Belfort out of Weidman title fight, Machida in; The written/unwritten truths about the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s testosterone reversal
By Zach Arnold | February 27, 2014
Vitor Belfort out of UFC 173 fight versus Chris Weidman. Belfort not applying for license. Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida now.
— FightOpinion (@FightOpinion) February 28, 2014
The Nevada State Athletic Commission had a meeting today in Las Vegas where they announced a ban on all testosterone permission slips for fighters in combat sports. It was a unanimous vote. Not a coincidence. The UFC is already putting on a dog-and-pony show celebrating this triumph.
That’s Sig Rogich-style public relations malarkey. The UFC celebrating the “end” of anabolic steroid permission slips in Nevada is the equivalent of Big Tobacco celebrating an orchestrated anti-smoking campaign for kids in schools while making tens of millions of dollars profiting from the promotion of individuals who used or got addicted to their drug in the first place. Think the UFC is going to apologize for Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Ben Rothwell, Dan Henderson, and many other fighters who have headlined Fox events or PPVs where the UFC banked big coin? Hell no.
And today, rather than admit that they made a mistake in the first place in giving out testosterone permission slips to fighters for anabolic steroid usage, Nevada’s commission said they wanted to end the permission slips because it was too much work administratively.
The truth about Nevada’s commission is what I’ve stated all along: Sig Rogich, Lorenzo Fertitta, and the politicians indebted to these individuals are the ones collaborating in this public relations campaign to look like they are cracking down on anabolic steroid usage in combat sports when in fact they were the enablers in the first place. Look at the facts. It wasn’t until UFC started promoting anabolic steroid users in main event fights that we had this plague of fighters crying hypogonadism and needing permission slips. It wasn’t Bob Arum. It wasn’t Golden Boy. It wasn’t Lou DiBella. This plague falls squarely on the shoulders of the UFC. They fostered the environment that let the plague spread and now they want you to think that they are altruistic in trying to stamp in out, that somehow this was never their fault and it was the fault of politicians (who they happen to exert great influence over).
And now the UFC is telling the same athletic commissions they influenced in the past on testosterone usage to no longer allow testosterone use in combat sports.
I’m sure Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemons, who has tried to push his own testosterone policy, will be thrilled by this. I’m sure Martha Shen-Urquidez, the lawyer who is a fixer for Andy Foster on the California State Athletic Commission who questioned the credibility of the Association of Ringside Physicians’ statement about getting rid of testosterone permission slips, will be thrilled as well.
Why did Nevada’s commission flip flop? What happened to Keith Kizer is the same thing that happened to George Dodd in California. They were made the fall guys for the behavior of crooks in both Sacramento and Las Vegas. Kizer was simply parroting what those above him wanted to be said about testosterone usage not being some sort of “scarlet letter.” Consumer Affairs was screwing up big time with California’s commission and they dumped all the blame on Dodd. Then they got Andy Foster in the seat and all of a sudden DCA decided that they were going to (publicly) claim to be walking the straight-and-narrow. Kizer gets dumped in Nevada and now all the political factions, in unanimous fashion, decide to “do the right thing” while Kizer is out of power. Don’t confuse this paragraph as a defense of Kizer but rather as a condemnation of the gutlessness on display in Vegas.
Why the change now in testosterone policy?
I have covered the testosterone issue on this site for the past three years. I argued… and argued… and argued until I was blue in the face that the issue was a giant loser for the UFC politically & legally. Even as recently as yesterday, I got into some spats with UFC fans who were basically saying the issue wasn’t a real dilemma and that it is overblown.
I even wrote about the pro-steroid marriage between Fox and UFC. Trust me, that article got proper insider attention and worried some powerful people.
But for all the digital ink I’ve spilled on the testosterone topic, the reality is that all I could do was be an influencer. The majority of people who read this site are in the press or politics. We have healthy numbers but we’re not a powerhouse. Our importance is being an ideas clearinghouse for other media outlets to pick up the ball and roll with what we discuss.
It took a while but we got the right kind of attention in recent months and the tide soon turned. The tide really started turning last November when Vitor Belfort beat Dan Henderson in Brazil and was crowned as #1 contender for the UFC Middleweight title. That is when I started hearing from various media players in back-channels that, “damn, this really is going to be a big deal and we better start sending our investigative writers on it.” That kind of talk.
Then came the statement from the Association of Ringside Physicians coming out against testosterone permission slips in combat sports. That spooked a lot of powerful people. Included on that letter were the names of Dr. Paul Wallace and Dr. Eddie Ayoub, the top two Southern California doctors being used by the California State Athletic Commission. This pissed off some individuals in Sacramento who were not happy and, subsequently, we have doctors feuding with each other in California right now over anabolic steroids and doctor shortages at events.
Before that ARP statement, I was given a heads up that several big general sports outlets were going to start running real hard against the UFC and Belfort over anabolic steroids. Eventually, ESPN (through Outside the Lines) ran an item from top steroids writer Mike Fish in which Francisco Aguilar, Andre Agassi’s lawyer and top fixer for Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, stated that the money that a Belfort/Weidman fight in Nevada could generate would be taken into consideration as to whether or not Belfort would get a permission slip to use testosterone. That comment was definitely not from the Sig Rogich school of public relations and backfired in a bad way, even if it was a trial balloon.
Dr. Tim Trainor, who was used as the doctor conduit on NSAC for Keith Kizer in regards to the testosterone permission slips, came out of the shadows after Keith Kizer’s resignation and basically called out the testosterone garbage for what it is.
Then came this ESPN OTL piece from Mike Fish and Josh Gross about the mark doctors involved in the testosterone scam. Josh Gross is a dirty word in Zuffa HQ. If UFC is the vampire, Josh Gross is their cross & garlic. After this ESPN article was published, it was no secret that other major media outlets were going to hammer UFC hard in May when the Belfort/Weidman fight is set to take place. It was going to be the wrong kind of attention for UFC and Fox was not going to be able to protect them in a unscripted scenario.
The public line is that the ESPN story had no impact on NSAC reversing course. And the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale, too. Mike Fish and Josh Gross were interviewing many people and digging around. The mere threat of big media outlets like ESPN investigating the issue had an impact. The fact that it involved Mike Fish, a heavy hitter, had even more impact.
The amazing thing throughout the whole testosterone scandal for UFC is that they never fully developed a coherent defense on the matter. You always got a different answer every day from the company. They understood that the testosterone scam was a serious issue but didn’t consider it as a serious enough problem to actually put some considerate thought into coming up with a legal or public relations defense, which is shocking given how close PR spin-meister Sig Rogich is to Lorenzo Fertitta.
The reason the UFC couldn’t develop a coherent defense of the testosterone bullshit is because there is no defense. There never was a defense. So, rather than try to make an actual attempt (half-assed or not), Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta continued to flounder. And that opened the door for more interest in media outlets investigating the topic. Booking Vitor Belfort in a title match was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The issues unresolved or unanswered issues still at stake
— Guilherme Cruz (@guicruzzz) February 27, 2014
- Just because Nevada’s commission no longer will give testosterone permission slips to fighters in the future doesn’t mean other athletic commissions won’t do it, like California or New Jersey. In the case of a third-rate deal like Wisconsin, Ben Rothwell claims he got a testosterone hall pass because of brain trauma suffered from a car accident two decades ago.
- Just because Nevada’s commission no longer will give testosterone permission slips to fighters in the future doesn’t mean that their “enhanced drug testing” for future fights will actually be able to catch fighters microdosing testosterone (through pellets, creams, gels, or gummy bears) if they aren’t using Carbon Isotope Ratio screenings.
- Will the UFC no longer give out testosterone permission slips to fighters on overseas shows that they regulate? Or will it be kept underground until a fighter tests positive for elevated levels of testosterone (like Antonio Silva)?
There are major issues in this not being discussed, not giving TUEs will lead athletes to take and not be tested as much.
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) February 27, 2014
This is the Chael Sonnen argument from years ago, that the testosterone use will now be somehow driven underground because fighters won’t come out of the shadows and admit testosterone usage. The problem with that argument is that so many guys are already using testosterone that it only made the shamelessness of fighters crying hypogonadism even more absurd.
There already has been a testosterone problem in combat sports. Giving amnesty to fighters, which is what the testosterone permission slips amounted to, only glorified testosterone usage and made a joke of doping in combat sports. Instead of suffering shame for getting permission to use testosterone, it became a badge of honor.
A final thought
My fear, on behalf of the clean fighters out there, is that the war stops here. It has to end in blood testing and random tests. Has to.
— Jonathan Snowden (@mmaencyclopedia) February 27, 2014
There’s the actual war on doping and then there’s the public relations battle, which is Sig Rogich’s turf. Rogich and company are hoping that the heat will go away from UFC on the testosterone/doping matter. They want writers to take the foot off the gas pedal. Today’s events give many writers inclined to be soft on UFC the avenue to no longer push on this issue.
Which is why I give special thanks to Gabriel Montoya, Dr. Margaret Goodman, Josh Gross, and Mike Fish for their efforts. They displayed a backbone. It’s amazing how many people who make a living in combat sports are such cowards.
Mike Tyson is right. Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. That’s what happened with Rogich, Lorenzo, Ratner, and the NSAC. They profited handsomely from fighters using testosterone to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Then the heat started picking up and they panicked. They had no answers. Then they got shameless and promoted Vitor Belfort to a title match. Then the situation became untenable.
This situation is merely the beginning and not the end. Since the UFC and other promoters/TV executives read this site and copy articles for roundtable discussions, here’s a personal message from me to Sig Rogich & mark doctor Jeff Davidson: I’m just getting started. You’ve done the bidding for individuals who have poisoned the well on the anabolic steroid issue in combat sports and you’re not going to get away with it no matter how many fancy press conferences you do with Harry Reid, John McCain, or the other politicians you control. I’m not going away and neither are the investigative writers digging into your affairs, especially Davidson. Davidson’s name escaped public mention today on the NSAC testosterone reversal and it shouldn’t have. This guy has been a player all along in dealing with various athletic commissions. If he wants to be a player, then he deserves public scrutiny for being a player. I have no sympathy for anyone who was involved as a fixer for fighters legally using anabolic steroids.
One of the lessons I learned from the collapse of PRIDE and the dummies behind it (Sakakibara, Shinoda, yakuza boss Ishizaka) is that they don’t like to be repeatedly confronted. The same lesson applies to the UFC, NSAC, and their political/medical fixers. It’s a lesson all combat sports writers should take to heart (but won’t).