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At the crossroads: TRT acceptance & women’s MMA in America

By Zach Arnold | July 29, 2011

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The TRT discussion rages on. Earlier in the week, we talked about some possible new drug testing options that Victor Conte and others have suggested in order to increase the amount of dope cheaters getting caught by athletic commissions. Fighters like BJ Penn have come publicly against TRT usage in MMA. You can throw in additional names like Ben Askren and some MMA writers (wonder who?) into that category as well.

However, it appears that the tide is swinging the other way. As Josh Gross wrote on ESPN Thursday, Dan Henderson (and many other fighters/athletic commissioners) are looking to implement widespread standardized protocols to allow Testosterone Replacement Therapy usage by boxers & MMA fighters.

Tim Kennedy, in this recent interview with Ariel Helwani, laid out why he has no sympathy with the sob stories we have been hearing from fighters using TRT who want your public sympathy.

ARIEL HELWANI: “In an article on our site written by Ben Fowlkes, he interviewed you and you talked about TRT and how that’s a big problem and how you’re against it. Interesting comments considering the fact that Nate Marquardt is involved in this story and he’s essentially a teammate of yours. I mean, did you have to think twice about making those comments? Did that create any rift between you guys? Just curious to get your take on that.”

TIM KENNEDY: “I’m a big Nate Marquardt fan, you know, he’s a teammate of mine and a training partner. But I’m very clear, everything’s black and white to me, you know, I don’t know if that’s the military in me but like there’s right and wrong. I never get anywhere near the line of what could be even gray, so you know the… like I said, this sport is based on martial arts. Martial arts is based on honor, integrity so when guys are out there doing any PEDs, it’s just wrong. There shouldn’t be any question. We should be going out there to fight as clean athletes, representing our fans, the sport. So, there’s no rift. If he’s getting ready with a fight, I’ll be with him in a second to help him train. I’m only responsible for what I put into my body and I know what that is.”

ARIEL HELWANI: “Medically cleared or not, you are against TRT usage in this sport?”

TIM KENNEDY: “I don’t think it’s… it falls into that gray area. It’s too hard to control, balancing every month of…”

He’s exactly right. The most obnoxious development to come out of the recent TRT debate in the media is the position of fighters acting like they are victims of a medical condition and that they need TRT to be ‘normal’ as a fighter. Listen, I’m not a compassion-less person. If you need some sort of drug to function as a normal human being in your every day life, then that’s fine. However, if you need a drug like testosterone in order to be ‘normal’ as a fighter, sorry, but you lose. Watching fighters act as if it’s their God given or constitutional right to have a license to fight is absurd. When someone gets busted for multiple DUIs for prescription drug abuse (or marijuana or other recreational drugs), the driver’s license gets yanked. It’s a privilege, not a right to drive a car — something that can be used as a hell of a weapon to hurt & kill someone if the driver is impaired.

Same deal here in the fight game. I don’t want to hear the sob stories from fighters saying they need TRT to fight and compete. You know what? I’ll make you a deal. Let’s call this my version of a standardized protocol. I’ll let you take your TRT/HRT in exchange for you not having a fighter’s license while using such medical ‘treatment.’ As Victor Conte appropriately stated last week, the fight game is a ‘hurt sport.’ Your job is to inflict punishment on the other person. Why should athletic commissions allow testosterone usage but, at the same time, go after fighters who test positive for steroids?

Furthermore, ask yourself this question — if you don’t trust athletic commissions as it is to currently do their job managing basic urine drug testing programs, why would you have any sort of confidence in the same commissions regulating and overseeing the usage of TRT by fighters? It’s ridiculous.

We are entering a very dangerous stage here with athletic commissions considering the allowance of TRT by fighters. It makes the sport look like a joke in the eyes of many observers and it makes the regulators look like completely incompetent stooges for promoters in the eyes of the medical community over the allowance of TRT usage in such a competitive, cutthroat industry. There will be a moment where someone gets seriously injured or killed in an MMA fight and the minute it’s discovered by the mass media or by the authorities that the person who inflicted the punishment is doping (EPO, HGH, TRT, you name it), it is going to be a stain that will be extremely hard to erase from the public’s consciousness.

On a separate side note, Tim talked about recently losing his sponsor Ranger Up due to the infamous “Zuffa sponsorship tax.” He claims that he has lost 80% of his sponsorship money due to the decision.

The other hot topic de jour online heading into this weekend’s Strikeforce event is the future of women’s MMA under the Zuffa umbrella. I’m very bearish about whether or not the ladies will have a place at the Zuffa table in a couple of years, so right now is (in the eyes of female fighters) a make-or-break period in regards to whether or not Zuffa will book female MMA fights in the future.

This media session Marloes Coenen (@MarloesCoenen on Twitter) did is excellent. She gave the right answers in regards to what needs to be done and what needs to be proven in order for the women to have any sort of shot with Zuffa. As I’ve advised a couple of female fighters recently, Zuffa is unlikely going to promote women’s MMA on a large scale. I suspect they will promote the Flyweights (125 pounders) before they go all-in on women’s MMA. Dana White doesn’t like women’s MMA the same way Vince McMahon never liked/likes legitimate women’s pro-wrestling (which is how the public has ended up with whatever it is they for an excuse for women’s wrestling on TV every Monday night.) More and more, it seems like Canada, Europe, and Asia will be the places for the women to get booked and do so on a stage where promoters will promote them 100% of the way as opposed to half-assing it.

Bonus article

David Williams on why Fedor will beat Dan Henderson and how Henderson, who has defied MMA’s ‘9 year rule’, is about to lose the hard way.

Topics: Media, MMA, StrikeForce, UFC, Zach Arnold | 13 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

13 Responses to “At the crossroads: TRT acceptance & women’s MMA in America”

  1. DJ ThunderElbows says:

    Bravo man. Amidst a depressing number of people thinking this stuff is ok in a sport where your strength is used against another persons brain I thank you for putting these feelings on the public record.

  2. Light23 says:

    I don’t have a problem with TRT if prior dopers couldn’t use it and the regulations were super strict. But if that was the case there’d be hardly anyone using it.

    I wonder if TRT will help facilitate Hendo fight on into his forties? Is he going to be kept at the normal level for a 30 y/o or a 45 y/o?

  3. Steve4192 says:

    I wouldn’t have any problem with TRT if I felt the the AC’s were up to the task of weeding out the guys who are gaming the system. Unfortunately, most athletic commissions are woefully incompetent. In light of the fact that I have no confidence whatsoever in the folks running the commissions, I am all for banning TRT altogether.

    At least that way, we will know one PED loophole has been closed. Sure, it will wind up hurting a few guys who legitimately need TRT, but athletics are a young man’s game. If a few old guys need to move on with their life’s work a few years earlier than they would have with TRT, so be it. The vast majority of these guys in their 20s and 30s who are claiming to need TRT are just dudes who found a shady doctor to sanction their PED usage. When a 25 year-old behemoth like Todd Duffee gets cleared for TRT, something obviously needs to change.

  4. Fael Sonnen says:

    But my balls don’t work you guise!!1!

  5. Chris says:

    Zach and Tim Kennedy just knocked this one out the park.

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    Also put me in the camp of being okay with TRT if it was properly monitored.

    Monthly testing is likely the answer for anybody on it. And if they are being tested monthly, it’s nearly impossible to really get that far out of the normal range without getting caught.

    I think depending on the AC’s is useless. Zuffa needs to be the one’s to implement their own guidelines. Any fighter who needs to use TRT needs to be approved by a “Zuffa Approved” Doctor (so they know he isn’t BS’ing). And regular tests needs to be done to make sure they are within their limits. If this happens, it’s a non-issue because their testosterone levels would never be higher then their opponents.

    I should also point out that TRT should be banned unless something close to the guidelines I said above were in place….

    As for Dan Henderson…. He comes across as telling the truth. But then again, his body does look much better then a typical guy his age….

    He is certainly cheating the aging process….

    • Keith Harris says:

      Given that Nate Marquardt fought in Germany on TRT where UFC’s Marc Ratner operates as the commission before his problems in Pennsylvania, we know that “Zuffa Approved” Dr. Jeff Davidson is rubber stamping TRT usage whether the fighter is full of it or not. They’ve had the opportunity to take a zero tolerance stance on TRT and chosen not to take it, which is a risk.

      Regarding Dan Henderson, of all the people we know that are using TRT I agree he does come across the most plausible. But even in his case I think his TUE should be reviewed. Keith Kizer admits that the NSAC has only recently added procedures designed to determine whether an applicant’s diminished testosterone production is a result of previous use. So it’s possible that Henderson testosterone deficiency was caused by past doping, which wouldn’t be surprising given that he spent much of his career fighting for Pride where they didn’t drug test.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Hindsight is 20/20….

        At the time, I don’t think many fans, fighters, or the people who run the sport really had an idea of the issue of TRT’s….

        Now that it is a known problem, handling of it would be much easier….

        • Keith Harris says:

          I don’t really think that’s a valid excuse when plenty of other sports have gone through similar doping scandals many years before 2011.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          TRT was and still is legal within many AC’s. Which is why it was never even thought upon until people started to see it being abused.

          Very different from illegal steroid use, which is what happened in other sports.

  7. 45 Huddle says:

    WMMA really belongs in it’s own league on HDNet at this point.

    If the sport can progress both in terms of talent and quality of competition, then at that point they would be ready for “primetime”. They aren’t even close to ready at this point.

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