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UFC’s current stance on the testosterone issue: Not much of a plan

By Zach Arnold | March 28, 2012

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“If you do steroids and fight in Nevada, don’t expect us to roll out the red carpet for you.” — Keith Kizer, Nevada State Athletic Commission

Except, of course, when the athletic commissions don’t mind letting guys use testosterone under the name of ‘replacement therapy.’

“His 6:1 T/E ratio IS a red carpet.” — Victor Conte (responding to Keith Kizer)

I find it hard to believe that the recent actions of AC’s like Kizer’s is just simply normal protocol. ‘Random’ drug testing a bunch of guys at a UFC presser in Las Vegas looks great on paper but it’s not something that you could consider ‘out of competition’ drug testing on its face, especially when compared to the current Olympic/WADA drug testing programs.

No, the media heat about the testosterone issue is undoubtedly getting to the politicians & the promoters. The fighters who are the face of TRT usage have been rather stupid in handling the topic publicly. Keith Kizer even made the admission recently that Rampage’s campaigning for testosterone usage has only increased interest in said usage as far as trying to get exemptions from various state athletic commissions.

The bottom line is that testosterone usage in combat sports is dangerous and it’s much more prevalent, publicly-speaking, in MMA than it is in boxing right now. Why are all these fighters magically suffering from hypogonadism?

Ask yourself the following question — if low testosterone levels in sports amongst high-level athletes was such an epidemic, wouldn’t you think that we would have had plenty of sob stories in the media about football & baseball players already? Wouldn’t the pro-T spin already be out in full force? There’s a reason it’s not. There’s a reason you don’t see high-profile doctors backing the push for testosterone usage amongst MMA fighters. Don’t believe me? Look at the various media interviews so far on this issue where doctors have been put on the spot. They start out by saying hypogonadism is a very debilitating issue but then all but admit that muscular macho MMA fighters shouldn’t be suffering from these kinds of issues unless there was previous damage caused from anabolic steroid use or other kinds of abuse to the body.

There’s a reason why we’ve seen General Practitioners and chiropractors outed as doctors who have supposedly led MMA fighters to get testosterone prescriptions, not endocrinologists.

The T issue is simmering in big sports media circles. There is close attention being paid to the topic. When fighter X, who is using T, ends up seriously injuring or killing fighter B, that is when all hell breaks loose. Which is why the recent comments made by Dana White (read them here and here) should be cause for concern if you’re a UFC supporter.

Do not misunderstand me here — the testosterone dilemma is a huge industry-wide problem… but UFC is the king in the sport right now and if they want to influence how everyone else behaves, they have the hammer to lay down the message of ‘no T’ if they want to.

Dana White’s previous response to Dan Herbertson was rather enlightening insofar as to show what the new PR strategy would be by Zuffa on the topic of testosterone usage. Here’s Dana backing up this new front-man stance:

“We’ve got 375 guys under contract,” White said. “We’re doing a zillion fights a year, traveling all over the world, all these other things that we’re doing. Now, you really think that we can crack down and [expletive] chase these guys around everywhere they live all over the world and just randomly test these guys all the time?”

In addition, he claims that UFC has increased drug testing protocols by having fighters who sign up for The Ultimate Fighter have to take a pre-contract drug test screening. Newsflash: most companies use this standard. A standard urine test is not exactly a ball-buster when it comes to busting guys for steroids unless you’re really, really dumb — and there are plenty of dumb people in the business, no doubt.

“It’s impossible,” he said. “I want to see [expletive] baseball and football and all these other guys get tested the way we get tested. There would be no baseball or football if they got tested the way we get tested. I don’t want to throw this thing at everyone else, but the point is, we’re the most regulated sport on the planet, and that’s a fact.”

Do you notice what media writers who question Dana don’t ask him on this topic?

Keith Kizer likes to go around saying that the testosterone issue is blown way out of proportion and that he’s only given three guys TUEs. Well, that spin is totally missing the point. There are plenty of MMA shows in foreign countries with no regulatory oversight. There are 49 other states outside of Nevada and only a handful actually know what the hell they’re doing when it comes to standardized, not upgraded, drug testing protocols. Commission shopping is ridiculously easy for guys who are testosterone users who also just happen to be big drawing cards in MMA.

Chael Sonnen is a perfect example. His first fight against Brian Stann was in Texas, a state that just had another controversy this past weekend involving boxer James Kirkland and urine test issues. Sonnen’s next fight, against Michael Bisping, happened in Illinois. His rematch against Anderson Silva this Summer is happening in Brazil, a show that is regulated by… the UFC.

“Which is good, but we want to stop guys from taking steroids when they shouldn’t do it. No matter what short-term effects you have, the long-term effects are much worse. It’s stupid, and that’s what we’re trying to stop right now. But testosterone replacement therapy is legal.

“There isn’t a sport out there that goes above and beyond, whether it’s the safety of the athletes, testing for all this crazy [expletive], and the list goes on and on,” he said.

This new corporate spin of ‘we shouldn’t punish guys for past steroid use’ doesn’t wear very well amongst the public. They see testosterone usage for what it is and for UFC to not be prepared to take a hardline stance against this matter is like lighting a firecracker in your hand and just waiting for your hand to get blown off.

A lot of the testosterone users outed so far publicly happen to be household names. As the list continues to grow with new fighters getting outed, the situation could very blossom into a list as high-profile as the infamous list of 103 MLB players who failed sample drug tests in 2003. It’s been a drip, drip, drip treatment in the press over the years as far as who was on that list and it’s been used as a sledgehammer against the players. As MMA”s testosterone list continues to grow, I would expect a high level of scrutiny towards the T-using fighters.

The athletic commissions and promoters know this is a losing issue for them. You can’t play Barney Fife by whacking someone over marijuana usage (Nick Diaz), drostanolone (King Mo), and then turning around and acting as if giving passes out to fighters to use testosterone is going to make your drug testing protocols look good. AC’s don’t even use Carbon Isotope Ratio testing for urine testing. There’s no blood testing, either.

The quickest way to influence the drug culture in MMA is by having the promoters come out against it and put some teeth into the anti-drug stand. We’ve already seen proof of this in other sports and other entertainment fields, especially pro-wrestling. When those in charge actually are serious about laying the hammer down on drug usage, guys magically shrink on television over the course of several weeks. The same thing would happen in MMA if the power players wanted to put a stop to testosterone usage. They should consider doing so before somebody gets really hurt and a drug scandal engulfs the sport. That’s not an outcome that anyone wants to see except those who want to bring down the sport in the first place.

WWE already had one guy who was using testosterone as part of a Therapeutic Use Exemption that damn near brought the company to its knees. The combination of brain damage (CTE) & drug usage. Handing out Therapeutic Use Exemptions for testosterone was stopped by WWE because of the abuse by the boys. UFC & various state AC’s have now painted themselves into a corner publicly where their position on testosterone is more lenient than WWE’s stance on the matter.

The media frenzy towards the UFC if a fighter, on a UFC-regulated show, cripples or kills another fighter while using testosterone will be voluminous. Let’s not go down this path in combat sports. Clean up the mess now before someone pays a permanent price. Once a major incident happens, the stain will be hard to erase and the damage will be done.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 24 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

24 Responses to “UFC’s current stance on the testosterone issue: Not much of a plan”

  1. fd2 says:

    “This new corporate spin of ‘we shouldn’t punish guys for past steroid use’ doesn’t wear very well amongst the public. They see testosterone usage for what it is”

    You keep saying this, and it keeps not being true. Outside of mma bloggers and forum-goers, who are a small minority of mma fans, people just don’t care about this issue. Maybe they will if it blows up in more mainstream sports media, but right now, they don’t.

  2. King Famous says:

    Who are you including as the “general mma populace.”?
    If you are talking fighters, managers, trainers – they are not going to speak up and out themselves if they don’t have to. There are all different levels of fandom, just because you don’t hear about something in the main stream doesn’t mean it is not an issue.

    The short list of fighters that use it are major fighters, and when well known fighters do this, you can bet that lesser known fighters do too.

    When combat is the sport, this is a real issue.

    • Jonathan says:

      The general MMA populace = the fans who watch UFC PPVs for the fights, know a handful of fighters (Chuck, Tito, St. Pierre) and who buy 95% of the UFC PPVs and/or watch it at a bar.

      The general MMA populace is not

      1. Us
      2. Bloggers
      3. People who go to the Underground
      4. People with belts on Sherdog forums
      5. People who have a high share ratio on MMA torrent sites and who never pay for PPVs.
      6. Zach Arnold
      7. JMMA fanbois

  3. JJ says:

    Zach, it doesn’t matter how often you trumpet this story. It’s going to continue not being a big deal to anyone outside of you.

    And I know you think you have some kind of influence and that people who actually matter in the industry read you on a regular basis, but I have news for you: nobody knows who you are.

    I’m not saying that to demean you. I’m saying that because it’s true.

    You can keep going on and on and on with this, but people will keep on not caring.

    You’re making this out to be a much bigger deal than it actually is in order to get attention. I realize it’s your M.O. and has been for years. But nobody cares. Please find something else to talk about.

    • Rob Maysey says:

      You may be correct in that industry people do not care about this issue–

      You are not correct in suggesting that industry people don’t know who Zach Arnold do. They know how Zach Arnold is.

  4. Mike Lewis says:

    This is getting ridiculous. “When fighter X, who is using T, ends up seriously injuring or killing fighter B, that is when all hell breaks loose” since when does testosterone turn you into some superhuman killing machine? Todd duffee, Rampage Jackson, Shane Roller etc have all looked awful recently and Dan henderson looks the same as he always has its just that he is still performing at the same level whilst being 41. Maybe that isnt fair but it is hardly the same as saying testosterone use will help you kill or injure someone.

  5. millertimez06 says:

    This article is awful. Trt is a legitimate condition in all sports. The writer is so ignorant in him understanding of what testosterone does he goes as far to suggest people are gonna start dying due to the super human strength people apparently gain. Was this article written by an adult or a 15year old kid with no understanding how a male needs testosterone to live a healthy life.

  6. Jonathan Snowden says:

    Bringing up Chris Benoit is a real low point for this site.

  7. Steve4192 says:

    Regardless of your views on the TRT issue, you have to agree with Zach on one thing …. the UFC has no business dishing out TRT exemptions on their own.

    I can understand them honoring the exemptions of guys who are already approved by the commissions to use TRT, but handing out their own exemptions to guys who have not been cleared by the commissions is beyond the pale. Rampage getting a TRT exemption in just a matter of weeks before the Japan show is very sketchy. It makes it appear that the UFC is willing to rubber stamp any and all TRT requests for their non-sanctioned shows.

  8. millertimez06 says:

    @Steve4192. I absolutely agree with what you said. Zach on the other hand did a horrible job educating himself on the subject and chose to write almost a comical interpretation of what testosterone in men can realistically achieve. Next time I hope he thinks about what writes then if may come across as something people value reading.

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    And for some interesting news….

    There is an article out there that by next year FOX could turn FUEL TV into a sports channel to challenge ESPN. They would still have all of the local FOX Sports channels, but this new “FOX Sports” Channel would be a National one.

    If they end up doing that, it would be great news for the UFC.

    You have to figure that FOX already has some of the properties to pull it off. All they would need to do is add a bigger player like MLB (already have the Saturday game)…. And they would do good.

    Definitely a story to follow over the next 12 months….

    • smoogy says:

      The proof is in the pudding. Just look at how Fuel TV has taken off since UFC came aboard!! (and please ignore the totally-not-threatening-ESPN-anytime-soon status of similar projects by NBC and CBS that Fox is obviously trying to imitate)

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Unlike NBC… FOX already has many sports properties they can draw from. Heck, if they started the channel tomorrow, their current sports line-up would already be better then what “NBC Sports” has. UFC, MLB, NASCAR, College Football.

        It really just comes down to if they want to pull the trigger and how much money they want to put behind the project.

        If nothing happens, then Zuffa can likely expect to get between 300,000 to 400,000 viewers maximum once FUEL TV gets into more homes. If something does happen, I wouldn’t be shocked if the UFC eas eventually pulled off FX and devoted to “FOX Sports” full time.

        It’s just something interesting to follow long term….

  10. DJ ThunderElbows says:

    Christ Zach, please keep doing this for the cats who do care about the sport. You did it when the mob was strangling PRIDE and I hope you’ll keep doing it now that meatheads are strangling the UFC.

  11. King Famous says:

    Not only is TRT prevalent in MMA while many deny or never admit to using it, but it has for a long time taken over many Hollywood actor and actress. I could care less about the Hollywood usage, but who is to say this is or is not an issue?
    The point still remains that fighters are getting into the ring/cage with elevated levels, the drug testing is a joke, and we are using the judging system of a completely different sport instead of coming up with one that reflects the true nature of the MMA game.
    You would care about this issue if you were a fighter who fights for a living, or if you’ve ever been hit with a boxing glove full of plaster of paris.
    When there is the opportunity for to gain an edge like this in combat sports, it is a very dangerous thing.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Actually, most fighters are getting into the cage without elevated levels. They are being tested for that.

      It’s the out of competition levels that are the problem.

  12. mattio says:

    It’s funny how every time Zach does a TRT article, half a dozen posters who never comment on anything else at this site start badmouthing him and tell him to shut up about it. That’s not suspicious at all, is it?

    And every time Zach does a follow up story on TRT, he reports on someone really high up in the MMA world that has been confronted about or made a statement on TRT usage. So to say this is a non-issue is just a flat out lie.

    All a company has to do is find one doctor willing to hand out these prescriptions and then everybody can start using them. The WWF operated the same way.

  13. Dave says:

    Since everyone is weighing in on this, I will.

    While this is indeed a big issue, I’d like to see some of the focus from this issue shifted to some of the other things going on. Or is there really that little going on in MMA right now?

    I feel like I’ve read a textbook on TRT and I already didn’t like it. The people who don’t care aren’t going to change their opinion unless Dana White says it’s bad.

  14. Manapua says:

    UFC knows that fans want to see their fighters as big/violent as possible. It is not in their best interest to get in the way of that.

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