Marcio Tannure, medical director of the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission and the UFC in Brazil, is in charge of all medical activities for the UFC in Brazil. He was responsible for authorizing the testosterone replacement treatment (TRT) for Vitor Belfort.
The spectacular knockout delivered by Belfort at UFC on FX 8 is still generating heated debates. Some of them are enthusiastic about the sensational spinning high kick that exploded in Luke Rockhold’s face. But a larger share are discussing and speculating about the part that Belfort’s TRT use played in the fight.
As he has been taking TRT with the permission of the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission (CABMMA), who better to talk about Vitor’s treatment than Dr. Márcio Tannure, CABMMA’s medical director, who authorized the middleweight’s treatment on grounds of hypogonadism.
You work in one of the most respected sports medical departments in Brazil, ‘Flamengo’. How did you end up being invited to join the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission?
I was already working with the UFC when the Commission was created and, as you said, since I had experience with sports medicine, I was invited to help with this part.
The CABMMA worked as a kind of supervisor on UFC Sao Paulo (UFC on FX 7) to finally be in charge of all regulatory activities starting on the Jaragua do Sul event, right? Can you specify the differences between what was done in Sao Paulo and in Jaragua?
Right. Many things have been done, but I can only answer about the medical area. The biggest difference for us was that in São Paulo, the anti-doping tests were conducted by an American laboratory. Since the Jaragua event, the whole process is going to take place here in Brazil.
With the end of the first event with CABMMA’s full responsibility, what were you (as the medical director of the entity) able to learn so you can improve even more the upcoming events in Brazil? Can you highlight some facts, positive and negative, that happened in Jaragua do Sul that will help to guide the work of CABMMA?
I think the experience has been positive, mainly because we are giving space for critics and opinions from people directly connected to the sport, so we can work on problems that occur or have occurred in other Commissions, and with that, try to make CABMMA to become a reference as well.
Did the CABMMA use any American state commission as a model? The NSAC (Nevada State Athletic Commission) often "set the rules" unofficially in the United States, and other Commissions usually follow the decisions made in Nevada. Is the CABMMA also in line with the NSAC?
Yes, not that we follow their decisions, but for being the oldest and most acting Commission, the NSAC was the model we used to start ours.
Speaking of which, there is no way to leave behind the much discussed testosterone replacement therapy that Vitor Belfort is taking. It was you, on behalf of CABMMA, who authorized his TRT, right?
Yes, but we have to clarify that the commission does not indicate to a specific athlete to use it or not, we only evaluate the requests and authorize the treatment or not.
NSAC executive director Keith Kizer said that he will not authorize TRT for any athlete who failed drug tests in the past, clearly directing the statement to Vitor Belfort. What is your opinion regarding the NSAC’s veto, since Belfort was only allowed to take the treatment in Brazil and is unlikely to be cleared to fight again in the United States under these circumstances?
I would not like to comment on their decisions. They have the right and autonomy to make their decisions, as we have to make ours.
Is it possible that Belfort’s hypogonadism had any other cause than the abuse of anabolic steroids during his career?
I can’t say what was the cause of his hypogonadism, what happened and what didn’t, because we don’t know that. And there are several possible causes for this condition.
A person with unacquired hypogonadism (someone born with the disease or who got it as a child, for example) would be able to become a professional fighter and compete in world elite level?
Yes, if the person got the proper treatment.
Still on Vitor’s issue, one thing is unclear: it’s not possible to determine the cause of his hypogonadism, but the abuse of anabolic steroids is a possible cause, and he was suspended for this reason in the past. It’s his right to take care of his health and do the treatment, but don’t you think that authorizing TRT and letting him compete professionally is actually letting him get away with mistakes made in the past?
I say this because when an athlete uses illegal substances, he should keep in mind that there are future consequences (such as hypogonadism). If the fighter does not need to deal with these future consequences, wouldn’t it encourage the use of illegal substances? I mean, the athlete can think "Hey, I can take a lot of steroids, because if I ever have problems I know they will allow me to take TRT and keep competing"?
I don’t agree. First because, as I said, we can’t determine the cause of the disease. By saying this, you would be affirming that this was the cause of Vitor’s condition.
The athlete who gets caught using steroids will be punished and suspended, as happened to him and others. So it was not and would not be unpunished, in all cases.
There are androgenic and anabolic hormones and, in fact, people do not know the difference between them. If, at some point, Vitor Belfort gets caught in a drug test with an anabolic hormone, he will be punished again like any other fighter. But he is currently using an androgenic hormone, specific for replacement.
Did any other fighter requested permission to the CABMMA to start using TRT? Can you name anyone who asked?
So far no other fighter requested it.
How is CABMMA conducting the whole drug testing process? All fighters are being tested in every event? The tests are made after the events, or you are doing random tests? Which labs did the CABMMA certified to do the tests?
All fighters are tested before the fight, and six fighters are drawn to be tested again after the fight. Since Vitor is in treatment, he was also required to perform a blood test to check if his testosterone levels are normal. We can’t tell the lab’s name because of medical confidentiality.
What will be CABMMA’s position towards drugs such as marijuana and cocaine?
Marijuana and cocaine will be treated the same as always, they are doping.
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