My favorite baseball player of all-time is Ken Griffey Jr. Why? Besides being an absolute pleasure to watch while I was growing up, in the steroid era of baseball I might add, he might very well be the one of the only clean athletes of his generation. That means a lot to me.
Performance-enhancing drugs continue to rob us of the purity of sport in all facets, and fighting is no different. When asked about their love of MMA, many fans point to the fact that fighting is the purest form of competition. It was once was. It's not anymore.
Ask anyone about their favorite athletes on their favorite teams and I guarantee that you'll get at least one mention of a guy who was once thought to have other-worldly talents, only for us all to eventually find out that his natural talent was enhanced by illegal drugs. It's an issue that we are going to have to deal with for the rest of our lives. There's no putting an end to athletes doing whatever it takes to reach the pinnacle of their profession. It's the same way a lot of us going out about what we do for a living.
HGH, steroids, diuretics, etc... They’re all illegal, and they should be. They've all come and passed as the latest fad that athletes are using to gain a competitive advantage. Alistair Overeem as of yesterday is now part of the newest one - Testosterone. Yes, the same thing that athletes in all sports are getting exemptions for.
I know one thing for sure - Testosterone replacement therapy is a fucking sham.
What is TRT? In simple terms, as men age, they start to experience a few things: fatigue, weight gain or loss, the decline of muscle mass and strength along with it, more body fat, trouble having erections and so forth.
Did I just describe what's it like to get older? I think I did.
So over the last decade or so, doctors have found that by treating patients sporting these symptoms with hormone therapy, the aforementioned symptoms begin to dissipate. Regular people suffer through this. So do athletes. We're all human.
A disclaimer: I'm not 100% against TRT. People have the right to do what they need to do in order to live their lives the way they want. If someone is experiencing constant fatigue, erectile dysfunction or one of the above, then by all means, go for it. But because of the other positive side effects that come along with it, fighters just can't be a part of it during their career. Afterwards, be more than welcome. But during, it can't happen. It's that simple.
Former "TUF" contestant Vinny Magalhaes put it best when asked to comment on Dan Henderson and his TRT exemption:
"I’ve been in Dan’s camp for three years," he said. "Dan trains, he’d go months with 4-5 injuries. I kind of get why he feels like he has to do it. But for me, if you’re 40 years old, you’re not supposed to have the energy of a 25-year-old guy. If you feel like you can’t perform, maybe it’s just time for you to quit better than to cheat. Otherwise it’s going to become like, hell, I’m 27 but I want to have the strength of two horses so I’m going to take a bunch of steroids. It’s wrong, in my opinion."
So why does it seem that an exorbitant amount of fighters are taking advantage of this? Thanks to athletic commissions in states like New Jersey and Nevada, fighters are permitted to indulge in this therapy as long as they formally file for an exemption. While engaging in the therapy, fighters are mandated to stay within acceptable limits. If they test within these limits prior to and following a fight, they are good to go.
Let's think of some big-name fighters that are known to have a TRT exemption. Henderson, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Nate Marquardt and Chael Sonnen come to mind. What do all these guys have in common? They are all at least in their 30's, are getting older, and are probably not as quick, strong and agile as they used to be.
The truth is those things are not a medical condition, they are a part of life. The majority of athletes in all major sports enjoy the best years of their career beginning in their mid-to-late 20's and ending in their early 30's. There's a reason why that time frame is considered the "prime" of an athlete's career. After years of developing their skills and knowledge of the game, they are at their physical peak. Shortly after that stretch of time passes, a rapid decline in their ability takes place and retirement soon occurs.
When did that become a medical problem?
The bottom line is that with the exception of an abnormal medical condition, fighters that hold a TRT exemption are just taking advantage of a loophole in the system. And until officials like Nevada's Keith Kizer wake up and realize the same thing, MMA is going to have a problem as big as the one that will loom over the game of baseball until the end of time.
MMA is supposed to be pure, not a sport with an asterisk next to it.