By Zach Arnold | December 26, 2013
To read all CSAC-related articles, dating back to May 2012, CLICK HERE.
If you were offline for Christmas, you missed our report about some of the major changes being proposed by the California State Athletic Commission for 2014. I would strongly advise you to read it first before continuing on with this article.
But, for the sake of brevity, a quick summary of some of the modifications coming:
- At the discretion of Andy Foster (through proposed modifications of California rules & regulations), all judges & referees who work MMA events will have to, at minimum, will have to have earned a BJJ blue belt to work non-title fights. For title fights, the requirement is bumped up to a purple belt. What’s the online reaction been so far? Check out Reddit and The Underground Forum. As there is more awareness of the new policy, expect the polarization to sharpen and grow nastier in tone.
- There is a budget crunch and the two lawsuits against the commission (including the potent age discrimination/retaliation lawsuit by Dwayne Woodard) are eating away at the budget because the Attorney General’s office in Los Angeles is sending some hefty bills to CSAC.
- There will be a new consensus regarding the way the 10-point must system will be used to score MMA fights. Call it the Dave Meltzer approach. 10-8 round for a clear winner. 10-7 round for a clear winner in brutal one-sided beatdown. 10-9 round for a close winner. 10-10 score if the judges can’t pick a winner in a round.
- No modifications on the boxing side of the equation for changing judging criteria or minimum standards for boxing judges.
All of these are very important items worth discussing and they will impact the product you see on television and at live events. However, the much larger & over-arching theme of the December 16th CSAC meeting in Sacramento at DCA HQ was about the political takeover of the commission & who the power players are.
We know the Department of Consumer Affairs in Sacramento controls the administrative side of affairs. Andy Foster is the Executive Officer. We know that Big John McCarthy now has the pipeline in regards to giving a thumbs up or thumbs down for officials in regards to training & qualifications. We know that Martha Shen-Urquidez, the colorful lawyer who used to work with the LAPD on training issues & with the Los Angeles Housing Authority, is the commission fixer for the Andy/BJM side of the equation. Her name is on practically all the sub-committees on the Athletic Commission. She’s there to be the enforcer, the fixer, the bad cop, whatever label you want to use.
Not a good impression to the public
And throughout the 3 hour video made available online of the 12/16 CSAC Sacramento meeting, I came away very unimpressed with her. Her tone throughout the meeting was whiny & condescending, especially in response to critiques by her commission peers like chairman John Frierson. Compared to the other commissioners at that meeting, I came away pleasantly surprised that the Chairman was the fastest thinker on his feet & most engaged on the topics at hand. He had a largely sharp performance.
If Martha Shen-Urquidez continues this behavior at future CSAC meetings, in my opinion she will quickly alienate both enemies & allies.
What makes CSAC hearings so interesting to watch is that there are always multiple stories that never are fully investigated or discussed for public consumption in the press. And if you’re a press member, you haven’t been able to watch the CSAC hearings in Los Angeles because there’s been no multimedia available to you. The only way anyone would know anything is if they went to the meetings in-person. Perhaps that has been a feature, not a bug, for certain parties involved in the proceedings.
There were two specific instances at the CSAC 12/16 Sacramento hearing that I want to point out to you regarding Martha Shen-Urquidez’s demeanor.
First, go to around the 1 hour, 50 minute time mark in the embedded video to watch what unfolded here.
In our Christmas report, one of the items we focused on from the Sacramento hearing was the fact that Dr. Christopher Giza (UCLA) was finally going to be able to access some of the Neurological Fund cash to run some different kinds of testing to find modern neurological tests on fighters at events that meet today’s medical industry standards. According to Andy Foster, the estimated cost for the computer equipment is around $5,000 and there is an open bidding process that will end by January 1st. This is something Dr. Giza has been wanting to do for a long time. He stated that at Southern California events, he and some of his medical staffers will work with athletic inspectors on implementing these different neurological tests to find out which test is the most effective and should be permanently implemented in future testing protocols.
The commissioners were all on board with this except Martha. She, rightly, asked whether or not there had been some sort of motion passed to appropriate money from the neurological fund for Giza’s project. The other commissioners started mentioning how long Giza had been working on this. Giza stated that the latest sunset review report for CSAC addressed how to proceed with the money in the neurological fund. He noted it was a guide and somewhat of blueprint.
Sensing trouble, John Frierson immediately asked for this open bid to be placed on the agenda for the February meeting. This stirred up a hornet’s nest. Giza was not happy. Martha pressed him on what tests would be used and what the money is being spent for. She questioned Giza’s policy and replied, “I’d love to read it.” Frierson stepped in and defended both Dr. Giza & Dr. Lemons and said the commission was lucky to have them. Another commissioner, John Carvelli, pointed out a problem that putting the item on the February agenda could halt the open bidding process.
Giza replied, “This would only be the 10th time that’s happened so far.”
It appeared that Dr. Lemons chimed in, “That is the culture of this commission when it comes to neurological testing. This is a frank embarrassment.”
With the push-back in full force, Martha got real defensive.
“Well, I mean, I don’t necessarily think we need to hold it up for a couple of months. I read pretty fast, you know. Um… can we do something…”
At that point, a decision was made to address the bid on the February agenda. You could just feel the contempt and frustration here.
The main event moment of ethical questioning
But that moment was nothing compared to what took place at the end of the 12/16 CSAC meeting regarding the implementation of a Therapeutic Use Exemption policy for testosterone (anabolic steroid) use.
Michael Santiago, the Consumer Affairs lawyer who put a halt to new permission slips given to fighters for testosterone usage due to the rules & regulations not being updated, basically has been gone from commission meetings with veteran legal hand Spencer Walker put in place as legal babysitter. Santiago’s opinion on halting the testosterone slips did not go over well.
The issue of giving permission to fighters to use testosterone has been a real sore spot for the California State Athletic Commission. Chael Sonnen and the UFC opened the floodgates in California with his debacle in 2010 over the matter. Dr. Lemons was on the commission at the time, so he knows full well what a stain that ordeal was. Getting a new TUE policy in place for testosterone has always been a big deal for him since that incident. Lemons has been trying to get this implemented for a while now but has seen his efforts stopped in the past. This is an important footnote that I will elaborate on in a minute.
So, Dr. Lemons and Martha the fixer presented their new TUE policy for testosterone usage. Jump to the 2 hour, 22 minute time mark to watch. Dr. Lemons made this statement:
“I think we should be proud of this TUE. The reason, first of all, Martha’s worked very hard on this and I worked very long on this. I’ve tried to get this done for many years. And the reason that I thought it was important to get done was not to license more people on testosterone supplementation in this state. The purpose was to do it properly. Do it right. For the first time in this entire country for one commission to step forward and handle this issue properly. And that’s what I think what you see in this TUE. I hope the Department of Consumer Affairs can support it this time.“
There have been past attempts to get a testosterone policy in place. Since there was no policy, the front office was basically giving permission to fighters to use testosterone arbitrarily and without any official legal policy to fall back on. This is why Michael Santiago put a halt to what was going on with the permission slips. He made the right call but hasn’t been around commission meetings any more.
Running out of patience
Dr. Lemons took a jab at Consumer Affairs for a reason in his statement. The last time he attempted to get a policy in place, there was a 45 day open comment period after the introduction of the policy. It was open for public comment. I happened to be one of the few people who wrote a comment and submitted it to Consumer Affairs in opposition of giving permission to fighters for testosterone usage. A staffer read the letter at a CSAC hearing and a big wig fixer in DCA voiced DCA’s official opposition to such a policy. That killed it on the spot.
This time around, Dr. Lemons introduced the testosterone policy and Martha Shen-Urquidez, the lawyer, immediately pressed to get a motion on it at the meeting (a yes/no vote) without public comment. Spencer Walker, the DCA lawyer who was acting as a legal babysitter at the meeting, suddenly & rapidly stepped in to try to put a stop to it. He asked if there were any grammatical errors in the policy and noted that such errors could be “substantive” for enforcement. He told Martha that there needs to be a review of the policy and that it should be put on the February agenda. Walker noted that there needed to be a 45 day period for public comment before a vote.
Martha whispered, “Oh, okay” in the same tone that a kid rejected by their parents for fast food dinner would use.
John Carvelli stepped in and asked for a motion to vote. John Frierson, who was on his game, stepped in and tried to help Spencer Walker out by saying they shouldn’t do a motion here because he didn’t want to vote on something that they would have to rescind later due to legal problems. Carvelli asked for a motion, Dr. Giza seconded it, and all the commission members except Frierson voted yes for the testosterone policy.
Frierson tried to stop the insanity because he knew trouble was coming. In an exasperated tone, Martha remarked: “I must have read (this policy) 50 times.”
Spencer Walker, to my shock & his credit, noted that the new testosterone policy had only been included in the massive document dump on the CSAC web site the Friday before the meeting and that the public wasn’t aware of it. Frierson appropriately responded, “I’ve been around long enough to see sometimes it bites us in the butt if we’re not careful [about it].”
Martha whispered, “Oh… okay,” to the attorney’s advice to put the policy up for a vote on February after public comment. She then muttered, “we tried to be more efficient” in justifying why she pushed for a vote decided it being against legal standards, and huffed.
So, what would have happened had Spencer Walker & John Frierson not allowed for 45 days of public comment on the new testosterone policy? First, it would have increased the chances of Consumer Affairs spiking it (again). Second, it would have immediately set the stage for any California resident to file civil action, via the Private Attorney General Act, to ask for a writ of mandate (court order) for a stoppage of illegal activity by the commission. Such a court order would have resulted in public embarrassment for CSAC and also cost CSAC’s budget not only in legal bills from the Attorney General’s office but also any attorney’s fees ordered by a court to be paid to the plaintiff who sued.
Her lack of recognition of what Spencer Walker was trying to do can be interpreted one of two ways:
- 1) either she didn’t know the legal ramifications or
- 2) she knew the legal ramifications & went ahead to press for a vote.
Neither scenario looks great on camera.
Another lawsuit is the last thing CSAC & Consumer Affairs needed to deal with. Which begs the question, given this display of questionable legal judgment by lawyer Martha Shen-Urquidez, as to whether or not some of the commissioners should have their confidence shaken that she was granted a legal sub-committee on CSAC to develop reports for the commission on the lawsuits they’re facing.
The bottom line regarding the new testosterone (anabolic steroids) policy is that it will get passed unanimously by the commission in February, regardless of who issues a public comment. The facts on the ground make the steroid issue one that CSAC internally views as vital.
- Andy Foster’s vision is to make CSAC an MMA-first commission and the focus is on MMA.
- The testosterone policy is mainly about UFC. Andy Foster has practically been gumby when it comes to bending over backwards to be promoter-friendly to UFC because they put on big shows in the state and bring revenue.
- Before the UFC and their allies started pushing for testosterone permission slips, no other major combat sports promoter ever touched the issue let alone considered what UFC has been politically lobbying for with anabolic steroids. It’s the UFC that opened the floodgates here. You don’t hear news about any other promoters pushing this topic or enabling such use to happen on events where self-regulation is involved.
Nobody’s on the same page
So, why did the meeting incident regarding Martha Shen-Urquidez matter? It gave us visual evidence of her mindset & demeanor. It gives us a clearer picture of how she intends to operate as a fixer. It gives us an idea of her ideas of implementing new rules & regulations, along with modifications. Other lawyers who deal with the commission will be watching closely.
If the trio of wine lawyer Elisabeth Frater (Attorney General’s office), Spencer Walker (Consumer Affairs), and Martha Shen-Urquidez (de facto unofficial CSAC lawyer not-in-name) are the attorneys that are putting up the defense against the lawsuits they’re facing, I think it gives us some very intriguing insight into the kind of tactics that will be used in the future. Some important people are paying attention.
The next CSAC meeting will be in Los Angeles on February 10th.
Exit question: Spencer Walker stepped in and said that any changes to rules/regulations regarding the steroid policy requires a 45 day period for public comment. So why didn’t he point that same 45-day rule out for the new policy Andy Foster wants to implement in the rules/regulations for having MMA judges & referees be, at minimum, BJJ blue or purple belts to work fights? That, too, deserves public comment. Where’s the solicitation on the CSAC site for public comment on both topics?