In professional sports, the athletes are always looking for an advantage. This is why teams and fighters watch tape on their opponents; train additional hours and find other ways to stay one step ahead of their opposition. Today, we see the mixed martial arts world continue to battle with the practice of TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) and with his victory on Saturday, Vitor Belfort unwittingly because the poster boy of the controversy.
For the fifth time since coming back to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Belfort finished his opponent in highlight reel fashion. Coming into UFC on FX 8 many people felt that Luke Rockhold had the abilities to defeat Vitor if the fight lasted beyond the first three minutes. Belfort didn’t need that long as he dispatched Luke at the 2:32 mark in the first round; effectively staking his claim as the number one contender for the middleweight champion pending the title fight between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman in July.
At the same time, Belfort also placed himself in the cross hairs of those who stand against the use of TRT in the MMA world. As the fight was built up, many questions were asked about Vitor’s admitted TRT usage; but very few answers were given. During the post fight press conference a reporter attempted to ask a question about the medical practice just to be shunned away as if he asked an irrelevant question. That’s the way the MMA world has handle the controversy to this point in time. Instead of developing a firm understanding and defense against the usage of TRT by its competitors; TRT has been shoveled under the rug like a problem that will just fade away if ignored.
The purpose of the therapy is still questionable at this point. Those who are granted a TRT exemption suffer from a lower than normal count of testosterone than a normal man. This is due a number of reasons which include old age, birth defects, head injuries and past usage of making agents to hide steroid usage. The reason behind the grant of the exemption is almost never divulged, which leaves the masses with the task of having to assume why said athlete has been allowed to use TRT. At 36 years some may wonder why Belfort is using TRT but the fact is he’s been on the wrong side of a failed drug test in the past.
With that fact in mind, Belfort has become the poster boy for TRT usage in mixed martial arts. There are those that will think he’s using it to cover up for past usage and others who will point to his increased age. Either way, the questions around his run and sheer physical appearance will only continue as he gets closer to another middleweight title shot. In other sports when athletes are found to have been using some form of performance enhancing drugs they are forced to answer questions from the media and fans alike. Not in mixed martial arts however; instead this sport and its biggest promotion in the UFC, has continued to look the other way as the controversy continues to build steam.
Whether we want to accept it or not, TRT is here to stay in mixed martial arts until the next scientific breakthrough of a treatment is revealed. Many consider it cheating or an effort to correct the effects of years of cheating. Either way, the questions around testosterone replacement therapy need to be answered and answered by those with firsthand knowledge and the power to do something before it has a disastrous effect on mixed martial arts.