UFC light heavyweight fighters Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson were in Las Vegas earlier this month for a press conference and media event to promote their upcoming meeting at UFC Fight Night in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 7, 2015. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) thought this was as good a time as any to administer a random, unannounced and out-of-competition drug test. Belfort and Henderson were reportedly asked to submit urine and blood samples to a USADA doping control officer on September 4, 2015.
It represents the first time that either fighter has been tested since the UFC hired USADA as the administrator of its brand new anti-doping policy. UFC hopes USADA will put a stop to steroid use in mixed martial arts (MMA) and put an end to the “steroid era” in UFC.
Many people are anxiously awaiting the results of Belfort’s testing. After all, Belfort is MMA’s most infamous steroid user. Belfort was once the poster boy for everything that was wrong with UFC’s old steroid policy.
Belfort is a “convicted” steroid user who tested positive for 4-hydroxytestosterone (a metabolite of testosterone) while fighting under the now-defunct PRIDE promotion (“PRIDE: Real Deal”) in Las Vegas on October 21, 2006. Coincidentally, Belfort had just fought Dan Henderson and lost a unanimous decision.
Belfort first blamed the steroid positive on the dietary supplement “Max Tribostak – Male Hormone Support” distributed by Max Muscle. He later claimed the failed test was the result of injections given by his doctor to treat an injured knee. Regardless of his explanation, no one really believed him.
The October 2006 steroid positive was the first of two times that Belfort failed an anti-doping test. On February 7, 2014, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) tested Belfort and found that the Brazilian fighter had elevated levels of testosterone in his system. However, Belfort was not reprimanded or disciplined the second time around.
Belfort had allegedly been diagnosed with hypogonadism. This meant that his body was incapable of naturally producing adequate levels of testosterone. As a result, his doctor prescribed the anabolic steroid testosterone as part of a testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) protocol to treat Belfort’s hypogonadism. Since Belfort was in the process of applying for a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone, the NSAC decided to look the other way and took no action against Belfort. Other UFC stars, like Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen, had successfully obtained TUEs for steroids. Why couldn’t Belfort?
Belfort took full advantage of the overly-permissive doping policy that openly permitted him to use anabolic steroids (for TRT) until the NSAC categorically banned all steroid use including doctor-prescribed TRT in 2014.
For an athlete who could no longer produce testosterone, this should have put an end to Belfort’s career in MMA. However, Belfort was miraculously cured of his hypogonadism a few months later. Belfort made a dramatic and full recovery such that the 38-year old’s testosterone levels were higher than 98% of all men.
In a drug test administered prior to his fight against Chris Weidman, Belfort’s testosterone levels were maxed out at the very top of the normal range with a value of 1200 ng/dL. Based on this value alone, many people considered Belfort’s lab results highly suspicious. Even more suspicious was the fact that Belfort’s serum testosterone levels dropped drastically to 500 ng/dL during an anti-doping test administered a month later. Weidman couldn’t believe Belfort was able to get away with it and still pass the anti-doping tests. Weidman called the results “quite the discovery”.
“Seriously? So I’m 30 and he’s what, 38? Screw the T-E levels, how does he go from 12 ng/ml to 5 ng/ml? That’s crazy. I’m not worried, I will still have to beat him anyway. It’s just funny and quite the discovery.” Weidman said.
Belfort’s critics were convinced the Brazilian MMA star was able to outsmart the drug testers. After all, every UFC athlete knew that the NSAC only used two tests to look for exogenous testosterone use. The two tests were a testosterone:epitestosterone (T:E) ratio test and a serum testosterone blood test. Smart athletes have found a way to microdose and manipulate their testosterone use so they can easily avoid detection by these two methods.
However, USADA is known to occasionally utilize a third test – the carbon isotope ratio (CIR) test – to conclusively determine whether the testosterone found in an athlete’s system was endogenously produced by the body or exogenously introduced from a synthetic source.
If Belfort is still microdosing testosterone and hoping to continue to get away with it, he will be in for a rude awakening if USADA chooses to use CIR to analyze his sample.
In the meantime, Belfort has decided to revisit the UFC 187 round of steroid testing and accuse Weidman of microdosing and cycling testosterone in order to avoid detection.
“Did he stop cycling? Wasn’t him the one to stop cycling, because his testosterone was low?” Belfort asked rhetorically. “Was doing a treatment and paid the price. But have you ever thought about it, or no? Nobody ever talked about it. My levels were normal, his levels were low. How a kid at his age has low testosterone?”
Belfort claimed that Weidman’s serum testosterone levels were abnormally low for a 31-year old man. The uncomfortable fact for Belfort is that Weidman was still able to kick his ass even though his testosterone levels were only in the low-normal range at 370 ng/dL.
Unfortunately, Belfort’s comments made it perfectly apparent that he knows exactly it is possible to use steroids and manipulate one’s testosterone levels while still successfully avoiding detection.
“The reality is everybody was doing cycling with their testosterones,” Belfort said. “I didn’t hide anything. You all knew what I was doing, I was doing a treatment. And I still have the deficiency, I’m working with supplements and food. I have a life of sacrifice. I don’t have a normal social life. I won’t reveal my secret, and my doctor’s secret, but we have been using natural things to meet this demand.”
Belfort refused to tell anyone his “secret”. Will USADA be able to expose it?
Burke, T. (September 16, 2015). Vitor Belfort on Chris Weidman’s UFC 187 drug test: ‘Did he stop cycling?’ Retrieved from http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2015/9/16/9338001/ufc-video-belfort