Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) is the new dirty phrase in combat sports (and beyond). Depending on who you listen to and who you choose to believe, everyone is doing it and we're in the process of a slow build to the inevitable fall of MMA -- and even pro wrestling to a lesser extent -- thanks to the rampant abuse and misuse of TRT.
The problem here is that there is too much of a grey area between what is necessary for the health and well-being of combat sports participants and what can be construed as "performance enhancing."
The former of which is what athletes like Dennis Hallman, who will compete at tonight's UFC 133: "Evans vs. Ortiz" pay-per-view, Nate Marquardt and the always infamous Chael Sonnen have used to justify their need to be on TRT. They all simply have health issues that need medicinal treatment in order for them to function properly.
This, of course, spills over into their respective professional lives, as each men is involved in a sport that is predicated on violence and harming ones opponent. That's why performance enhancing drugs are forbidden, naturally, but again, it's a total grey area in that, if proof is presented that it is necessary for daily life, fighters can and will be able to perform while using it.
We've heard every take imaginable on this, from those that believe these men are cheating to get an edge to those that simply couldn't care any less and would rather the topic never come up for discussion.
But, finally, former professional wrestler Lance Storm, who has recently gone on his own little crusade against MMA for its approval of such alleged drug abuse, offers a fresh look at why exactly he believes TRT use is "complete bullshit."
Here's what he had to say on his blog:
The going excuse for TRT is that these individuals are suffering from a low level of testosterone and need TRT to get their own levels up into the normal range to allow them to compete fairly. Since when was sport about making sure everyone was completely the same on all levels; the same strength, speed, testosterone level, etc? The point of sport is to determine who is the strongest, fastest, or toughest. To then ensure combatants compete fairly and do not cheat, certain drugs that give individuals an advantage were banned, in hopes that athletes would train and compete with what, God, Mother Nature, or Genetics, depending on your particular belief system, gave them.
To this end, if you are a person legitimately suffering from low testosterone, and that low level makes it impossible for you to compete at a high level in MMA, or any other sport, you don't belong in that sport, end of story. You don't get to take banned drugs to enhance your performance because you aren't good enough or strong enough without those drugs.
To illustrate my point let me use an analogy. Let's say I wanted to compete in a target shooting like sport, a sport where a steady hand and calm nerves is requirement for success. Now let's also assume drugs that steady your hand and calm your nerves are banned in this particular sport, because the whole point is to determine who has the calm nerves and steady hand to be the best target shooter. Anyone using these banned drugs is cheating, because they illegally enhance your performance. Now let's say I suffer from an anxiety disorder that causes me to be extremely nervous and my hands to be abnormally shaky. Should I be allowed to take these banned drugs to be able to compete or should I just accept the fact that people with anxiety disorders and incredibly shaky hands, are shitty target shooters and this sport is not for me?
His very next line, "All men were not created equal and if they were, there would be no point to competition" deserves a big fat congratulations from everyone.
Storm has hit the nail right on the head regarding the entire issue. If you can't cut it on your own merits, then get out of the game now. Using performance enhancing drugs of any kind, masked any way you want to mask it, is artificial and therefore not in tune with the intended purpose of sports.
May the best man win, not the best artificially enhanced and chemically pumped machine.
There's an entirely different argument to be made here that supports the other side. Let's say Fighter A has access to oodles of cash and uses it to buy the best gym, trainers and equipment money can buy. He uses these things to get himself into the best shape of his life and formulate the very best game plan possible with the smartest minds in the sport.
Fighter B is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Can't afford a gym membership, let along a highly advanced fight team with specialists for each discipline. He trains but it's nothing close to what's needed to compete at a high, or even passable, level.
Fighter A is then matched up against Fighter B. Is this a fair fight, in any way? Did Fighter A not enhance his performance using legal methods that are completely acceptable to anyone with even half a brain?
That's where the problem is. TRT is legal, just so long as you have the right prescription and keep your levels in check -- at least by the time you need to take a test for it. But there's absolutely no solid way to regulate that other than a random and stringent testing structure that would likely bury the sport completely ... if those rumors that over half the sport is "on something" are actually true.
Why haven't we seen stricter testing? Hmmm.
As for Storm, his ideas are solid, somewhat flawed in nature, yes, but would most certainly lend a much clearer lens to see the sport through. As it is now, enough fans are losing faith in the process that it very well could become an actual problem that demands higher answers at a later date.
Let's hope it doesn't.