Because of his controversial TRT usage, the questions regarding Vitor Belfort’s eligibility to fight in the US have been raised. The issue is his history of drug abuse. After failing a test in 2006, Belfort did not comply with the NSAC’s nine-month suspension and fought in London the following April.
Can a fighter with failed tests and a history of defiance in his past find himself allowed to fight while on drugs in future?
MMAFighting spoke with Executive Director of the NSAC, Keith Kizer regarding the issue of Belfort’s eligibility for a Testosterone Use Exemption.
“Due to his past, Mr. Belfort would need to go before the Commission if he applies for a TRT TUE. This is not anything new. For example, I would not administratively grant Antonio Margarito a contestant’s license so he had to appear before the full Commission — likewise, Dave Herman.”
“The Commissioners could grant (with or without condition), deny, or take other action on any such application.”
There it is. Belfort would have to take the same steps as Josh Barnett to get his fight. Barnett’s history with drug abuse is more rampant, but he was able to play nice and answer all the NSAC’s questions to get himself a conditional application.
Will Belfort get licensed? It seems likely. However, depending on how his review goes, it very likely could be with conditions of pre-testing or more.
Simple fact: we age. Simple fact: age erodes. Complicated fact: preventing aging is unethical.
I am not a fan of TRT. It’s obvious to you readers if you’ve read the FD blog posts.
And rather than write an essay on the subject, I’ll simply forward you to Bloody Elbow, where David Castillo unravels why TRT is inasmuch an institutional failure – not only an individuals’.
Josh Barnett recently was ordered by the NSAC to undergo WADA testing for his fight with Travis Browne at UFC 168 on December 28.
Barnett’s checkered history with drug tests was the reason, and – other than a fighter whose name rhymes with Bedford – his acceptance of Olympic drug testing will allow him to fight on US soil. It’s admirable that Barnett has chosen to continue his career under the microscope (even though there would be little way for his to continue not under it). He has accepted his mistakes and is now working to make amends.
His opponent, however, has never had the guise of drug failure over his head. Browne has been a model employee. His decision to accept WADA testing, while also at the behest of the NSAC, is an indication that a) the commission is proactively attempting to ensure clean fights b) fighters willing to place their reputations in good faith.
The UFC is footing the bill for both fighters.
As Browne told MMAJunkie.com,
“I think our sport and the commission taking actions like this is putting us ahead of the game compared to other sports. We’re not putting out a fire. We’re attacking the problem before it becomes an epidemic.”
Recently, Georges St. Pierre paid for his own voluntary drug testing cycle and challenged opponent Johnny Hendricks to do the same. The entire situation eventually disintegrated into one of political machinations; each fighters’ party were suddenly very interested in the logistics of how to prove themselves clean. What started out as an admirable situation became embarrassing and misleading to the public.
Browne and Barnett are being forced into their spots, but doing so willingly. There has yet to be any attempts to position themselves during the short saga. Let’s hope that continues in leading into one of the cleaner fights in recent memory.
The TRT controversy is the gift that keeps on giving.
Both Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort, who fight each other this weekend in Brazil, are known TRT users. Henderson is in his 40’s while Beflfort is 36 – the age bracket when most athletes begin to naturally regress.
In the case of Belfort – a fighter who has failed drug tests – he has not fought on US soil in two years. Coincidentally, most athletic commissions won’t grant him exemptions for his TRT therapy because of those failed tests. Henderson, on the other hand, has never failed a previous test. He is granted exemptions because he requires the therapy for health reasons.
Yet both fighters have made comments in recent days that undermine their reasons for using TRT.
Belfort said he would give up the treatment if it meant a title shot. As if his TRT use were a negotiating tool like any other. Those comments are made by a man who has also claimed he will need the therapy for the rest of his life. Belfort has long taken a hard and sometimes abrasive stance on his use of the therapy, but now claims it’s not necessary?
The same message can be construed by Henderson’s recent comments. As reported by MMAFIghting.com, Henderson essentially says the TRT use hardly has an effect.
“It wouldn’t matter that much to me whether I was on it or not, especially just for one fight. It’s a matter of being healthier, just as a lifestyle for me, and what the doctors prescribe to be healthier as a person. So it’s not anything that a few months is going to matter.”
If that is the case, why take it at all? Why not wait until your career is over? Why not find alternative solutions that don’t manipulate a substance that has long been taboo?
Tim Kennedy, a fellow middleweight, had his take on Belfort, specifically, but his comments can be implied over the universal issue of TRT:
“It’s embarrassing to be part of the sport and have athletes that are manipulating the system like that. It’s mixed martial arts, and it’s supposed to be about integrity and character and all the things that go with being a martial artist. This is obviously a spit in the face of every martial artist out there.”
The facts are that fighters can apply for and be granted these exemptions. It’s a positive that they withhold these exemptions from fighters with checkered history. Yet regardless of how or why, TRT is a treatment that is sanctioned by a governing body in the sport. While it may seem unfair in the eyes of other figures and fans, it isn’t in the laws of the sport.
For those who disapprove, that is the embarrassing part.
The subject of Testosterone Replacement Therapy is a very controversial one in MMA.
According to MMAFighting.com, Belfort would gladly stop his TRT treatments if he were granted a title shot. While it may come off sounding like a trade – title shot for stopping TRT – essentially Belfort is finding another avenue in which to plead with the UFC for a shot at the belt.
Whatever your opinion on TRT is, Belfort says he has been on it for three years. He was using the treatment for his title fight with Silva. The UFC has told him TRT is not the issue and he would not need to stop to get a shot at the belt. In other words, it’s not TRT – it’s you.
The argument against him in the case of his title chances is varied. Belfort has been on a tear in the middleweight division since losing to Anderson Silva. He’s knocked out perennial contender Michael Bisping and former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold along with two other finishes.
The issue is that he used up a lot of his clout with a shot at Jon Jones – which he lost. After Belfort was decisively defeated by Silva – via the trend-setting up kick – he jumped up in weight (this comes up again…) to fill-in for Dan Henderson and fight Jones. While he nearly snatched the champion in an armbar, he was manhandled nearly start to finish.
That made two title shots in two divisions in only four fights. How can he expect a two-fight win streak to give him a third?
While you can’t fault a fighter for pursuing gold at any opportunity, he made a poor tactical decision to chase the light heavyweight gold. Had he stuck it out at middleweight, his two recent knockouts would look attractive to the UFC. Instead, he has a big loss on his record which allowed Chris Weidman to seize the gap.
Ultimately, the smart thing for Belfort is to wait for Silva and Weidman in December. Should Silva win, he should ask the UFC for a number on contender fight against anyone they want. If Weidman wins, he should ask for the next chance – a fight which would make a lot of sense at that point as the two have never fought.