THE BLOG

TRT or not TRT, that is the question.

22/02/2013 15:39 GMT | Updated 24/04/2013 10:12 BST

It was during Dana White's UFC 157 pre-fight interview that he admitted to taking a newly adopted hard line on the testosterone replacement therapy issue. The UFC President is actively going after fighters he believes to be abusing therapeutic use exemption for TRT, which includes more UFC paid-for drugs tests aimed at the likes of middleweight contender Vitor Belfort and light-heavyweight title challenger Chael Sonnen.

Belfort, a 35-year old Brazilian and UFC veteran, has always been subject of steroid rumours even as a teenager during the promotion's early days, and back in 2006 he tested positive for anabolic steroids following a decision loss to Dan Henderson on a Pride FC fight card. Fast forward to February 6th 2013 and confirmation aired that Belfort had been "diagnosed with hypogonadism, or low testosterone" and "had been on medically approved testosterone replacement therapy under the supervision of a medical doctor from the state of Nevada." However, one has to consider how an individual who tested positive for steroids previously is eligible for therapeutic use exemption for testosterone, especially when the potential for abuse is so obvious (raising testosterone levels above acceptable levels during training to reap the benefits, but then phase off in time for levels to decrease enough to meet athletic commission standards for fight time.)

Chael Sonnen is another UFC-contracted fighter on TRT who has already faced suspension following elevated testosterone levels back at UFC 117, but in recent days he's come out in support of the new testing policy: "this is a crowning moment." The UFC's managing of this situation won't be much consolation to Michael Bisping though, the 33-year old Englishman whose last 2 losses have been against Sonnen and Belfort. The UFC's current roster of fighters is at 300 and although only less than 10 can be confirmed to have gained TUEs for TRT, the issue is a contentious one and isn't going away anytime soon. Bisping's viewpoint, and that of many others, is TRT levels the playing field where younger, healthier and genetically superior athletes would come out on top and is therefore cheating. In the case of Belfort, his low testosterone levels would be due to his historic steroid use, essentially meaning cheats, in the eyes of Bisping, are abusing TRT and continuing to cheat.

It begs the question, in such a combative and potentially dangerous sport, should fighters be informed if their opponent is medically administered TRT? Should the public be informed for that matter? Former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos last year requested increased screening of Alistair Overeem following their collapsed fight due to the latters' failed drugs test. Fighters should take more of a stand and make similar requests in parallel with the UFC's more thorough testing policies.