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About that Strikeforce CSAC drug testing fiasco…

By Zach Arnold | September 9, 2012

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Of all the displays of incompetence and corruption happening right now with the California State Athletic Commission, you would be hard pressed to find a more curious example of stupidity than the way CSAC handled drug testing affairs at the Strikeforce event that took place last month in San Diego. The show was headlined by Ronda Rousey vs. Sarah Kaufman.

Kathi Burns, the Department of Consumer Affairs lifer who is filling in as interim Executive Office, revealed this past week that only Kaufman and Rousey were drug tested for steroids/PEDs while no one else was tested due to ‘random’ selection. Uhuh.

So, what exactly happened with the drug testing protocols in San Diego and why did the situation get so out of control for CSAC in the press?

The week of the Strikeforce show in San Diego

Earlier in the week that the Strikeforce show in San Diego took place, there was an ill-fated power play attempted by Kathi Burns against front office workers Sarah Waklee and Brandon Saucedo. Both work in the front office and also work as lead inspectors for Northern California shows. Burns attempted to stop both of them from working as lead inspectors at future shows so that they would simply focus on working in the front office. A conflict of interest in doing both jobs was cited for the power play attempt. Within hours of this power play attempt, Waklee and Saucedo immediately got Burns to back down and we were back to status quo.

Burns then decided after her power play was neutralized to travel down to San Diego for the weigh-ins of the Strikeforce show in San Diego. The weigh-ins were supposed to happen at around 2 PM. The problem? No one was around from the commission for the weigh-ins, leaving Marc Ratner and the Showtime crew mad. Burns eventually showed up and the weigh-ins proceeded.

An important factor that should be noted in this whole story is that Burns has no experience in combat sports and is not a fan of combat sports, either. She simply has been a lifer at Consumer Affairs in Sacramento, floating around from place to place.

When it came time to drug test the fighters, only Rousey and Kaufman were drug tested for PEDs. It turns out that Burns, who allegedly has no experience doing drug testing, reportedly handled the testing process herself. What makes this so bizarre is that there were inspectors at the show who had worked or are working for the state’s Corrections department. If there is anyone who understands the chain of custody issues regarding drug testing, it’s individuals who work for Corrections. And, yet, Burns herself is the one who handled the drug testing.

After the samples were procured, they were sent to the UCLA drug testing lab.

The UCLA lab then called up Kathi Burns after they were given the samples and told her there was a problem with the labeling. They wanted direct contact with her since she was the one involved in procuring the samples. Once the problem was fixed, the testing proceeded to take place.

Here’s Don Catlin in 2011 explaining the testing protocols at the UCLA lab:

As a laboratory director, I often responded to legitimate requests for information about the results. Guiding those requests and the whole testing process are the cardinal features of all sport testing contracts: 1) samples are identified only by a code number, 2) only the testing agency (for example USADA) can connect the name of the athlete to the code number, and 3) nobody at the laboratory knows the name of the athletes. The testing is anonymous.

The end result is that the California State Athletic Commission claimed that both samples tested negative. The reality is that even if one of the samples had tested positive, it would have been nearly impossible for the commission to uphold a suspension against either Ronda Rousey or Sarah Kaufman due to the chain of custody issues that Kathi Burns created (fixable or not). No one, other than Kathi Burns herself, knows why she was the one who decided to handle the drug testing in San Diego.

Turning the tables

The news of the botched drug testing protocols used by Kathi Burns broke because of an e-mail that Sarah Waklee sent out to MMA web sites. In the e-mail, Waklee reportedly claimed that the drug testing results were ‘invalid’ after being submitted to the UCLA lab. A few hours later, Kathi Burns sent out a note to the media stating that everything had been sorted out.

“The results of the drug testing for the August 18, 2012 Strikeforce event will be provided later this week or early next week. I spoke with the lab just a few moments ago and found that a delay in processing the results has occurred due to a simple, but correctable clerical error.”

When Kathi Burns was asked by MMA Junkie as to why this situation became the public relations nightmare that it did, Junkie reported the following:

Burns declined to explain an email from CSAC sent to the media that stated test results for “Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman” were “invalid,” saying it was “an internal matter.”

Regarding an earlier comment from UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner that there may have been issues with sample collection on fight night, Burns clarified that the CSAC was simply unfamiliar with the UCLA lab’s testing protocols, which required samples to be labeled in a certain way. When they weren’t, it caused the delay in processing results.

“When we switched labs, we switched procedures,” she said. “The steps that we used to take for a certain kind of cup and certain kind of sample were different than the way we do it now. So basically what happened was that all of the steps that we needed to take didn’t happen. So the lab needed that step in order to process the results.

The person here who didn’t have experience with the UCLA lab protocols is Kathi Burns.

As for her comment about declaring Waklee’s e-mail to the press as an ‘internal matter,’ I think there’s something that needs to be said about this breach of etiquette.

In state government circles, you are not supposed to speak to the press unless your superiors green light your request and allow you to do so. This is what the Department of Consumer Affairs went after (former) Executive Officer George Dodd for, even though on many of the occasions they went after him for he hadn’t actually talked with the press member DCA claimed he spoke with.

To make a long story short, if you are a state worker and you speak out of turn and make your superiors look bad in the process, you can and often are subjected to disciplinary action. Intentionally or unintentionally, Waklee’s e-mail to the media made Kathi Burns look like a ditz. Burns has every right to cite California Gov. Code 11126(a)(1) in order to call for a disciplinary hearing in front of the sitting CSAC board members to have Waklee punished for her actions.

(a)(1)Nothing in this article shall be construed to prevent a state body from holding closed sessions during a regular or special meeting to consider the appointment, employment, evaluation of performance, or dismissal of a public employee or to hear complaints or charges brought against that employee by another person or employee unless the employee requests a public hearing.

So, will Burns have the nerve to cite the code and have Waklee punished? Highly doubtful. Nobody is afraid of each other in the Sacramento front office. As our multi-month investigation has revealed, it’s a free-for-all cesspool full of fraudulent activity in the CSAC front office right now.

The big picture

We’ve demonstrated that the Sacramento front office for the California State Athletic Commission can’t manage a box office, can’t manage an explosion of cheating regarding illegal hand-wraps and skinned gloves due to incompetence & a terrible “3 inspector per show” policy, and can’t manage to maintain proper medical & licensing paperwork for fighters resulting in requests for altering documents. Throw in the botched drug testing situation at the Strikeforce show and what you have is a proverbial keg of dynamite waiting to explode.

At Saturday’s Andre Ward/Chad Dawson fight in Oakland at Oracle Arena, Che Guevara (the Chief Athletic Inspector of CSAC who also works in the front office) cut down the number of inspectors from 7 to 5. Five inspectors, given the level of incompetence with some in the Northern California crew, is not a safe number.

Bottom line? The reason the Department of Consumer Affairs is doing absolutely nothing about the chaos at the California State Athletic Commission is because they are a big part of the problem. They’ve created an environment and fostered the political chaos that you are currently witnessing. The end game for DCA? They want the commission sunsetted.

Sunsetting the athletic commission does not mean shutting down combat sports in California. No, it’s actually worse than that. Sunsetting CSAC would mean that DCA would eliminate commission meetings for public consumption. DCA would take everything private and remove any sort of transparency that’s left. They would integrate even more of their bureaucratic lifers, none who have experience in combat sports, into regulatory affairs. It would only exacerbate the issues the commission is currently facing, not clean up the actual mess.

The last time the California State Athletic Commission was sunset, Armando Garcia got in big trouble and forced DCA to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit at the price tag of $75,000. Naturally, DCA replaced Armando with a man named Dave Thornton who cost DCA $750,000 in a legal settlement for a sexual & racial harassment lawsuit filed against him. This is the kind of leadership that would be on display by Consumer Affairs once the commission gets sunset.

The idiots at Consumer Affairs think that getting CSAC sunsetted will solve their political problems. I have news for them — it will only make your political & liability problems significantly worse. DCA sunsetting CSAC is the equivalent of putting a used throw rug over a carpet that has been soaked & stained from cat urine & dog turds. The stench isn’t going away.

Topics: CSAC, MMA, Media, StrikeForce, Zach Arnold | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

18 Responses to “About that Strikeforce CSAC drug testing fiasco…”

  1. Dean says:

    Good god I love this website. Fight scoops are one thing and in the end mean nothing. This is the real deal in combat sports reporting.

  2. Phil says:

    I assumed that the “clerical error” was them not paying hte lab since they were broke. I’m impressed that they found a way to be more incompetent than my wildest dreams.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Hey, you have to admit that testing no one but the main eventers is fair AND random. I mean, randomly, no one got picked. ;)

  4. Mike says:

    I’d be willing to bet money that the main event wasn’t the only fight tested. So what happened to those results? Did they get lost in the internal clerical shuffle? That department lies so much; it’s a sad reminder of how bad things are running in Sacramento.

  5. Matthew Parker says:

    Would Zuffa consider paying for testing at the Strikeforce show in Sacramento this month?

  6. Nepal says:

    If Kathy Burns is an exec there and only makes $65 or $70K per year, no wonder it’s a mess. What kind of competent person in their right mind would work for that kind of money. Especially in California.

    They don’t have the money to pay for good people…. this problem is not going to get better.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      The notable cash is in their legal department and at the very top of the pyramid.

      However, the real heavy cash is amongst the people they loosely label as ‘investigators.’ There’s practically hundreds of ‘investigators’ in the $75,000-$110,000/yearly range.

  7. Clint says:

    Sid, a part time Inspector for CSAC, made over 40k last year, something sell here.

  8. Brain says:

    Who would want to take the job as Executive Officer of CSAC knowing the possibilty that CSAC may be sunsetted. Because if it does, it would be up to DCA if they would like to retain that individidual or let him/her go with less than one year on the job. The way that there is so much involvement by the Governor’s Office and legislation they would probably pick someone political lifer who has little experience in combative sports. Doesn’t the Governor and the rest of legislation have more things to worry about like schools, medical, unemployment, a $15 billion deficit, etc.

    As for the pay, what pay. If you look at the number of shows that Nevada and New York regulate, California by far out numbers them. I am pretty sure that the Executive Officer of New York makes over $150,000 for conducting 40 shows and in California the EO gets $88,000 for over 200 shows.

  9. CosmicCharlie says:

    Sarah has been the media contact for yrs sending out drug info, purse info. She must have gotten clearance to send the email. Why would this be different. Maybe another example of Kathi not being qualified.

    I wonder what Kathi\’s past job was and why did she leave?

  10. Doc says:

    I wonder why no media outlet has attempted to contact George Dodd and find out the really reason why he left. I bet there is more to it than just the budget. Beside he was right, there was money at the end of the fiscal year. Before he took over CSAC was a joke and at least with him there…things were starting to change for the better. Just like everyone thing it takes time to change an organization that was so unorganized

  11. The Gaijin says:

    UFC 153: Rio status:

    - Rampage – Out.
    - Aldo – Out.

    …wtf!

  12. [...] Just HOW Inept is the CSAC? (FightOpinion.com) [...]

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