The NSAC’s recent decision to ban TRT is going to make life a lot harder for the athletes who have depended on it during their training camps. Dan Henderson — who will receive the final therapeutic usage exemption for UFC competition — has compared it to banning insulin for diabetics. Meanwhile, Vitor Belfort thinks he’ll need about three months to transition to life without TRT.
That’s a very optimistic estimate, considering the deterioration that a person’s body goes through when they stop testosterone replacement therapy — especially if they’re not doing it correctly. In an eye-opening new interview with Fightland, endocrinologist Dr. Neil Goodman shared his insight about fighters who get on TRT, and all the awful things that happen when they try to get off of it. Some excerpts are below:
I’ve been involved with professional athletes who’ve been referred to me by their agents to get them off steroids because they knew they were on them and going to get caught, so I’m very familiar with this. I think this is a problem in all of competitive sports in that a lot of these guys begin in gyms, they’re taking all kinds of anabolic steroids. Then they go off and go to the doctor, and their testosterone’s low. The original cause of low testosterone is that most of these guys in competitive sports are taking excessively high doses of almost anything they can get their hands on.
Most men who legitimately have low testosterone have it because of a disease they were born with or developed within infancy and childhood. There are very few adult men who suddenly have low testosterone unless they have a pituitary tumor or they have serious illnesses. The biggest cause of low testosterone in any man is diabetes, obesity, hypertension, sleep apnea, or other serious medical diseases, so their low testosterone is a minor point to their really serious health condition that it comes with. The men who are born with a deficiency of testosterone have been on treatment since they were children, otherwise they would have never gone through puberty…
If a young guy comes in with low testosterone, my first thought is this guy’s been taking steroids. And I’m usually right.
Let’s take a guy that’s legitimately stopping testosterone. He goes to his doctor and says, “Look, I really need it because there’s something wrong with my testes,” he goes to a doctor, the doctor does blood [work], and sure enough, the guy’s testosterone is in the toilet because he’s been on it. When you come off of it, your testes are not working. And it may be months or years, or never, until they ever start making testosterone.
If the guy’s honest and he’s going to start working with someone like myself, we’re going to try the best we can to get him to normal testosterone levels. I’ll say to him, “Okay, what are you taking?” He’s honest with me and says he’s just taking injectable testosterone. I’ll say, “Stop it.” In a couple of weeks, I’ll do some blood work and see what his baseline level is after he comes off the stuff. Then I’ll put him on some gel that’s going to give him a steady amount of testosterone, bring his level up to give him a “normal” level of testosterone that he can stay on, let him have a chance to recover, and see what we can do after a few months.
Some guys, I can get their testes to start working again. We use a drug called Clomiphene, and for those guys, it wakes up the brain computer that runs the show because it’s been shut down. If I have a shot at them coming back to normal with tapering down their gel and keeping them on Clomiphene, over about three or six months or more, I’ll start to see their testosterone production come back…
Every single guy whose exemption is getting taken away is going to come up with very low testosterone, and he won’t be able to compete, at least on the level that he might have been competing at. Every guy that goes to the commission and stops getting these exemptions, they’re going to have to get some testosterone to just keep them normal. They won’t be able to compete because their testosterone will just plummet.
Their muscle strength will decline. They’ll put on some fat weight. Their moods will become depressive. They’ll have fatigue. It’ll be horrible — I feel bad for them. It’s going to be misery…I’m not saying all guys are going to have serious problems. It depends on what they’ve been on, how much they’ve been taking, what other drugs they’ve been on. It’s a mixed bag.
Any guy that’s coming off testosterone because of this ruling, he needs to see an endocrinologist. Do not go to any of these anti-aging guys. Don’t go to the family doctor. If he wants his health restored, he must see an endocrinologist. That’s my message, because that’s the only person with the training to help him deal with coming off the testosterone.
Win or lose, Dan Henderson’s rematch with Shogun Rua later this month could be the last night of his career; rebuilding his health without supplemental testosterone might not be possible, or worth the agony. As for Belfort, he just went from red-hot title contender to question mark. He’ll surely try to return to competition when his hormone levels return to normal, but it’s highly doubtful that he’ll ever look the same.