Nate Marquadt's suspension brings prompts drug debate

After Nate's positive test, Matt Freeman looks at use and abuse

By: Matt Freeman

06 July 2011    |    0 Comments

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Nate Marquadt's suspension brings prompts drug debate | Fighting Fit
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Nate Marquardt, a highly decorated fighter and a perennial contender at middleweight, was recently fired from the UFC just a day before he was set to make his 170lb debut. The fight against rising welterweight Rick Story was the main event on UFC on Versus 4 but Marquardt (31-10-2) failed to comply with the Pennsylvania Athletic Commissions requirements.

In the aftermath UFC president Dana White commented that he was disgusted with Marquardt’s behaviour, adding: “Not only is he out of this fight and out of the main event on Versus, he will no longer be with the UFC.” However, the controversy wasn’t cleared up until days after the fight as neither the Commission nor the UFC were legally allowed to explain why the fighter had failed his medical examinations.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be another case of a fighter testing positive for extremely high levels of testosterone. Marquardt was suspended once before, after his debut in the UFC in 2005 for having various performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in his system. At the time he protested his innocence and his initial suspension was reduced to five months. The 32-year old has long been at the top of the 185lb division and his decision to drop to welterweight raised some interesting possibilities. Now, however, Marquardt is facing a very different struggle than the one he was expecting inside the cage.

The Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission stated that they had given Marquardt over six weeks to provide a medical certificate proving his need for Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), the reason for his failed test. Marquardt’s claims that his doctor had prescribed the TRT are not unreasonable and are allowed by Athletic Commissions under an exemption certificate for certain banned substances.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is not uncommon amongst fighters in MMA and is fine so long as it is certified and comes within an agreed limit. Yet recently fighters are claiming it as medical assistance only after testing positive, namely both Chael Sonnen and Nate Marquardt.

Low levels of testosterone in males who regularly perform intense bouts of exercise three times a week is not uncommon either. But it could be interpreted as another way of playing the rules to gain an advantage by having a doctor prescribe testosterone injections based on a test that produces low levels of the male hormone because of intense exercise. Using TRT as a way to introduce PEDs into a training programme but only admitting to it post-medical test does have a slightly dubious ring to it. Clearly Dana White doesn’t see it is a necessary procedure for Nate nor does he accept that the fighter had difficulty getting the correct certificates as required by the Athletic Commission.

But whilst Marquardt has paid the price for not fulfilling the necessary medicals, it does beg the question about TRT and PEDs and the very fine line between them. Whilst any form of testosterone or other steroid won’t magically transform you into the best, most technical fighter in the world there are advantages such as recovery, strength and even weight management.

If PEDs are so strongly frowned upon just how heavily are HRT and TRT regulated? Whether Marquardt feels that he is innocent because of the involvement of a doctor, he still failed to fill in the right forms. But, just because a fighter does fill in a form and bring a certificate does it change the fact that they are still using and getting access to a substance that is banned in any other circumstance? Nothing in life is black and white but the line between TRT and PED is more than a little blurred at times.

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