Late last week I wrote that I believed Dan Henderson's legacy had the most to gain from his fight with Fedor Emelianenko and despite the controversial stoppage (I personally agreed with it) I stand with my assessment. The two looked evenly matched through the opening minutes, with Henderson having more success initially in the clinch before he was dropped by the former Pride FC heavyweight champion. Henderson's sweep and subsequent knockout was his fourth statement finish in the last five times he's stepped into the cage, and it would seem that Dan's buzz is back to an all-time high.
I can say without hesitation that I am a Dan Henderson fan. That being said, I can't help but think that the fact he is competing at such a high level at a relatively old age is compromised by his use of TRT- Testosterone Replacement Therapy. Keith Kizer has described in the past the methods used to investigate to some degree of certainty whether a fighter's low testosterone levels are due to prior steroid use- LH (Luteinizing hormone/lutropin) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) levels are checked with testosterone levels, and if these hormones are also considered to be at a lower than normal level it might indicate possible past steroid use.
I cannot say that I have ever heard of TRT being used in sport outside of Mixed Martial Arts, and in a way that's perplexing. I recognize that the brutal intensity of the workouts is taxing on one's body but in my mind there is something awry with the physique of the main three names associated with the therapy- Chael Sonnen, Nate Marquardt, and Henderson. I certainly recognize that physique is not proof of "performance enhancement," but it seems far-fetched that a person with low levels of testosterone in the prime of their athletic career looks like any of that bunch.
In no way am I implying Dan has used any of the substances that are nowadays associated with performance enhancement. With his age rapidly approaching forty-one and no positive tests in his career, it would be foolish and completely disrespectful to suggest the MMA great has been anything but honest in his career. That being said, is the relative lack of this medical therapy's method in major sports any indication of a strange exception to the drug testing rules?If we examine the uses of steroids, human growth hormone (HGH), and similar substances throughout the major sports we see that as often as these drugs are taken in the context of strength building and performance improvement, they are in injury rehabilitation- and yet there is a definitive double standard in TRT or any similar exception. At Henderson's age, would the added testosterone give him any advantage in healing compared to another athlete? Have their been any other examples of an athlete in one of the major sports utilizing such an exemption to prolong their career? The brief research I did would indicate no. So should all other competitors be tested for hormonal levels so that they may be able to regulate their own? I realize that this question sounds a bit ridiculous, but truthfully what other baseline could we possibly use to substantiate such a small percentage of fighters being approved for a TUE- Therapeutic Use Exemption?
Henderson himself has called for regular drug testing for all Mixed Martial Artists, and that is admirable of him. To some degree it eliminates any shred of doubt that Dan is using Testosterone Replacement in a manner that is consistent with its intent. I, for one, see little difference between someone thats hormone levels have diminished over time versus someone who is having trouble rehabbing from nagging and lingering injuries. I choose neither side in allowing the substances in the sport, but as a fan I demand consistency. If we are allowing some athletes to utilize exceptions for substances that would be banned to the majority of their competition, I want to know that every single person has been tested for such a deficiency.
Was Dan Henderson's victory over Fedor Emelianenko tainted by TRT? In my opinion, no. If Dan is being tested in a consistent manner to his competitors, and passing all the necessary tests, he should be allowed to compete. The recent career ascension he's undergone well past the normal age of a fighter's retirement is nothing short of Randy Couture-esque. I do believe that something is tainted, however- this sport's drug policy. As I said: as a fan of MMA and of all sports, I demand consistency. And right now I think MMA is anything but consistent with its relationship to "performance enhancers."
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