Nate Marquardt went on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour on Tuesday and said what most people in the industry have been expecting him to say over the last 48 hours or so. He admitted testosterone replacement therapy caused his ejection from Sunday night’s UFC Live 4 show and subsequent dismissal from the UFC. He further contended – as expected – that the controversial treatments were prescribed by a doctor due to a legitimate medical condition, that he’s been on TRT since last August and that the UFC knew all about it.
He detailed the convoluted circumstances around the high levels of testosterone that got him booted from his scheduled fight against Rick Story, took responsibility and said he didn’t even blame the company for firing him. Yet even as he claimed the UFC had at least tacitly okayed the therapy for three of his previous fights – one in Germany, where the promotion did the medicals itself -- he also made it clear that he wants his job back.
Not surprisingly, public response was mixed. Even after nearly an hour on the show and for all the answers he provided, Marquardt’s explanation raised complicated questions. Here are three of the biggest …
1. Do we believe Marquardt’s story?
June 26, 2011: Was Marquardt being straight with us during these pre-event moments?
The simple thing would be to say no. The simple thing would be to say that all of these 30-something physical specimens who go in for hormone replacement are just using it as a substitute for steroids. They're just looking to cut corners, to get an edge on the competition and the doctors who prescribe them testosterone are shady “anti-aging” types who are either complicit in the scam or willfully ignorant.
But if Marquardt’s appearance on the MMA Hour was a performance or in any way disingenuous, then he is arguably a better actor than he is a fighter. Personally, I found Marquardt and his manager to be pretty credible. In fact, I don't recall a time in any sport where an athlete confronted an allegation of performance enhancers with such candor and seeming honesty. Do I believe him? Yeah, I do. Or at least I want to.
But I still have doubts. Marquardt certainly fails the “eye test” and – hell – he also already failed one drug test back in 2005. Even if he is telling the truth, I’m not totally convinced his symptoms he described on the show – fatigue, memory loss, irritability – sound quite severe enough to warrant a testosterone exemption for a guy who gets paid to fight other men inside a cage. Then again, I’m not a doctor. I’m also not Nate Marquardt, so I can’t claim to know how important to him these treatments are.
Which brings me to the next question …
2. Does MMA have a testosterone problem?
Yes. If it doesn’t already, it’s about to have one. To my knowledge, Marquart became the fourth high-profile MMA fighter to link himself to TRT today. The other three are Sonnen and – according to a report from Dave Melzter last December – Dan Henderson and Todd Duffee, who both have exemptions to use testosterone in California. To me, that’s enough of a trend to warrant some more specific and uniform regulation.
Obviously, the easiest thing would be for state athletic commissions to decide that no professional athletes really need TRT and to ban it from use during competition. But would there be legal obstacles to that? If guys like Marquardt (or even Sonnen) have legitimate medical conditions that require hormone therapy, I’m not sure you can just effectively bar them from the sport. At least not without a fight in a courtroom somewhere.
Truth is, if some guys actually do need TRT, then this becomes a far more complicated issue. The athletic commissions are going to have to get together and come up with some standards, or at least make public (and consistent) the standards they already do have. Otherwise, this could be an issue that the sport is dealing with for a long time.
3. Does it matter what the UFC knew, or when?
June 26, 2011: It seems the UFC knew more than we originally thought.
Yeah, it does. If Marquardt is telling the truth that the UFC knew he’d been on hormone therapy since last August and during his last three fights in the Octagon, it changes the parameters of the argument. Up to this point, with UFC President Dana White going on TV to say he was “disgusted” and that Marquardt needed to “man up” about “what he’d done” it’s given fans the impression the fight company had fired him because they suspected he was trying to cheat. If the UFC actually knew about Marquardt’s medical issues and had been copacetic with it until it caused the interruption of its business, that changes things.
Frankly, unless there’s something we don’t know, it’s starting to feel like the company fired Marquardt for strictly monetary reasons. He messed up, caused the company to lose money and UFC brass canned him. That’s fine, but if that’s the case, I’m not sure all this talk about “disgust” is really warranted. If the UFC was also OK with Marquardt taking TRT for nearly a year, then fans who vehemently accuse the fighter of using PEDs have as much beef with the fight company as they do the fighter.
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June 26, 2011: Greg Sirb sheds some light onto Marquardt's removal.