A major loophole was closed Thursday by unanimous vote of the Nevada Athletic Commission.
After about 45 minutes of debate on the issue during a meeting at the Sawyer Building, commission members banned all therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy.
While the ruling applies to all combat sports in Nevada, approvals for the controversial treatment have been a major point of contention in mixed martial arts.
The ban is effective immediately and applies not only to future applicants but also those who have been granted TUEs for TRT in the past.
Also, exemptions granted in other jurisdictions will not be recognized in Nevada.
“I think it’s important because we have an obligation for the health and safety of our fighters and for everybody to understand the standard we have,” NAC chairman Francisco Aguilar said. “It makes it a very clear picture as to what we can and can’t do anymore.”
The commissioners expressed hope that the ruling will set a standard for other regulatory bodies on the issue.
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White has shifted his opinion on the issue but recently has been supportive of a ban.
“Great day for the sport. I applaud the NAC. TRT needed to go away,” he said via text.
The UFC self-regulates events when it goes to international sites without an athletic commission in place. The organization will follow the NAC’s lead and ban the practice of granting TUEs, effective immediately.
“I would encourage the (Association of Boxing Commissions) to look at this issue for all commissions in all states across the country,” Aguilar said. “I think it’s important that there be a standard, and I think (the Nevada Athletic Commission) is not afraid to set that standard.”
Previously, fighters with documented cases of low testosterone could request exemptions to take treatments to normalize their levels.
At least 15 fighters have been reported to have been granted TUEs for TRT in the past six years. Aguilar said six have been granted in Nevada, with two still in effect. Those exemptions were voided by Thursday’s vote.
Opponents of the practice argued it was simply a way for fighters to cheat the system.
“I think we as a state knew and had a feeling that we needed to take that extra step and be concerned about the health and safety of our fighters,” Aguilar said.
There is also a prevailing opinion in the medical world, testified to by commission doctors at Thursday’s meeting, that many cases of low testosterone in fighters were caused by prior use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The UFC released an official statement Thursday afternoon:
“The Ultimate Fighting Championship fully supports the decision made today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the immediate termination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). We believe our athletes should compete based on their natural abilities and on an even playing field. We also intend to honor this ruling in international markets where, due to a lack of governing bodies, the UFC oversees regulatory efforts for our live events. We encourage all athletic commissions to adopt this ruling.”
The vote was met with mostly rave reviews in combat sports circles.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said from San Antonio. “Someone who has to take testosterone, they shouldn’t be allowed to fight. It’s an unfair advantage. I applaud the commission for taking the action they did.”
There has not been a documented case of a boxer receiving a TUE for TRT in Nevada.
Skeptics say there is a bigger problem with fighters using substances outside the scope of TUEs.
It’s also still theoretically possible for fighters to use testosterone during a training camp and stay within normal limits when their fights approach and they know they will be tested.
While lack of funding limits out-of-competition testing, the NAC still does it whenever possible.
Aguilar said Thursday’s ruling is just one more step in maintaining a level playing field in combat sports.
“We want to ensure the natural state of the fighter is the natural state of the fighter, and we’ll have to continue to monitor that through our methods of drug testing,” he said.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.