In the world of combat sports, one of the most common performance enhancers fighters take is testosterone. It is a banned substance that athletes take to increase performance. If caught, one can face suspensions lasting from months, years, to even a lifetime. Here’s a closer look at how this natural steroid works.
What is Testosterone And What Does It Do
Males and females both have their own primary sex hormones that are responsible for their unique characteristics. These hormones are Testosterone and Estrogen. Testosterone helps men develop their reproductive systems, produce sperm, grow hair, deepen their voice, and develop muscle mass. It also plays a role in aggressive behavior. Men who have higher levels are more prone to acting aggressively and engaging in risky behaviors.
Due to its role in helping people build muscle mass, it’s a steroid hormone, in effect. With this hormone, an athlete can work out harder than he did before, recover more quickly, and develop a physique with more muscle and less fat. The results a man gets will depend on how hard he works. Professional athletes work out at high-intensity levels and for several hours per day to maximize the benefits of their improved recovery.
This hormone is what spurs the transition of a boy into a man during puberty. During this time, the boy’s levels of it will be very high, resulting in the developments listed above.
When an athlete takes this steroid hormone for performance enhancement, they typically inject it into their body. The most effective way to take this hormone is through an injection.
Why Fighters Take Testosterone
Fighters obviously aren’t taking this steroid hormone because they want more hair on their bodies or to deepen their voice. They’re taking it to improve their bodies and so that they can work out longer, harder, and more often.
Being able to train more than your opponent is a major edge in combat sports because it allows you to potentially develop a technical edge.
Training more also gets you in better shape, and that’s in addition to the physical advantage you’re already developing due to the added muscle from the hormone.
The muscle growth that this substance can cause will make the fighter stronger and more powerful, two important characteristics for any sport.
A boxer may find that they’re able to hit harder and score more knockouts, while a wrestler may be able to overpower more opponents.
Fighters don’t take this hormone to get higher levels of aggression. If a fighter isn’t already aggressive enough in their sport of choice, then performance enhancers alone likely won’t change that.
The Illegality of Testosterone in Combat Sports
The promotion handling the fights and the athletic commission make the final decision on whether TRT is outlawed or not. If one fighter is taking it and their opponent isn’t, then the first fighter will have a significant advantage. It won’t guarantee that the fighter taking it wins, but there won’t be a level playing field.
Whether the steroid hormone is outlawed depends on the efforts of the promotion handling the fights and the athletic commission. Pride Fighting Championships (FC) was a popular MMA promotion that lasted from 1997 to 2007 and served as a major competitor for the UFC.
Fighters that competed in Pride FC have since come out and mentioned how in its fighter contracts, Pride FC included a statement that read “We do not test for steroids.”
The message was clear as day – fighters could take what they wanted with impunity.
Not surprisingly, many of those Pride fighters ended up testing positive for steroids or having notable drug test issues when they began fighting in organizations with drug testing.
Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva are two of the biggest names to have this happen. One can see a significant change in their physiques now compared to during their respective primes.
For many years, the UFC allowed testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). TRT is intended to help athletes get their testosterone back in the normal range.
TRT ended up being controversial among fans and fighters even though it may have seemed good in theory. It was seen as a way for fighters to game the system and get their levels up to the very limits of the allowable range. TRT ended up being controversial among fans and fighters even though it may have seemed good in theory.
The UFC eventually did away with TRT. Fighters on. TRT had to stop and fight without it. It also began working with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). USADA has a long list of prohibited performance enhancers and tests athletes at random. These random tests have gotten a few UFC fighters in a lot of trouble.
This hormone will keep finding its way into a fighter’s bloodstream despite its illegal status. It becomes a constant cat and mouse game between the fighters who cheat and the organizations that drug test them. There is no official count on how many fighters cheat this way. It would not be a surprise if the number is quite high. This is considering the pressure they face to perform at their absolute best.
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