Although not the first to use the treatment, multi-division title contender Chael Sonnen brought testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to the forefront of PED discussion in MMA. After failing his UFC 117 post-fight drug test for elevated testosterone, the then middleweight claimed suffering from hypogonadism and a sincere medical need for the treatment. Since then, many other notable UFC fighters have come forward as TRT users including Frank Mir, Forrest Griffin, Dan Henderson, and the next middleweight challenger Vitor Belfort.
TRT allows MMA combatants to take synthetic testosterone to boost their natural levels. To be approved for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) they have to prove to their doctors and the overseeing commission that they have a medical need for the treatment.
However, as the list of TUE recipients has grown longer, those receiving exemption have been subjected to scrutiny by the MMA fanbase. Now it appears that scrutiny has extended beyond the hardcore MMA viewer. The Association of Ringside Physicians released this statement on Monday:
The incidence of hypogonadism requiring the use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in professional athletes is extraordinarily rare. Accordingly, the use of an anabolic steroid such as testosterone in a professional boxer or mixed martial artist is rarely justified. Steroid use of any type, including unmerited testosterone, significantly increases the safety and health risk to combat sports athletes and their opponents. TRT in a combat sports athlete may also create an unfair advantage contradictory to the integrity of sport. Consequently, the Association of Ring side Physicians supports the general elimination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy.
Essentially, the association is saying the occurrence of hypogonadism in the general public that demands the use of TRT does not reflect the amount of exemptions being granted.
This statement from the Association of Ringside Physicians could have big implication for one of the more anticipated bouts of 2014 so far. Belfort is one of the most notable users of TRT and the most criticized because he failed a post-fight drug test in 2006 for 4-hydroxytestosterone. For the first time in years, he'll be competing under the oversight of a proven commission in the Nevada Athletic Commission who will have to determine if he qualifies for an exemption. A statement like this could influence the choice made by the commission members.