Tour any high-school locker room in America and you’d likely find more than a few athletes who regularly take whey protein or fish oil.
So it's somewhat remarkable that a world class athlete like UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson could abstain from both supplements throughout his entire fighting career, until finally succumbing late last year.
"My strength and conditioning coach, Jarret Aki, was on me about it for years and years, and years," Henderson chuckled.
With that knowledge, it’s not altogether surprising that Henderson has emerged as one of the foremost advocates against the use of performance enhancing drugs in mixed martial arts. The 29-year-old recently lambasted PED users as "mentally weak," and despite facing some scrutiny, he’s not backing off his comments.
"I’m fine with it if you choose to use [PEDs], because I understand, as a competitor you want to do whatever it is to get you that one little extra edge," Henderson said. "If it’s eating Skittles before whatever, I’m going to eat a whole bunch of Skittles before. Whatever it is to get you the edge. For some people it’s steroids, for some people it’s TRT. Whatever it is. They want that little bit of an edge, especially in our sport, any little edge can give you an advantage. That can be the difference to getting your hand raised or not.
"But for those guys who need a little extra bump, a little extra edge, they know it’s illegal. They know they shouldn’t be doing it. Those guys are mentally weaker. They don’t have that fortitude to push through and say, ‘Yeah, I didn’t do this, but I’m still going to beat your butt.’ I’m okay with guys taking it, to be honest. If you want to take all the steroids you want, and it cuts off 20 years of your life, but you want that five years of glory -- cool. That’s your decision. Go ahead and do whatever you want with your body. But it’s still not going to pan out for you in the long run, because I’m still going to beat you."
There have been 11 documented failed drug tests or TRT exemptions handed out by the UFC since October -- a startling high number, but one that only seems to be on the rise.
After supporting TRT for some time, UFC President Dana White recently took a stand against users of the controversial drug. Believing that fighters are abusing testosterone throughout training camps, only to taper down to reach the legal limit prior to their fight, White ominously promised, "if you are using testosterone replacement therapy, get ready motherf--ker, because we're going to test the s--t out of you."
Henderson not only supports White’s new stance, but the UFC champ would also be in favor of stretching testing one step further to include both blood testing and random testing.
"I’d be for increased testing," explained Henderson. "It keeps the playing field even. It makes it so guys have to do a better job of either hiding it, or just not taking it. I think a lot of guys would actually just do a better job of hiding. Like guys in the NFL, some get busted, but the guys who get busted are just the, not very intelligent ones, because it’s not the hardest thing just to time it correctly to where you don’t get caught whenever you get tested.
"That being said, I’d be for more rigorous testing. They want the blood doping testing? We can do that, too. I’m cool with that. Random testing? I’d be for that.
"I’m all for any testing," Henderson finished. "Random, blood testing; whatever you want to do, let’s do it, because for me, I never even considered it."