With TRT exemptions getting more and more attention with every spectacular knockout from Vitor Belfort and the venerable Dan Henderson headlining more and more shows, it raises a few questions. Primarily, if it’s so “bad” then why is it happening and why is it allowed?
Dana White has stated repeatedly, if a fighter requires TRT, that might be a sign that the fighter shouldn’t be fighting anymore? Which makes since the common logic that when an athlete’s body breaks down through age, wear and tear, and they are unable to compete at the level of their competitors, that they either drop down a level in competition or retire, right? The use of PED’s in sports is an enormous subject, but it all comes down to one thing, if the entire sports world, truly wanted athletics to be “clean” it could happen with a snap of its metaphorical finger. But it will never happen, because at the end of the day, if two people are going to throw a ball, lift a box, or punch somebody, the audience will prefer to watch the one with the bigger muscles, doing it. And that’s a reality perpetuated by the promoter, the athlete, and the audience.
Society loves big muscles and convinces itself that these athletes are so amazing because of hard work and determination, and will swear to the death all athletes are clean until they fail a drug test. And even then, they sometimes need more proof. But once it’s been established an athlete took PED’s, he or she is crucified in the eyes of society. And while people focus on the “lying” that athlete did as the reasons for their vilification of said athlete, the deeper truth is that people are frustrated that their illusion has been destroyed. It’s the adult version of finding out your Dad is Santa Claus. Adults like to watch big muscles and at the core, don’t want to know the realities of how they got that way, convincing themselves it was all attained through hard work and determination, just like how Lance Armstrong did it. Whoops!
But what’s important to realize is these beliefs aren’t modern, or it wasn’t a phase begun by the “fitness craze” in the 80’s. Big muscles and strength have historically drawn well and always will, as it seems to be encoded into our DNA. And what’s also been encoded is the desire to not delve too deeply into how these athletes achieve this great strength. After all the biggest heroes of history, are all the juice in one form or another. Superman doesn’t get his muscles from hard work, they come from the radiation of our yellow sun. We don’t want to see Superman on Krypton doing good deeds by struggling to move a couch for his elderly neighbor, we want to see him lifting a bus over his head in our world. The base appeal of the Hulk isn’t so much the internal struggle over his anger, it’s the fact that he’s the biggest pile of muscle ever, and he got his muscles from Gamma rays. Captain America was literally given steroids before steroids were known by that name. They called it “super soldier serum” and it was even injected with a needle! Superman, the Hulk, you name it, were all on PED’s in one form or another, not hard work and determination. Yet it’s not about who’s cheating or not, because at the core, the end result is all people care about.
But even look before the 20th century at our heroes of fiction. Frankenstein is over despite no intelligence but is super strong. Yet the guy who created him, someone who used science to literally create life can’t draw a dime. Vampires are super-strong and live forever from an injection (bite) directly into the bloodstream. If that’s not HGH, I don’t know what is.
And even going back thousands of years you look to the biggest drawing card of the day was Hercules. If you read his stories, he’s actually a horrible man, who killed his family, is easily duped, and is generally not very nice. But Hercules was jacked to the gills thanks to the “divine” blood from his biological father Zeus, as a form of PED. Sure, Hercules did some good deeds, but so did a lot of heroes, and others arguably did a lot more, but Hercules is the top guy because his gimmick is his muscles. Zeus is the ruler of the Greek Gods and could kill Hercules with a snap of his finger, but Hercules is the top draw because he’s way more jacked than Zeus.
And that’s what this all boils down to. People don’t want to see a skinny Vitor win decisions or get kicked in the face, they want to see Vitor Belfort running around the ring, veins popping out all over, his shoulders shredded without an ounce of fat on him, throwing movie-like spin kicks that kill people. Because if Dana White truly felt that Vitor Belfort shouldn’t be competing anymore because he requires TRT to keep him at a “normal” level, than Dana’s solution is simple, stop signing him to fights.
And that’s where this symbiotic relationship between the athlete, promoter, and the audience is fully felt. The promoter, whether that be Dana White, Roger Goodell, or even the Olympic Committee, will give the people what they want: jacked up athletes doing things that “normal” people can’t do. As long as the organizations leave room for athletes to do what they have to, and continue to hide behind commission rulings or unions, basically anything else external they can claim is keeping them from having a “clean” sport, and as long as the athletes follow the unwritten rules and don’t get caught, and as long as the audience doesn’t ask too many questions, than everybody wins. It’s all about people putting up fronts to maintain that illusion whether they’re aware of it or not. And once certain things go public like the TRT exemptions, or high profile drug scandals, then there’s some push and pull, so it seems like everyone wants sports to be clean, and as soon as the heat diea down, things go back to normal. And that’s watching Hercules ripping dragon heads off with his bare hands.