The Association of Ringside Physicians on Monday released a consensus statement advocating the “general elimination” of therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy in combat sports.
The ARP is an “international, non-profit organization dedicated to the health and safety of the boxer and mixed martial arts athlete.” The full statement is as follows:
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 Ringside Physicians supports the general elimination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy.
TRT allows professional fighters to receive synthetic testosterone if they have a testosterone deficiency. To receive a TUE before a fight they must provide medical proof to the appropriate athletic commission that the treatment is necessary.
TRT in mixed martial arts has been a controversial issue for a number of years, but in 2013 debate over its use reached a fervor. At the forefront of the conversation has been middleweight No. 1 contender Vitor Belfort, who received TUEs for his three fights last year and scored devastating knockouts over Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson. All three of those fights took place in Brazil. Belfort received the exemptions despite testing positive for the anabolic steroid 4-hydroxytestosterone in 2006.
Belfort is expected to challenge Chris Weidman for the 185-pound belt sometime in the late spring or early summer, although no date for the bout has been officially announced. This time, however, the fight will take place in Las Vegas instead of Brazil. “The Phenom” recently told UFC Tonight that he planned to apply for an exemption prior to facing Weidman.
Of course, Belfort is far from the only prominent fighter to seek a TUE, as Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Ben Rothwell, Antonio Silva and Lavar Johnson all fought on the treatment in 2013. Forrest Griffin and Quinton Jackson have also received TUEs in the past. However, Silva and Rothwell were flagged for elevated levels of testosterone after their bouts, as was Johnson, who actually did not receive an exemption from the California State Athletic Commission prior to competing at UFC 157.
A representative from the UFC declined to comment on the ARP statement when reached by Sherdog.com on Monday afternoon. However, UFC President Dana White spoke to the Associated Press regarding the matter.
“The doctors came out and said they want to ban it? Well, that’s the answer,” White said. “It’s legal in the sport. The commissions let you do it. You get an exemption, and you have to be monitored and all the stuff that’s going on, but if they’re going to do away with it? There you go. It’s a problem solved.”
Editor's note: This item was updated at 6:37 p.m. PT to include a quote from Dana White.