USADA: Commission Drug Testing a "Joke"

January 26, 2010

David Mayo of the Grand Rapids Press has done an interesting interview with CEO of the US Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, that discusses the state and sophistication of combat commission testing slates like those in Nevada:

Transcript via Mlive.com

 

Q: Shane Mosley obviously slipped through some cracks on urine testing alone in Nevada. …

 

A: “Let me correct that premise for you. The current state of drug testing done by these state commissions is a joke. They don’t test for EPO. They don’t test for designer steroids. They test for a basic, simple menu that anybody with a heartbeat will escape. I just hate to hear that Shane Mosley did something really sophisticated to get around their testing. No, he didn’t. He would’ve been caught dead to rights in our program. But it doesn’t take a whole lot to sidestep the simple kind of drug testing that these state commissions are doing.

 

“Again, I hope it’s familiarity, I hope it’s knowledge, because part of the growth is for entities, but also athletes, to become knowledgable about these issues. If you’re a clean athlete, or you’re a sport organizer, promoter, state commission, whatever, if you want to protect clean athletes’ rights, you’re going to put in a clean program.”

 

Q: And that includes both blood and urine testing?

 

A: “Blood and urine but it’s got to be an effective urine program. Again, just a couple tests here and there that everyone knows about, or 72-hour notice that you’re going to be tested, or 48-hour notice — it has to be true, no-notice testing. And it has to be a broad menu of tests. And they don’t test for EPO. What was reported on Mosley is that he was using EPO. And he could use it without regard for being caught because they weren’t testing it — and there is a urine-based test for most EPO. So you’ve got to start with an effective urine program and an effective blood program. And the reason, to answer your specific question, that you need to do blood is because there are certain, and several, potent performance-enhancers that are not detected in the urine. Of those, human growth hormone being one; HBOC, which is synthetic hemoglobin; certain forms of EPO, like Micera; and then, the transfusions.”

 

Q: If you blood test, is urine testing necessary at all?

 

A: “Yes, because there are certain things that you’re not going to find in the blood, that you can only find in urine, like most forms of EPO, steroids, designer steroids, insulin. You have to have a combination of the two. Look, I’d love to have one strand of hair. From a cost and logistical standpoint, the simpler whatever we collect, the better. Not that collecting blood and urine are difficult, but you have to have the proper procedures in place, and account for the shipping, and the state that you need the samples, once collected, to remain in a preserved state where they can be accurately analyzed. You can build those programs. It doesn’t take much. We obviously would prefer the simplest mechanism possible. But just pulling a strand of hair is not effective to protect a clean athlete’s rights because there is so much that can’t be detected in hair, or saliva, or other things.”

 

Q: What is the difference in cost — because obviously, with most state commissions, you’re dealing with tax-based, governmental agencies — what’s the difference in cost between a urine test and a blood test?

 

A:
“There’s not much. Incremental cost. It’s certainly not cost-prohibitive and if you want to protect clean athletes, you’ll put it in place. Take half of one percent of what these two boxers were going to generate, or make for themselves, and you’ve paid for a couple years of your program. I always hear that is a defense to not wanting it to be done, but it’s really not. It’s frankly a weak excuse not to protect clean athletes’ rights.”

Payout Perspective:

The commissions – Nevada in particular – are no doubt going to have a response for the accusations of Tygart, but this interview is one that doesn’t reflect very well on boxing or MMA.

The to-do list for the sport of MMA can seem unwieldy at times – regulate, expand, merchandise, television, officiating, judging, etc – but the aspect of drug testing is often an after thought because it’s not readily visible. There are whispers, rumors, and the odd internet accusation, but largely it’s not a focus relative to everything else that’s right before our eyes.

New, strict measures that outlaw the use of performance enhancers would send a strong signal to the sporting world that MMA and boxing are serious. The last thing either sport needs is for someone to cheat and get away with it only to be caught outside of the regulatory scope.

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Tygart also addresses the feasibility of drug testing, but I’m not entirely certain he adequately covered the subject from a commission perspective. The current set of drug tests in place costs something near $250 per fighter, but the thought of several random tests, performed with no notice, by a regional commission, and on athletes spread throughout the world seems quite daunting.

Moreover, it would seem that the USADA benefits from scale economies the result of its singular focus or expertise as well as the near year-round testing requirements that Olympic athletes are subject to. Tygart is clearly in a more favorable position than a regional commission to handle such stringent testing procedures.

Perhaps, since he’s willing to comment, he’s also shown a willingness to take on the probably for the boxing and MMA communities? A thought for the future…

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