But announcing an intention to “test the s--- out of" officially licensed TRT users still leaves us with plenty of questions. For instance:
1. What about the unofficial users? And, don't kid yourself, they're out there. The way it works is, if you apply for a therapeutic-use exemption in, say, Nevada, you're subject to testing that you otherwise wouldn't have to worry about. Fighters with TUEs have to undergo blood tests that look at their exact testosterone levels. Fighters without TUEs just have to worry about the regular urine tests. Those tests look at testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratios, but they can't detect the presence of synthetic testosterone. If you're adept enough at managing your T/E ratio, you're actually better off not applying for a TUE, since that only opens you up to more testing. Nevada even allows a T/E ratio of up to 6/1 (1/1 is normal for most men), so you don't even have to be that good at managing it. Applying for a TUE not only opens you up to more tests, it also makes you look like a cheater in the eyes of many fans, and, as of Friday, puts you in direct opposition to the UFC president. As long as no commission is doing the carbon-isotope ratio testing that detects synthetic testosterone, you might as well do your own TRT program on the sneak tip. If the UFC ramps up testing on fighters who have requested and received TUEs, won't that provide more of an incentive to do it secretly, without permission?
2. What happens if you get caught? Say you're a fighter with a testosterone exemption and the UFC calls you up three weeks before your fight and tells you to go submit a blood sample. Say the test reveals that your testosterone levels are absurdly high. Or, say you know your levels will be high, so you put the test off for a few days and make up some excuse about, I don't know, your free Harley-Davidson breaking down. What then? Does the UFC suspend you? Refer you to the athletic commission? Privately scold you and tell you to get your act together? Ideally, a situation like that would scrap a fight, but that would require the UFC to be willing to take money out of its own pocket. What if it's the main event? What if it's one of these superfights the UFC keeps promising us? The UFC has a pretty good record for reporting drug test failures after the fact in unregulated territories like the U.K., but how much do we trust the UFC to work against its own immediate financial interests for the sake of cleaning up the sport?
3. If the UFC can do this, why can't it do more? In the past when we've suggested that the UFC implement its own out-of-competition testing program, White has claimed that it would be unrealistic, if not downright impossible. Usually he responds by pointing out how many continents he's set foot on that week, and then contrasting that with how many fighters Zuffa has under contract at any given time. Of course, no one's asking White to personally draw each fighter's blood, but he does have a point when he says that such a program would be costly for the UFC, which would then still be subject to the whims of various athletic commissions (aka “the government") anyway. But once you start doing some of your own testing, that argument loses force. If the testing program succeeds, that just proves that you can clean the sport up if you want to. If you don't expand the program to all fighters and all banned substances, you're essentially admitting that you're only willing to spend the money testing some fighters for some things. Not only will that tell fighters which PEDs they should use if they want to avoid extra scrutiny, it also tells fans that there's a definite limit to how far you're willing to go in order to give them the cleanest, fairest competition possible.
All this is not meant to beat up on the UFC, which is at least moving in the right direction. It's doing more than any other fight promotion to combat performance-enhancing drug use, and it deserves recognition for that. But just because you make one improvement doesn't mean there aren't other problems that still need fixing.