Chael Sonnen’s use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has been a controversial issue ever since it first emerged after his fight with Anderson Silva at UFC 117.
Sonnen was suspended after that fight for not going through the proper declaration and disclosure process regarding his TRT regimen. After returning to action with wins over Brian Stann and Michael Bisping, Sonnen is now getting another shot at Anderson this weekend.
This time his TRT use has been properly declared and given a medical exemption by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. But it is still a controversial subject as many fans are wondering why so many professional fighters require TRT at all. Its harshest critics say it is no more than legalised cheating, steroid use by another name.
Previous steroid abuse can also be a precursor, destroying the body’s ability to produce testosterone and requiring injections to keep levels normal. In Sonnen’s case, he says hypogonadism - under-developed testicles - is the root cause. He touched on the topic with the LA Times this weekend:
You won a therapeutic use exemption from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for this fight, acknowledging you need two injections a week of testosterone for medical reasons (hypogonadism). Can you explain this?
"I don't have an option. I either take this medicine or die. I'm not asking if I can take it. It's up to them to let me take it. It's a substance that's often abused, and I deal with taking it in shame. But a blood test can clear you, and show I take the appropriate amount. I'm paying for the tests. I've taken four so far. And they'll do a day-before and morning-after test as well."
Sonnen’s TRT exemption was just one of several things that got under Anderson Silva’s skin lately, prior to the Brazilian champion exploding in anger on last week’s UFC 148 conference call. He told the listening media that Sonnen was a “cheat” and “a criminal” and that he intends to break his legs and teeth.
What did you make of Silva's comments about you — calling you a criminal and discussing his violent intentions for you in the octagon on fight night?
“If you want to make it a morality play, I'll do it. In fact, I'll speak to him about it Saturday night while running my fist up his prissy little self, for 25 minutes to see where he's at on that. I kind of expected it. You idiot, Anderson, we signed up for a fistfight. I've been looking for this fight for two years, so that kind of stuff doesn't work with me.
“Him talking like that? He's singing my song.”
The fight takes place in Las Vegas this weekend and is already in MMA history books as one of the most anticipated rematches ever. The UFC is expecting over one million pay-per-view buys and viewer numbers in Brazil are expected to be astronomical as well. And if Sonnen wins, an immediate rematch is likely to make for a compelling - and lucrative - bad-blood trilogy.
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