In 2010, Chael Sonnen made popular the treatment called Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). His testosterone ratio was almost 17 times that of the average man at the time of his urine sample collection at UFC 117, and Sonnen was proud of it. At a press conference during a Q&A session, Sonnen mockingly stated: "You're telling me I'm one-tenth higher than the average man? Re-test that. You must have caught me on a low day."
During his championship match with Anderson Silva, Sonnen shockingly dominated the Brazilian for almost the entire fight. Unfortunately for Sonnen, he couldn't finish the task and was submitted in the fifth round.
This shockingly good performance by Sonnen against the top-ranked fighter on the planet led many to question whether his elevated testosterone levels played a major role in the beating that he dealt to Silva. But Silva also entered the fight with broken ribs, therefore a solid conclusion couldn't be drawn.
Since then, multiple situations have brought the questionable treatment into the public eye. The treatment isn't questionable from a medical perspective; it's questionable from a sport perspective.
After his embarrassing loss to Ryan Bader, Rampage Jackson made claims of raising his testosterone levels to that of a 25-year-old with TRT. The problem with this equation is that Jackson isn't 25 years old, he's 33.
What's troubling is that according to Jackson, a UFC doctor prescribed him the testosterone level of a 25-year-old. What these doctors seem to have forgotten is that a male's testosterone level gradually decreases with age. In other words, a healthy 33-year-old male isn't supposed to have the testosterone level of a 25-year-old.
Is TRT being used to cheat?
Although Sonnen made the treatment popular, Jackson unintentionally exposed its fraudulence with his comments. His candidness with the media about it is possibly the cause of the latest falling-out between Jackson and the UFC.
Nate Marquardt, after his T:E ratio was deemed too high, claimed that his levels would have come down to normal within the time of the fight. What I ask is: come down from where?
Because of these recent incidences and the lack of strict regulation, it's possible for athletes to maintain higher than normal testosterone levels during training and have them come down to normal levels at a pre-announced testing time, awarding them the benefits of steroids which include increase healing rate and muscle strength.
With the substance abuse picture becoming more and more clear over time, we are faced with the question: should athletes be allowed to exploit this obvious loophole? If an organization intends to maintain its legitimacy as a professional league, it shouldn't.
Fighter safety, for both the TRT user and his opponent, is also a major issue that needs to be considered.
Justify it anyway you want. TRT is cheating.