By Zach Arnold | April 6, 2012
“I like being on your show but I don’t like the falsehoods you spread.”
I make this request to you for a sound reason.
Important links of note/reference:
- Voluntary Anti-Doping Association
- World Anti-Doping Agency
- US Anti-Doping Agency
- How Carbon Isotope Ratio testing works (New York Times)
Go listen to the audio first.
Yesterday morning, we posted a series of questions on our site that the media should ask Keith Kizer of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. He announced that Alistair Overeem failed a pre-fight urine drug test due to an elevated T/E (testosterone/epitestosterone) ratio of 14:1. For most adult males, your T/E ratio is 1:1. For California & WADA & VADA testing, 4:1 to the T/E standard. In Nevada, it’s 6:1. I bring this up because it will be of good use to you in a second here.
Kizer and the NSAC are also preparing to go after Nick Diaz as a two-time marijuana offender.
- Nick Diaz’s attorney uses Jonathan Tweedale’s marijuana defense
- Nevada amends complaint against Nick Diaz, shift strategy
Yesterday, we posted a series of questions that the media should ask Kizer about the Nick Diaz situation. To refresh your memory, those questions were the following:
- Do you consider marijuana to be a performance enhancing drug for fighters in combat sports?
- If you consider marijuana to be a PED, do you consider the effects of marijuana to be of similar enhancement to anabolic steroids & testosterone?
- Would you treat someone equally if they applied for a marijuana Therapeutic Use Exemption the same way you claim to treat guys who ask for testosterone TUEs?
The reason I do not deal with Keith Kizer directly is simple. All of the unstated reasons were on display in yesterday’s interview with Mauro Ranallo.
If I have to deal with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, I will deal with them using a Freedom of Information Act request or through other legal channels. That is the extent to which I will deal with that political body if I need to get answers to pertinent questions involving the state of Nevada vis-à-vis the fight business.
Yesterday morning when I posted pertinent questions that the media needs to ask Keith Kizer about the Nick Diaz case, I did not know ahead of time that he would be appearing on Mauro Ranallo’s radio show. I have challenged the media to press Kizer on a number of questions as opposed to letting his spin go unchallenged.
To Mauro’s strong credit, he read my post yesterday. He saw the questions I asked. He proceeded to ask Keith Kizer the questions we presented. The end result? In my opinion, the Executive Director had an ugly & regrettable performance. The level of disrespect shown toward Mauro for his line of questioning was palpable. Mauro asked the questions we have asked about testosterone & marijuana usage in MMA. He challenged Keith Kizer in a fair manner. When Mauro continued to ask important & completely relevant questions regarding drug testing protocols, Keith Kizer got agitated. He tried to challenge & attack the premise of what Mauro was asking by claiming Mauro’s questions were based on faulty or incorrect premises. He got testy & whiny in a hurry. Soon, he became dismissive and petulant.
Normally, I would be glad to sit here and transcribe every word of an interview like this. However, the gap between the words you would read here and the tone in which those words were expressed is so stark that it would be a complete injustice to do a transcript. I want you to hear the interview for many reasons. Not only will you understand where I am coming from in regards to the questions we asked yesterday, you will understand my stance on who I deal with and why I deal or don’t deal with certain people.
I encourage you to listen to the interview for yourself and compare it to my review here of some of the points raised in the interview. This way, you can make your own judgment and you can agree or disagree with where I’m coming in.
My message to Mauro is a simple one — I’m proud of you. You did your job. You asked the right questions. You asked smart questions. You raised points that other writers simply don’t want to be bothered to ask. What you got in return was execrable in behavior but enlightening in revelation.
What was asked and what was or wasn’t answered
1. Why won’t Nevada overturn the fight result of the Overeem/Lesnar contest?
One of the great parts of the interview Mauro did with Keith Kizer involved asking the Director why the result of the Alistair Overeem/Brock Lesnar fight won’t be overturned and how Overeem essentially can’t be suspended for the failed drug test because he isn’t licensed to fight in Nevada. Remember, Overeem fought on a temporary license against Brock.
Kizer responded by saying that Overeem had passed the drug tests for that conditional license to fight Brock and that since the license expired on December 31st, he met the drug testing requirements. Since the drug test failure happened after the Brock fight but before the JDS fight on May 26th, the punishment essentially will be enforced for what’s upcoming rather than changing the Lesnar result.
The way I laid out that answer was a lot more clear & blunt than the way Kizer answered it during the interview. For a period of about two minutes, I could picture the proverbial heads of Mauro’s listeners spinning in confusion to what Kizer was saying. This is when you could start sensing some drips of contentiousness.
I completely understand the agitation that so many have about this situation. Overeem doesn’t get a drug test on time last November, yet is granted a ‘conditional’ temporary license that lasts until 12/31? The Brock fight is on 12/30. Overeem wins the fight and doesn’t fail those early drug tests. He then fails a pre-fight drug test but he’s still classified as not being officially licensed but yet ‘conditionally’ temporarily licensed, which therein results in the fact that he can’t get an official license… but he can’t get suspended either for failing this pre-fight drug test.
2. Why does Nevada support a 6:1 T/E ratio over a 4:1 T/E ratio standard in California, WADA, and VADA?
Overeem’s T/E ratio was 14:1. Mauro then adroitly asked Kizer about why Nevada uses a 6:1 T/E ratio when California, WADA, and VADA use a 4:1 ratio. Kizer went to his standard boilerplate response that 6:1 was good enough for WADA in the past, so it shouldn’t be that big of an issue now even though WADA is now at 4:1. Then, he started to get frustrated while explaining his stance that he likes the 6:1 ratio because there are some people who have naturally higher levels of testosterone, so therefore he isn’t interested in having false positives for T/E levels. In other words, he believes that the 4:1 ratio is more likely to generate a false positive than a 6:1 ratio does.
- Dr. Johnny Benjamin (MMA Junkie): What are T/E ratios? And why do cutoff limits vary?
When the name Dr. Margaret Goodman came up in regards to whether or not the NSAC would work with VADA, in a perfunctory tone Kizer said that she had previously worked for the commission and brought up the 6:1 ratio during her time there. The answer did not really seem to fit the question that Mauro had asked (he had stopped on the T/E questions) and Kizer’s answer was more or less that if promoters want to do supplemental drug testing, they would supported for their efforts.
In short, my opinion was it was a snippy remark along the lines ‘huh, she wasn’t bothered by the 6:1 ratio when she worked here, but now she wants it 4:1 for her deal?’ Your interpretation may vary on this one. That’s why I strongly encourage you to listen to the interview and not simply taking my word for it.
It is no secret that, indirectly, Kizer has expressed… displeasure?… about Dr. Goodman in previous interviews whether or not her name has or hasn’t come up. When Josh Gross interviewed Kizer for his mega-ESPN radio show on the topic of testosterone, Kizer mocked anyone who said that fighters shouldn’t get Therapeutic Use Exemptions for testosterone. I pointed out who Keith was expressing his displeasure about.
To put some context to what I’m talking about regarding how out of nowhere the comment about Dr. Goodman and the 6:1 ratio in Nevada was stated, here’s the context from the interview:
MAURO RANALLO: “If there are better ways that exist right now to prove and catch people and not have to go through the expenses, you know, of these other tests and whatnot. If there’s a way to help clean up the sport and it exists, why aren’t we using it? And if money’s the issue, is there any, uh, you know, thought to doing some fundraising or coming up with the cash somehow, how can we do that?”
KEITH KIZER: “Uh, I don’t know. Again, there [is some] supplemental testing being done and we have no issues with that. I mean, yeah, if a promoter or a fighter wants to do additional testing, supplemental testing, we’re all for that.”
MAURO RANALLO: “What are your thoughts on VADA, what Dr. Margaret Goodman and them are doing, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association?”
KEITH KIZER: “You know, they’re involved I think with the Mosley/Alvarez fight but I’ve not had much information. Dr. Goodman is actually a former doctor here on the commission from years ago. Back when she was chairman of the Medical Advisory Board, we had a 6:1 ratio. We still do it. Like I said, 4:1 might be the better ratio and it’s something we’ve looked at but, again, we don’t want to do it in such a way to have false positives out there. So, but, uh, I applaud anybody out there doing, uh, this type of work.”
After Kizer’s initial interview response to the T/E ratio, the T/E issue wasn’t really raised until the very end when Mauro was trying to close out the interview. Kizer was already irritated about the criticism he’s received on this front from people like Victor Conte. As Mauro was trying to wrap things up, he brought up the T/E ratio issue again and how most everyone would like to see a 4:1 standard. Kizer, in an incredibly irritated pitch, had enough and challenged Mauro on who these people are and essentially went after Mauro for using a false premise. It was quite a revealing moment. However, Mauro didn’t back down and he asked Kizer if he would support a lower T/E ratio in the future, even mentioning getting the ratio as close to 1:1 as possible. Kizer said yes repeatedly.
Well, that answer didn’t match up to what he saying earlier when first pressed on the T/E ratio by talking about concern over false positives. On second thought, it did and it didn’t.
Remarkably, this was not the most curious moment of frustration for the Executive Director.
3. Going after Nick Diaz for marijuana usage and why marijuana is a target in drug testing
Mauro asked him our questions about the Director’s viewpoint on marijuana and if he considered marijuana to be a performance enhancer like testosterone. Initially, Kizer stood behind the WADA name by saying if they think it’s a prohibited substance, then why shouldn’t be in Nevada?
“We definitely have a pecking order on prohibited substances.”
In defending why they test for marijuana:
“Well, it’s a prohibited substance.” He didn’t stop there. He added that “perhaps” there is a performance enhancing aspect to it. Then he challenged Mauro for his line of questioning about marijuana usage & punishment by saying WADA doesn’t put substances on a list ‘willy nilly’ and intimated Mauro having a problem with this.
“Sounds like you do.”
I think a lot of people have a problem with the argument that marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug during a fight. You can categorize it as a banned substance and say that since it slows down a fighter’s performance during a fight that therefore a fighter is putting their own body at danger in terms of health & safety. However, to get caught up with arguing that it’s ‘perhaps’ a performance enhancer is just over-the-top.
Kizer made sure to express that marijuana isn’t a PED on the level of testosterone and noted that the suspensions handed out in Nevada are different in time length. He noted that first-time for marijuana is 6 months, 9-12 months for testosterone/steroids. Mauro tried to press him and ask him what he wants to see happen to Diaz for length of punishment and Kizer said he didn’t want to try the case on the radio show.
(Kizer did confidently express, however, that the ‘prosecution’ has Diaz doomed for untruthful/misrepresenting answers on the pre-fight medical questionnaire to one or more questions.)
Kizer initially stated that he views testing for marijuana as important because of the harm to the person using it. Of all the arguments one could made to support his current stance on the way he handles marijuana suspensions, this is the one partially defensible argument to make.
However, he then dropped the word ‘theoretical’ when saying that marijuana has performance-enhancing benefits.
At that point of the interview, whatever he had said beforehand probably got tuned out by a lot of Mauro’s listeners because once you start arguing marijuana as a PED even if you use the word ‘theoretical,’ you are going to draw scorn and ridicule from a lot of fans.
4. The issue of out-of-competition drug testing
The last big takeaway I had from the interview was when Mauro pressed him about out-of-competition random drug testing. Kizer was touting how Nevada’s new policy is working, as if testing guys at a Vegas press conference is somehow true out-of-competition drug testing the likes of WADA worldwide out-of-competition testing (where someone, like tennis star Rafael Nadal is woken up at 8:30 AM in the morning at a hotel and told to give a sample on the spot). Josh Gross pointed out this vociferously on an item at ESPN when he asking how dumb Overeem could be for failing such a non-random random drug test.
On a side note in relation to the T/E debate, it was very curious to hear Keith Kizer tout how great Carbon Isotope Ratio testing is for measuring testosterone levels in a urine sample. Obviously, then, CIR testing is the standard for all urine drug testing in Nevada, right? Nope. CIR is used by Nevada if a fighter wants to appeal the A sample test failure and have the B sample tested. If it sounds backwards to you, you’re not alone. The Director brought up that CIR is much more expensive to use — but outfits like VADA are right there in Las Vegas willing to assist on the CIR front for testing.
Why did Keith Kizer leak Overeem’s A sample test result before testing his B sample? Against Olympic, MLB, NFL rules. What’s up?
In this case, the standard NSAC protocol is when the A sample tests positive to give out the result and then it’s public knowledge whether or not a fighter wants to appeal because a future hearing is set. That’s different from baseball, football, and other pro-sports where an athlete can appeal the positive test, have the B sample tested, and then if the appeal fails you end up hearing about the suspension. Of course, that doesn’t always work out sometimes (ask Ryan Braun of the Brewers).
Victor’s remarks led to an insider messaging us the following quip:
“How does NSAC avoid false positives if they don’t automatically test the B sample? Why do they release results without confirming B sample?”
All in all, a bizarrely hostile interview due to the sanctimonious tone on display. I fully expect that your reaction to my comments here will be mixed, at best, but I can’t wait to hear your feedback.