Apparently Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) is not the wonder-PED we all believed it to be. At least, that seems to be the story we are being fed in certain corners of the MMA universe, in the aftermath of Nate Marquardt’s vintage performance on Saturday night.
Over at MMAFighting.com, Mike Chiappetta has suggested that TRT may not be all it’s cracked up to be:
"On Saturday night, Nate Marquardt fought off of TRT. He looked powerful, explosive and seemed to carry his cardio deep into his fourth-round knockout of Tyron Woodley. And Marquardt wasn't the only person over the last week to do so. At UFC 148, Shane Roller put TRT in his rearview mirror and still beat John Alessio."
At the risk of appearing combative, the above reasoning is almost comically incoherent. Sure, TRT may not be equivalent to a radioactive spider bite, or exposure to gamma rays, but one needn’t transform into Spiderman or The Hulk in order to gain a competitive edge.
Mike Chiappetta is setting up a false dichotomy, as though the efficacy of TRT can only be assessed by recourse to two extremes: human or superhuman. That is not how PEDs work, nor should anyone judge the impact of PED use based on a sample of one—or two if we include Shane Roller.
Ben Fowlkes, speaking on the Co-Main Event podcast, was similarly unimpressed with the argument against the efficacy of TRT:
"Just because you are doing something that is performance-enhancing and you don’t absolutely demolish the dude, that doesn’t mean that we should just let everyone do it."
Fowlkes goes on to discuss Debbie Dunn, the US sprinter who was recently popped for high levels of testosterone. Dunn qualified for the US Olympic team by finishing fourth in the 400m at the Olympic trials.
However, does her failure to break the world record, or even place in a medal position, render her steady diet of testosterone irrelevant? Absolutely not. We do not judge the legitimacy of a performance based on whether or not the athlete in question acquires super powers.
On the flip side of this issue, when a fighter comes off of testosterone, cold turkey, and subsequently looks better than ever, it is worth asking whether they ever really needed it in the first place.
This is particularly true in the case of TRT, given that one is expected to be on it indefinitely once the therapy begins.
One gets the feeling that some journalists want to simply move past the issue of TRT, making the case that it is perhaps not as performance-enhancing as we once thought. For the sake of the sport’s legitimacy, we cannot allow it become acceptable just because it is so pervasive.
Every time a fighter admits to being on TRT, it should be like hearing nails on a chalkboard. Its ubiquity does not justify our indifference.