David Williams: Nate Marquardt & the issue of accepting responsibility (he claims his hypogonadism is from concussions)
By Zach Arnold | July 24, 2011
On June 28th, two days after being removed from the main event of UFC on Versus 4, Nate Marquardt made an appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to explain why he had been suspended and subsequently released by the UFC. It was a lengthy, emotional interview in which Marquardt explained that he had been sluggish and irritable as a result of low testosterone levels. According to Marquardt, his doctor recommended testosterone replacement therapy to return his testosterone levels to normal. After beating Dan Miller at UFC 128, the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board requested that Marquardt stop his treatment for a period of time to ensure that Marquardt needed the therapy. After his testosterone levels declined again, Marquardt’s doctor recommended more aggressive treatment in the form of an injection. This injection caused Marquardt’s testosterone levels to be too high, and in the lead up to Marquardt’s scheduled fight against Rick Story, Marquardt was unable to get his levels back to the acceptable range. The result was Marquardt’s release from the UFC. On numerous occasions during the interview, both Marquardt and his manager, Lex McMahon, emphasized that Marquardt was at least taking full responsibility for what took place.
The problem is that Marquardt didn’t take full responsibility for what took place. In fact, Marquardt took responsibility for everything except the actual part that broke the rules. For that, the blame was placed squarely on the shoulders of this anonymous doctor, whose terrible, horrible, no good, very bad advice was really what led to this mess in the first place. Never mind that Marquardt had tested positive for steroid abuse following his win against Ivan Salaverry in August 2005, and that his prior steroid abuse may have caused him to have low testosterone levels to begin with. Never mind the questionable logic of the idea that testosterone replacement therapy should be applied “more aggressively.” Marquardt is only to blame for miscommunication, not actually cheating in any way. But hey, at least Marquardt is taking full responsibility, right?
If taking responsibility had a dollar value in sports, its value would probably be negative. Sadly, the sports world has a long list of players, coaches, and owners who have obtained better positions and made more money by denying reality as opposed to taking responsibility.
Take, for instance, the pathetic saga that is Frank McCourt’s ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s a complicated story with many confusing details, so I’ll do my best to summarize what’s taken place. (For a detailed version, I recommend Larry Behrendt’s terrific piece here.) McCourt, and his wife, Jamie, purchased the team in 2004 entirely with loans. They proceeded to use the Dodgers as their personal slush fund, doing this by splitting the organization into over 20 separate businesses, and charging the team rent to play in its own stadium. This money was funneled into expenses such as multiple Los Angeles mansions, an exclusive hairdresser, and a Russian spirit healer, just to name a few examples.
Recently, after the McCourts divorced each other, and so many embarrassing details of their ownership were made public, the Dodgers have suddenly had significant difficulties in making payroll, despite having Major League Baseball’s 11th highest payroll in its second-largest media market. To prevent the control of his team being seized by MLB, Frank McCourt instead opted to enter the Dodgers into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in which he could secure debtor-in-possession financing to operate the team even more. A recent report by Sportsbybrooks.com stated that MLB contacted sports and entertainment company AEG, inquiring about the possibility of constructing a downtown Los Angeles stadium for the Dodgers. The reason? Even if MLB was to successfully seize control of the team, McCourt would still own Dodger Stadium and the land it resides on.
For the McCourts, taking responsibility would have meant that, you know, perhaps one mansion would have been enough. Maybe there wasn’t a need to split the Dodgers into over 20 separate businesses. Perhaps Jamie could’ve had her hair done by an expensive stylist on something less than a daily basis. Maybe their son could’ve done just fine without $300,000 to go on top of a salary working for Goldman Sachs. Of course, that just wouldn’t do for the McCourts. They’ve opted instead to deny reality, and this denial only led to a lavish lifestyle and an iron grip on Dodger Stadium and Chavez Ravine. So what if the Dodgers are $525 million in debt?
The McCourts are only one source of sporting controversy in Los Angeles. USC football head coach Pete Carroll insisted for years that he wasn’t interested in coaching in the NFL. Year after year, teams had inquired about Carroll’s interest in a head coaching position, only for Carroll to turn them down. However, as soon as it appeared that the NCAA was poised to sanction USC for improper benefits given to running back Reggie Bush and his family, Carroll suddenly accepted a head coaching position for the Seattle Seahawks, saying that the job offer “came out of nowhere.”
John Calipari has mastered the art of benefiting from dishonesty. Calipari has taken two college basketball programs – the University of Massachusetts and the University of Memphis – from relative obscurity to becoming national powerhouses. On both occasions, Calipari conveniently left to take a higher-profile position, first by going from Massachusetts to the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, later by leaving Memphis to coach the University of Kentucky. As it turns out, Calipari reaped the benefits of players like Marcus Camby receiving improper benefits, without suffering the resulting consequences.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the caricature that is Chael Sonnen. After being suspended by the California State Athletic Commission for high testosterone levels following his UFC 117 match against Anderson Silva, Sonnen appeared before the commission to appeal his suspension. He claimed that he suffered from the effects of hypogonadism, and needed testosterone replacement therapy, or else he would have the testosterone production of an old man. He further explained that he disclosed his usage of this therapy to George Dodd prior to his fight against Silva, and that he had disclosed to Keith Kizer that he had undergone TRT as well. This was enough for the CSAC to reduce Sonnen’s suspension from 12 months to 6 months.
After Kizer denied that he had ever spoken to either Sonnen or Sonnen’s manager about TRT, the CSAC decided to place Sonnen back on suspension, to be lifted upon the expiration of Sonnen’s license to fight on June 29th. Ultimately, for making a mockery of the CSAC appeal process, Sonnen effectively was able to reduce his suspension despite the extended suspension imposed by the CSAC.
What happens when a fighter takes responsibility for his actions? Ask Thiago Silva, a fighter who was suspended by the NSAC for providing a drug test sample that was “inconsistent with human urine.” After being suspended, Silva admitted to MMA Junkie that he knowingly broke the rules and was taking prohibited substances to treat a back injury. By doing this, all Silva did was ensure that his original 12-month suspension would be upheld.
As it turns out, Nate Marquardt’s suspension by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission lasted less than a month. Now, he’s signed with BAMMA to begin what Lex McMahon calls Marquardt’s “path to redemption.” While Marquardt is hardly going unpunished, the script has already been written for Marquardt to make a triumphant return to grace. It’s a story that wouldn’t be possible if Marquardt had, for instance, admitted to cheating and been suspended for 12 months. After all, taking responsibility – full responsibility – is for losers. As so many sports figures have demonstrated, pretending to take responsibility while denying any actual wrongdoing is the way to go.
Nate Marquardt on concussions causing low testosterone & God’s role in this latest predicament
NATE MARQUARDT: “The main thing to see is that the whole time the commission I knew I was on treatment. It wasn’t a question of whether or not I was supposed to be on treatment or not. I was disclosing everything to the UFC, I was disclosing everything to the athletic commission, and the problem came that I had to go on a new treatment three weeks out from my fight and the reason you monitor your levels is because they go up and down and because of the new treatment we didn’t have the amounts set right and basically I tested high. It was slightly over what the commission was going to let me fight at and, you know, my fight got pulled. But the whole time I’ve been, you know, very candid and disclosed everything with the commission, the UFC, and anyone that needs to know and I’ve done everything under the care of a doctor and done everything that the doctor said, so.”
RON KRUCK: “So, Nate, are you still doing TRT and have you stayed with the doctors that have prescribed this treatment for you since this whole situation has occurred?”
NATE MARQUARDT: “Well, I am currently transferring my medical records over to a new doctor but, yes, I went back on my old treatment which was a milder treatment, there’s no injections, and so, you know, I am going to have to use Hormone Replacement Therapy because an endocrinologist basically told me I have to.”
RON KRUCK: “Will this be for the rest of your life you’ll be doing this treatment?”
NATE MARQUARDT: “I assume, I assume, unless there’s for some chance, you know, something that caused this that’s outside of, you know, normal things that can happen. From what I understand, my condition is a secondary hypogonadism and this condition is not caused by past steroid use as some people are accusing me of. It’s a condition, when you use steroids it shuts off your testicles and my testicles work. It’s something behind that, it’s something in my brain, whether it’s my pituitary or something else that’s causing this and one of the leading causes of low testosterone in athletes is concussions and head trauma and, you know, I would assume there’s a good chance that’s where I got it. You know, I’ve been training for 17 years. You know, I spar with heavyweights, I spar with world class boxers, I mean there’s a good chance that’s what this is.”
RON KRUCK: “We had a urologist on Inside MMA, Dr. Nickolas Tomasic, and he had mentioned that comment that low testosterone is often caused by prior steroid use. So, set the record straight, that is not the situation?”
NATE MARQUARDT: “That is not the situation at all. I went on treatment less than a year ago and I’ve been fighting in the UFC since 2005, so every fight I’m getting tested and anything that I would be taking would show up. So, I mean, this is a recent thing and, you know, that’s not the case at all.”
RON KRUCK: “You’ve been criticized very harshly by many in the MMA world. When you look at the timeline of events that has taken us to where we are today, what if anything would you have done differently?”
NATE MARQUARDT: “The main thing I would have differently is, you know, been overly cautious about making sure that I was getting the blood test within the first week of the treatment. The problem is I did it two weeks from the beginning of treatment and, at that time, it had already ramped up enough to where it didn’t come down in time for the weigh-ins. Fight day, it was in mid-range, I was fine on fight day, but weigh-in day it was slight over, it was 20 points over what they were going to allow me.”
RON KRUCK: “Basically, bad timing.”
NATE MARQUARDT: “Bad timing and, like I said you know, I accept responsibility. I should have been, you know, paranoid about it. I should have said, no, doctor, I need to get my blood tested this week and make sure, you know, if I have to take another one next week, whatever we have to do to make sure my levels are within range.”
RON KRUCK: “Nate, some fighters specifically BJ Penn, Hector Lombard, Ben Askren, Paul Daley, they have really come out and called you out. Do you have a specific message for them?”
NATE MARQUARDT: “Well, yeah, I mean… I don’t have a problem with anybody calling me out but it’s the fashion they did it in. These guys are kicking me when I’m down, they’re calling me a cheater. Any way they can get in a low blow, they’re doing it and they just don’t have their fact straights. They’re ignorant. They’re idiots, and I want to fight them.
“I put that on Twitter, I said get a fight set up and it that doesn’t happen, I’ll come to your gym, you come to mine, I don’t care. Let’s do it, man. Let’s ’spar.’”
RON KRUCK: “Nate, in 2005, you tested positive during a post-fight drug test. You were suspended by the Nevada (State) Athletic Commission. You’ve always maintained that was caused from an over-the-counter supplement you were taking, but can you understand that there will be critics that look at that past event and say… you know, he’s failed one drug test before, what makes this any different?” Do you understand that criticism?”
NATE MARQUARDT: “For sure, I understand that. That was my first fight in the UFC and it was my first drug test I had to take. I was taking an OTC supplement that basically, uh… has the metabolite of a steroid, so I tested positive for the metabolite which means the steroid breaks down into this form and my supplement had that in it. That specific steroid, if I was taking it, can stay in your system up to a year and a half and, uh, I tested less than a week later and came up negative. I basically proved to the commission, to the UFC that I was taking the OTC supplement, it wasn’t a steroid and, you know, that’s another reason why my suspension was lifted with no fine.”
RON KRUCK: “There are those who say you, the athlete, are ultimately responsible for what goes in your system. How do you respond to that?”
NATE MARQUARDT: “That’s 100% correct. I mean… man, if I had to do it over again, I would know what to do but, you know, I made mistakes, I’m human. I paid for it, so…”
NATE MARQUARDT: “This situation made me look at what was going on and I looked at the situation and I’m like, why am I being punished? Is God punishing me for something I did? And, you know, I look at that and I don’t see anything that I was doing wrong. If I was being punished, I would know why. So, in my opinion, this happens for a reason. God is letting this happen to me and there’s a reason and I don’t know if it’s because he wants me to fight in another organization, if he wants me to come back at a later time to the UFC, I don’t know. But, you know, that’s where I put my trust right now and, you know, I look forward and, you know, I have a positive attitude right now.”
RON KRUCK: “Has this tested your faith a little bit?”
NATE MARQUARDT: “Oh, definitely. You know, it’s actually made my faith very strong because that’s all I have.”
NATE MARQUARDT: “In a situation like this, you find out who your true friends are and also, you know, it makes you realize what you do have and, you know, my family is such a great blessing for me. It’s crazy, you know, for your career to, you can say one day it went down the tubes but I still have so many things and I still have so much opportunity, I’m very blessed. So, it definitely makes you look at those things.”
RON KRUCK: “Nate, you have had fighters supporting you but more importantly you have had a lot of fans that have come out and supported you as well. Do you have a specific message for them?”
NATE MARQUARDT: “I mean, yeah, my fans have been so great. I have so many very loyal fans and, you know, I just I really appreciate it. It really does make a difference. I mean, just thousands and thousands of fan sticking up for me, it means a lot to me and, you know, also my sponsors, my teammates, and my management, they’re all very supportive and I appreciate it.”