Are MMA and Boxing Fans’ Wallets the Solution to More Progressive Drug Testing Policies?

Yesterday was an interesting day for the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Not only were referees and judges decided upon by the commission for the…

By: Leland Roling | 13 years ago
Are MMA and Boxing Fans’ Wallets the Solution to More Progressive Drug Testing Policies?
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Yesterday was an interesting day for the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Not only were referees and judges decided upon by the commission for the epic heavyweight tilt between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin, but the commission continued to jab at the possibility of ramping up their drug testing policy.

In an information gathering session, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency head Travis Tygart was brought in to talk about the limitations of the current NSAC drug testing policy and how it could be improved. As you would have probably guessed, his ideas were met with some defensiveness. Ivan Trembow listened via teleconference, and here’s some of the issues and thoughts from that meeting:

Tygart emphasized that you need to have both urine testing and blood testing in order to have a legitimate drug testing system that can detect various different kinds of banned substances.

The line of questioning by the NSAC’s commissioners seemed to be trying to focus on the limits of blood testing and the things that it can’t detect (ie, defending the status quo of Nevada’s urine-only testing), but Tygart kept emphasizing that if you only have one or the other (only urine testing or only blood testing), you’re missing out on detecting entire groups of banned substances.

Tygart added that even if the NSAC were to give itself the authority to order blood tests on fighters and then rarely use that authority, that would still be a big step in the right direction. Tygart said that just the fact that the NSAC would have the authority to order blood tests would act as a deterrent to cheaters, and it would be up to the NSAC to decide how frequently or infrequently these blood tests would be ordered.

Another point that Tygart made is that when a fighter is ordered to take an out-of-competition drug test under the NSAC’s current system and the fighter has 24 or 48 hours to submit a urine sample from the time when they are notified, that is plenty of time for any drug-savvy fighter to beat a drug test. Under WADA and USADA standards, athletes must either submit to a drug test immediately, or the athlete must not leave the sight of the inspector until the athlete has submitted a sample.

The NSAC’s commissioners appear to be getting a bit defensive, as Commissioner Avansino defensively told Tygart, “We at the Nevada State Athletic Commission have been devoted to random drug testing for years!”

Travis Tygart referred to “the money excuse” and said to the NSAC commissioners (paraphrasing), “The money is there. You just have to decide how you want to prioritize it. You could take one dollar or one percent from every PPV buy of the Mayweather/Mosley fight and that could fund your drug program for the next five years.”

To be perfectly honest, this is the type of back-and-forth banter you’ve probably heard at a place of employment. Something you’ve done in the past is being scrutinized, and the conclusion is that it is far from adequate. While 95% of the population would feel threatened, the commission’s sole purpose is to promote fighter safety and regulate the sport. There isn’t room for defensive reactions to someone stating facts.

Tygart has been a very loud figure against the state athletic commission’s agenda of stating their programs are sufficient enough to catch fighters. In interviews earlier this year, he talked about how commission testing is a joke and even went into detail about how fighters could submit fake samples with as little as ten minutes notice. I suppose I could say that bringing Tygart in for an information-gathering session is a step in the right direction, but the notion that he was met with resistance is baffling.

Tygart’s suggestion to take one dollar from every pay-per-view that is promoted within the state is a plan that can work. Even if the UFC decides that they don’t want to take profits from their existing pay-per-view rate, adding one dollar to a forty-five dollar pay-per-view isn’t going to shun away droves of UFC fans. The commission would also be able to limit the added dollar to only a few events a year as the revenue would be more than enough to fund a better program.

The fact of the matter is that Tygart’s suggestions will either deter fighters or catch more fighters. Twenty-four to forty-eight hours urine sample submissions are inexcusable, and they need to be immediate upon request. Blood testing must be an option, and use of newly-created EPO urine testing needs to be implemented. Cheaters have likely found ways to circumvent these tests, but the NSAC can’t simply look away at the situation as their testing policy enters ancient times. They need to up the ante.

I’ve grown rather tired of the NSAC’s responses, and perhaps my reaction is premature — but these meetings give off the perception that the NSAC isn’t looking to progressively move into a new age of “promoting fighter safety”. I won’t bash the commission for their conduct at events. They are there to protect fighters, and they do that. But before fights and after fights, the commission needs to have stricter drug testing policies that conform with the modern era, not ten years ago.

Would you pay an extra dollar per pay-per-view that resides in the state of Nevada to see a more extensive drug testing program put together? It would include both urine and blood testing along with more random testing without any notice. It would also include EPO testing via the new test on the market. Is that something that you would pay that extra dollar to see become a reality?

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Leland Roling
Leland Roling

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