Testosterone replacement therapy has become a hot topic in mixed martial arts during the last 12 months. Often overlooked in the discussion is Dan Henderson, who’s been using the treatment to commission’s standards for more than four years.
Recent turmoil brought on by Chael Sonnen and Nate Marquardt’s use of TRT has prompted a handful of fighters and media to wonder if commissions wouldn’t be better off banning it from the sport altogether.
That would be unfortunate for Henderson, who was the first athlete to ever receive a therapeutic exemption for TRT in Nevada -- prior to a fight against Wanderlei Silva in 2007. Since then, he’s received exemptions in multiple states.
“My levels were so low they were off the charts,” Henderson told ESPN.com. “I was always tired and getting sick a lot.
“I couldn’t even tell you [how to abuse it]. I’ve never gone above normal ranges. All I know is that I’m not as tired and I don’t get as sick as I used to.”
According to Henderson’s understanding of the treatment, a patient of TRT typically never exceeds “normal” testosterone levels, as was the case with Marquardt in Pennsylvania.
Although he’s not officially required to monitor his testosterone levels when not in competition, Henderson says he does to regularly as a precaution.
“I always do it on my own just to cover my own a--,” Henderson said.
Henderson did say, however, a little more monitoring from commissions in between fights might discourage the few fighters who have been cleared to use TRT from abusing it.
Even though Henderson monitors his own levels, never, he says, has the commission randomly tested him away from a fight.
“The only time people get monitored now is at the fights,” Henderson said. “I think it might be good to have stricter monitoring where people are getting tested throughout the year.”
Current policy calls for medical documents proving an applicant’s need for the program. In 2010, The Nevada commission also adopted a rule from the World Anti-Doping Agency, which denies any applicant whose condition is a result of past steroid use.
For now, it seems unlikely any commission would seriously look into banning TRT.
Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada commission, is a strong proponent of allowing TRT when necessary.
“You don’t want to stop an athlete from doing it if he’s got a legitimate chemical deficiency,” Kizer said. “In situations where they need it to live a healthy, long life, maybe have kids, whatever, you don’t want to take that away.
“But, it is fair that the burden falls on them to prove they need it and that they are following it.”