California Commission Names Executive Officer

February 4, 2010

The California State Athletic Commission has a new Executive Officer and his name is George Dodd.

SACRAMENTO – The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) has named George Dodd as its new Executive Officer.

 

Dodd, 40, most recently served as program manager for Washington state’s Department of Licensing’s Professional Athletics Division, where he has been regulating professional boxing and mixed martial arts.

 

He has been involved in combat sports for the last 31 years, as either a participant or an official.

 

“The Athletic Commission will continue to make great progress under the direction of its new executive officer, George Dodd,” said DCA Director Brian Stiger. “His background and his leadership skills will be of immense value to the Commission as boxing and mixed martial arts continue to grow in popularity and attendance in California.”

 

Dodd, a native of Washington state, began wrestling when he was nine years old. After high school, he joined the United States Navy, retiring in 2007 as a Senior Chief Petty Officer after 20 years of service. While in the military, George was involved in wrestling either as a participant or as an official for the sport. He has been a high school wrestling official for the past 17 years in Naples, Italy, San Diego, and in Washington state. He then began working for the state of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services before moving to that state’s Department of Licensing.

 

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve at the Athletic Commission,” said newly-minted Executive Officer George Dodd. “I look forward to furthering the progress initiated by interim Executive Officer Dave Thornton and his staff.”

 

In his spare time, Dodd is very dedicated to promoting youth sports and is also an avid softball player. He and his family will reside in Sacramento.

Payout Perspective:

The CSAC has been in a state of disarray since its former Executive Officer Armando Garcia resigned in late 2008. His temporary replacement, Bill Douglas, then left shortly thereafter to pursue a lateral position in government; and, at about the same time, the CSAC let go its Chief Athletic Inspector Dean Lohuis.

It’s tough to assess Dodd’s capabilities without more information on his background, but regardless he’ll have his hands full. Payout friend Josh Gross has intimated that, of the four men considered, Dodd has the most regulatory experience (including knowledge of MMA).

CSAC States Position on Medical Marijuana

November 30, 2009

The California State Athletic Commission has released its latest positional ruling with regard to how it intends to deal with the use of medical marijuana amongst its licensed fighters:

The California State Athletic Commission’s position is that Marijuana is a banned substance pursuant to Rule 303 and that any positive drug test may result in discipline.

 

The California Supreme Court has weighed in on “Medical Marijuana” in the employment context and has found that an employer may discipline an employee for off-duty medical marijuana use. The court found that the Compassionate Use Act did not legalize marijuana use per se, but merely provided a defense to criminal charges under particular circumstances. The Court acknowledged that marijuana still had a potential for abuse and that employers continued to have a legitimate interest in whether an employee uses the drug. The Court declined to extend the protections of the Compassionate Use Act any further than the plain language of the Act and into the employer-employee relationship.

 

Although the question springs from professional licensing rather than employment, much of the Court’s rationale applies. Because the Compassionate Use Act only provides a defense to criminal charges, any argument that the Act would allow an athlete to use the drug without consequences to his or her license must fail. If the Court were to take up a similar challenge to discipline of a licensee, it would likely find that the Commission has a legitimate interest in whether or not an athlete uses the drug because marijuana could slow a fighter’s reflexes and endanger his or her health and safety in the ring or the cage.

 

Therefore, given the limited reach of the Compassionate Use Act and the rationale of the Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire Telcomm, the Commission may safely discipline an athlete without running afoul of any law or court decision.

Payout Perspective:

The Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi fight is probably the case that comes to mind of most when thinking about the issue of marijuana use in MMA. Diaz had his gogoplata victory over Gomi ruled a no contest as the result of his positive test for marijuana and was suspended for six months. He claimed he only used marijuana for medical purposes.

Diaz would later go on to boast that he could beat any drug test with 8 days notice, but was conspicuously absent from his required drug tests for what was supposed to be a welterweight championship fight in Strikeforce in August.

McCarthy Talks EA MMA, UFC, Judging

November 12, 2009

Ariel Helwani of MMAFanhouse took some time last weekend to speak with “Big” John McCarthy about being in a video game, not officiating at the last UFC card in California, and the issues with judging in the sport.

 

Payout Perspective:

The sport needs its best official now more than ever. The possibility for someone to be seriously injured is there – as it is in all sports – when the rules and regulations designed to protect the participants are not upheld to a high standard. MMA cannot afford any possible hiccups when it’s on the precipice of unilateral sanctioning over the next few years.

Not only is McCarthy the best official in the game, but he’s also the best officials instructor. His training seminar, C.O.M.M.A.N.D., requires candidates to be familiar with 85+ different maneuvers (wrestling, jiu-jitsu, judo, striking, illegal, or otherwise) and pass with a grade of 90% or higher to achieve certification.

(Rogers Sportsnet’s Joe Ferraro actually took the course over the summer – and passed, the good man! – but describes the experience, here.)

With His Eyes Turned to the West (Interview with Randy Gordon)

November 6, 2009

MMAPayout recently had the chance to interview Randy Gordon, the former Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) and current Host of the SiriusXM Radio Fight Club.  Mr. Gordon recently announced his desire to become the new Executive Director of the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC).  Considering the controversy that has arisen surrounding the result of Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua’s UFC 104 main event, Mr. Gordon’s announcement of his candidacy could not be more timely.   Enjoy the interview.

DW:  You bring an extraordinary resume to the table in seeking to lead the CSAC.  Would you mind giving a short summary of what brought you here?

RG:  I have long considered myself the most fortunate fight fan who has ever lived.  Bar none!

That’s because as a lifelong fight fan, I have traveled my own Yellow Brick Road, which has taken me on a fantasy journey from being Associate Editor of World Boxing Magazine; to Editor-in-Chief of Ring Magazine; to color analyst for ESPN, USA Network & the Madison Square Garden Network; to Chairman of the NYSAC; to Director of Boxing for the Foxwoods Resort Casino; to a gym owner and Personal Trainer; to the creator and host of Fight Club, The biggest MMA/Boxing talk show on radio, heard twice weekly on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

The latest turn of my Yellow Brick Road may lead to another day or two of Fight Club.  However, it may also lead some 3,000 miles west of the Manhattan-based Sirius Satellite Radio studios to Sacramento, the capital of California.  It is there that the financially-strapped government of California is looking for a new Executive Director for its troubled State Athletic Commission.

DW: And you welcome the challenge?

RG:  The thought of heading up the busiest commission — albeit one wallowing in chaos and disarray — is both alluring and intriguing.  It will challenge me to my core.  The fascination of doing so keeps me staring into the darkness at night, thinking of what I might do with the CSAC should I become its next Executive Director.

DW:  The CSAC is in shambles, though, and it will take an enormous effort to get things back on track.  Isn’t this all rather daunting?

RG:  Taking over the reins of a commission so dysfunctional doesn’t scare or intimidate me.  I was put in the same position when I took over the reins of the NYSAC in the summer of 1988 from the former light heavyweight champion, the late Jose Torres.

New York is a state covering some 54,475 square miles.  From the southernmost tip of Manhattan to Plattsburgh in northern (or upstate) New York, it is around 300 miles.  For years, northern New Yorkers have called themselves “upstaters,” while those from within 50 miles of New York City have called themselves “downstaters.”

The NYSAC is comprised of three commissioners.  All three are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the New York State Senate.  In my case, the governor who nominated me was Mario M. Cuomo, perhaps the brightest, as well as most charismatic, governor in the history of New York.  One of those commissioners is also the chairman of the commission.  The other two are per diem state employees.  All have equal voting powers, although the chairman will cast the third and tie-breaking vote when necessary.  I was the chairman, with a salary that approached $100,000 annually, more than any other commissioner in any other state.  There were also deputy commissioners aboard the NYSAC, put in place by the governor.

Even though there is one — and only one — state athletic commission in New York, the “upstaters” who sat aboard the commission had disdain, and a tinge of jealousy, for the “downstaters” on the NYSAC staff, and tried their best to run the upstate portion of New York boxing as a separate commission.  The “upstaters” always seemed to be in a state of anarchy.  Perhaps it was because it was downstate, in New York City, that the main offices of the NYSAC were housed.  Perhaps it was because most of the boxing matches took place in the downstate area.  Perhaps it was because virtually all of New York’s major fights took place in the downstate area, particularly in an arena called Madison Square Garden.  Because of these factors, the upstate members of the NYSAC, as well as the upstate members of the boxing fraternity, viewed themselves as outsiders, both in commission matters and in the world of New York State boxing.

All that changed when I took over as chairman.  It didn’t happen overnight, but change rarely happens overnight.  With the support of Governor Cuomo I rebuilt and restructured the commission.  His support was essential to this happening.  Without his support, my seven years in office would have been a total waste.

Even when the state faced massive budget cuts, Governor Cuomo assisted my agency, mostly with his vast knowledge of how  government works.  It was always easier getting things done with the knowledge he was always by my side.

I relate this story because, from what I have been viewing for years, the CSAC is a mess.  It is in shambles.  Anarchy reigns from the northernmost tip of California right down to the Mexican border.

In talks with several friends of mine aboard the CSAC, I have been told such things as “We need a guy like you to take control out here” and “This commission is a political quagmire.”

Indeed, in the last year, the CSAC’s Executive Director was ousted amid charges of kickbacks and corruption.  Their drug tests have been challenged again and again.  Employees talk in secrecy and usually away from the office in fear that, should their words be picked up on by the “wrong ears,” their job will be terminated.  Few members of the commission trust each other.  Hmm.  Sounds just like the commission I inherited — and fixed — some twenty-one years ago.  I believe I’d like this job.

DW:  What are some of the changes you would implement as Executive Director of the CSAC?

RG:  Inspectors need to be re-trained.  Judges and referees are in desperate need for seminars.  Frequent seminars.  Remember, the judges hold the livelihood of the fighters in their hands.  The referee holds the life of the fighters in theirs.

The scoring system needs to be looked at.  When I was President of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) in the early 1990s, I suggested going to a scoring system which featured very close rounds being scored 10-9 and more decisive rounds being scored 10-8.  Today’s judges score 10-8 rounds mainly when one fighter has scored a knockdown.  I say because the points are available, we should use them.  Thusly, a fighter who wins a round clearly, even without a knockdown, should win the round 10-7.  Clearly with a knockdown can make it 10-6.  And one-sidedly, along with a knockdown or two, could be scored 10-5.  That way, when the scorecards are reviewed following the fight, the commission knows exactly how the fight went when he or she sees scores such as 10-9, 10-9, 10-7, 10-8, 10-7, and 10-6.  What started close turned into a rout.

As I mentioned earlier, frequent seminars are necessary.  This is what we did in New York.  We held the seminars upstate.  We held them downstate.  We held them mid-state.  Officials departed the seminars, later telling me they couldn’t believe how much they learned.

Lines of communication between not only commission members but between the commission and the media must be opened.  When I have tried to speak with members of the CSAC for my SiriusXM Radio show, I get bounced from office to office, from administrative assistant to administrative assistant.  Placing a phone call to the CSAC in search of an answer to a question is truly an exercise in futility.  This must change!

DW:  Considering the shambles the CSAC is currently in, all your efforts could be for naught if you don’t get support from certain people.  Who do you need on your side to make effective changes to the CSAC?

RG:  As I stated before, I could not have accomplished the rebuilding and restructuring of the NYSAC without the support of Governor Mario Cuomo.  The same will apply in California.  Without the support and blessing of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, building a state athletic commission in California that becomes the envy of every other state athletic commission is an impossible task.

So before I would ever take such a position, if given the honor, I would like to hear from Governor Schwarzenegger himself, that his support will be with me.  To all other prospective applicants I give you the same advice.

With Governor Schwarzenegger’s support, and with hard work and sacrifice, the CSAC can finally achieve the lofty status it — and its wonderful mix of residents and ethnicities — so richly deserves.

Randy Gordon can be heard on Tuesdays and Fridays on SiriusXM Radio Fight Club, 5 – 7 pm (ET) on Sirius 127 & XM 242.

Affliction III: Barnett Out, Belfort Possibly Stepping Up

July 22, 2009

It was revealed Tuesday that Josh Barnett has tested positive for a “performance enhancing substance” and will be unable to compete at Affliction: Trilogy on August 1st in Anaheim, California.

The story is still developing – the CSAC expects to release a more comprehensive statement later today and Affliction plans on announcing Fedor’s replacement shortly – but it appears as though middleweight Vitor Belfort is primed to step up and face Emelianenko.

Payout Opinion:

While I feel for Tom Atencio and Affliction, I’m not willing to buy the bad luck argument either. Rather, I’m left to question the foundation of any organization that could be brought down by the cancelation of one fight.

This situation really brings me back to the demise of EliteXC in a way: Affliction, too, is a promotion that has built itself around a single fighter, whilst spending excessively and failing to establish sustainable revenues.

It makes me wonder – and so, I suppose, I ask the question – did these guys have a plan? If so, what was it?

I understand the goal has always been to create a “fighter friendly” organization, but that’s more akin to an organizational mission or vision statement than it is any sort of strategy. It’s a guiding principle that they should have kept in the back of their head: one to frame policies, but not to interfere with the bottom line.

Even if Affliction was gambling that its personnel approach would generate the star power needed to generate massive PPVs – something more in line with an actual strategy – they could have gone about organizing their business more efficiently.

There’s no rule that says you have to lose millions of dollars before you can become profitable – quite to the contrary. 

The $40 million that Zuffa lost between 2001 and 2005 represents the time, effort, execution, and the money involved to create a foundation that would allow an MMA organization to flourish. The serendipitous birth of The Ultimate Fighter helped, no doubt, but it was the foundation Zuffa created that allowed it to capitalize on that success.

Times are different now, the sport is well more established, and at some point Affliction is going to have to create a foundation of its own – one that is not dependent upon a clothing line for subsidization.

Unfortunately, things just got complicated.

CSAC Tabs Thornton Interim Leader

June 2, 2009

Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times has news on the California State Athletic Commission naming an interim leader while the state decides on a new head:

Retired California Medical Board member Dave Thornton was appointed interim executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission on Tuesday.

Thornton’s time at the helm is uncertain. The field to replace resigned Executive Officer Armando Garcia still includes former New York commissioner Ron Scott Stevens, retired attorney Ron Arnold and referee Pat Russell. Members of the state athletic commission board will vote on the replacement.

The commission has some important events to supervise in the coming months, including a boxing card headlined by Oxnard’s Victor Ortiz later this month at Staples Center, an Affliction MMA show at Honda Center in Anaheim in August and an Ultimate Fighting Championship card at Staples in October.

Former head Armando Garcia resigned the post under alleged improprieties involving his private life affecting his public position. Bill Douglas and Dean Lohuis were then named to fill in for Garcia until a candidate could be selected, but neither lasted until that could take place. Lohuis was terminated and Douglas re-signed in late April. CSAC has seen a prolonged period of turmoil, and while I’m sure they would like to bring this search to a swift conclusion, the wheels of bureaucracy move slowly. There has been no timetable set as to when a vote will take place for the CSAC Chief Executive position.

CSAC Policy, Strikeforce Contract Bring Costly Price for Drugs, Doping

April 10, 2009

The California State Athletic Commission recently instituted new policies in regards to their handling of positive drug tests and how decisions in contests that yielded positive tests would be adjudicated:

Rule 368: Change of Decision

This rule change states that a positive drug test will permit the Commission to change a victory to a “no decision.” This rule change will apply to drugs of abuse on a case by case basis.

While this change in policy has just been enacted, some in the industry have been aware of its gestation and have already adjusted their contracts accordingly. Strikeforce is a California based promotion and, as a stakeholder in the California MMA scene, seemed to have prior knowldege that these changes were in the air. When taking on the contracts from EliteXC, there were several addendum that were placed on the ProElite contracts by Strikeforce, among them a clause that stated that fights changed from a “winner” to a “no decision/contest” would forfeit winner bonuses and bumps in pay based on these wins (such clauses weren’t in before and allowed these initial wins to stand and increase salaries):

C. Fighter has to be declared the “winner” of any Fight/Bout by the
applicable Athletic Commission governing the Fight/Bout and the Event
in order to advance to the next Fighter purse and win bonus amount if not
the prior Fighter purse and win bonus amount is applicable. In order for
Fighter to obtain any win bonus Fighter must be declared the winner of
any such Fight/Bout by the applicable Athletic Commission governing the
Fight/Bout and the Event. In the event any Fight/Bout in which Fighter
appears pursuant to the terms hereunder is declared by the Athletic
Commission governing the Fight/Bout and the Event as a “no contest”,
such “no contest” declaration is not considered a win and no win bonus
would be paid to Fighter and Fighter would not advance to the next level
of Fighter purse or win bonus amount.

It would seem intuitive that a positive drug test would mean a forfeiture of any win bonuses, but the structure of contracts in MMA at this point don’t necessarily represent that reality. Such was the case with Karo Parysian’s win over Dong Hyun Kim. NSAC overturned the win, but the standard Zuffa contract lacked any mechanism to deny Parysian the win bonus he had already been paid. NSAC took the issue into their realm, instituting a fine to penalize the fighter, with the fines ending up in NSAC coffers. Amending the contracts allows either the promotion to save money paying out a win bonus to a drug cheat, or if the win bonus has to be paid out, give it to the fighter who fought the fight clean, not enriching the coffers of NSAC or CSAC. If NSAC (or CSAC for that matter) getting the fine money would mean a better drug testing procedure that would be a good idea, but with NSAC’s lackadaisical approach to out of competition testing, more money wouldn’t necessarily mean a better drug testing program.

While those that had EliteXC contracts are hit by the new ruling, those with original deals with Strikeforce are under a whole other penalty structure when it comes to testing positive for drugs. According to the standard Strikeforce contract:

Fighter agrees that Fighter will be tested for doping (including but not limited to steroids, human growth drugs or any form of prohibited performance enhancing substances) or illegal substances (hereinafter individually and collectively referred to as “DIS”) within three (3) days before and after Fighter’s fight in the Event if required by EXPLOSION or the State Athletic Commission or the governing body. Further, Fighter agrees as follows:

(a) If Fighter tests positive for DIS before Fighter’s fight in the Event, Fighter shall be automatically disqualified from fighting in that Event and Fighter shall pay to EXPLOSION a penalty assessment equal to the amount that Fighter was to be paid for the Appearance and Rights fee for such Event.

(b) If Fighter tests positive for DIS after Fighter’s fight in the Event, EXPLOSION may dispossess Fighter of the Appearance Fee as well as any prize money and/or title awarded to Fighter, and a penalty assessment equal to the amount that Fighter was to be paid for the Appearance and Rights fee for such Event. Fighter agrees that any determination of DIS as determined by the State Athletic Commission or the governing body regulating the Event and its agents shall be binding and shall not be subject to appeal by Fighter, other than any appeal afforded under the law. Fighter further covenants not to bring any legal or administrative action pertaining to any determination regarding Fighter’s positive test for DIS. Fighter expressly hereby waives any right to institute any legal or administrative action pertaining to the decisions that Fighter tested positive for DIS.

If Fighter breaches this provision Fighter shall be deemed in material breach of this Agreement and in such case without limiting its remedies hereunder, or at law or equity, EXPLOSION at anytime during the term hereof at its election and in its sole and unlimited discretion may reduce and eliminate the number of fights that Fighter has agreed to fight pursuant to the terms hereof and as set forth on Exhibit A and Fighter shall not be compensated for any such fights that have been reduced and eliminated.

While I’m not a lawyer, my summary reading of these clauses yields the idea that a positive drug means a few things: no win money, no show money, a fine payable to Strikeforce equal to the show money, and possible nullification of the contract. All this is also not subject to appeal by the fighter. The policy seems a bit tougher than Just Say NO but stopping just short of the Turkish prison in Midnight Express. Judging from his comments the past few days, Nick Diaz looks to be fortunate to be under one of the amended EXC contracts, otherwise David Gardner might not be the only one saying Hello Japan.

KOTC Suspension Lifted

November 13, 2008

MMAPayout.com has learned that the California State Athletic Commission has released King of the Cage’s promoter’s license from suspension.

MMAPayout.com first reported the suspension of ProElite and King of the Cage’s licenses on November 6. At that time CSAC Executive Director Armando Garcia told MMAPayout.com that “the primary reason that Pro Elite/Elite XC’s and King of the Cage’s licenses have been placed on suspension is because of their financial states and the fact that Pro Elite, the owner of King of the Cage, has suspended operations and their tangible and intangible assets are being auctioned on November 17.”

Shortly after this decision, Garcia resigned from the commission.

MMAPayout.com will bring you more details on the situation as they become available.

The Garcia – CSAC Rumor Mill Working Overtime

November 11, 2008

Since the announcement of Armando Garcia’s resignation as head of the California State Athletic Commission, the have been a multitude of reasons being surmised for his sudden departure. Fightlinker.com has an exhaustive look at the questionable decisions that the CSAC has made while under the supervision of Garcia. Be mindful, this is just for MMA, I imagine a similar list could be made for boxing. In addition to the actual sporting elements where Garcia’s leadership and judgment have been called into question, 15rounds.com has expounded on various ethical questions that have surfaced during Garcia’s tenure.

Garcia had been rumored to be under a “probation” or 90 day review at the time of the resignation, which would fall under the Department of Consumer Affair’s purview. The laundry list of bad boxing and MMA decisions, ethical questions, and a possible litigation situation coming out of the ProElite license suspension seems to have lead to an untenable situation where a move finally had to be made with respect to Garcia.

The rumor is that the interim contenders for his job are Frank Munoz or Bill Douglas. Dean Lohouse is a possible replacement as well, but he may be too closely associated with Armando’s reign to fill the role of interim leader.

Garcia Out As CSAC Head

November 9, 2008

According to a posting on the CSAC website, Executive Director of CSAC Armando Gracia will tender his resignation to the board effective on their November 18th meeting. An interim director will also be named at that time. No reason was given for the resignation.

One of the last official actions by Garcia was the suspension of the promter’s licenses for EliteXC and ProElite. MMAPayout.com broke the story on the suspension and received official comment from Garcia in one of his last formal actions as head of CSAC.

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