The big news today is that the Nevada State Athletic Commission has moved unanimously to ban therapeutic use exemptions for Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). This is huge news for the world of combat sports, more specifically for the MMA and the UFC. Over the past few years we’ve seen a rise in TRT usage and lots of disputes about the possible impact of what many saw as legal steroids. Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) are very much a problem in the world of professional fighting and many saw TRT as a backdoor to using PEDs and getting a pass from Athletic Commissions to do so.
Now with TRT use being banned by the NSAC it is expected that we’ll see this become uniform among other Athletic Commissions that regulate MMA and that TRT within MMA will no longer be tolerated. For fighters who work hard to fight clean this is a huge win, as they no longer have to see the competition being allowed to use PEDs and reap the benefits while they labor away with the tools that their body has and nothing else. So in a way, banning TRT is a huge win for the sport of MMA.
Then again, those fighters who were on TRT and did have TUEs were doing so above board and were tested accordingly. Their levels had to be in line with the rules, which meant that those testing them were at least aware that they were using TRT and were able to keep them under a microscope. This decision to ban TRT could just as easily force these fighters to go from being honest and forthright about their PED usage to easily finding ways to avoid the rather lacking tests that they are subjected to.
The school of thought on PEDs in sports is that only those who aren’t doing it right — or aren’t that bright — are the ones who are getting caught. In fact, a lot of fighters who are clean feel that there are a high percentage of fighters who are not clean and will never get caught for it. Most people are aware that there are masking agents that can be used to hide certain drugs from showing up in tests, or that some drugs can be cycled so that when it comes time for a test they are able to pass them without incident.
The positives that TRT and TUEs brought to the table were that these fighters who were openly using TRT were known and regulated. It meant that there was some level of transparency to the whole thing, that opponents knew what they were getting into against an opponent with a TUE. It also meant that Athletic Commissions knew how to work with fighters on TRT, when to test them, what their levels were and what to be looking for. Taking TRT usage away just means that the few flashlights that they had in the dark just burnt out and they are once again fumbling around without a clue.
This is also a negative for those fighters who do have legitimate health needs for TRT. The general school of thought of TRT in MMA is that low testosterone levels can come from strenuous weight cuts or past steroid abuse. There are of course real needs for TRT at times and this effectively means that those arguments will no longer be heard.
What is clear from all of this is that MMA fighters need to be held to a higher level of scrutiny when it comes to PEDs, which means random, out-of-competition testing and more stringent tests for a wider array of possible drugs. This, of course, costs money, which the states are not going to pay for and most promoters don’t want to have to pay for, leaving where the money would come from as the biggest question mark. The banning of TRT was an interesting first step in combating PED usage in combat sports, but if nothing else happens it is only a public relations gesture and nothing more.