The Nevada State Athletic Commission recently voted unanimously to ban applications for therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy for combat sports athletes competing in its state.
That is something that could force the retirement of several fighters, including Chael Sonnen, who is slated to face Wanderlei Silva at The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 Finale on May 31.
Sonnen, while revealing that retirement is a very real possibility for him, hasn’t yet given up hope, mostly because it’s too soon after the ruling to determine the road that lies ahead.
“There’s a lot of moving parts. I don’t have all the information,” said Sonnen on UFC Tonight on Wednesday. “The bottom line is that testosterone is out.” (Watch Sonnen's interview here.)
Testosterone being out has already forced one major change for the UFC. The promotion pulled Vitor Belfort out of his UFC 173 challenge of middleweight champion Chris Weidman, citing too many risks in promoting a pay-per-view fight that may or may not face licensing issues.
Although Sonnen is scheduled to fight just a week after the date of the fight that Belfort was pulled from, he doesn’t face the same hurdles in licensing. Belfort had failed a performance-enhancing drug test in the past in Nevada and had recently undergone an out-of-competition drug test for which results have not been publicly shared, so there are potential stumbling blocks in him getting licensed in Nevada. The UFC didn't feel it could take that risk.
But like Belfort, Sonnen faces the issue of having to adjust to training and competing without supplemental testosterone, which is something that he’s not yet sure he can do.
“I’ve had to stop testosterone with the hope that we can find a new way to gain results of upping testosterone and staying at a healthy level,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, I may have to stop the sport and it’s as simple as that.”
While many would argue that TRT is just leveling the playing field for athletes who, for whatever reason, have low levels of testosterone, others would argue just as vociferously that TRT is performance enhancing, even if only to bring a low testosterone level into what is considered a normal range.
At the end of the day, Sonnen says, it doesn’t matter what side of that argument you fall on.
“What we do know is testosterone is out,” he continued. “You can’t use it any more. We’re not talking about illegal substances here. We’re talking about perfectly legal things, but that doesn’t mean you can do it in sport.
“You have a license to fight. A person in this country can consume alcohol if they’re over 21 years of age. That doesn’t mean they can drive a car. And if they do those two things, they will have their license pulled because it’s a privileged license.”
It is, however, too soon to know if it will retire him or other fighters, as the ruling in Nevada came a mere week ago, and everyone is still scrambling to get as much information as possible in how to deal with the change.
As Sonnen said, if a fighter needed to be on TRT, it’s disingenuous for him to simply say that he can just stop using it and continue fighting without skipping a beat.
“The problem is it’s a little bit early,” Sonnen continued. “I don’t know myself. I have to sit down with my team, not only with management and understand the rules, but we also then have to talk with doctors.
“If this retires guys then it retires guys. The rules are the rules.”