Dan Henderson was granted a medical exemption for testosterone when he fought 'Shogun' Rua at UFC 139. (Josh Hedges/Forza/Getty Images)
The California State Athletic Commission voted on Monday to approve an amendment that allows therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for combat sports’ athletes who use drugs currently banned by the state agency for medical purposes, including testosterone and marijuana.
To be adopted into state law, the amendment’s verbiage must now be reviewed and approved by the Department of Consumer Affairs and then the state’s Office of Administrative Law, a process that could take months or even years, if it passes at all.
A DCA representative was present at the Monday hearing to read a letter from its director, stating the agency’s concern that the proposed exemption process wasn’t specific enough and undermined the CSAC’s purpose to ensure fighter safety.
Loosely modeled after the exemption process the World Anti-Doping Agency uses for Olympians, Monday’s CSAC-approved amendment states that the exemption will only apply to “medication needed to maintain health and not obtain an unfair advantage over an opponent during a match.”
Prior to Monday’s vote, the CSAC inserted additional verbiage clarifying that the TUE applicant would be responsible for all costs related to tests and medical evaluations that might be requested for an approval.
The amendment’s origin dates back to late 2010, after UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen tested positive for elevated testosterone levels, then maintained at his suspension appeals hearing that he’d gotten an exemption under the previous commission’s staff for the medical condition hypogonadism. Entering CSAC executive Officer George Dodd was unable to find any documentation to support Sonnen’s claim, and the fighter’s one-year suspension was reduced (only to be reinstated later).
In response, the CSAC began to draft a formal TUE process for future applicants.
On Monday, the CSAC also discussed the validity of its current procedure to allow select medical exemptions under the executive officer’s approval.
“California doesn’t have a therapeutic use exemption and in the absence of one, the executive officer cannot authorize someone to fight with any of the [prohibitive] substances in use,” said CSAC counsel Anita Scurry.
However, Dodd said he has granted exemption approval to select athletes with proper medical documentation.
One of those athletes was UFC middleweight Dan Henderson, who was granted a TUE for testosterone when he fought Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 139 last November in San Jose, Calif.
Dodd told SI.com in December that Henderson’s rigorous approval process served as a test case that the commission used to evaluate its proposed TUE requirements.
Like Henderson, one of three fighters approved for a testosterone TUE in Nevada, Dodd said future TUE candidates would need to provide extensive medical records documenting past use of the drug for medical purposes.
For a testosterone exemption specifically, Dodd said an applicant would be asked to provide blood tests prior to (30 days before) and after a contest to ensure levels were within acceptable margins. Dodd said that all materials submitted would be reviewed by the CSAC’s medical advisory board, which added an endocrinologist to its ranks on Monday for such cases.
Also on Monday, the CSAC voted unanimously to exclude two asthma medications, salbutamol and salmeterol, from its prohibited substance list.
-- Loretta Hunt