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« | Home | »

Five questions the media should ask about UFC testosterone story

By Zach Arnold | March 2, 2012

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“Just when they think they’ve got the answers, I change the questions.”

If you don’t know what I’m referring to in regards to Rampage Jackson admitting that he used testosterone in order to ‘heal’ in time to fight at UFC Japan, read this:

With Dana White issuing the standard, boilerplate Zuffa PR response to the controversy surrounding Rampage Jackson’s interviews with Fighter’s Only magazine in which he admits to using Testosterone Replacement Therapy to fight on last weekend’s UFC Japan show at Saitama Super Arena, I felt it was time to recalibrate the discussion that has evolved from the initial surprise towards Rampage’s comments.

The initial reaction, unfortunately and predictably, broke down into certain stages:

The end result of this chorus of reactions is that it always muddies the real issues at hand and shortens the news cycle of a story that demands more than a few hours of your attention.

So, for the purposes of our fellow MMA media & sports writers who read Rampage’s interview and aren’t sure what to say or what to pursue in regards to writing on the topic, here’s a list of five questions that everyone should be asking about in regards to the comments Rampage Jackson made during his Fighter’s Only interview.

Who is the “UFC doctor” in question and why would a fighter want to use a “UFC doctor” instead of an independent doctor?

Rampage made the claim that his doctor: a) works for the UFC and b) that this doctor tells the UFC everything.

…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.

Then note what Rampage said before he made this admission:

I really wanted to fight for the Japanese fans and so I went to see the doctor and he told me not to fight.

So, Rampage made the claim that his doctor ‘works for the UFC’ and had told him not to fight on the Japan card because of an injured knee. This is critical because it leads to the second question that needs to be asked.

Why would a “UFC doctor” tell Rampage to go see an ‘age management doctor’ for a knee injury as opposed to a doctor to get surgery?

Rampage said that this doctor told him not to fight in Japan. Then, a few comments later, Rampage made this claim:

I almost pulled out but then I went to see the doctor and he told me to talk to an age-management doctor.

So, wait a second — Rampage says his doctor, who he claims works for the UFC, initially told him he shouldn’t be fighting on the Japan card… but then this doctor in question supposedly turns around and tells Rampage to go to an ‘age-management‘ doctor instead of a sports medicine doctor to get the knee surgically fixed & cleaned up?

Testosterone… it’s not like that’s been mentioned before on a big scale in MMA besides TRT usage, right?

So, back to the original questions — what “UFC doctor” could Rampage be talking about? We’ll never know the true answer unless Rampage or UFC comes clean.

Since Rampage nor the UFC are stating who the “UFC doctor” in question is, nobody can make a positive ID here. The only “UFC doctor” that is often mentioned in MMA articles is Dr. Jeff Davidson, the ER doctor that works for the UFC.

Remember Matt Hamill fighting with his staph infection wound? In the article we wrote about this incident, Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports said that Dr. Davidson was one of three doctors who gave Hamill the green flag to fight. When Anthony Johnson missed weight for his fight last January in Brazil, Johnson’s camp said that it was ‘UFC doctor Jeff Davidson’ who instructed Johnson to take fluids after a horribly botched weight cut.

There’s no connection there in those two instances to establish that Rampage’s ‘UFC doctor’ is Dr. Davidson. I would be remiss in ignoring the highest profile mention that Dr. Davidson has had in the media in the last couple of years. You might remember Chael Sonnen and his run-in with the California State Athletic Commission over his usage of testosterone, right, in the name of TRT & hypogonadism?

It was Sonnen, during testimony to the California State Athletic Commission, that name-dropped Dr. Davidson.

The Los Angeles Times:

In addition, Sonnen said he’d previously disclosed his testosterone therapy to Dr. Jeff Davidson, who was present alongside Dr. Furness and, at one point, physically handled his paperwork. Sonnen said he believed Dr. Davidson — who he said had been present during the fighter’s past bouts in Nevada and England and had allegedly passed the fighter’s medical information onto California in 2009 to obtain his exemption — to be a CSAC doctor.

Sonnen said Dr. Davidson had also e-mailed him directly prior to his August contest to tell him he’d been “approved” to fight with the exemption still in place.

Marc Ratner, the UFC’s Vice-President of Regulatory Affairs, who was in attendance at the hearing, confirmed to the Times later that Dr. Davidson is an independent contractor hired by the promotion to assist in the medical licensing process for some events. Dr. Davidson is not a CSAC official.

ESPN:

Marc Ratner, head of regulatory affairs for UFC, previously told ESPN.com that, until Sonnen tested positive following his fifth-round loss to Silva in Oakland, Calif., Ratner had “no knowledge whatsoever” of Sonnen’s hormone therapy or a subsequent therapeutic use exemption. Ratner said if Sonnen fought in London against Demian Maia in 2009 while under the treatment of testosterone — a bout that was regulated by the UFC, which hired an independent drug-testing facility to monitor fighters — he would have known.

UFC-hired physician Jeff Davidson said in December that he learned of Sonnen’s treatments before UFC 104 in Los Angeles — Sonnen’s bout following the fight in London.

Both Sonnen and Czarnecki said they spoke with Davidson about the treatments as early as 2008. It’s unclear if anyone in the UFC was aware of Sonnen’s treatment before Davidson in advance of UFC 104, where Sonnen defeated Yushin Okami. Czarnecki also said no one outside of Davidson inquired about Sonnen’s treatments, and he was never contacted by “any state athletic commission.”

According to Davidson’s signed affidavit, the former NSAC-licensed physician told Sonnen to “make sure everyone involved with the August 2010 event was aware of his condition and approved of the course of treatment he was undergoing in advance of UFC 117.”

In regards to Rampage, who ‘tested his levels’ of testosterone for TRT usage? Was this person associated with the UFC or approved by Zuffa?

The timing certainly was interesting for this development to arise given that we didn’t have a commission like New Jersey evaluating what was going on here. What did Dr. Davidson know (if anything) about Rampage’s testosterone usage, his blood work, and the testing of the levels and/or Therapeutic Use Exemption?

The reason these questions matter is because Rampage upped the ante here by saying his ‘doctor works for UFC’ and that this doctor, instead of having Rampage go get knee surgery, allegedly sent him to an ‘age-management doctor’ instead which led to the testosterone prescription and usage. This is a serious safety issue right here.

In retrospect, it’s eerie to see how much of what Sonnen said during his CSAC testimony and in post-testimony interviews has become relevant in today’s climate. More and more fighters are starting to get outed for testosterone usage and Chael himself said that many more fighters will hide their usage now because of what he’s gone through. When you have more and more UFC events happening around the world and not in areas where there are notable Athletic Commissions, you end up with situations like the one Rampage has admitted to in his Fighter’s Only interview.

As Nate Quarry glibly stated on Spike TV last night, he’d sure as hell rather be fighting a guy who is smoking marijuana than someone who rapidly gains 15 pounds of muscle & can use it to inflict more damage upon an opponent.

Who ‘cleared’ Rampage with his knee issues given that he was such a physical wreck?

We know fighters get hurt badly in training. In pro sports, how many times have you heard reports about athletes not necessarily trusting team doctors on an initial diagnosis and end up going to an independent doctor for a second opinion on an injury? The trust factor is huge.

Would it have been in Rampage’s best interests to not fight on the Japan card and to have gotten surgery? From the comments he made during his interview, his answer would be no. From the perspective of an event promoter, losing Rampage from the semi-main event of the UFC Japan card would have been a royal pain in the ass. That’s why Rampage’s admission that his doctor ‘works for the UFC’ is a critical & important part to that Fighter’s Only interview.

It’s also the part of the story that seemingly the MMA media is entirely not focusing on here.

Who ‘regulated’ the UFC Japan show?

Did the UFC ‘regulate’ themselves or did they use a World Anti-Doping Agency body like the Japan Anti-Doping Agency (Play True Japan) help administer the drug testing of fighters at UFC Japan?

Who’s handling the UFC’s Therapeutic Use Exemeptions and bloodwork testing on shows where there aren’t athletic commissions?

Remember what Rampage said during his interview about testosterone usage amongst fighters?

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.

Oh, Rampage, you were keeping it real all right… a lot more real than you probably wish you were when you did this interview.

The online comment reaction to Rampage on ESPN over the interview has been swift & brutal. Here’s a perfect example that illustrates the credibility problem testosterone users in MMA are facing from the general public. I’d rather know everything than know nothing when it comes to this subject matter, but it doesn’t make it any more palatable for my tastes.

I warned everyone last year about The Oncoming Train Wreck in Combat Sports with the proliferation of testosterone usage. A year later, the questions I asked in 2011 are being asked in 2012.

Making the situation even more curious is the fact that Nate Marquardt claims he was using TRT while fighting for the promotion last November in Germany when he fought top UFC Middleweight contender Yushin Okami. UFC ran their own drug testing program in Germany because there’s no commission oversight. Therefore, what did UFC doctors know about Marquardt’s TRT program and how far up the chain of command did that knowledge go? Josh Gross, ESPN MMA writer, tried to get comment from Dr. Jeff Davidson, UFC’s lead doctor, and Davidson reportedly would not talk on the record. No surprise.

With more & more fighters being outed as testosterone users & UFC running more international shows, there’s going to be a breaking point where big sports media will start digging deeper into this matter. Rampage just happened to address the elephant already in the room in a much more raw & colorful manner than we could have imagined.

Topics: Japan, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 16 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

16 Responses to “Five questions the media should ask about UFC testosterone story”

  1. Mark says:

    As the best site around for investigative commentary, I am really pleased to see the attention you are driving at this issue Zach.

    As a member of a few forums and with friends who love the sport, very few people who I interact with care that fighters are using (be that TRT, HGH or steroids) and I am ofter hear / read comments of ’so what, let them fight’. The concept of guys being bigger, stronger and faster to hit another human harder and quicker is so worrying. Rampage commenting 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.” is a real problem for the sport. A significant issue, which draws parallels with the WWF steroid scandal (wrestlers doc writing prescriptions for what they want, management awareness and tacit approval, owners who look like they are also receiving prescriptions). I am not sure of the legalities of the drug but whatever, it doesn’t seem like something that can be ignored without a serious scandal down the line.

    • Keith Harris says:

      The difference between WWE and UFC is there was never any allegations that a WWE doctor encouraged talent to see an age management doctor, i.e. to get on testosterone replacement therapy, to rehab a knee injury. They approved TUEs for TRT often against their better instincts before the Benoit scandal happened, but that was a loophole the wrestlers found for themselves without being pointed in that direction by a company doctor.

  2. Norm says:

    LOL, so this story isn’t gaining much traction or getting the response you had hoped, so you repost it with some emphasis?

    Fans generally aren’t not going to care and MMA writers are not going to want to touch it.

    Contact Outside the Lines, they like to tackle these subject and would be willing to put together a piece that airs at 10am on Sunday morning.

    • Mark says:

      I agree that fans / media generally don’t care and most writers are ignoring it but that doesn’t mean the story should not be delivered with strong emphasis. In addition to this, do you not envisage a time where this type of happening will cause significant issues further down the line?

      MMA is a child sport, with a niche following. In order to keep making strides, strong, deliberate management is needed to prevent mainstream scandal / spotlight of the worse issues.

      I am also fully aware that mainstream sports also have significant issues with the same drug use. NFL and MLB don’t seem to care (from my limited understanding of these sports), and we have had a couple of guys caught taking HGH in the UK in the sport of rugby league. This is not an issue limited to MMA but the UFC can take a strong position and use VADA to try and push their sport as the answer, delivering clean sport for everyone.

      The safety aspect is also key. If guys can weigh more, with more power and force due to drugs and they are using this power to hit another dude in the head, this cannot be good for the game.

  3. mattio says:

    I’m sure the fighters are thrilled that they get to juice right now, but when they are no longer fighting, they’re gonna be depressed that the UFC helped destroy their bodies so they could get a few more fights out of them.

    And I always thought it was the commission that allowed guys like Henderson to juice, but now I think it was the UFC themselves who got the commissions to allow juicing to be nice and legal.

    Now that everybody knows that weight cutting destroys peoples bodies, they should be putting a stop to it, not changing the rules so they can continue screwing up their bodies.

    And worst of all, these aging juicers get put in fights with young non-juicers. How is that fair? And the UFC knows all about it and thinks that’s fine.

    A new MMA org is needed that won’t run their business so clown-shoes.

  4. DJ ThunderElbows says:

    Thank you so much for covering this so thoroughly, Zach. We need more people like you covering the sport.

  5. edub says:

    Shit, if he’s allowed to use trt I’d like to see him at HW. 245lb rampage fueled with testosterone would give a lot of guys problems.

  6. Rob Maysey says:

    I have to believe that Zach is no longer actually surprised. . . I have been saying for years. . . the coverage this sport receives is not the result of ignorance, naivete, lack of diligence. . .

    These are very intentional choices. . . over and over again.

  7. AfroSamurai says:

    I really wish Anderson or some other high profile fighter would make demands that he face fighters who are NOT on TRT, and then made a strong public case for it like the one Zach has done such a fine job at here.

  8. Stel says:

    http://www.naturalnews.com/035135_Roundup_herbicide_testosterone.html#ixzz1o8kotTZp

    Thankfully Obama installed the ex pres of monsanto as his food safety czar, makes you feel nice and safe hunh?

    its ironic how you people will complain about athletes using testosterone and steroids etc… even while your testosterone and reproductive systems are being destroyed by the very foods you eat.

  9. [...] A couple of days later, most MMA & general sports writers focused on Rampage using testosterone as opposed to the much more important claims that his doctor “works for the UFC” and allegedly tells UFC everything about his medical condition. That’s why we tried to refocus the debate on where it really should be. [...]

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