by David P. Greisman
Dr. Margaret Goodman of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association recently spoke with BoxingScene.com about VADA and about testing for performance-enhancing drugs in combat sports.
In part 1, available at this link , Goodman described why VADA needed to be founded and how the agency came to be.
In this part, Goodman delves into the differences in testosterone ratios allowed by various states and agencies, the costs of conducting stringent testing for performance-enhancing drugs.
In part 3, which will be published in the coming days on BoxingScene.com, Goodman will discuss how and when VADA releases the results of its testing, and what Victor Conte’s role is.
BoxingScene.com: Both VADA and WADA allow up to a 4:1 testosterone ratio, while several states and athletic commissions, including your former employer in Nevada, have a 6:1 ratio. California, meanwhile, has 4:1. This is an obvious question, but do you think that states with a higher ratio are not being as responsible when it comes to policing potential cheaters?
Goodman: “Yes. Obviously without doing carbon isotope ratio testing [also called IRMS testing] for it, the bottom line is that without doing that — and I think one reason why we adopted that as part of our protocol to do CIR on every specimen that we test for anabolic steroids — is because even with a T/E ratio that’s considered normal by any lab, athletes are slipping by.
“And if you believe experts out here that tell you that the new way of cheating with anabolic steroids is to do microdosing of testosterone, then irrespective of the T/E ratio you’re going to miss athletes that are doping. Especially if you’re not going to do CIR — and I understand all of this specialized testing is very expensive and is a burden on everyone, depending on who’s paying for it — if you’re not going to be able to do that test unless you’ve got a positive T/E ratio, you’re going to miss athletes.
“I think the main thing with the drug testing and performance enhancing method testing, including for blood doping or modification of blood or other things that you’re looking for: unless you’re going to be fluid with this — I don’t mean to create a pun— and go with the changes and the new advancements, you have to try to be as stringent as possible, and I think accepting the 4:1 ratio is probably an easy way to expand that process.”
BoxingScene.com: The reasoning from Keith Kizer of the Nevada State Athletic Commission is there’s going to be a very small segment of the population that is naturally above 4:1, and even around 5:1. His concern was that with the NSAC being a government entity that has to publicly divulge positive tests, even for “A” samples, these people are potentially going to be maligned when the reasons are natural.
Goodman: “Then that becomes a different issue. If you look at Olympic procedures, at most anti-doping agencies, their protocol and results management, I think unless there’s some other reason, but typically results are not released to the public until there’s a positive ‘B’ sample. I guess if Nevada is concerned about that, they could wait to release something until they’ve received the ‘B’ sample. I guess that would be a way to correct that. If Nevada wanted to change to 4:1, that could be a way they could get around it.”
BoxingScene.com: Have you tested any athletes outside of boxing and mixed martial arts?
BoxingScene.com: Who were the first fighters that VADA tested?
Goodman: “Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto.”
BoxingScene.com: How many fighters have you tested in total?
Goodman: “Seven [Ortiz, Berto, Amir Khan, Lamont Peterson, Shane Mosley, Canelo Alvarez and Nonito Donaire].”
BoxingScene.com: When does testing typically begin, and is there a range in the number of times that an athlete is going to be tested
Goodman: “No range. That’s up to VADA’s decision as far as how many times. For example, Nonito Donaire, who’s now signed up with the VADA program will be tested throughout the entire year. That’s a little bit different. But we do have a program where they can enlist with VADA or enroll with VADA somewhere between 8 to 10 weeks before a fight. I think Mosley-Alvarez was a little bit less than that because of just getting it organized on their part. If someone wants to enroll with the program before a particular competition, we try as best we can to have that initiated eight to 10 weeks before.”
BoxingScene.com: Of the first six athletes you tested, only one fight happened. So with Mosley-Alvarez, how many times were they tested?
Goodman: “Mosley and Alvarez were tested four times during a six-week and five-day window.”
BoxingScene.com: What does it cost to do a round of testing per fighter?
Goodman: “It depends. It’s not a specific amount, and because it depends on what tests are ordered during that time and how many times an athlete is tested. I’m not trying to be non-specific, but it’s not the same tests every time, so it depends. I would say that it could be anywhere between $3,000 to $10,000, depending on where the athletes are located, the number of tests, the kind of tests. And in some instances, for example for Berto and Ortiz, VADA absorbed the cost on that, so they didn’t have to pay anything.”
BoxingScene.com: Why did VADA absorb the costs?
Goodman: “Basically what we were trying to do is offer sponsorship to let the athletes and boxing itself see how the program is run. We’re a nonprofit. We’re a 501(c)3, tax-deductible organization. We’re trying to accept donations.We want to make it as inexpensive as possible. I’m hoping we’ll have more involvement with sponsorships, so that the athletes won’t have to pay, or at least maybe we’ll be able to make the program available.
“I have been contacted by a number of athletes. I would like to make the program available to athletes that are not fighting for such large sums, so that even athletes just starting out can participate in the program. I think that’s mainly the goal. The main goal is not so much the testing. The main goal is the education aspect of it.
“It’s not like we’re looking to test hundreds of fighters per year. That certainly isn’t the goal. The goal is to educate the athletes, the boxing and MMA public, the athletic commissions, etc., on what thorough anti-doping procedures are, the side effects of these drugs. It’s mostly an educational program more than anything.”
BoxingScene.com: What would it take for VADA to be able to do not just test the typically main event fighters who are asking for this testing, but to test an entire card? Is the cost structure of that prohibitive?
Goodman: “No, because it’s just like anything. When I was trying to get MRI studies during that process and getting MRIs and MRI angiographies done in Nevada — and obviously as a neurologist I order a lot of tests like that, and an MRI, can sometimes can cost someone, if they’re paying cash, anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 for an isolated test. Obviously, that can be cost-prohibitive for promoters to have their fighters undergo. So one thing that we orchestrated with a lot of the radiology facilities in town was to get the cost down to $425 for both procedures.
“It’s just like anything. I am well aware that if we had total cards or large numbers of athletes at a time, it would be considerably less. I can’t tell you exactly how much less, because I would have to go to collection agencies and also the lab itself and see how much less it would be. But I can tell you for example when you do human growth hormone testing on blood, it’s a considerably lesser amount if you’re doing large numbers at a time, because they’re running batches.”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org