By Zach Arnold | March 21, 2012
- Mike Kogan has had enough of Rampage’s complaining w/ UFC
- Did Rampage name-drop his UFC-friendly doctor?
- Rampage suddenly says the magic of T isn’t helping his knees
- How UFC can play the testosterone card against Rampage
- Testosterone capitulation: The UFC, Rampage, & Fighters Only
- Rampage’s exquisite timing in making his ‘final stand’ against UFC
- One enemy too many: UFC testosterone narrative backfiring
- Mood swings: Rampage rages against UFC
- Rampage Jackson admits TRT usage, claims his doctor works for UFC
- Five questions the media should ask about UFC testosterone story
- Victor Conte: Ongoing testosterone fiasco will haunt UFC; Dave Meltzer says Bristol Marunde fought on Strikeforce show w/ TUE for testosterone
I wanted to give Josh Gross credit for the excellent radio show he recorded this week about the issue of testosterone in MMA. He interviewed a lot of people for the show, including George Dodd of the CSAC, Keith Kizer of the NSAC, and Dr. Margaret Goodman of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. Marc Ratner, according to Josh, reportedly declined to be interviewed on the topic. That’s no surprise given what a hot potato issue the T deal is right now in MMA. And, right on cue, UFC announced Chael Sonnen (a poster boy for testosterone usage) against Anderson Silva this Summer in Rio at a soccer stadium… an event under UFC ‘regulation.’ So, just like Rampage Jackson was (allegedly) using testosterone at the UFC Japan show, Chael will be doing his testosterone dealio for the Brazil fight.
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again – the T issue is a loser for promoters but it’s an even bigger loser for the fighters. It stinks. People don’t need to go through the complex spin to know that testosterone is the base chemical of steroids. The three primary ways MMA fighters can damage their endocrine system:
- Previous anabolic steroid usage, resulting in low levels and using TRT is basically double-dipping.
- Severe/bad weight cutting.
- Concussions/head trauma, leading to a decrease in one’s production of testosterone.
If you have suffered so much head trauma that your body can’t produce testosterone any longer, you shouldn’t be given a Therapeutic Use Exemption for testosterone usage so that you can repeat the vicious cycle and suffer from more head trauma. You shouldn’t be licensed to fight if you’re at that physical stage as a fighter.
As for anabolic steroid users or those who made bad decisions regarding weight cutting, having guys like Ken Shamrock or Rampage or Sonnen as the face of testosterone usage isn’t going to help your cause.
Josh opened up his radio show with this monologue:
“Should he be able to feel 25 years old when he’s 33? Is that OK? When you watch athletes compete and, all of a sudden, being an old man doesn’t mean you’re an old man any more? You know, there was something really cool about the idea of seeing a veteran athlete still able to do his thing later in life against younger guys and… not because he was taking something or she was taking something that allowed them to do that but simply because they were capable of it, because they had another dimension in the game that made them special and this levels the playing field. This makes everybody special. This means if you get the creaking pains in your elbows and your knees are bugging you, maybe you can’t train as hard as you used to, all of a sudden you have access to this because you’re diagnosed with low Testosterone, isn’t that just a normal part of life? Aren’t we all having low testosterone as we get older? I think I do. Does that entitle me to take this stuff simply because it’s a natural course of life? I don’t know, it’s an interesting question. It’s a medical question. It’s a moral question. It’s one that I think has many sides & many angles to, not the least of which is ‘fair play’ which I think in my mind is paramount. Is it fair? It is a backdoor to cheating? How do you differentiate the two? I’m not sure.
“I mean, look, Dan Henderson has done amazing things in his career later in life. Would he have been able to do those things without TRT? Probably not. Does it make it OK? I guess, I don’t know, I mean I think that’s something that each individual person as they watch these athletes compete have to make the determination on and whether you’re fine with that. I think judging by the reaction from most people to Performance Enhancing Drugs, most people don’t give a damn, they don’t care. I do. I think some people do and the issues of ‘fair play,’ again, linger as we discuss this.”
There’s a difference between someone who is not a fighter who is using TRT as opposed to active fighters who are using it and getting into a cage to pummel someone with four ounce gloves. How hard is this to understand? It’s not your God-given right to have a fight license.
Of the three major interviews that Josh did for his show, I would say that Mr. Dodd was thorough but cautious & politically safe. Keith Kizer was over-the-top in assuredness and stepped in it a couple of times. Dr. Goodman came off as reasonable and educated on the issue of drug usage in combat sports. She’s been able to work out a deal to have VADA drug testing Amir Khan and Lamont Peterson for their upcoming boxing fight. She reportedly contacted UFC about having VADA drug test a fighter but has not supposedly been granted permission from the UFC for said fighter to get drug tested by VADA & the regulatory body overseeing that fighter’s upcoming bout.
Regarding the upcoming April 9th hearing in Sacramento about public comment on TUEs for testosterone usage, Mr. Dodd said that fighters who want to apply for a TUE would have to do so in a public hearing where the public can show up and comment on said matter. At the public hearing, a TUE request would require a four-month review period with a six-person medical panel. Even if a fighter already has a testosterone TUE in another state, they will have to underdog a separate California-only medical review.
The major weakness in this process, of course, is that any promoter with a big name fighter that’s using testosterone can simply go to a foreign country and ‘regulate’ their own show or go to a state with a weak athletic commission or no athletic commission at all. When asked by Josh if promoters should be at fault if something goes awry on the T issue, Mr. Dodd said that the blame ultimately ‘falls back on the individual themselves.’
While Mr. Dodd’s interview was measured in tone and balanced in perspective, the same could not be said for Mr. Kizer. He went after critics of fighters getting TRT TUEs by talking about ’silly articles’ discussing the testosterone issue in MMA and how easy it is for guys to use T/do TRT. Newsflash: Guys are using T while fighting on overseas MMA shows and right now there’s a lot of them. Hence, why Rampage’s interview in Fighters Only has fighters ready to get in on the T action.
Kizer tried to put over the TUE standards of the Nevada AC by saying it’s WADA + additional standards. He labeled it ‘a platinum standard on top of the gold standard.” He blamed ’silly articles’ claiming T is easy to get permission to use along with Rampage’s interview for the new-found requests he’s gotten over the last couple of weeks to apply for testosterone TUEs.
And then Mr. Kizer proceeded to take a swipe at WADA & USADA in regards to their tough stance against drug usage in MMA & how other regulatory bodies are or are not performing to the level of regulation that they currently are functioning at.
“But WADA, who I have great respect for, their attitude is — if you don’t agree with us 100% of the time, then you don’t care. And USADA kind of has the same attitude and that’s just not true.”
So, he’s managed to take a swipe at me and at people like Travis Tygart right out of the box.
When discussing the issue of ‘the fine line’ regarding TUEs for testosterone, he preached about how fighters have “basic human rights” that shouldn’t be violated. That was just the start of the absurdity. He admitted during the interview that Rampage’s interview with Fighters Only (release the recorded audio, jokers) has resulted in the following:
“We probably had about, maybe, a couple of handful of athletes over the years ask for it and, like I said, I’ve had three guys who competed on it, so not much… but I have a feeling, like I said, from the recent influx of people e-mailing me or calling me and wanting to know, ‘well, what’s the procedure, my doctor says I have this issue,’ and, okay, well, if that’s true, you’re going to have to jump through all these hoops. I mean, again, we require what WADA requires and then some additional things. So, I’m not sure how you can get more serious than that? But on the flip side, too, I don’t want it to be a scarlet letter, you know. I mean, that seems to be the attitude. You see some people, even some people that have medical degrees make comments like, ‘well, they should not allow any TRT exemptions.’ Really? Really? That’s about the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard in my life! That’s one thing.”
The influx comment is in response to Rampage. So, Kizer basically kills any of his other points in terms of defending the usage of T by MMA fighters by pointing out the blatantly obvious — that Rampage has opened the floodgates for T usage and since UFC allegedly let him fight while using T in Japan, what’s to stop dozens of fighters from now fighting on T during UFC ‘regulated’ events in foreign countries?
If you’re an active fighter and you need TRT to function, you shouldn’t be in the cage or the ring. If you’re not active, that’s a different story. If you need testosterone to function as a fighter, something is seriously wrong. (More on this later.)
This whole ’scarlet letter’ labeling is a pathetic attempt at sympathetic sophistry. Victor Conte said it best – only 2% of adult males have a legitimate problem with low testosterone levels. Starting at the age of 30, your T level decreases by 1% each year. And yet we’re supposed to believe that a bunch of big-name MMA fighters suffer from supposedly low testosterone levels due to natural circumstances?
BTW, the ‘medical degrees’ swipe by Kizer is about Dr. Margaret Goodman. So, he’s gone after me, Travis Tygart, and Dr. Goodman without using names. Which side would you rather be on for this issue?
“Forget about the athletic part of view. Look at what harm can come, especially of a man … where they have this testosterone deficiency and, again, it’s not just that you’re low-normal, you’ve got to be below normal and look at the medical consequences, the dire medical consequences of leaving that untreated. That’s the starting point of all TUEs, including for TRT, is the damage done if a person doesn’t get the treatment. And, again, they don’t necessarily get the treatment they want. Sometimes you have to if there’s another medication that can treat it just as well but wouldn’t lead to any concerns either from an undue risk standpoint or advantage standpoint for competition, you’d have to use that medication instead. It may not apply to TRT so much as it does it to maybe other things, other conditions you’d have or you might use a non-anabolic medications like Adderall for example.
As I said up above, if you need testosterone so badly to function as a human being, chances are there’s a lot more wrong with you medically-speaking that should keep you out of a cage.
But, anyways, that’s the starting point of all. So, just to say, ‘well, the easy thing to do is just not allow it all.’ That is very irresponsible to say because it puts these athletes at almost a subhuman level that they don’t deserve to get proper medical treatment, even if it can be done in a fair & legitimate manner. So, that’s kind of where my starting point is and that of the commission. But, again, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get. It’s not easy to get. Most people are turned down because in some cases they’re not even trying to game to the system. They just think, ‘hey, I’m at 300 ng on my testosterone level.’ Well, that may be low-normal but it’s not 148 ng. You’re not going to get a TRT exemption.”
Utter political BS. TRT is the easiest way for anabolic steroid users to continue using drugs *and* get a chance to double-dip. If you need TRT due to concussion damage, you shouldn’t be fighting anyways.
I will not make the blanket statement that all TRT users in MMA are steroid users, however.
Take note at the end when Kizer is talking about testosterone levels.
“The normal levels do fluctuate and I’m just going to use, you know, it kind of differs. There’s some differing on where it begins and where it ends but just… practically speaking, it’s usually between 300 ng and 1200 ng. So, if you’re between 300 ng and 1200 ng, you’re normal, you know? Now, some guys might be at 1000 ng and some guys might be at 300 or 302 or 350 but they’re all normal, you know, and again, yeah, the odds are that people at the 350 or 400 ng level are probably older than the guys in the 800 ng or 900 ng level but they’re all normal.
This is important to note because Rampage has claimed in multiple interviews that his T level was at 420 ng and that his ‘age management doctor’ told him it was ‘very, very low.’ Rampage then claimed that his doctor raised it up to 600 ng but wouldn’t go to 800 ng because he would ‘get into trouble.’ Just by supposedly increasing from 420 ng to 600 ng, Rampage gained 15 pounds of muscle easily as he put it. So, you mean to tell me that if someone comes in and has a level of 300 ng but ends up going to, say, 1000 ng that somehow it’s OK because it’s not 1200 ng? This is crazy.
So, by Kizer’s definition, Rampage being at 420 ng wouldn’t be considered a ‘very, very low’ level after all.
But if you do fall below normal and it’s an ongoing issue, you may have to for your own sake, again, forget about athletics, for your own sake to live a healthy life and not have these complications either currently or later in life, you may have to get some kind of treatment and it may include TRT. There’s other less invasive programs, medical programs that they may try on you first before you go to the level of TRT but, you know, even then you can’t then say, “OK, now I can be as high as I want.’ We still expect the athlete to be somewhere in the mid-range, even if they are on TRT but they come back us and say the high level is 1200 ng and they come to us and they’re 1250 ng, you’re not fighting, you’re not getting the exemption. Your doctor’s over treating you purposely or non-purposely and there’s definitely a line there. I mean, there have been several athletes that we’ve popped in the last 12 months or so with elevated testosterone T/E ratios and they’re sitting on the suspension sidelines for quite a while here. So, there’s definitely a before and a after, you know, before you have to below normal, not just low-normal, and after you can’t be above-normal. And, again, maybe it’s a good thing that there’s such a wide range of normal between 300 ng and 1200 ng roughly that it gives the doctor the ability to fine-tune it. So, again, there’s no unfair advantage in the fighter taking it nor an undue risk to him taking it. If he’s got too much in his system, there’s going to be, we don’t want them to end up like Lyle Alzedo.”
After airing Kizer’s interview on his show, Josh interviewed Dr. Margaret Goodman. Just like another famous Goodman in Vegas is getting ready to set the Nevada AC director straight on drug testing, Doc MG had a rebuttal of her own.
“What are they treating with testosterone replacement therapy? They’re treating a hypogonadism. They’re treating a condition that’s obviously in of itself can be very serious and can cause a whole host of medical conditions. So, number one, obviously you want to know whether someone has it or not and if they do have it, how long ago was it diagnosed and what kind of symptoms did they have as a result of it? You know, the symptoms that are a result of that can be very disabling and it’s not like these guys are in an age group where they should be developing this to some extent just by being a little bit older. It’s very, very unlikely for them to have it in most of the age groups that these guys are supposedly being diagnosed with it.
Memo to Nevada AC: You wouldn’t have a rush of fighters contacting you about testosterone usage if there already was a natural problem. Predictably, the sniffing started once Rampage opened his mouth and created an even bigger mess than there already is for drug usage in MMA.
And Dr. Goodman is right — why are all these muscular guys, who go on fitness magazine covers and flex, crying hypogonadism? Funny how that works.
“So, let’s say, play devil’s advocate, that they really do have this problem and if they do, you know, what are the symptoms that they had along with it and were those in and of themselves something that should have disqualified them from competing? So, I think it’s something that has to be diagnosed over time. Obviously, the athletic commissions are faced with a difficult issue.
“It’s going to take a great deal of time to diagnose and you need extensive documentation and once you have the documentation you’ll see how many symptoms these individuals could have had and that needs to be documented and proven before you even say whether or not they’re being adequately treated.
Nate Marquardt last year brought up the issue of concussions as possibly leading to his decreased T levels. How often is that a valid reason for T usage in MMA?
“For example, we know that head trauma, getting hit in the head can cause problems with the pituitary gland in the brain that will cause a whole host of hormonal issues and can lead to the need for testosterone replacement therapy. But that’s super, super rare and most individuals that would have developed Hypopituitarism or this kind of glandular problem, that gland controls a lot of different hormones in the body besides affecting testosterone you would have expected that they would have had evidence of other chronic neurological problems maybe related to getting hit in the head before that would be an issue. So, I think that’s pretty rare. I know that there has been some studies that have looked to see that there’s been problems with the pituitary associated with brain injury but I would have expected, like I said, other neurological problems.”
Dr. Goodman made a closing observation about an obvious elephant in the room on the T issue.
“What boxers are asking for TUEs for testosterone? I don’t know, I’ve never heard of any, and obviously I’m not totally in the know here but I would be curious to know if it’s all MMA fighters. If it’s all MMA fighters, what does that tell you? I mean, that’s kind of an interesting fact in and of itself. I’m just concerned that this is coming up more and more often. I don’t want to see it be made into an excuse for usage of these substances and it just isn’t a way that they’re cheating. I tend to agree with the people from WADA that have spoken out on this in the past, not obviously in relation to combat sports but have talked about this relation to the Olympics when these TUEs are given for testosterone it’s almost unheard of. So, with all the thousands of athletes that they deal with, it should be really unheard of in MMA and boxing.”
I’ve been asked repeatedly why I think the usage of T will explode as a mainstream issue in the future in MMA. It’s simple — it’s a numbers game. If Fighter A gets crippled at the hands of Fighter B (who’s using the magic T) and it happens in, say, New Jersey, then the promoter can shift the political blame onto the AC. But if Fighter A dies at the hands of Fighter B, a well-known T user, on foreign soil under ‘UFC regulation’, then all of a sudden you will see an outcry in the media. It will be combustible and given how Fox has already been reportedly toning down Joe Rogan’s act, it would be the kind of nightmare that they simply would not want to deal with.
So, people should be cleaning up this mess now and being proactive instead of reactive when it’s too late. Watching ACs and promoters acquiesce in giving muscular fighters TUEs for T is like watching an oncoming car wreck. You know what the end result is going to be but the participants involved are turning a blind eye.