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Saturday, February 17, 2007
Mixed Martial Arts--- In-Depth Coverage: NSAC Hearings for Randleman, Yvel, Alves, Toughill, and Carvalho
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
Mixed martial arts fighters Kevin Randleman, Thiago Alves, and Aaron Carvalho have each been suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission as a result of their positive tests for banned substances following their recent MMA bouts in the state of Nevada; while Gilbert Yvel has been denied a fighters' license and Erin Toughill has been granted a conditional fighters' license in Nevada.
Randleman's license as a fighter has been outright revoked for providing fake urine during a drug test; Alves has been suspended for eight months due to a positive test for a banned diuretic; and Carvalho has been suspended for six months due to a positive test for the active ingredient in marijuana.
Randleman and Toughill appeared before the NSAC in person, while Alves, Yvel, and Carvalho participated via teleconference.
In Randleman's case, it's not clear when or if he will be allowed to fight again. The absolute earliest that he will be able to apply to get his license back will be one year from the date of his last fight, so that would be October 21, 2007. Even after that date, Randleman will have to personally appear in front of the NSAC and provide medical evidence that he is completely healthy before he can fight again. On top of the aforementioned suspensions, Randleman has been fined $5,000 and Alves has been fined $5,500.
Also today, Gilbert Yvel was denied a fighters' license in Nevada due to his previous actions in MMA bouts, which include punching and kicking a referee during a 2004 fight in Europe and also getting disqualified in two previous fights. While Yvel was calm throughout the hearing, there were several heated moments stemming from the fact that Yvel seemed to be oblivious to the fact that the NSAC did not understand his justifications for his actions. The NSAC appeared to become increasingly frustrated with Yvel's explanations during the proceedings, and Yvel was eventually denied his request for a license to fight on Pride's February 24th card.
In addition, Erin Toughill was granted her request for a fighters' license. Toughill's request required a special hearing because she previously fought while under an NSAC medical suspension. In 2006, Toughill was TKO'ed during a boxing match in Nevada, and she fought on an MMA card in California while under NSAC medical suspension. The NSAC agreed to grant her a license on the condition that it would only be for one fight, and then the NSAC will re-evaluate her case on medical grounds.
In another matter that was before the NSAC today, Kit Cope and Joe Pearson were temporarily suspended, pending disciplinary hearings at a later date. Following their fights on the first Zuffa-owned WEC event in January, Cope tested positive for the anabolic steroid Boldenone and Pearson tested positive for the active ingredient in marijuana.
Drug testing at mixed martial arts events in the United States is handled by state athletic commissions, not by the MMA promotions such as Pride or the UFC. As with all NSAC drug-related suspensions, the suspended fighters must submit a urine sample after the suspension has expired and the sample has to come back negative for all banned substances before the fighter can fight again.
For as long as a particular fighter is suspended in the state of Nevada, companies that are licensed to promote events in the state of Nevada are strongly discouraged from using that fighter anywhere in the world, which includes Pride and K-1 events in Japan. On this subject, Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer previously said to MMAWeekly, "I would expect a licensed promoter to respect any and all NSAC suspensions."
Kevin Randleman's Hearing
Kevin Randleman fought on the Pride card on October 21st of last year, losing to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua by submission, and his post-fight urine sample did not contain any human hormones. As a result, the NSAC alleged that Randleman provided a fake urine sample, which is regarded as being just as much of a violation as actually failing a drug test, if not more of a violation.
After an emotional disciplinary hearing, during which Randleman and his representatives admitted that Randleman provided fake urine, his fighters' license was revoked. It's not clear when or if he will be able to fight again, and the absolute earliest that he will be able to apply to get his license back will be one year from the date of his last fight (which took place on October 21, 2006). The NSAC ruled that even after that date, Randleman will have to appear in front of the commission and provide medical evidence that he is completely healthy if he to be granted a fighters' license ever again.
Randleman's hearing started as his representative, Jim Gallo, discussed the recurring lung infection that has plagued Randleman for the past 16 months. The lung infection has required eleven surgeries and increasingly strong antibiotic treatments. The NSAC was provided with photos from the surgery that Randleman had just two months before his October 21st fight in an effort to rid his body of the infection. Gallo said that due to the recurring infection, Randleman was on prescription painkillers and antibiotics at the time of the Pride event, and that Randleman was subsequently hospitalized for seven days in January due to "his body shutting down" from complications stemming from the same infection.
Gallo said, "Mr. Randleman was a fighter in poor health who misled this commission so that he could fight and make money for himself and his family. He takes responsibility for his actions." Gallo also asked that the NSAC change its procedures so that fighters are provided with a list of banned substances six to eight weeks before an event takes place, as Randleman was only given a banned substances list one day before the event and "that's when he panicked" upon seeing some of his medications on the list.
Gallo concluded his statements by saying that he was aware of the talk that Randleman's license should be revoked, but Gallo felt that a suspension of 10 to 12 months would be more appropriate.
Randleman then spoke in front of the members of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Randleman said, "I'm extremely sorry for the deception... I had eleven surgeries in 16 months, and it was very rough on me. My intention was not to deceive." At that point, NSAC Commissioner John Bailey interrupted and said, "Your intention was to deceive. Instead of disclosing everything to us, you said, 'I'm going to deceive these people so that they will let me fight.' Is that correct?"
Randleman responded: "That is correct, sir... I was wrong. I was very wrong. I should have come to you and said, 'Ladies, gentlemen, I have a problem here... but all I wanted to do was fight."
The commission was upset not only with the fake urine test, but also with the fact that Randleman did not fully disclose his medical condition prior to the fight. On this subject, Bailey said during the hearing, "When we had Joe Mesi [a boxer who has suffered bleeding in the brain] in front of us, our mindset was that sometimes we have to protect fighters from themselves... You were not healthy in this case. You were not healthy, and you did not make the right judgment. You cannot really provide us any assurance that if there were a fight next week, just hypothetically if there were a fight next week, that you would not try to fight next week, irrespective of the fact that your health is bad. We have to protect you when you can't protect yourself. You have demonstrated that you can't protect yourself and that you will deceive us instead of protecting yourself. You could have gotten killed in that ring."
Randleman said, "I'm not going to run and fight in Russia or Brazil or anywhere else. I'm going to sit at home and take the responsibility of whatever the punishment is for all those people who came before me and all those who will come after me."
Commission chairman Dr. Tony Alamo expressed concern that with Randleman having a serious lung infection going into the fight, he could have theoretically passed the infection along to his opponent, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, if both of them had sustained open cuts during the fight. Fortunately, neither fighter was cut during the fight.
Alamo also said, "I am moved by what you have said. We understand that you did not lie to us so that you could... I'm just one person, but what I believe here is that you did not lie to us so that you could take a performance-enhancing drug that could hurt someone else. But we need to protect you from yourself. Your deception was not just with the urine, but also with the pre-fight medicals. If you had told the doctors about your medical condition, you would not have been cleared to fight."
Randleman said that he has been drug tested in the past when he fought for the UFC and always passed his tests. When he was asked whether he used a product called the Whizzinator to fake his urine test, Randleman said he did not. When asked what he did use, Randleman said that he bought a bottle of fake urine from a company called Diversity.
Alamo said the only case that the NSAC has for a basis of comparison is that of Sean McCully, who provided fake urine for a drug test in 2004. In McCully's case, the NSAC revoked his license. Alamo said that even though he believes Randleman regrets his actions, the NSAC also has to set the precedent that Randleman's actions were unacceptable.
At that point, an emotional Randleman said, "You're right, sir. You guys have to set an example for anyone who comes after me who tries to do the same thing... I had 16 months of pure hell. Whatever your ruling is, I am going to honor it and not go and run and fight someone else... I was just thinking [before the fight], 'I can't let everybody down. I can't let my organization down.'"
The commission ultimately decided to revoke Randleman's license and fine him $5,000. Randleman will have to personally appear in front of the NSAC and provide medical evidence that he is completely healthy before he can fight again.
In recent months, the NSAC has changed its procedures to require that all drug-tested fighters must submit their urine sample in front of the inspectors. Dr. Tony Alamo said that in order to prevent something like this from happening again, "The inspectors now have to visually see the urine leaving the genitalia and going into the cup."
Thiago Alves' Hearing
Thiago Alves tested positive for the banned diuretic Spironolactone after he defeated Tony DeSouza at UFC 66 on December 30th. Diuretics are banned not only because they can be used to help fighters cut dangerous amounts of weight in short periods of time (which many fighters routinely do even without the use of diuretics), but also because they can be used to flush other banned substances out of a fighter's body before a drug test.
Alves' manager, Dan Lambert, said to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, "We acknowledge that Thiago took the diuretic." Lambert claimed, "Thiago did not knowingly break the rules of the commission" because he did not know that the use of diuretics is banned. "We're not trying to play games with anybody here, but we have over 40 fighters on our team, and none of them knew about the ban on diuretics. If you read the Internet forums, it seems as though a lot of people, fighters and fans alike, were not aware of the ban on diuretics," Lambert said.
Alves said, "I didn't know. I'm really, really sorry. I knew about steroids [being banned], I didn't know about the diuretics [being banned]... This is my life. This is all I do. I need to fight to survive, not just for me but for my family in Brazil." Alves said that he took the diuretic on the Thursday before the event, which would have been about 48 hours before the fight.
The commissioners did not seem to believe that Alves and Lambert were unaware of the fact that diuretics are banned. They mentioned that it has been well documented in lots of sports that diuretics are banned, and specifically that diuretics are banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). It was very interesting to hear the NSAC mention USADA due to the fact that the NSAC and other state athletic commissions have yet to implement USADA's standard punishment for any athlete who tests positive for a banned substance (which is a two-year suspension for a first-time offender and a lifetime ban for a second offense).
The commissioners brought up the question on the pre-fight paperwork that asked if Alves had taken any medications prior to the fight, which had been marked "no." Alves was asked, "Would you agree that it was misleading for you to have checked the 'no' box?" Alves said, "Yes."
The NSAC said that past offenders of the diuretics policy have been suspended for approximately eight months, at which point the commissioners agreed to suspend Alves for eight months from the date of the fight and also fine him $5,000.
Since Alves had a banned substance in his system when he won his fight against Tony DeSouza, many fans have asked if the official result of the fight will be changed.
The official policy used to be that the result of the fight would stay the same, no matter what banned substances were found in the winning fighter's system.
That rule has been changed in the past two years. Now, if a fighter wins a fight and tests positive for steroids, stimulants, or other performance-enhancing drugs in their post-fight drug test, the official result is changed to a no-contest. However, this has not been applied to diuretics, and MMAWeekly has confirmed with the NSAC that the official result of the Alves-DeSouza fight will not be changed.
Aaron Carvalho's Hearing
Aaron Carvalho tested positive for marijuana after his December 29th loss to Gilbert Sims on the Tuff-N-Uff fight card in Las Vegas. Carvalho was very forthright and straightforward in his testimony, as he said, "I admit to it. I was hanging out with some people about a week before the fight and we were smoking." Carvalho said that he hasn't used marijuana since then and that doesn't smoke marijuana regularly, but he did use it about a week before his December 29th fight.
In deciding Carvalho's punishment, the commissioners brought up the NSAC's most recent marijuana-related suspension, noting that K-1 fighter Carter Williams was suspended for six months after he tested positive for marijuana following the K-1 USA event in August 2006 The commissioners decided that Carvalho would also be suspended for six months from the date of the fight.
In addition to the fact that it's illegal, fighters are also tested for marijuana for competitive and safety reasons. On the subject of marijuana, NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer tells MMAWeekly, "The main issue with marijuana is it slows the reflexes, putting the fighter at much greater risk. We would not let a fighter compete who is coming off arm surgery and has not fully recovered his reflexes, or who is under the influence of alcohol because of the same issue. Additionally, it may also deaden some pain. That could hurt the fighter... he may not tap out when he should and he suffers broken bones or torn ligaments as a result... or that could unfairly help him if he can trade punches more easily with his opponent."
Other state athletic commissions have more lenient policies when it comes to marijuana or drugs in general. One recent example would be the state of California and Ricco Rodriguez. The Wrestling Observer cites the California State Athletic Commission in reporting that Rodriguez tested positive for both marijuana and cocaine after his November 17th victory over Imani Lee on an MMA show in Bakersfield, California, but he was only given a six-month suspension for the two offenses.
Gilbert Yvel's Hearing
Pride Fighting Championships previously submitted the match-up of Sergei Kharitonov vs. Gilbert Yvel to the Nevada State Athletic Commission for approval as part of the February 24th line-up, but the NSAC would not approve the fight without a special hearing due to the fact that Yvel has been disqualified on three separate occasions in his MMA career, most recently when he brutally attacked the referee during a 2004 fight in Europe.
Yvel was asked to explain his actions in each of his three disqualifications. Yvel remained calm and polite throughout the hearing, but he also seemed to be oblivious to the fact that the NSAC did not understand his justifications for his actions.
In regards to his first DQ loss, which took place in 1998 when Yvel bit his opponent, Yvel said that he was "really young and had a really bad temper" at that time. Yvel said, "My opponent, he gave me a headbutt, and I told the referee, but the referee was like, 'Nothing is happening.' And then he did it again with the headbutt, and that was what caused my reaction, to bite him."
Yvel's second disqualification loss was in a 2001 fight against Don Frye, during which Yvel repeatedly eye-gouged Frye. Regarding this incident, Yvel explained, "Don Frye is a very, very strong man, and he was pushing all his body strength against me. I just put my fingers against his nose to push him away from me, and I wasn't really paying attention to what place my fingers were, and my finger slipped on to his eye. It was in the heat of the moment and I can tell you it was not my intention to put my finger in his eye."
The most infamous incident was in 2004 when Yvel got into an argument with the referee during a fight in Europe and proceeded to punch the referee in the face and then kick him. The commissioners were familiar with the incident and seemed disgusted by it: "This commission has all seen the video of the punching and kicking of the referee... I've never in my life seen somebody do what you did. What was going through your mind?"
Yvel gave a very long response, which was interrupted several times as the commissioners tried to get him to talk about the pivotal moment where he decided to attack the referee. The following are just excerpts from the full response: "In that fight, I fought almost for free... the referee was the trainer of my opponent, the promoter of the event, and he kept us waiting for four hours to pick us up at the airport [before the event], and then at the gym he kept us waiting for three more hours. We were just waiting and waiting..."
This was one of the several occasions when the commissioners seemed to be very frustrated, as they interrupted Yvel and said, "I want you to tell me what went through your mind when the referee broke up the fighters and you felt the need to hit the referee in the face and then return back and kick him. What were you thinking?"
Yvel said "sorry" and was polite at all times during the hearing, but he seemed to be oblivious to the commissioners' frustration. Yvel continued, "In the bout, I punched my opponent really hard and he didn't want to fight anymore. He didn't want to fight anymore and we almost fell out of the ring! He was ready to walk away from the fight, he wanted out of the fight, but the referee was trying to pull him back into the fight, and he said, 'Stop, don't move.' And when the referee says, 'Stop, don't move,' then you're supposed to go to the center of the ring in the same position. But he didn't do that, he put us in the center of the ring standing up. He put us standing up instead of on the ground, and that's not right. The referee put me in a bad position and my opponent in a good position by doing that, and the referee was screaming at me, and he was pulling at me. He was screaming and pulling, screaming and pulling, and at that moment, I am there to fight..."
At this point, the commissioners interrupted again, sounding fed up and saying, "Mr. Yvel, Mr. Yvel, you've got 30 seconds. The floor is yours for 30 more seconds." At that point, Yvel finished up by saying, "And at that moment, I got mad and I hit the referee and I kicked him. Yeah."
With Yvel having explained all of his problems with the referee, the commissioners unanimously agreed to deny his application for a fighters' license. This is not like a suspension where the fighter can't fight anywhere in the world for a certain period of time; Yvel simply can't fight in Nevada because he is not being given a license to fight in Nevada.
This leaves Yvel's original opponent for Pride's February 24th card, Sergei Kharitonov, without an opponent. Pride had previously proposed a fight between Kazuyuki Fujita and Wes Sims for the February 24th card, but the NSAC rejected it for competitive reasons (Sims vs. Mark Hunt was also rejected for competitive reasons). With Kharitonov's fight not being approved and Fujita's fight not being approved, it would seem to be logical that Kharitonov would fight Fujita, but that is not the case.
The NSAC has confirmed to MMAWeekly that Fujita will not be fighting Kharitonov or anyone else on the card, as the deadline has passed and Pride has still not sent all of Fujita's medical information to the NSAC.
It is not known whom Kharitonov will be fighting (if anyone), but it won't be Fujita. As a safety measure, the medical information of all fighters who are at least 35 years old (Fujita is 36) must be submitted at least a week before a show. Pride has missed this deadline for Fujita, so he will be ineligible to compete on the card. The NSAC just got Dan Henderson's medical information from Pride today (Henderson is 35 years old).
Erin Toughill's Hearing
Female mixed martial arts competitor Erin Toughill, who was recently featured on the MSNBC show Warrior Nation, appeared before the Nevada State Athletic Commission to request a fighters' license. Toughill's application required a special hearing instead of getting a standard approval because last year Toughill fought while she was under an NSAC medical suspension.
Toughill was TKO'ed in a boxing match in the state of Nevada on August 31, 2006. Due to punishment sustained in the fight, the NSAC medically suspended Toughill for 30 days. However, Toughill fought two weeks later on an MMA show in California while she was still under medical suspension.
Toughill said that all she can say in her own defense is that the MMA fight in California was on an Indian Reservation and she thought it was not under commission regulations. An emotional Toughill also said that her father passed away shortly before the MMA bout in California, and that the MMA bout was the best way for her to cope with her loss at the time.
The commissioners said that sometimes they have to protect fighters from themselves and that she should not have been fighting anywhere, in any sport (boxing or MMA), while under medical suspension. The commissioners voted to grant Toughill a conditional, one-fight license to fight in the state of Nevada. After that one fight in Nevada, then the NSAC will re-evaluate her case on medical grounds. Toughill is able to fight anywhere else in the meantime; her application for a fighters' license today was specifically for the state of Nevada.
Drug Testing Costs; Other Recent Drug Testing Results
According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the total cost of drug testing one fighter for performance-enhancing drugs, stimulants, recreational drugs, and all other banned substances is $278.40.
The seven Pride fighters who were drug tested and passed their tests at the Pride USA event last October were Fedor Emelianenko, Mark Coleman, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Josh Barnett, Dan Henderson, Phil Baroni, and Yosuke Nishijima. Vitor Belfort and Pawel Nastula failed their drug tests, and in December they were both suspended for nine months from the date of the event. The other six fighters on the Pride card were not drug tested.
The NSAC spent a total of $2,784 on drug testing for Pride: The Real Deal, while the total cost of drug testing every single fighter on the card would have been $4,454. The event drew $2,056,444 in ticket sales.
At UFC 66, there were six fighters who were drug tested: Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Keith Jardine, Forrest Griffin, Tony DeSouza, and Thiago Alves. All of those fighters passed their drug tests, with the exception of Alves. The other twelve fighters on the card were not drug tested. The NSAC spent a total of $1,670 on drug testing for UFC 66, while the total cost of drug testing every single fighter on the card would have been $5,011. The event drew $5,397,300 in ticket sales.
At UFC 67, there were eight fighters who were drug tested: Anderson Silva, Travis Lutter, Mirko Cro Cop, Eddie Sanchez, Quinton Jackson, Marvin Eastman, Ryoto Machida, and Sam Hoger. All eight of those fighters passed their drug tests. The other ten fighters on the card were not drug tested. The NSAC spent a total of $2,227 on drug testing for UFC 66, while the total cost of drug testing every single fighter on the card would have been $5,011. The event drew $2,767,130 in ticket sales.