TJ Dillashaw Tests Positive For EPO
(Former) UFC Champion TJ Dillashaw has been suspended for 2 years after testing positive for EPO.
I'm not a huge UFC fan but I do tune in once in a while and this particular topic intrigued me.
Of all the choices of PEDs, EPO is arguably the most effective in a fighting context, and would undeniably provide a massive advantage in the cage.
I've witnessed frequent occurrences of illogical use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) for performance enhancing purposes in the UFC.
UFC Fighters Testing Positive For PED's With Minimal Performance Enhancing Benefit
Quite often I've witnessed coaches of fighters make strange choices of which kind of PEDs to utilize.
A couple of good examples are Anderson Silva, and Jon Jones.
Anderson Silva Testing Positive For Drostanolone (Masteron)
Anderson Silva tested positive for Drostanolone, also more commonly known as Masteron.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 4, 2015
In a bodybuilding context Masteron is typically used for drying out for a competition, or for antagonizing estrogen at the receptor.
In an actual fighting context, it's not very useful to be quite honest.
Masteron a poor muscle building agent.
It essentially just dries out the physique because of its high level of androgenicity, and the antagonizing effect it has on estrogen will inhibit joint lubrication.
Moreover, it's not going to build substantial amounts of strength either.
Even in a bulking phase it is a supporting compound at most.
DHT derivatives like Masteron can be useful for freeing up bound Testosterone from SHBG into more usable Free Testosterone, but at the end of the day if you're trying to be the best fighter in the world, is Masteron the best choice of steroid for performance outcomes?
No, definitely not.
Jon Jones Testing Positive For Clomid And Letrozole
While Masteron is a terrible choice for a UFC fighter, much more nonsensical choices have occurred.
Jon Jones tested positive for Clomid and Letrozole a few years ago.
Officials: Jon Jones tested positive for two banned substances. https://t.co/Afx0dck8bA
— ESPN (@espn) July 18, 2016
To the average UFC fan, they just see “Jon Jones tested positive for two banned substances” and they assume, “Oh, he took some crazy performance enhancing drug.”
But in reality, Clomid is a SERM commonly used in PCT phases to recover endocrine function, and Letrozole is a potent Aromatase Inhibitor used to control excessive amounts of aromatization in the body when using supraphysiological dosages of highly aromatizing steroids.
If anything, these two drugs might hinder your performance, rather than improve it.
Letrozole has an extremely small margin of error and it is very easy to crash your Estrogen levels with it.
If I took a Letrozole and went to train, my joints would be achy and creaky because of its inhibition of Estrogen aromatization, resulting in decreased bone mineral density, and depleting the body of necessary hydration.
Not to mention that I'd feel like crap because my estrogen being crushed to zero would tank my libido.
It is literally such a potent Aromatase Inhibitor that it is used almost exclusively by men who are on absurdly high dosages of Testosterone or other highly aromatizing steroids.
If he was using Clomid because he was in the middle of PCT, that might make sense, but would you really risk your world title and livelihood just so you can PCT properly?
More often than not, when I see guys getting popped for PEDs in the UFC I can't help but wonder why their coach would put them at risk of getting popped for the most negligible boost in performance ever.
There aren't a significant number of drugs that have a massively impactful effect on performance in a fighting context, as most anabolics will actually hinder a fighter by increasing lean muscle weight, which may push them into a higher weight class, and often increase their oxygen requirements as more muscle equates to more oxygen demand.
The end result of most fighters bulking up with muscle as a result of anabolic steroid use is just getting gassed out faster due to increased oxygen consumption just to move their body in the cage.
For this exact reason, this is why EPO is arguably the most effective performance enhancing compound that could be used in the UFC, and the risk to reward ratio of using it is a lot more logical than the majority of other busts I've seen.
The Advantage Of EPO Usage In A UFC Fight
EPO something that you would actually get a significant performance enhancing benefit from in a MMA context.
If you're a fighter you're pretty much completely reliant on your skill, athleticism and your endurance.
Obviously, there's other facets but it largely comes down to those 3 things, and it is very common to fighters fall apart in the later rounds due to lack of endurance.
TJ Dillashaw has shown to have exceptional endurance.
EPO provides a huge boost in endurance, without bogging the body down with additional lean muscle tissue that will increase the bodies oxygen demands.
EPO is most frequently associated with cyclists, the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong.
The reason why this was so heavily abused by cyclists is because it is one of the most effective compounds on the planet for massively increasing cardiovascular endurance.
It is also endogenously produced naturally in the body, which makes it even more ideal of an endurance agent as detection becomes more complicated when dealing with things that are naturally occurring in the body.
It's probably the most effective endurance boosting agent that is endogenously produced.
EPO is naturally present in the body as a regulator of red blood cell production.
It facilitates the development of red blood cells and initiates the synthesis of hemoglobin, which is the molecule found in red blood cells that transport oxygen around the body.
If you significantly increase the amounts of EPO in the body, then you will also artificially enhance the amount of oxygen you can circulate to different tissues.
Increased oxygen capacity inevitably leads to increased cardiovascular endurance, which is one of the most important factors in a fight.
How Much Does EPO Improve Endurance And Overall Performance?
In a clinical study assessing exactly how much of an impact EPO has on submaximal exercise performance, the performance enhancing benefit was massive.
VO2 max increased by 12.6% and 11.6% in week four and eleven respectively and time to exhaustion (80% VO2max) was increased by 54 and 54.3% after four and eleven weeks of treatment.
This was a study done in 2007 called Prolonged Administration of Recombinant Human EPO Increases Submaximal Performance More Than Maximum Aerobic Capacity.
This study showed that EPO can increase time to exhaustion by 54%.
That's huge in a UFC fight, especially in a title fight where there are more rounds and your endurance becomes even more crucial.
The last couple rounds are when a significant proportion of fighters have their performance start to go in the gutter.
Anyone can come out swinging in the first round and show exactly what they're made of.
But, there are plenty of fighters like Conor McGregor who essentially rely on a first or second round knockout, as their performance starts to suffer considerably the deeper they get in a fight.
There are a lot of top fighters who are shells of themselves in the later rounds of championship fights.
This is where the motivation to use EPO comes in, as Dillashaw clearly wanted to ensure his performance remained consistent, even in the later rounds.
I truly don't know why some coaches put their fighters at risk and put them on compounds that offer little to no performance benefit in a fight.
My best guess is that they themselves don't understand how these drugs work, or what compounds would provide the most significant performance outcome in a fighting context.
EPO is one of the few compounds that really makes sense when it comes to risk to reward (or at least it did at the time for TJ).
If I was training a guy and he had out of range Estrogen, would I tell him to go take Letrozole to get it into range to avoid a bit of Gyno?
Risk his title, legacy, and entire livelihood, as well as my own livelihood as his coach just to get Estrogen down a bit.
And I sure as hell wouldn't put him on it for a performance enhancing outcome, as that is even more nonsensical, as is the majority of PED choices I see nowadays in the UFC.
The go to argument most state is that someone took a tainted supplement and that's what caused a false positive.
If Clomid and Letro metabolites show up on your WADA-accredited lab test, it’s because you ingested Clomid and Letro.
I find it hard to believe that anyone would accidentally take unregulated supplements that just so happened to have trace amounts of SERMs, AAS and AI's more than once knowing their entire livelihood relies on them not ingesting random supplements that could have trace amounts of banned substances.
Not to mention that any over the counter supplement that isn't banned by WADA would inherently have an extremely minimal/non-existent performance enhancing benefit.
Which PED's Are Effective Enough To Justify Their Risk?
There's no arguing how much of a significant advantage somebody has on EPO compared to someone who isn't on it.
In so many cases, you could argue that a fighter would have won anyways, even if he didn't take the PED he tested positive for.
However, that is not the case with EPO, and there is a case to be made that a fighter may never have won some of their biggest fights if it wasn't for its use.
Again, I'm not a UFC vet by any means, but this story stuck out to me because of my interest in bodybuilding pharmacology, so I felt the crossover of content deserved a post.
The half life of EPO is only five hours, and the fact that it is naturally present in the body and endogenously produced implies that it is quite likely that plenty of other fighters have been skirting drug tests for a while now with the same strategy TJ Dillashaw used.
If you can trick a test into thinking you're just training at elevation or doing something that could otherwise increase red blood cell production, there is likely a far greater margin of error when getting away with EPO use.
It seems like the testing is even more advanced now, and it will be very interesting to see how this unfolds.
When TJ Dillashaw tests positive for EPO, you know the spotlight is now back on advancing the methods of EPO detection, and it wouldn't surprise me to see a bunch of other fighters suddenly getting popped for the same thing.