Testosterone Replacement Therapy—or TRT—has become a hot button issue in the world of MMA over the last year, strangling the sport like steroids did to Major League Baseball.
Some people view it in the light that it is a necessity for those athletes who seriously need it. Others view it in a more skeptical light, saying that some of these athletes abuse the exemption by making up symptoms to bypass the red tape that separates them from a boost in testosterone.
Frank Mir reignited the flame on the topic with the news that he received a medical exemption to use TRT prior to his UFC 146 title fight with Junior dos Santos. Mir replaced Alistair Overeem in the title fight because Overeem tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.
In the week leading up to the fight, Mir declined to touch on the topic of TRT in an interview with MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani. But is Mir’s and other fighter’s usage of the therapy necessarily a bad thing?
This is a tough subject to rule on one way or the other. There are fighters who do suffer from the ailment, but for every fighter that has a perfectly valid reason to use it, there is going to be one who abuses the exemption.
Outside of Mir, there are other notable fighters that use TRT, such as current middleweight No. 1 contender Chael Sonnen, light heavyweight No. 1 contender Dan Henderson and the most infamous former user of TRT, Nate Marquardt.
Marquardt is a phenomenal fighter, but how can someone go off TRT when there is the fact that you would need TRT for the remainder of your life?
Marquardt caused a huge debacle last year about his usage of TRT that led to his firing from the UFC; he had a stint in BAMMA that saw him fight no one and now finds himself back under the Zuffa umbrella fighting for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title. During that whole episode of debates on the rights and wrongs of TRT, Marquardt talked about his usage of the therapy and how it had helped him tremendously in numerous areas that even included his marriage.
So, how could you possibly get off TRT if you have all these benefits, can have an exemption to use it and the fact that you would still need the therapy for the rest of your life?
I’m not a fan of anything that gives anyone a competitive edge, but in some cases it is hard to overlook medical illnesses for which this would be the last or only resort. Even Mir said it best on SportsNet’s UFC Central about his usage of TRT:
“I believe TRT, if it’s medically founded, I’m not here to sit there and tell someone they can or cannot do something. I think it falls under the same jurisdiction as a bronchial inhaler. If a guy has asthma—now if I were to take a bronchial inhaler, I don’t have asthma, could it help out my conditioning? Probably, from what I understand. But if you need it and you have asthma, you’re allowed to take that, right? Sounds like it falls under the same thing. It’s either all across the board we need to eliminate everything, or realize that if we’re gonna allow medical exemptions, they’re there.”
Honestly I can’t disagree there. If it is medically proven in you, then you should be allowed but only within the rules to TRT usage.
Look, I’m only 20 years old, and for me to sit here and dissect like this and give you a definite answer is tough. This topic can confuse and contort your opinion both ways, unlike that of the aforementioned steroid usage in baseball.
However, that wasn’t medically exempted; this is.
Training for a fight is tough, and I know that first hand as I’m currently training for my first amateur MMA fight within the next year. It is tiring business, and for these fighters to say that they were feeling tired and fatigued all the time I totally understand and I’m not even training as hard as any of them. I’ve played a lot of sports in my life competitively and I can’t say I’ve ever felt the way I do after training for my fight on a daily basis.
I think the commissions are right with their rulings for TRT exemptions. Until people have a complete understanding of the effects and whether it gives a competitive edge, the rulings are justified. Maybe one day when there is more information on the ins and outs of TRT in sports, I’ll come back and write something in favor of stronger and more strict rulings on what will surely be a hot topic in MMA for years to come.
Photo: Frank Mir (ProMMANow)