In a landmark decision, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) unanimously approved a motion to ban the practice of awarding fighters a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in the state of Nevada on Thursday.
The ban is effectively immediately, stretches across the realms of boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts, and not only includes future applicants for TRT, but also users who have received TUEs for TRT from the NSAC in the past.
Commission officials urged representatives from fellow athletic commissions to follow their lead and ban TRT exemptions in their corresponding states.
"I'm comfortable with the information we have before us, and I would welcome and encourage the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions) to look at this issue for all commissions in all states across the country," NSAC Chairman Francisco Aguilar said. "I think it's important that there be a standard set, and I think we're not afraid of making that standard known, and then following the discussion after this point in time."
Minutes after the commission’s decision, the UFC announced that it too will ban TRT exemptions moving forward.
"I do believe that this is something that gives people an unfair advantage for these actual benefits," said Aguilar. "And I think that it's unfair for those fighters who are lucky enough to not have to go through the process. It's not fair to them when they have to meet a competitor who is, somehow, could be (using) an advantage."
NSAC chairman Skip Avansino initially proposed the motion following a discussion of the ramifications of TRT and possibly of a statewide ban. The motion was then seconded by NSAC commissioner Pat Ludvall.
"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," said NSAC chairman Bill Brady. "So 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 and fair fight. So if this takes away that judgment that I have never liked, that I've been uncomfortable when I've been involved in it, then I think this is an appropriate motion and one that I support."
The commission's decision arrives just three months before Vitor Belfort, perhaps the posterchild for TRT, is scheduled to challenge Chris Weidman for the UFC middleweight title within the state of Nevada. Belfort's case has long been a source of controversy, as former NSAC executive director Keith Kizer infamously stated that the NSAC would likely reject Belfort's application for a TUE due to his documented history of steroid abuse.
"In my medical opinion, and this is my opinion, I would assume that if someone has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, or is known to have used performance enhancing drugs, I would assume that's the cause of their low testosterone," argued Dr. Timothy Trainor, a consulting physician for the NSAC, when asked by Lundvall if past PED use and the need for TRT is linked.
Trainor estimated that, at least in terms of the general population, less than one-percent of people are affected by primary hypogonadism, which is the leading cause of fighter applications for TUEs. He added that past steroid abuse can replicate the results of primary hypogonadism, leading to the awarding of exemptions for synthetic testosterone for athletes who have "shut down their systems" with PED use.
Aside from Belfort, veteran mixed martial artists Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Forrest Griffin, Quinton Jackson, Antonio Silva, Shane Roller, Todd Duffee and Joe Warren have also received TUEs for TRT from state athletic commissions in the past.
"A license to compete in combat sports is not a God-given right to anyone," Trainor said. "We all need to get a license to drive. Well, you can be denied a license to drive. So, in the same fashion, just because you live and breathe, does not, in my opinion, mean you're allowed to compete in this sport."
The UFC released the following statement Thursday afternoon regarding the NSAC's 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)," said UFC President Dana White. "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."