On Thursday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission held a meeting to discuss certain drug testing protocols including the controversial usage of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
TRT has increasingly been in the spotlight over the last few months with athletes like Vitor Belfort, who at 35 years of age now has to have testosterone injections to boost his levels back to normal, and the commission is paying attention.
UFC president Dana White has also come out recently as staunch opposition to the use of TRT by his fighters and now will be independently testing athletes who are on the treatment throughout their training camps to ensure their testosterone levels remain at legal limits.
The commission held a meeting on Thursday to discuss possible changes to the policy on how they handle TRT exemptions (called Temporary Use Exemptions—TUE) and the levels at which they produce a positive test.
Current standards by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) allows for testosterone levels to reach a 4:1 ratio in testosterone to epitestosterone in a normal male athlete. The average for a normal functioning male is a 1:1 ratio, but WADA allows up to a 4:1 ratio without testing positive for elevated testosterone.
The state of Nevada allows up to a 6:1 ratio, but talk on Thursday was about possibly changing that to the standard WADA rule of 4:1 with additional testing also being instituted. The testing would be a carbon isotope test (CIR), which actually goes beyond testing the levels of testosterone in the human body.
A CIR test actually looks to see if the additional testosterone in the body is being produced naturally or by an outside product like synthetic testosterone or a performance enhancing drug. The CIR test is much more expensive, but was used recently by the California State Athletic Commission when they had a positive test result returned for heavyweight Lavar Johnson following his fight against Brendan Schaub at UFC 157.
"He was tested on the card in Anaheim which was about a month ago and the urine test came back the commission said there is a possibility of a positive here, we're going to have this CIR test, carbon test (done). It took about not quite a month but about 17 days before we got results. It was $700 for that test. It's a pretty expensive test," explained Marc Ratner, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for the UFC, who attended the commission meeting where he previously served as executive director.
Keith Kizer, the current executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, revealed that Johnson's test came back at 6.2:1 ratio for his testosterone to epitestosterone level, which then led the California commission to run the additional CIR test. The secondary test came back positive and Johnson is awaiting punishment from the commission for the infraction.
The problem with CIR testing as noted by Ratner is the overall cost, which can get quite expensive for a state athletic commission's yearly budget.
Instead of changing the rules on Thursday however the commission instead voted to do further investigation into the normal levels of testosterone ratios in fighters that compete in their state.
Currently, when a fighter tests below the legal 6:1 limit, their actual testing amounts aren't given to the commission, only the final verdict that they didn't test positive. When a fighter's levels are over the legal limit after an additional inquiry, the testing lab will give the commission the actual score for the test.
The idea presented by the commission during their meeting was to conduct a study of a wide range of fighters either past or going forward to determine what a "normal" level of testosterone ratio would be. Most fighters test under the legal limits, but the commissioners in Nevada are trying to get a sense of what level under 4:1 they are testing at, on average.
"If they could get us the ones that are below 4 to 1 that are normal, I'm curious myself just to see what they come out as. Are most of our competitors 1:1? Or are most of our competitors higher?" asked Dr. Timothy Trainor during the meeting. "I think that might be some useful information, especially if numbers of like 300 or 400 (fighters') actual samples. That could help us make our decisions further with where we want to go with our T to E ratio."
The study conducted will be internal only for the commission and not for public consumption.
Depending on the ultimate results, the commission plans to circle back around to the issue at their next meeting and have further discussions on the possibility of changing the legal ratios from 6:1 down to the WADA-recognized level of 4:1.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.