NSAC Picks Ref, Jousts on Drug Policy

MMA scribe and friend of the site Ivan Trembow was able to have access to today’s meeting of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and was able to provide a play by play on a couple of issues that should of interest to the deeper thinkers in the MMA set. The first item of note was the selection of a referee for the upcoming showdown between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin in Las Vegas. From Ivan’s play by play:

Brock Lesnar’s attorney David Olsen and UFC attorney Michael Mersch (and former NSAC attorney) are saying that Steve Mazzagatti should not be one of the referees considered for the Lesnar-Carwin fight. They are both arguing that Mazzagatti is biased against Brock Lesnar, and they both cited comments made by Dana White about Mazzagatti’s competence as grounds for Mazzagatti not being considered.

Commissioner/Chairwoman Lundvall seemed unconvinced and dismissed Mersch’s allegations pretty clearly, so Mazzagatti’s name was officially still on the list of referees under consideration for the fight. Fortunately from the perspective of Lesnar and the UFC, all of that is moot. The referees are determined by NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer, who “recommends” the referee to the commissioners, and I have never heard a single instance of the commissioners not accepting his recommendation.

Kizer has never “recommended” Mazzagatti for a Lesnar fight since Lesnar’s first fight against Frank Mir, and he didn’t “recommend” Mazzagatti this time, either. He “recommended” Josh Rosenthal, and of course, the commissioners immediately and unanimously agreed. What was different here is that instead of it just being the usual (Lesnar’s attorney basically saying we don’t like Mazzagatti because of the first Mir fight), this time UFC executive Michael Mersch also testified and he said that Steve Mazzagatti has a perceived bias AND an actual bias against Brock Lesnar. I have never heard a promoter argue that before, and Commissioner
Avansino commented that he doesn’t recall Zuffa ever saying this about any official in the past.

The overt role taken by Mersch seems to signal the UFC is giving up the ghost in trying to act like they aren’t seeking to influence NSAC, from all appearances it appears they are doing quite a good job at it, either overtly or covertly. Keith Kizer efforts as the central decision maker for such efforts are the “Ultimate” ace in the hole for shunning the referees that have landed on the bad side of Zuffa, as he has been key in keeping maintaining John McCarthy’s persona non grata status in Nevada and the basic exiling of Mazzagatti from Lesnar’s fights. I’m sure the motivations behind Kizer’s moves will become clear at some point, possibly when he’s on the Armando Garcia Retirement Plan.

Another topic of note that pertains to MMA is the ongoing drug test polices and procedures used by NSAC. This porting of the meeting was for informational gathering gathering purposes, but based on the transcript the biggest :

Head of USADA Travis Tygart is testifying now and is very politely explaining the shortcomings of the NSAC’s drug testing system. Tygart just said, “The money is there. You just have to decide how you want to prioritize it. You could take $1 from every PPV buy of the Mayweather/Mosley fight and that could fund your drug program for the next five years.” Earlier, Commissioner Avansino defensively told Tygart, “We at the Nevada State Athletic Commission have been devoted to random drug testing for years!”

it’s starting to get more contentious now.

Commissioner Lundvall just asked Tygart to evaluate the NSAC’s current drug testing program, and Tygart just said, “You can do better. You can do a lot better, and I ask you to do so on behalf of clean athletes.” Tygart said (paraphrasing) that when athletes are coming to him for drug testing because they know the NSAC’s drug testing is not adequate, something is wrong.

Eearlier, Las Vegas-based Dr. Voy talked about the fact that there is a reliable, urine-based test for EPO that the NSAC is not currently doing. it would cost $400 to $500 per test (although Travis Tygart later said that those amounts sounded very high to him). this is more than the NSAC currently spends on drug tests, but I would add (Dr. Voy did not say this) that when you think about how much money the NSAC brings in just from the percentage of the live gates of big boxing and MMA events, it would be nothing in the big picture.

Dr. Voy also said some ridiculous things about the need for EPO testing (or the lack of need for it), such as saying that he doesn’t
think EPO is a performance-enhancing drug in boxing because endurance is not that important in boxing. what?!? Travis Tygart later said, the urine-based EPO test that everyone agrees is very reliable can only be tested for at WADA-approved labs, and the NSAC does not currently use WADA-approved labs. the California commission does use WADA-approved labs for “B” samples if the “A” sample comes back positive.

earlier, doctor for the NSAC Dr. Watson started his testimony by saying that anyone who wanted to pass an NSAC drug test could do so very easily just by injecting clean urine into their bladder, and thenurinating out the clean urine in front of an NSAC inspector… and eventually ended his testimony by saying (paraphrasing), “We’re doing a good job! We’re doing a very good job!” and saying that the NSAC shouldn’t be changing its drug testing protocols at this time

The transcript backs up my own thoughts towards NSAC, in that they are generally lacking in knowledge on the doping and drug testing subject and have a general lack of will to improve their efforts in this area. NSAC touts their support of random drug testing, but in my experience they have been remiss in that area, at least in the MMA field. Their take on random out of competition testing procedures have been rather ineffectual, going months and 3 to 4 events at sometimes with out them testing. This loose interpretation of “random” undermines a strong program, because you can’t catch folks you aren’t testing. Ivan’s notes also elaborate on Tygart elaborating on the any number of sources that NSAC doesn’t test for. Their regimen seems to be like a speed gun built to catch a Model T but the athletes are driving a Ferrari. Fighters like Floyd Mayweather are forced to become leaders in the area of doping and testing because the NSAC are basically asleep at the wheel.

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