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« | Home | »

James Toney gets suspension reduced

By Zach Arnold | August 6, 2007

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By Zach Arnold

After reading this LA Times article tonight, I expect there to be quite a bit of outrage on the MMA forums over the treatment Hermes Franca received from the California State Athletic Commission today in comparison to James Toney.

Toney was suspended by the CSAC earlier this year after testing positive for two steroids, including the steroid boldenone (which I chronicled in a recent CBS Sportsline article) — a horse steroid.

Franca’s year-long suspension was upheld by the CSAC, but bizarrely Toney’s suspension was reduced from a full year to six months. The rationale behind the reduced suspension, in a word, stinks.

When Commissioner Julio Ramirez suggested Toney receive a reduced 120-day suspension, Giza motioned for the full year to be upheld, adding, “Modifications require clear rationale.” Ramirez admitted he was swayed by Toney’s 78-fight career to give the boxer the “benefit of the doubt,” to which Giza argued, “So, you’re saying any athlete with a high profile,” gains a suspension reduction? Ramirez answered no.

Commissioner Peter Lopez then suggested a 180-day suspension for Toney, which will expire toward the end of November, and six commissioners voted to approve it, with only Giza voting no.

So, who are Julio Ramirez Jr. and Peter Lopez and why are they commissioners with the CSAC? Here’s the background information.

Lopez is an entertainment attorney appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lopez has made political donations in the past (information here).

Julio Ramirez Jr. is a political appointee of Fabian Núñez (aka Fabio Núñez — whose name recently surfaced in a scandal involving Mirthala Salinas and LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) and is associated with The Blackstone Group (an asset managing company) and The Park Hill Group. Political donation information here.

The reason I mention the backgrounds of these individuals is because this information is the first to pop up in any top search engine. Political scandals come in all shapes, sizes, and unfortunately all parties.

There’s no other way to put it, other than to state that Toney’s reduced suspension makes the commissioners look like a bunch of fanboys. It’s a terrible message to send to the public. It’s an even worse message to send to fighters who fail drug tests. As a fighter, why worry about getting suspended for a year when you know a fanboy will get you off the hook in six months?

If you live in California and want to file a complaint against the commissioners, here’s the form to use.

There’s an important lesson for all of us to learn with this unfortunate story. The lesson for both the fans and the media is to stay vigilant, always attend your state athletic commission meetings, and report what happens at the meetings. I hope those of you in the Oklahoma City area show up for this Wednesday’s commission meeting. The more public information there is about what takes place at SAC meetings, the more transparent the process will become and the easier it will be to expose really shameful behavior.

Topics: Boxing, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 14 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

14 Responses to “James Toney gets suspension reduced”

  1. Ivan Trembow says:

    As I understand it, it’s Armando Garcia or someone else from the CSAC arguing the case at the hearing for why the suspension shouldn’t be reduced, and it’s the fighter and/or a lawyer for the fighter arguing the case for why the suspension should be reduced. In this case, the commissioners decided to cut Toney’s suspension from twelve months to six.

    I don’t know all of the reasons that they cut Toney’s suspension in half, but unless there are legitimate reasons that we don’t know about, this is looking pretty ridiculous. For a commissioner in a major state such as California (or any state, for that matter) to suggest that maybe they should give Toney the benefit of the doubt because of his vast experience (as the statements were characterized by the L.A. Times) is just ludicrous, given the fact that he tested positive for a horse steroid that is illegal to use, prescribe, own, possess, or ingest unless it’s for use by a vet on an animal.

    And if those commissioners were going to take Toney’s past history into account when deciding whether to reduce his suspension, one would think they would consider the fact that this isn’t his first positive test for steroids. I’d think that would make them LESS likely to reduce his suspension, but what do I know?

    PS: I do agree with the commissioners’ decision not to reduce Franca’s suspension. I’m not trying to say, “They reduced Toney’s suspension, so they should have reduced Franca’s as well.” But I do believe that the commissioners’ decision to reduce Toney’s suspension, for the reasons that they stated according to the L.A. Times, was wrong.

  2. Tomer Chen says:

    I’d think that would make them LESS likely to reduce his suspension, but what do I know?

    Shouldn’t recidivism (in this case, testing positive for steroids after already being suspended for the John Ruiz post-fight positive test and losing his belt and having a ‘No Contest’) actually make for harsher punishments, if anything?

  3. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    *shrug*

    I know Zach considers himself a muckraker, but I’m not getting it in this case. An apparently non-partisan board consisting of people from various backgrounds appointed by a combination of republican and democratic politicians made a decision to give a boxer some leniency in light of a lengthy career…

    Maybe if boxers were routinely getting half the suspensions of MMA fighters…but there’s no fire here that I can see.

  4. Psygone says:

    Disclosing the political association of a government employee when introducing them as part of a larger piece is appropriate even when / if it’s irrelevant specifically to the subject.

  5. Tomer Chen says:

    Maybe if boxers were routinely getting half the suspensions of MMA fighters…but there’s no fire here that I can see.

    The only real head scratcher of this decision is to given him leniency even though he’s a recidivist. Typically, the first strike is the lenient one and then any after that is harsher, not gentler.

  6. Psygone says:

    I also remember when Josh Thomson got his suspension for his ‘inflammatory’ shirt was around the same time as the Toney / Peter fight were Toney said he would send Peter back to Africa on a banana boat.

  7. klown says:

    Zach Arnold, well done.

    I also think Commissioner Dr. Chris Giza should be recognized for his efforts. He might also be willing to help the campaign by making some statements. Someone interview him!

  8. [...] then his 1 year suspension is upheld while repeat offender James Toney got his suspension cut down to 6 months. You’d think the silver lining in all this was that the CSAC conceded Hermes could still [...]

  9. [...] Douglas making the final determination. The James Toney situation from earlier in the year when he got a slap on the wrist (while Hermes Franca did not) comes to mind. Sean Sherk had his hearing postponed until 11/13. [...]

  10. [...] Arnold Schwarzenegger, not all of the members of the CSAC appeals board were appointed by him. Here’s an article I wrote on this topic a few months [...]

  11. [...] and he got his sentence reduced. And let’s not forget about high-profile boxer James Toney who was given “the benefit of the doubt” and had his suspension reduced while Hermes Franca admitted his guilt and got the full [...]

  12. [...] Zach Arnold can ‘t believe James Toney’s suspension was [...]

  13. [...] the same James Toney who failed a steroid test for horse steroids, showed up in Las Vegas to make his intentions clear. Toney really believes he [...]

  14. [...] do little more than say “I’m James Toney, I didn’t dope” and have his suspension reduced to six months. In today’s world a high profile boxer generally boxes two or three times a year at most; is a [...]

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