by David P. Greisman
Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer spoke to BoxingScene.com last week about several topics related to performance-enhancing drugs and drug testing.
In part one of this interview, Kizer spoke of how Nevada handles positive test results from tests conducted by VADA or USADA; the idea of upgrading drug testing at the state level, particularly out-of-competition testing, and what difficulties that might pose; and the criticism of Nevada’s use of a 6:1 T/E ratio.
In part two, soon to follow here on BoxingScene.com, Kizer discusses the granting of therapeutic-use exemptions. Nevada has issued exemptions to six mixed martial artists allowing them to undergo testosterone replacement therapy. Kizer elaborates on his concerns, what testosterone levels those fighters are allowed to have, and how the commission handles those who might have previously used performance-enhancing drugs.
BoxingScene.com: A couple of recent positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs weren’t from tests done by an athletic commission. How does Nevada handle test results from supplemental testing from agencies such as VADA or USADA?
Kizer: “This will be our first one with a positive test, so there’s really no historical precedent on that. [Lamont Peterson is] a little easier for us, because he basically came out right after, both himself and his agents, and said, ‘Yeah, I took the stuff. I took the stuff back in November and of course I didn’t tell anybody about it.’
“So the factual issues really aren’t in play, at least the major material issues of fact are not existent. That makes it a lot easier. I know in the [Andre] Berto case, he’s claiming some kind of contamination and a lot of other stuff that we’ve heard before. I’ll let California deal with that one if he proceeds with his matter there. But with Peterson it’s a pretty easy situation.
“We’ve had cases with our own testing where athletes come up with some very interesting defenses at times. They have the right to present their defenses and they have the right to proceed with them and try to convince the commission that these defenses should be taken seriously, that they’ve met their burden of proving the defense.
“It may be more difficult to deal with that with supplemental testing as opposed to primary testing, but it’s something that we’d be willing to deal with if the supplemental testing agencies provide us with what we need, and I assume they would.”
BoxingScene.com: And so even though the testing is being conducted by another agency, the consequences are no different in Nevada?
Kizer: “Correct. I don’t see why they would be. I should say it’s up to the commissioners to make the final decision, but I see no reason why.”
BoxingScene.com: That’s because they still have to come before the commission for a license?
Kizer: “Kind of. The main reason is the violation isn’t failing the test. We’ve actually had some cases before us where it seems like maybe the lawyer is a little too clever for his own good, where he tries to make a big deal about the test itself. And the test is important, but again when you have a situation where the athlete’s admitted taking a prohibited substance, it kind of makes it easier on the commission.
“The violation is not failing the drug test. The violation is taking the prohibited substance. So the drug test is the evidence. You have a right, of course, to confront and cross-examine witnesses and to challenge documentary evidence, but nonetheless, the primary issue, the ultimate issue, is ‘Did the athlete take prohibited substances before the fight?’ And in a situation where the athlete has admitted to that, it makes it a lot easier.”
BoxingScene.com: If a fighter is scheduled to fight in Nevada but is not yet licensed at time of failed test, does Nevada still have the power to suspend?
Kizer: “It’s not suspension. It’d be a denial in that situation. It should be the same, although the Ali Act does not specifically reference denials — that came up big, if you recall, with Tyson, where he was denied a license here but was able to go to Tennessee to fight Lewis. That was a Tennessee call. We took no offense at that. It’s a state-by-state issue, as it should be, as opposed to suspensions, of course, where there has to be reciprocity under the Ali Act.”
BoxingScene.com: What's your view on upgrading drug testing at the state level, given that there have been some very big positives of late?
Kizer: “I’ve always said, ‘Hey, the more testing, the better.’ It’s a little more difficult in the boxing world than maybe some other sports where you have a very closed system like the NFL or baseball, though of course I would certainly put our testing procedures well above theirs, even though I think they’re doing a better job than they used to do.
“As you know, fighters may fight here once a career, or they might fight every fight that they have here. If you want to know where certain baseball players or certain football players are going to be competing next, it’s pretty easy. You go to the schedule of their team, you look it up, and you’ll probably know where they’ll be playing, in some cases, 161 games from now, or in football 15 games from now, barring injury.
In boxing, look at the major fighters, even, and it’s hard to know when they’ll fight next, where they’ll fight next, so it’s a lot more difficult, regardless of who the testing agency is. You just never know when these fights will happen. If an opponent gets injured, a fighter may not fight at all. If a starting third basement for a major league team or the starting quarterback for an NFL team gets injured, the team will still play, there still will be people to test. Here the whole event could get canceled. Of course, with May 19, with Peterson’s positive test, there was nobody to test because there was no fight card that day.
“That comes into play majorly, and that has nothing to do with whether it’s the commission or if it’s USADA or VADA or a different testing agency that wants to do it. It plays with us all. There’s always going to be that situation where it comes into play. VADA was planning on testing Khan and Peterson on May 19. Guess what? They didn’t, because the card got canceled. That’s going to always be an issue with testing, especially with respect to out-of-competition testing.
“The second thing is a lot of the supplemental testing, they’re testing one fight on the card. They’re testing the main event or they’re testing the co-main event. I don’t know if anyone would agree that that’s the better way to do it. To just test two guys on the card, that’s what VADA does, that’s what USADA does, and I’ve never known them to test more than two guys on a boxing card. To me that’s nonsensical.
“I test everybody. Why they would not be in favor of testing everybody on the card and only testing 2 out of 20 guys, neither organization has been able to explain that to me, and I’m not sure they can explain it to everybody. I don’t think that’s a good precedent to set.”
BoxingScene.com: There’s been some criticism of the 6:1 ratio for testosterone that Nevada has, compared to the 4:1 ratio used elsewhere. What sort of movement in Nevada, if any, is there toward bringing the state’s regulated ratio lower?
Kizer: “I guess there’s nothing to stop it. That’s something we could do. I can tell you a couple things, though. It kind of bothers me when I see people in the know criticize it without telling the whole story. First off, when people say, ‘Where’d you get the 6:1 ratio?’ We got it from WADA. For most of their existence, they used the 6:1 ratio.
“About six years ago they switched from a 6:1 to a 4:1. There was heavy debate on that. Do you go to three standard deviations, to 6:1, or do you go to 4:1? And for a majority of the time, they stuck with the 6:1, the 3 standard deviations, as opposed to 4:1. The reason for that is quite simple. There’s a segment of the population, about 5 percent, where their natural T/E ratio is going to be above 4, usually between 4 and 5 and a half.
“In our situation where you have a government agency, these things are public records. As soon as I get the test results, they’re public records. If they have a positive test where it turns out that the 4.1 to 1 ratio was natural, well this guy’s now been branded a cheater. Even if it gets cleared up later, people are still going to brand this person as a cheater. We’ve seen a lot of people get cleared later, but there’s still going to be a segment of the population who is going to paint them as a cheater unfairly. That’s something that we have to be concerned about.
“With 6:1, I’ve never had a situation where we’ve popped somebody and it turned out that they were natural. With 6:1, you’re rather safe. And again, that is why WADA, for the majority of their life, had 6:1 instead of 4:1 as their ratio. That being said, though, the NCAA has 6:1. The Colorado commission, the New York commission, the Mohegan Sun commission, and several, several, several other agencies have a 6:1 ratio for the same reason. And again, we’re not disagreeing with WADA; we’re agreeing with WADA for the majority of their existence.
“That’s the pro-6:1 side. Of course the anti-6:1 side is the more leeway you give, the more people can play the game. That’s a concern. By the way, Peterson was not above 4:1. He was below 4:1, so even with the 4:1 ratio he wouldn’t have been caught. He was caught because of a CIR test, which is a very good test. It’s also very expensive. In fact, if I only had to test two guys per card, I’d be using it. I’m testing 20, sometimes 22 guys per card sometimes. It’s a little different story again, but it’s very important nonetheless.
“In fact, we do that: When someone does test above the 6:1 ratio, and they’re going to challenge it, fine, we’ve got no problem. We’re going to do the B sample with a CIR test. We had that with a fighter a couple years back, and not surprisingly it came back as synthetic testosterone. I think you can make a very good argument that 4:1 is still the better test to use in some situations. Again, it gets a little weaker when you’re talking about a government agency where the A sample is a public record. You can still make some arguments.
“I can tell you this, though. I did check with California. California, years back they went from 6:1 to 4:1. I checked with George Dodd about a couple months ago. I always want to improve. And we might go to 4:1 tomorrow, so I’m not trying to downplay it, though it may sound like it. But I checked with him. I said, ‘George, how many guys since you’ve switched from 6:1 to 4:1, you’ve had hundreds of tests, how many guys tested between 4 and 6 and were guilty?’ He said, ‘Keith, zero.’
“I said ‘OK, that’s good to know.’ I checked with our own expert. I said, ‘If I went from 6:1 to 4:1, how many guys would test positive on the A sample that would turn out to be legitimate, i.e. not cheating?’ He said, ‘Probably quite a few.’ Tell that to the guy who gets wrongly accused by the government and has to live with that on the Internet for the rest of his life. So there’s strong reasons why to use 6:1 like WADA did for most of their existence, and in fact a lot of people feel they should still be using. But if we did a CIR testing for everybody, it wouldn’t be an issue. We wouldn’t even be testing T/E ratios. We’d just rely on the CIR results.
“Again, I am not advocating for 6:1. I am explaining why we use 6:1, why WADA for most of their existence has used 6:1. Why New York, why the NCAA, why Colorado, why Mohegan Sun and many, many, many others use 6:1. But that does not mean that it’s the better standard. There’s pros and cons to both, and you have to choose which is best.
“The problem is, like I said, is, WADA used 6:1 for most of their existence. They went to 4:1 about six years ago. I saw an interview when this first broke about for, five months ago, I saw guys with WADA saying ‘We changed it about 10 years ago, almost a decade now.’ It was five and a half years ago. Why would you lie and say it’s almost a decade when it’s barely been over five years?
“So it’s very disturbing. There’s a lot of territorial issues that I don’t have to deal with. You want to do a fight in Nevada, you got to come to the athletic commission. You don’t have to use USADA. You don’t have to use VADA. You don’t have to do any supplemental testing. They’re all fighting for that supplemental dollar. I don’t need to fight for that primary dollar because you got to do it. If I say we’re doing 10 tests on a card, we’re doing 10. If I say we’re doing 20, we’re doing 20. If you don’t like it, then you’re not going to fight here. That’s very important to have that kind of structure.
“I’m sure you’ve seen the stories where [Manny] Pacquiao is very much against using USADA testing because the CEO of USADA made some comments that pretty easily can be interpreted as being pro-Mayweather and anti-Pacquiao. And people want to say, ‘Why is Pacquiao willing to do drug testing but doesn’t want to use USADA?’ Well, look at the comments. The USADA CEO hinted very strongly that, ‘Well, there’s probably a reason why Floyd wants to use this and Manny doesn’t.’ I’m paraphrasing.
“But if I’m Manny Pacquiao, why would I want to do that? Floyd’s been paying these guys six figures for quite a while. Manny’s been paying them nothing. You kind of see where the bread is buttered there, and it makes you concerned. I’m not saying the testing wouldn’t be 100 percent legitimate. I think it would be.”
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