By Jake Donovan
A major step was taken towards drug reform in the boxing industry on Monday afternoon, when The Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP) decided to tighten up standards on seeking exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
Their new limit: next to zero.
The ARP -- whose headquarters are in Chicago -- have agreed that there is no place in the sport for therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for testosterone, save for extreme circumstances. The discoveries made thus far as the practice has become frighteningly more common as time goes on is that there have been few cases where an exemption was necessary, but rather means to find a loophole around already liberal standards in place.
A statement was released by the organization earlier Monday.
“The Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP), an international, non-profit organization dedicated to the health and safety of the boxer and mixed martial arts athlete, has released a consensus statement on therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replace therapy in professional combat sport athletes, as follows:
“The incidence of hypogonadism requiring the use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in professional athletes is extraordinarily rare. Accordingly, the use of an anabolic steroid such as testosterone in a professional boxer or mixed martial artist is rarely justified.
“Steroid use of any type, including unmerited testosterone, significantly increases the safety and health risk to combat sports athletes and their opponents. TRT in a combat sports athlete may also create an unfair advantage contradictory to the integrity of sport.
“Consequently, the Association of Ringside Physicians supports the general elimination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy.”
An unfortunate common denominator for therapeutic use exemption has been from those previously exposed to anabolic adrogenic steroid.
A study conducted in 2012 by American Urological Association Education and Research, Inc. analyzed the cases of more than 6,000 patients who sought treatment for hypogonadasim. While less than 2% of the patients studied were diagnosed with profound hypogonadism, exposure to anabolic steroids was discovered among 43% of those cases.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) created waves more than two years ago when they adopted the practice of granting exemptions on a case-by-case basis. To date, only six athletes have been granted such an exemption, all of whom are MMA participants and none of whom have ever previously tested positive for banned substances.
The issue became a hot topic when another MMA fighter, Vitor Belfort announced his intention to seek a TUE for medically required testosterone treatment. The fighter will plan to proceed with such treatments in advance of his potential showdown with Chris Weidman, targeted for later this year.
Whether or not the NSAC will grant him an exemption remains to be seen. Doing so would actually create a precedent, since Belfort has previously failed a drug test, back in 2006. In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, NSAC chairperson Francisco Aguilar confirmed the likelihood of granting the fighter a license, but that the TUE request created a slippery slope, given Belfort’s past.
The issue is momentarily less common in boxing, though without more stringent testing can easily become a matter that spirals out of control.
Last year, lightweight prospect Mickey Bey was fined and suspended due to levels of testosterone more than five times the 6:1 allowable limit in Nevada. The boxer successfully plead his innocence, providing medical documentation of his request for the medical staff by whom he was treated to not inject him with anything containing banned substances.
The biggest boxing headline grabber in regards to synthetic testosterone came two years ago, when Lamont Peterson was popped during random drug testing conducted by Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA), currently the only organization who uses Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) for all testing. Other organizations and commissions use CIR only when testosterone levels exceed the allowable amount; the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) limit is 4:1, while commissions such as NSAC – viewed by most as the standard-bearer for all matters boxing related in the United States – allows up to 6:1, despite recent consideration to adopt WADA standards.
Decisions such as the one handed down by the ARP on Monday should go a long way towards causing commissions nationwide to reexamine their own standards (or lack thereof) currently in place.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: boxing