By Zach Arnold | January 6, 2014
Co-authored by Zach Arnold & Jon Mariani
He doesn’t deserve a Therapeutic Use Exemption to use testosterone (anabolic steroids) for his proposed fight against Chris Weidman on Memorial Day weekend or for UFC’s 4th of July event. But whatever the UFC wants, the Nevada State Athletic Commission will ensure that what’s best for business is taken care of.
It’s a good thing that Vegas thinks Chris Weidman is a 2-to-1 favorite to win that fight because he’s facing the poster child for all testosterone users in Mixed Martial Arts. You can thank the UFC for promoting testosterone-using fighters in key main event matches as the reason the floodgates have opened in combat sports for commission-approved anabolic steroid usage. You can call it TRT to make it sound harmless and innocuous. You can use the word testosterone and more people will understand its connotation. It’s when you use the term anabolic steroids that everyone understands what is really going on.
There’s a reason the testosterone plague in combat sports was named Sherdog’s Top Story of 2013. Fight Opinion was ahead of the curve on that story when few thought it was a major industry problem.
And no fighter draws the wrath of angry UFC fans when it comes to the testosterone issue more than Vitor Belfort. Unlike American fighters like Chael Sonnen who were within an inch of becoming the UFC’s first openly testosterone-using champion, Vitor Belfort will garner no endearment from the fans should he win the UFC Middleweight title and do so while using anabolic steroids. The fact that UFC seems unafraid to jump head-first into an anabolic steroids controversy of mass proportions by promoting a Belfort/Weidman fight reinforces the ugly UFC/Fox Sports steroid sports marriage.
Missing the home cooking
No longer is UFC hiding Vitor Belfort on Brazilian soil for big fights. His fight with Chris Weidman will be his first on American soil since the August 2011 fight against Yoshihiro Akiyama. While fighting outside the States, Belfort has been given permission to use testosterone by both the UFC (for the Jon Jones fight) and the Comissao Atletica Brasileira de MMA (CABMMA). In contrast, Belfort has not received any permission to use testosterone while fighting in an American state with an athletic commission. When Anderson Silva kicked Vitor Belfort onto another planet in Las Vegas, Belfort was fighting without a permission slip to use testosterone.
In March of 2013 NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer told Bleacher Report’s Damon Martin that “I don’t see Vitor Belfort getting a TRT exemption from us.” His reasoning was that Belfort had previously failed a drug test in 2006 for performance enhancing drugs. In a Brazilian media interview on Halloween 2013, Belfort revealed that he had been using testosterone for the past three years on the advice of his doctor.
The problem, of course, is that Belfort did not ask for permission to use testosterone for those American fights. The inadequacy of testing should be highlighted as a reason, if the facts presented in public are true, why he didn’t fail a drug test.
We have a generally good idea for the four main reasons fighters use testosterone in combat sports:
- Previous and/or current steroid usage
- Brain damage
- Abuse of pain killers (opiates)
- Damage from weight cutting
Belfort previously failed a steroid test, which qualifies him for the first strike. The second strike could definitely be damage from weight cutting. Remember, Vitor Belfort used to compete as a heavyweight. He once had to cut 30 pounds to make weight against Anderson Silva. The video of him aggressively chewing on ice during a tough weight cut is painful to watch and hard to forget. Belfort ended up hiring Mike Dolce to help manage his weight cuts for fights.
Life’s just not fair — and neither is using testosterone in MMA competition
When pressed publicly as to why he needs to use testosterone, Belfort struggles in coming up with a plausible explanation. It’s hard to believe that his need for testosterone is based on some random circumstance.
However, in the Halloween UOL media interview he did defending his testosterone usage, the word “injustice” was being thrown around in terms of him having to consider taking a fight while not using the magic T.
With UFC pushing to promote Vitor Belfort vs. Chris Weidman, Keith Kizer is boxed in a corner. He’s on record stating that Belfort is unlikely to get permission to use testosterone. We know Belfort previously failed a drug test for steroids. We have Belfort’s alleged admission of unsanctioned testosterone usage while fighting in America. You can see where this is all heading.
Keith Kizer has taken a more… nuanced… approach to the situation now.
“Due to his past, Mr. Belfort would need to go before the Commission if he applies for a TRT TUE.”
So much for granting permission to use anabolic steroids as “unlikely.” Passing the buck.
Can Nevada be trusted to do the right thing here? Chael Sonnen is Keith Kizer’s adviser on testosterone-related matters. The UFC would not be openly promoting Vitor Belfort’s return to action in Nevada if they didn’t have their ducks in a row on making the fight happen. Keith Kizer owes his job security to individuals like Marc Ratner & Lorenzo Fertitta.
A couple of months ago, Vitor Belfort fought Dan Henderson in a double testosterone death match in Brazil. We know who won the fight. And the testosterone questions immediately were raised regarding Belfort facing the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva II. There was great debate about whether or not Belfort would be allowed to use testosterone by Nevada’s commission in order to get the fight booked in Las Vegas.
Letting the mask slip
Give UFC credit. They’ve been wishy-washy and mealy-mouthed on the anabolic steroid issue. If Vitor Belfort defeats Chris Weidman, they will no longer be able to run away from the matter at hand. Fox Sports will no longer have media cover to ignore the giant elephant in the room. They have plenty of enemies who would love to twist the proverbial knife over an openly-admitting anabolic steroid user as a champion for a sports property that is the cornerstone of the Fox Sports 1 network. It’s time for UFC to take ownership of their pro-steroid stance.
The flip side, of course, is that Belfort would immediately become one of UFC’s most marketable fighters should he win the Middleweight title. A Barry Bonds-esque figure in which a borderline Hall of Fame talent becomes an other-worldly sports figure after dabbling into the bag of supplements.
Perhaps the UFC is confident that there is a plan to minimize the controversy. Perhaps the Nevada State Athletic Commission will refuse to grant Vitor Belfort permission to use testosterone. If Nevada denied Belfort’s request, that makes all the hall passes the UFC and CABMMA have given out look incredibly suspect.
You can stop laughing now.
The only way Vitor Belfort skips testosterone usage for the Chris Weidman fight is if he, as the magnanimous gentleman that he is, decides to not use testosterone while fighting in Nevada. Which, once again, opens up a new can of worms regarding his past fight performances while using testosterone. Such a position would be contrary to his comments in Brazil about how his testosterone usage doesn’t give him an unfair advantage and that taking away the testosterone would somehow be an injustice when other fighters aren’t criticized as harshly for using T.
Of course, Belfort could always take his chances and use testosterone without getting permission from Nevada’s commission. Which means passing those dastardly harsh Nevada State Athletic Commission drug tests. Sleep well, Chris.