Las Vegas — In a move that will have far-reaching effects throughout the combat sports industry, the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Thursday ruled unanimously to ban therapeutic usage exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy.
The ban is immediate and applies both to future applications and fighters who have already received exemptions. The ruling was made during a regular commission meeting at the Grant Sawyer Building, which Bleacher Report attended in person.
The topic was added to the agenda so that the commission could be prepared for Vitor Belfort—who failed a post-fight test for performance enhancing drugs back in 2006—to put in a TRT application for his championship fight against UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman in May.
Other prominent UFC fighters known to have undergone TRT include Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, Frank Mir and the now-retired Forrest Griffin. Sonnen also failed a post-fight drug test due to elevated levels of testosterone back in 2010.
The commission called for testimony from two commission-hired doctors, but it was Dr. Tim Trainor, a consulting physician for the commission, who gave the most damning testimony.
Trainor noted that primary and secondary hypogonadism can indeed cause a need for testosterone replacement. But he said that with known steroid users, there is no way to know for sure if they truly need the therapy or if the damage done by taking anabolic steroids caused it. He also said that, while he could not offer an exact estimate, he suspected less than one percent of the earth's population has legitimate hypogonadism and requires treatment.
Commission member Raymond "Skip" Avansino was the first to say that he would like to see an outright ban on TRT, and commission member Pat Lundvall quickly supported Avansino. The commission discussed the pros and cons of TRT exemptions, and Avansino noted he was embarrassed at the one TRT exemption he'd been involved in granting.
From there, it was just a matter of creating the motion and passing the vote. Avansino created the official motion, Lundvall seconded and the vote unanimously passed with commission member Bill Brady and NSAC chairman Francisco Aguilar.
"I know in granting TUEs for TRT in the past, it caused me a great burden. Because there is always a person there fighting on the other side, who isn't asking for anything, who is going to be tested, who is going to be tested randomly, and is clean," Brady said. "I think we have an obligation to the fighter who doesn't want an exemption and is clean. An obligation to them to make sure they're getting an honest fight. So if this takes away that judgment that I have never liked, then I think this is an appropriate motion and one that I support."
The Ultimate Fighting Championship quickly released a statement on the historic Nevada decision.
“The Ultimate Fighting Championship fully supports the decision made today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the immediate termination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). We believe our athletes should compete based on their natural abilities and on an even playing field. We also intend to honor this ruling in international markets where, due to a lack of governing bodies, the UFC oversees regulatory efforts for our live events. We encourage all athletic commissions to adopt this ruling.”
Weidman was also pleased with the NSAC's ruling, per Helwani:
This is an amazing day for the sport. This is something that I've wanted to see happen for quite some time. TRT was and has always been cheating, and I'm glad Nevada finally recognized that, especially since I'm about to fight there against a known TRT user. Hopefully, every other athletic commission follows because this was long overdue.
Nevada is considered one of the standard-bearers for state athletic commissions around the United States, and it's logical to assume most states will follow their lead.
Quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.