When it comes to PED's in mixed martial arts, the new battleground is testosterone replacement therapy. Among those who have received therapeutic use exemptions for the treatment are Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Nate Marquardt.
The hot-button topic doesn't seem likely to disappear anytime soon. As MMA pioneer Ken Shamrock recently pointed out, athletes searching for an edge or in some cases, to level the playing field, is no new phenomenon. On Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Shamrock admitted his own past use of TRT, and though he wouldn't specify a time period for his use, said that in his experience, the treatment has little to do with generating great success.
"The one thing I realized over the years is that that doesn't make you an athlete," he said. "The fact is, I think that's what some people have been trying to explain to people for so long. It doesn't make you hit a baseball. You have to have the reaction time, you have to have hand-eye coordination, you have to have the fundamentals, you have to be a great athlete to do that, to be able to hit a 100 miles per hour fastball out of the park. Enhancements don't do that for you. Same with football or anything like that. You have to already be an athlete. You have to have that already."
On the other hand, Shamrock, who is 28-15-2 in a career that's spanned over 18 years, acknowledged that the hormone replacement which can delay the effects of normal aging does offer an edge to its users.
He offered a "chicken or egg" theory that some of those who have embraced the treatment are doing so out of fear that their opponents are gaining an advantage on them, necessitating them to seek out the same therapy.
"It's not fair for a guy to have to compete for his job against a guy who is using it," he said. "But how are you going to ban it? That's the question. They’re not legitimately trying to test to keep it out of sports. My opinion is, if they were going to do this all the way across the board, our sports would be better, our athletes would be healthier. They wouldn't go through so much trauma on their bodies. The bottom line is, it’s been going on for too long, and they haven't legitimately tried to keep it out."
Shamrock does make some differentiation between steroids and hormones. In his opinion, steroids should never be used, but has a different outlook on hormones due to the fact that they are naturally occurring in the human body.
As he noted, age management clinics are popping up throughout the country, allowing even the population at large to receive legal treatment that delays the onset of the normal aging process.
That type of therapy would prove to be beneficial for fighters, Shamrock said, as long as athlete's levels are regulated within normal ranges. TRT is supposed to function that way, but Shamrock has his doubts about the way it is monitored. That's why he believes it should be all or nothing. Either everyone should be able to do it within fair levels, or it should be completely against the rules.
"Believe me, I’m not pro or con," he said. "What I'm saying is, if we're going to do this, then it needs to be done all the way across the board, otherwise people's dreams will be shattered because someone else is able to do it."
The MMA pioneer said he doesn't yet consider himself retired though he hasn't fought since Nov. 2010. He's still willing to compete if he gets offered a fight that he believes fans will be interested in seeing.
But it's the same fans, he believes, that are complicit in the surge of PED use in MMA and sports in general.
"If you're being truthful and you're coming out and absolutely speaking the truth, the bottom line is that’s what we’re faced with and it isn’t going to change anytime soon," he said. "You know why? They don't want it. They want the home runs, They want the hard hits. Listen man, if you could take the sports and make them even all the way across the board, I think every single athlete in world would love that. Would love it. Because they'd know going in they don't have to do anything to follow their dreams. They don't have to do any of that stuff. Because they'd know across the board they don't have to worry about that. The bottom line is, that's just not the way it is."