Saturday, July 2, 2011

Testosterone for Therepeautic Purposes or Masked Performance Enhancer?

Forty is the new twenty, pink is the new black, and now testosterone replacement therapy is the new performance enhancer.

As of this week, former UFC middleweight Nate Marquardt is the newest member of the PEDs Hall of Fame. He joins Jose Conseco, Marion Jones, A-Rod, Barry Bonds, and a host of others on a long list of edge-needy professional athletes.

Nate Marquardt and newly reinstalled UFC Middleweight Chael Sonnen have brought the use (or abuse) of testosterone replacement therapy to the forefront of sports performance issues -- for negative all reasons. Ultimately, their "therapeutic" use of testosterone has brought into question the true intent of athletes engaging in TRT. Are athletes using TRT to increase athletic performance, or are they using it to counter the effects of post-anabolic steroid use?

It should also be noted that Nate Marquardt tested positive for nandrolone back in 2005. Dana White was quick to remind fans of this earlier this week when he discussed the issue with Ariel Helwani.

Earlier this week, in the wake of Nate Marquardt's public statement addressing his TRT and release from the UFC, I blogged on this very topic. Here's a snippet of that entry:

Cases like Marquardt's and the even more controversial testicles of Chael Sonnen shed a negative light on the sport. I can't speak for other fans, but I'm wondering what the real purpose is behind the use of hormone replacement therapy by young athletes like Chael Sonnen, Nate Marquardt, and Todd Duffee. These are men in their twenties and thirties who may not necessarily be at top speed, but should be in third gear at this stage in life. Now, I know that medical situations do occur -- yes, they do. But I'm thinking the demands of high performance are pushing some athletes to extreme measures. What I'm getting at is that guys are or probably have used anabolic steroids. Low testosterone levels are a well-known side effect of anabolic steroid use. So, as in order to counter this side effect they are taking up TRT to bring their test levels back within normal, or peak performance, range. Just theory...

Funny enough, my conclusions were very similar to that of someone with a much more credible medical opinion. Dr. Sherry Wulcan, MD, a physician with the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board and a certified member of the American Association of Professional Ringside Physicians, took questions on TRT from MMAConvert's Jim Genia. Dr. Wulcan offers expertise on testosterone replacement therapy and performance enhancing drugs as it relates to MMA:

"...Testosterone replacement therapy is not synonymous with the use of this hormone for performance enhancement; that is a form of abuse, not necessity. Males in their twenties and thirties rarely experience this disorder. End stage liver disease, end stage kidney disease and alcoholism can cause low testosterone.

"There are several reasons for the increase in requests for testosterone replacement therapy. Easier access to performance enhancing drugs by internet, and products advertised on television networks, have likely increased the number of athletes using these medicines. Perhaps of greater importance, more and more athletes are openly admitting prior use of performance enhancing drugs (steroids), and a greater number of these men are requesting assistance with the health issues caused by chronic prior use. We are beginning to see a secondary wave of consequences of long term use of these drugs, that is, permanent or partial suppression of a young male athlete’s ability to make his own hormone(s).

"The most common reason to require TRT in a young male is prior use of high doses of performance enhancing androgens (ie steroids). They are used to make levels of the hormone supra-normal, so that muscles become larger, strength increases, aggressiveness increases; post work-out recovery is also anecdotally reported as faster. However, there are consequences to using too much of a “good thing”; you can destroy your own ability to make testosterone. When that happens, levels fall below normal range, and supplementation is required to alleviate the symptoms caused by inadequate hormone production."

Dr. Wulcan pretty much made my opinion look like band aid and aspirin talk, but one thing is for certain -- there's a developing trend within the testicles of the mixed martial arts community. The use of TRT is both a performance enhancing method and a counteraction for the affects of anabolic steroid abuse. If this issue goes unaddressed, the sports industry and the girlfriends of guys like Nate Marquardt will suffer.

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