By Zach Arnold | February 29, 2012
On April 9th in Sacramento, the California State Athletic Commission (Department of Consumer Affairs) will hold a hearing regarding proposed changes to Athletic Commission regulation that would allow Therapeutic Use Exemptions. What the final outcome will be, nobody is sure. Currently, public comments (e-mails, letters, etc.) are being accepted. You can send your feedback on the matter to the CSAC by finding out the appropriate information here.
Theoretically, one of the allowances of a TUE for MMA fighters could come in the form of TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy). I’m disgusted that athletic commissions allow TRT usage amongst fighters in the first place. I’ve long based this position on two factors:
1. Dr. David Black, the man involved in drug testing for both the NFL & WWE, once famously said on 60 Minutes that testosterone is the base chemical of steroids.
2. Two major factors that can lead to needing the use of testosterone amongst fighters/wrestlers is extreme weight cutting or steroid abuse that damages the endocrine system and thus leads to getting a doctor’s prescription for testosterone.
I will not make a blanket statement claiming that all TRT users in MMA previously used or currently abuse steroids. So, don’t put words in my mouth on that front. What I will definitely say is that when you have guys who are extremely muscular and put it to physical use in a cage, that’s an issue that has to be addressed.
We know the names of fighters who have been discussed in the media in relation to TRT. Chael Sonnen. Nate Marquardt. Dan Henderson. And now, you can add Rampage Jackson to the list. More on this below.
Keith Kizer came out last year during the Nate Marquardt incident and tried to make the case for how Nevada’s TUE for TRT usage works. Color me unconvinced. I believe that if you are not currently or actively fighting/training and you need to use testosterone legally, so be it. Once you are active or training again, there should be no allowance for TRT usage under any circumstances. This is fight sport, not tennis. As Victor Conte appropriately stated last year during an interview with Eddie Goldman, MMA is the hurt game. Using testosterone in a hurt game changes how much physical punishment you can inflict on an opponent. This isn’t about running faster. This is about concussing someone in the head as hard as possible during a fight.
Nevermind the fact that all the products being pushed by Big Pharma for “Low T” are being pushed to people in their late 40s or early 50s… look at what age range we are talking about for fighters wanting a TUE to use testosterone. The 18-40 year old demographic. That demographic is great for UFC to attract for a TV viewership but I don’t consider it the right demographic for active fighters to be allowed to use testosterone. Not a chance.
There are people reading this who may be using TRT but aren’t active fighters and, let me assure you, I am not attacking you. You aren’t in a cage trying to physically hurt or cripple someone.
I’m not here to push the issue of doping as one of winning or losing. This is all about safety, in my opinion. The more doping you have in the sport, the more you push the clean athletes out of it and increase the risk of fighters getting seriously hurt or even killed.
Which is why this new Rampage Jackson interview in Fighter’s Only magazine is devastating on many fronts. It’s a terrible public relations situation for UFC. It brings sunlight to an issue that desperately needs to be addressed by grown-ups and not political hacks. This goes right to the core of fighter safety.
I will blockquote some of Rampage’s comments here during the Fighter’s Only interview — but I’ve also made some screen captures in case the interview goes offline.
Elbow’s hurt, shoulder’s fucked up, wrist’s fucked up, both my knees fucked up, ankle problems. I fucked my jaw up before I fought Wanderlei and after a while its like man, I am training hard for these fights and I’ve got these injuries and at the back of my mind I’m thinking ‘I just want to retire.’
I never had surgery in my life. But I hurt this knee back in college, I hurt it before I fought Rashad and so I knew it was the same injury… a lot of fights when I am injured I don’t tell anybody but the UFC knew this time because my doctor works for the UFC. Its good that the UFC knew because they look after you, they take care of you even if its just in training. Pride didn’t do that.
I almost pulled out but then I went to see the doctor and he told me to talk to an age-management doctor. So I went and talked to them and they tested me and said my testosterone was low; they prescribed me testosterone, to bring my testosterone levels back up to levels where I can be like… so that I am the same as young people, like when I was 25, and it would help build my knee up. I hurt my knee like a month ago and I only did three shots of testosterone but it put a lot of weight on me, a lot of muscle on me but it healed me knee up good enough to where I could fight.
It was hard for me to train, it takes time to heal, I couldn’t do certain things, but this was my first time ever using testosterone. I took what the doctor prescribed to me and I went to the pharmacy… I gave myself small doses and that shit immediately changed me, that’s why I am saying now I am not going to retire. I am not gonna retire no time soon, its just unfortunate that I got this injury.
So, by this point of the interview, Rampage states his claim that he has a doctor ‘who works for the UFC’ but is smart enough to not name them in the interview… although I’m sure the guessing game online will start right about… now. Then, Rampage claims his ‘UFC doctor’ directed him to someone else and that person ended up writing up a prescription to get testosterone.
So, Rampage already has stepped into it deep here by saying his doctor supposedly works for the UFC and that this connection led him to getting approved for a testosterone prescription. Then he drops this bombshell:
So I spoke to the UFC and they were like ‘yeah, a lot of fighters are probably doing it but not telling anyone.’ Me, I keep it real, I am not doing anything wrong. Its legal and I am not abusing it and I am not going over certain levels. From what I learned about it, when I got tested my levels my levels were really low and the doctor was telling me that athletes can burn testosterone.
This, right here, is Rampage claiming that UFC, as he puts it, ‘probably’ knows that ‘a lot’ of fighters are using testosterone. Chael Sonnen did warn everyone that fighters using testosterone would keep it on the down low after his suspension.
Let’s try to look at it from another point of view here. Imagine if an football player, one of high name ID, came out and said, “Yeah, my doctor, he works for the league and they pushed me to an age-management guy to get testosterone. The league also knows that guys are using testosterone but the users don’t talk about it.” A lot of fans will say, ‘drug usage hasn’t impacted the popularity of pro-football.’ They would be right. It also doesn’t make the situation any less dangerous and acceptable, either. It should be noted that a few years ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers faced this kind of situation a couple of years ago as reported by ESPN concerning Dr. Richard Rydze. The difference here is that the ESPN report notes the claim that the doctor was accused of being a buyer of HGH & testosterone.
As you might expect, the public reaction to Rampage’s interview has not exactly been very positive. Dr. Margaret Goodman of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association issued this response to our request for comment:
It is difficult to know where to begin after reading the article on testosterone use by Quinton “Rampage” Jackson before his last fight in Japan.
- He was obviously unfit to fight due to his knee injury. So who cleared him? How could he be placed at risk?
- If what Rampage says is correct, he was given permission to fight on TRT by whom? Was this someone in the UFC?
- Who knew about it and when? What about the dangers of testosterone use, let alone the risk to the person’s opponent? What happened to fair, clean fights?
- The UFC continues to state they want a clean sport. Rampage’s statements, if true, certainly provide some contrast in the current discussion about what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
- Therapeutic Use Exemptions must be taken seriously. As is done by WADA, they take a great deal of time and expertise to determine if warranted. An athlete can’t simply say he’s been injured, is tired, or everyone is using, to get a TUE for testosterone.
If Rampage’s comments are factual, how can the public have a comfort level that UFC fights are fair when certain athletes are allowed to use certain substances and others are dropped or suspended from the organization for use? How can the organization make these determinations when certain substances should be allowed? It isn’t fair, it isn’t thorough, and it seems arbitrary.
I think MMA is a great sport. However, it cannot excel and maintain its image as a great sport with an inherently flawed PED program. Fox, Showtime and its executives should care about their public image when certain athletes are given an unfair advantage or disadvantage.
I hope Rampage’s comments are not true. If they are, there is considerable amount of explaining that needs to be done regarding his allegations as this might affect the organization’s future licensure in the US.
Bottom line, irrespective of where the UFC holds fights, whether there is a commission overseeing the bouts or not, they should run, not walk to an organization that can oversee and develop a proper PED testing program. This can only be done via an independent third party that conducts random unannounced testing year-round.
Margaret Goodman MD
VADA President and Founder
Rampage just opened a big can of worms here. How should we look at him after this interview with Fighter’s Only?