Less than a year after obtaining permission to use medically prescribed testosterone, Shane Roller decided that changes to his diet and training are, for now, a better choice while continuing his fight career.
"I'm training a little bit smarter," he told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "I'm ready to go compete, but I'm getting my body ready in a different way."
The endocrinologist who helped Roller get permission believes he needs the hormone to compete. Roller, though, has serious misgivings about its use.
He recently informed Nevada State Athletic Commission officials that he won't maintain the therapeutic-use exemption he obtained from them in June 2011, less than a month before he fought
Melvin Guillardat UFC 132.
"I see what happens with the guys who have done it and abused it, and I don't want to be in that category at all," he said.
The 32-year-old Roller (10-6 MMA, 1-3 UFC) suffered a devastating knockout loss to Guillard, and following two subsequent defeats, could be fighting for his job when he meets veteran John Alessio (34-15 MMA, 0-4 UFC) on the FX-televised preliminary-card of UFC 148, which takes place July 7 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Roller, who's 1-3 since transitioning from the now-defunct WEC to the UFC, understands the stakes of his upcoming fight. Yet he believes the benefits he experienced undergoing testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT) are far outweighed by associations to fighters who might be using testosterone to gain an unfair advantage.
"If I didn't think there was a chance to be put in that group, I would definitely be on TRT," Roller said. "But I don't want to be viewed as a cheater – ever – so I backed off, and I'm trying to find other ways to keep my levels up."
Roller recently informed the NSAC of his decision after the commission prompted him to send in pre-fight medical paperwork for next month's bout. His doctor then sent a letter to the NSAC stating that he needed TRT but hadn't undergone treatment since February.
So far, he said things are going well in training camp.
"I don't know whether my levels are high or low right now, but I just listen to my body a little bit more than I have in the past, and I feel good," Roller said.
Roller said even when he was taking testosterone – once daily via a topical cream – he tested in the low-normal range for an adult male his age. He added that team members regularly tested his levels to ensure he didn't exceed the normal limit.
"I think one time I tested above 500 (nanograms per deciliter)," he said.
He was prompted to seek treatment following a submission loss to Anthony Pettis at WEC 50. Several weeks before the fight, he felt severe fatigue during and between training sessions and "was like a zombie" after workouts. During a visit to a family practice doctor, his testosterone was measured at 350 nanograms per deciliter. But a subsequent visit to an endocrinologist brought back a level of between 150-175 nanograms per deciliter, and he was recommended for TRT.
"I was kind of shocked," he said. "I was 31 years old. But one of my managers was reading up on it a lot, and he said it happens to gymnasts when their diets change. It kind of makes sense with how hard I was training for a couple of my fights. Probably my age had something to do with it. I was 31 trying to train like I was 20, and I think that had a lot to do with it."
Roller said during the camp for Pettis, he had severely cut his fat intake while believing he needed to stay lean during camp. He said he recovered better from workouts not long after beginning the treatment, and no side effects were noticed.
"But as far as performance in my fights, I couldn't tell a big difference at all," he said. "It wasn't anything I felt super good when I was doing it. I just felt a little bit better during recovery."
Roller submitted blood tests and medical documentation to the NSAC and was granted a therapeutic-use exemption prior to fighting Guillard. He said his testosterone levels were tested before and after the fight. In his next two fights, he provided the same documentation to athletic commissions in Washington D.C. and Illinois, and underwent additional testing.
He decided early this year that he would discontinue his TRT use.
"If you're taking it right and doing what your doctor is saying, they should never be prescribing to where you'll test out of range," Roller said. "There are guys that are doing that. There are guys taking regular steroids, which is the same thing. They're taking regular steroids and cheating, so people are going to get caught that are doing it."
After hiring a dietician to monitor his diet prior to fights, Roller believes he's on the right path. But should he experience prior symptoms, he may reconsider using TRT.
"I believe that I need it, from my doctor's standpoint," he said. "But training right now, I'm feeling good. I'm excited for this fight and I'm ready to go.
"I don't know if I made the right decision or not. I guess we'll see."