TRT Delenda Est: Thoughts On The Aftermath
Reaction One: Wow, What?
As I have witnessed mixed martial arts coalesce and grow over the past seven years, there has been a notable fall in the number of truly shocking news items to drop without so much as a preview. Historically, that moment, for me, will always revolve around a job I had running conference calls at a third-party vendor in 2008 – I believe that the company still runs Zuffa media calls, among other prominent companies – following Brock Lesnar’s victory over Heath Herring at UFC 87. At the time, Randy Couture seemed fully prepared and willing to take his contract dispute with Zuffa (centered around Randy’s desire to fight Fedor Emelianenko in Affliction and Randy’s position as the UFC Heavyweight Champion) to court, having seen his “no, really, I’m retired” gambit fail to win any adherents. On that day, I was on that call as a second, helping to route lines and prepare the room for Q&A when an incoming line came in – one that had been given the special number routing him/her directly to the operator running the conference.
It was Randy Couture.
I leaked the news on Fightlinker, which I believe was the first site to have the news. Things like that just don’t happen nowadays. The Bellator offer to Gilbert Melendez (and Melendez signing it) was surprising, as was Zuffa’s decision to match, but neither was unprecedented nor gobsmackingly out of place after Strikeforce’s pursuit of Dan Henderson. Yesterday’s decision by the NSAC to categorically ban therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy, effective immediately, was both. Its unexpected nature brought me back to another time. That was the single most surprising bit of MMA news I’d heard since the Strikeforce purchase…
Reaction Two: What Now?
…until, of course, Vitor Belfort broke his brief silence on the decision and announced that he would be pulling out of his late May date with Chris Weidman for the middleweight strap.
How many times can you recall a fighter pulling out of a title fight, three months out, due to a change in AC protocol?
I was powerfully incorrect on Untethered MMA yesterday when I predicted that the fight would happen as scheduled; the only silver lining is that I was only wrong for a few hours. Those, like me, predicting that Belfort would soldier on can’t entirely be blamed when one considers the evidence at our disposal. Belfort’s steadfast (as of this writing) refusal to bash the NSAC for their decision – or, incidentally, turn over any of the enhanced testing that accompanied his TUE for TRT, as there is no longer a TUE for which to apply – has raised a lot of eyebrows thus far, but I fail to see what Belfort is supposed to be doing today. Should he be apologizing for taking advantage of a legal protocol? Should he be spitting fire at the athletic commission for forcing him to (in his own words) fight at “a disadvantage”? Why, now that their temporary goals have been satisfied, do hardcore MMA fans feel the need to continue to pile on Vitor Belfort?
Reaction Three: Is This Really Good News?
MMA fighters receiving TUEs for TRT were the most tested combat sports athletes; now, that category of enhanced, out of competition testing is kaput, and the ACs will necessarily administer fewer tests as a result. Seeing as how their testosterone/epitestosterone ratio was in no way more lenient than non-TUE recipients, those fighters are, essentially, freer to spike their hormone levels even higher in between fights, secure in the knowledge that the only drug test they have to pass is the last one.
The “explosive” ESPN OTL piece, authored by Mike Fish, has received a great deal of credit for prodding the NSAC to act (although rumors, after the fact, have the move to ban TRT beginning in earnest almost as soon as Keith Kizer vacated his chair). It is, however, the other information in that story that both intrigues me and casts a pall on the new TRT ban:
- MLB admits that it has issued six TUEs for TRT over the last six years (to approximately 1,200 players – minor leaguers are not MLBPA members) as they simultaneously prosecute Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and others for steroid abuse.
- The NFL would NOT ADMIT how many TUEs for TRT it had issued, using “very rare” and “a handful” to describe the number of instances since 1990.
The only conclusion one can draw from this data is that, yes, there are in fact professional athletes outside of mixed martial arts that have been granted TRT by the Big Four sports leagues. Are their doctors scam artists, too? Are these leagues facilitating and promoting the use of testosterone replacement therapy? Dave Meltzer’s concerns with the NSAC’s decision were immediate:
Finally brought up guys will use it but not apply, but never got discussed.
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) February 27, 2014
Complete ban, even those granted in the past, there’s a real issue with that
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) February 27, 2014
And here’s SBN’s Luke Thomas putting his stethoscope on to diagnose a man he’s never met with endocrine knowledge he’s never received:
— Luke Thomas (@SBNLukeThomas) February 27, 2014
I’m sorry, I didn’t know people could fake acromegaly.
Of course, the sanctimonious voices celebrating this “victory” were only happy for about 37 seconds. Weidman/Machida hadn’t even been announced before the focus moved to carbon isotope ratio testing, year-round out of competition testing and biological passports. Almost instantly, they were calling it a “red herring” “PR move” that would do nothing to clean up the sport.
Then why did you spend the last year-plus vociferously acting like TRT was corrosive and evil?
If this is how the hardcore MMA fan treats a victory, I’d hate to see how they take a loss.