USA TODAY Sports
UFC Light Heavyweight Dan Henderson has permission to use testosterone replacement therapy but the controversial implications of that exemption seem to have drawn little notice from commentators. Henderson lost a split decision to Lyoto Machida last night at UFC 157.
The 42-year-old UFC Light Heavyweight Dan Henderson received permission (called a "therapeutic use exemption" or TUE in the jargon) from the California State Athletic Commission to use testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in his UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche bout with Lyoto Machida.
Henderson lost the fight by split decision after a dull performance by both fighters.
Unlike his former teammate Chael Sonnen or former opponent Vitor Belfort, who also have TUE's for TRT, Henderson has gotten by with a surprisingly small amount of criticism for using the stuff. Prior to the bout the Orange County Register did a piece on the subject and got some quotes from Hendo on the topic:
"It was my doctor's recommendation basically. Before I did anything, I called up the commission and made sure it is OK. This was a long time ago. They said, 'Yeah, no problem.' I would welcome random drug testing for that and for everything. I think that would really bring up the sport a lot. When people look at it, it leaves a bad taste in their mouth until the UFC really implements random drug testing."
When presented with UFC President Dana White's quotes that "if you need (TRT) you're probably too old to be fighting," Henderson replied:
"I don't take anything that he says personally," Henderson said of White. "He says a lot of things that are a little bit off the wall. I'm not worried about what he has to say."
"Everyone's situation is different," Henderson said. "It could be a legitimate reason or it could not be. Obviously, that makes it a little more fishy. I think the UFC needs to have everyone see their doctor to get approved and go through their testing and make sure it is legitimate and then monitor it a little bit better. It's not too tough to monitor."
So would Henderson still be fighting if he wasn't allowed to be on TRT?
"I'd still be competing," Henderson said. "I'd probably be getting sick more and laying on the couch a little bit more. On the same token, if I wasn't fighting, I'd still be on the program."
One of the most outspoken critics of TRT exemptions has been Zach Arnold of Fight Opinion. Here's some of his most recent commentary on the topic:
Dan Henderson is in the semi-main event of the UFC show this weekend at the Anaheim Pond. When Henderson fought Mauricio Shogun at San Jose Arena, he was using testosterone. A doctor for the California State Athletic Commission was testing his levels for that fight. For the Machida fight, it is believed that the same process is happening here as well.
The problem, of course, is that the California State Athletic Commission doesn't have any rules or regulations on the books regarding testosterone usage amongst fighters. The fact that we are seeing Sacramento picking and choosing which fighters can use testosterone without any rules on the books is not a good thing for combat sports. It also makes the Chael Sonnen circus from a few years ago all the more detestable. We now have a system where athletic commissions are giving out hall passes to fighters to use testosterone while getting on their moral high horse and going after fighters (like Mickey Bey Jr) for elevated levels of testosterone.
"You're too stupid to ask for your testosterone hall pass, so here's your nine month suspension."
Personally I think Henderson's use of TRT is less problematic than it is for others (like Sonnen and Belfort) who have failed post-fight tests in the past. Henderson was never caught using PEDs prior to applying for his exemption. All the same, Dana White is right to be raising red flags about the practice although there's a certain element of double talk since the international "commissions" that are controlled by UFC executive Marc Ratner allow TRT exemptions in the jurisdictions under their purview (the UK, Brazil, Australia).