Steroids in MMA
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Vitor Belfort Plans to Roll the Dice, Will Apply for a TRT Exemption in Nevada

(Fedor wore it better. / Photo via MMAJunkie)

When UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta announced that he wanted to book Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort in Las Vegas, it suggested that Belfort’s well-documented usage of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) might be in jeopardy.

Though the Phenom had been allowed to undergo hormone therapy while competing in Brazil throughout 2013 due to the looser standards in his home country, his 2006 steroid bust in Nevada led former NSAC executive director Keith Kizer to claim that Belfort would be unlikely to secure a TRT exemption for any future fight in Vegas. Then, Keith Kizer suddenly left his post earlier this month, opening the door for a replacement who might be, shall we say, more amenable to the UFC’s needs.

Which leads into today’s news that Belfort will indeed be applying for a therapeutic usage exemption for TRT in Nevada when his title fight against Weidman is officially booked. Ariel Helwani passed along the news on last night’s installment of UFC Tonight:

He said he’s on TRT and that his doctors said he has to be on it. This has been prescribed and he’s planning on applying to be on a TUE for the next fight.”

Well, bullshit. For the sake of argument, let’s take Belfort at his word — he needs to load up on testosterone in order to function normally. Is that a valid reason for any athletic commission to grant him an exemption? You’re gonna let a guy use steroids because he’s too sick to compete without them? Honestly, that sounds like the worst reason to give a professional fighter a TUE. But hey, we all know that in Brazil, doctors are essentially Gods and their advice must be followed at all costs, no matter how ridiculous.

For Belfort, testosterone therapy may be a performance-enabler rather than a performance-enhancer, but that doesn’t make his usage any more legitimate. I’m reminded of Karo Parisyan’s dependency on painkillers during the late part of his UFC run, which earned him a suspension and a fine following his appearance at UFC 94 in 2009. In Parisyan’s case, the drugs didn’t give him superhuman strength, but he’d be a physical and emotional wreck if he had to fight without them. That’s why painkillers generally fall under MMA’s unapproved substances list; theoretically, the UFC only wants healthy fighters competing.

In other words, “this treatment isn’t a performance enhancer, it just allows me to compete” shouldn’t hold water as a medical justification. Belfort allegedly suffers from an illness that would prevent him from being competitive with the UFC’s elite middleweights without the help of TRT. Really, he’s a very sick man. That’s the story he’s sticking to, anyway. And this is the guy who’s getting the next middleweight title shot in the UFC.

Your move, Nevada.

- Ben Goldstein

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