So, my last opinion piece, Friday’s Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, and the TRT Conundrum, ruffled a few feathers. No surprise there; it seems the controversy about Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) shows no signs of reaching a conclusion.
Last Saturday’s main event at UFC Fight Night 32 in Goiânia, Brazil featured Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort, who both make use of the treatment to continue fighting at an advanced age. Unlike the controversy, their battle ended quickly, as a head kick from 36 year old Belfort dropped Henderson, 43, to the canvas at only 1:07 into the first round. Belfort is now the first man to ever stop Henderson with strikes in a stellar, 40 fight career; a career that spans 16 years.
Belfort’s historic victory doesn’t vindicate the treatment, of course. If anything, maybe it casts more cynicism on it. Observers like Ben Fowlkes, who I named one of my favorite figures in MMA journalism in this article, may enjoy the action that Belfort is bringing — but they know something’s wrong with it. He writes in his latest piece, Yes Vitor Belfort is Awesome — Which is Kind of the Problem:
Why can’t we just let it go?
The answer is, I can’t because I can’t. Because when I watch this man – who I’m told suffers from a naturally occurring testosterone deficiency so severe that medical intervention is absolutely necessary – stroll into the cage looking like a power-lifter right before he knocks another man unconscious, I just can’t buy it. Over the last couple years, I’ve interviewed doctors and endocrinologists and anti-doping experts who all say the same thing about this supposed low testosterone scourge in MMA, and that thing is, more or less, “no way.”
Sure, there’s the other side of the argument. Some fans don’t seem to care at all that those “power-lifter” lookalikes are finding ways to be approved for TRT, and are even directing their venom at anyone who questions it. In fact, some fans responded saying that they’d like to see all performance enhancing agents made legal. A response like “As a fan who loves stand up, I’m all for it!” (no, I’m not making that up) is strange to me on many levels, but I suppose they’re entitled it.
We all have opinions, but it may fall on one party to reform the sport: not surprisingly, the people who have the most to risk in the matter — the fighters whose safety may be being jeopardized.
A fighter who hasn’t yet joined Team TRT is Belfort’s fellow middleweight Tim Kennedy, who recorded an impressive knockout of his own a week ago at UFC Fight For The Troops. As Dana Becker reported, Kennedy took to Twitter last week to note: “If the UFC wants to crack down on cheaters, fighters with TRT exemptions should not be allowed to receive post fight bonuses.” He’s publicly criticized Belfort, who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in Nevada in 2006, as embarrassing the sport.
So, what do you think? Is TRT as “embarrassing” and “demeaning” to the sport as Kennedy infers? Or, should we all just join Team TRT?
Am I on the wrong side of history here? Will fighters’ endocrinologists come to be considered just another part of sport, like coaches and managers? In years to come, will the “tale of the tape” we see in on-screen graphics of televised fights include a fighter’s testosterone levels?
Whatever team you’re on, please let us know in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading.