Las Vegas – To make a statement that ridding combat sports of performance-enhancing drugs is vital to the safety of those who compete without cheating, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval ought to fire the five members of the state's athletic commission.
That would send a message that Nevada officials are serious about cleaning up the problem, ensuring the safety of fighters and ridding the sport of illicit PEDs.
Sadly, though, the commission squandered that opportunity and opened the door for UFC heavyweight Alistair Overeem to potentially fight in Las Vegas on Dec. 29 at a mega-money event that will fill state coffers but won't do anything to make the sport safer. Don't expect Sandoval to take any action, either. The commission may have only been being nice when it suggested Overeem may be able to fight Dec. 29, but the message it sent is clear: We're not looking to lay down the hammer on those who cheat.
The commission, described by butt-smooching promoters and managers as being "the greatest commission in the world," utterly failed to make a decision Tuesday that would have conveyed it takes the issue seriously.
Overeem was denied a license by the Nevada commission after a lengthy hearing. Under normal rules, Overeem wouldn't have been eligible to apply for a license again for a year.
[ Related: Alistair Overeem's loss is Frank Mir's gain at UFC 146 ]
But commissioner Bill Brady made a motion to reduce the limit on reapplying from a full year to nine months. After the unanimous vote of the four commissioners present, chairman Skip Avansino proceeded to lather Overeem with praise. Given that Overeem may be allowed to be licensed in time for a planned Dec. 29 show in Las Vegas, it all seemed too convenient, as if a deal had been reached in advance.
The only explanation for why the commission would opt to be lenient and break its own rules is money. Overeem has become a big attraction, and having him fight in Nevada on one of the biggest shows of the year had to be attractive to the commissioners. At the very least, though, cutting the time to reapply from 12 months to nine months doesn't send the right signal.
A surprise drug test after a March 27 news conference at the MGM Grand Garden established that Overeem's testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio was 14:1, more than two times the Nevada limit of 6:1.
On Monday, Overeem released a statement in which he admitted the results were accurate, but said he had taken medication for an injury that had been tainted by testosterone. He told the commission he did not know there was testosterone mixed in the medication.
His doctor, Hector Oscar Molina, acted as if he had no clue what was in the mixture he gave Overeem in a testimony before the commission. Commissioners failed to ask Molina about his fine and ban on prescribing certain drugs as a result of having prescribed drugs over the Internet without a proper patient-physician relationship.
A one-time plastic surgeon who no longer practices in that specialty, Molina is currently a partner in The Men's Performance Enhancement Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas. According to advertising on the clinic's site, it "excels in developing personalized anti-aging, wellness, weight loss programs and testosterone replacement therapy for men of all ages. Each treatment is designed for the individual with personal consultation to design a program to increase energy, stamina and muscle development."
The issue, of course, is that fighting is a dangerous business. This is not baseball, where a bulked-up outfielder could break the all-time home run mark, or track, where a juiced sprinter obliterates a world record.
This is fighting, where someone's life can be at stake.
All of this could have been avoided had Overeem, who had been put through the ringer by the same commission in December in order to get a license to fight Brock Lesnar at UFC 141, had asked his doctor what he was being given.
[ Related: Overeem blames positive test on anti-inflammatory prescription meds ]
If he'd done so, he likely would have at least been granted a conditional license Tuesday to fight Junior dos Santos for the title at UFC 146 on May 26.
Overeem, though, did not ask. And his doctor wasn't telling. From the impression Molina gave during the hearing, he wasn't sure what he may or may not have told Overeem or even what was in the vial he gave the fighter.
Give Overeem the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn't know what he was taking, that he thought he was simply administered an anti-inflammatory medication. But not knowing and not intending to cheat is not a defense. The substance was in his body and had Nevada not conducted a random test March 27, there is the likelihood that it would never have been discovered.
Molina said during his disjointed testimony that the "tetra mix," as he called it, was not performance enhancing. He said the amount of testosterone in the medication was "insufficient to raise it to give him an anabolic advantage."
The fighter, though, is responsible for what goes into his body and must make certain that nothing illegal is ingested.
Overeem's lawyer, David Chesnoff, didn't have a good day, largely because of Molina's almost laughably inept testimony. But when the hearing ended, Chesnoff appealed to the commission to grant Overeem a conditional license.
Chesnoff used the old "he didn't know" line, which is employed by just about every fighter just about every time PEDs crop up.
"There was no reason for Alistair to knowingly ingest this solution that contained testosterone for performance-enhancing purposes," Chesnoff said. "And if there had been some clandestine purpose for his ingestion of this material, it would not have been documented in medical records that are easily retrievable. Alistair never asked anybody not to make records. Alistair never asked anybody to conceal anything. In fact, thanks to Alistair, we have Dr. Molina [present], because it was Alistair who identified the doctor."
This kind of stuff is going to continue because big money is at stake.
It would have been nice had the Nevada commission, long and often justifiably regarded as a national leader in protecting fighters' health and welfare, said it wouldn't compromise its rules in order to guarantee a higher-profile show.
Because Nevada failed to act appropriately, it opens the doors for others to try to find loopholes. Apparently, the only way the epidemic of the use of PEDs is going to stop is when a serious injury or a death occurs.
And at that point, no matter what is done, it will be too late.
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