, and as a result Sonnen will be fighting Anderson Silva a second time juiced out of his fucking mind. Gotta love those doctor’s notes.

Then there’s Dan Henderson who damaged his body’s endocrine system with years of overtraining and weight cutting. Not to mention the dude is middle-aged competing with 20-somethings. Nobody makes as much testosterone when they’re older, but we have to level the playing field right? His body legitimately can’t produce as much testosterone as it needs to train, compete, and recover. But thanks to TRT, here he is at 41 years old fighting for the light heavyweight title, and looking way more jacked than he did at 33. Miracle of modern science, or sportsmanship abomination? What a tangled web we weave…

Then there’s the most vocal opponent of PED use in MMA: the heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos. If you don’t know much about the guy, he’s probably the sweetest and alternatively the scariest human being on the planet. He grew up humble and poor, worked his way through the ranks to becoming the best in the world, and now shares his success with his impoverished countrymen. He even went so far as to fly a young boy’s entire family to Las Vegas for his last title defense. The kid asked if he could watch his hero defend the title, and the soft hearted assassin obliged. He expedited all of their passports, bought their luggage, and paid for their plane tickets out of pocket. Then after knocking the consciousness straight out of Frank Mir’s skull, he puts the boy on his shoulders in front of 16,000 plus people and dedicates the performance to him. This guy is like the world’s biggest Brazilian boy scout.

Anyway, Dos Santos has taken a lot of issues with the growing number of TRT violations. Even going so far as to demand a blood test from Overeem should they be matched up a second time after his suspension is up. He has a point too. He’s never been busted for PED’s and he’s the champion in the biggest weight class there is. He was able to reach the pinnacle of his sport without the use of any banned substance. Living proof that with hard work, positive thinking, and humility that anything is possible.

Of course, that kind of discounts him being a physical phenom, born with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. But the fact remains he is a super friendly, straight shooting, and charismatic champion. That’s a hell of a lot easier to package than a steroid abusing monster Dutchman. However, if that monster Dutchman had never abused steroids, he’d likely still be a middle of the road light heavyweight, with a history of getting knocked out by the elite guys. Now because of PED’s Overeem is a top 3 heavyweight in the world, and a huge draw. Like the man’s methods or not, he’s still extremely profitable and popular. If he hadn’t abused steroids, we the fans, would be missing out on a high level competitor.

It’s a very complicated issue to say the least, and I’m not here to pronounce blame or innocence on the fighters. They are acting within a system that incentivizes cheating. These guys are busting their asses every day to push their bodies to new extremes and gain a little bit of an edge over their competition. How can you blame someone for taking something medically safe, which improves their performance in a life or death struggle? I think some of these circumstances are easier to swallow than others, but in the end they’re all taking advantage of the same loopholes. Except Diaz, who should be reimbursed and exonerated.

What irks me is the constant double standard placed on one fighter or another, because of a slightly more believable lie, a somewhat more reputable doctor, or just plain happenstance. The responsibility lies, as usual, with a pompous and infallible government body. In this case, the NSAC.

The UFC could and should have some alternative in place for dealing with drug testing to avoid government intervention. The problem is big brother is still super fucking nosy and has a vested interest in “fair play.” It ends up being a catch 22 for the UFC. They really need these exemptions to keep their athletes healthy, but end up having botched cards and tons of suspensions because of a system with no transparency, accountability, or efficacy. It’s simply in place to keep the masses placated, and to ensure moochers with little to no understanding of the sport are employed making major decisions affecting it. These same moochers are depriving us of excellent fights, and forcing athletes to sit on the sidelines for entire years of their primes. These are precious years, which can never be returned. Just ask Tyson or Ali.  It’s a frustrating situation no matter how you look at it.

At some point we as fans are going to have to decide whether or not out of competition PED’s should be allowed. After all, everything these men do to their bodies is for our benefit. Don’t we owe them some sort of accountability? Don’t get confused, they are ultimately responsible for every decision regarding their physical health, and it isn’t our duty to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do with their bodies. But I think it is our responsibility to let them know what their actions mean to us.

Now at this point, if you’re a casual fan or a complete layman in the sport, I recommend you tune out these next few paragraphs. They don’t have much to do with you. The people that should be concerned with this issue are those who are interested in the sport’s longevity and prominence.

For the sake of full disclosure I’ll let my own opinion known right here, but I must stress that I think every true fan needs to form an opinion on this issue. It is one of the most controversial subjects facing the sport today, and one that is extremely convoluted to boot. I think and feel that everything an athlete puts into his/her body is a performance affecting substance. If it doesn’t positively affect your performance, then you probably shouldn’t be putting it into you. Or if it has long term health effects that could damage your body later in life, it should probably be avoided. I think this is all a part of fight preparation.

There is no full proof way to avoid abuses in competition. Unless you take a blood test right before and after they step into the cage, there’s going to be some monkey business somewhere along the line. That being said, I think the fighter has to weigh the pros and cons for himself and decide based on his best interests.

I honestly wish I could agree with Dos Santos, but I don’t see the world as that black and white. The health and longevity benefits of PED’s shouldn’t be overlooked. They should be regulated responsibly by an impartial governing body that actually has some unified standard of looking at the problem. That’s my opinion and I haven’t the slightest idea on how one would go about executing it. So I really am just another voice in the crowd offering complaints and no solutions. But if you’ve read this far, that must have some redeeming value, right?

Either for recovery or for training, it’s important to establish what is acceptable and what’s not. Should we allow the miraculous power of science into the so-called purity of athletic competition? Are we standing against the forces of evolution by not doing so? Or should it all be banned outright? Do we draw the line and state to the world that God gives you a certain amount of natural ability, and it’s up to you to transcend that deficit with hard work and technicality? Whatever your answer is, I implore you to make it known. One thing is for sure, you can never count on anyone to come up with the right solution, because that’s hardly ever the motive for a culture that doesn’t recognize right or wrong as anything but subjective terms.