By Zach Arnold | May 28, 2015
Did that headline grab your attention?
We recently discussed the UFC-lobbied Senate Bill 469 in Sacramento that would set up out-of-competition drug testing of all licensed fighters for California fights. UFC has spent $30,000 through their lobbyist Tim Lynch at Platinum Advisors to muscle this bill on their behalf and, indirectly, California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster. Nothing illegal at all. Just good old fashioned politicking.
Unlike Nevada’s recently proposed changes where promoters have to pay the bill for out-of-competition drug testing, California SB 469 sticks the cost onto the state Athletic Commission. The big question was how the Athletic Commission was going to be able to finance this proposition. SB 469 proposes two new ways to finance this endeavor.
The first method is to completely destroy the purpose of the state’s arbitration system by shifting the costs of such hearings onto the parties involved in disputes. California’s arbitration system allowed indigent fighters or managers to be able to get a fair hearing in order to resolve contractual battles. It was a system that didn’t require a party hiring an attorney. Given that most low-level fighters cannot afford legal representation, California’s arbitration system was a way to go to the Athletic Commission and determine a resolution from adhesive contracts.
By most standards, arbitration hearings should not cost that much money. At most, a couple of thousand dollars. However, the Athletic Commission refuses to hire independent counsel and instead deals with the Attorney General’s office on all matters. The AG’s office, in turn, socks a fat legal bill to the Athletic Commission. In addition, Andy Foster is having to rely on the San Diego AG’s office rather than Sacramento AG attorneys to help in arbitration matters.
On average, there are about four or five arbitration hearings a year in California. In order to try to finesse budget matters, Andy Foster is going to shift all arbitration costs onto the parties involved in contractual disputes. This completely goes against the spirit and good intentions behind the arbitration process in the first place. The Ali Act allows a fighter a Private Right of Action to sue a manager or a promoter for an adhesive contract. That’s great… if the fighter has access to an attorney and can afford one. It’s not so great if a fighter can’t afford an attorney. California’s arbitration system was created to help fighters who couldn’t pay for legal bills. With SB 469 running full steam ahead, those arbitration financial protections will be fully erased.
And the reaction from those within the fight industry and the media towards this destruction of California’s arbitration system? Dead silence.
Shifting the costs of arbitration onto the parties involved is step one of the proposed financing scheme in SB 469.
The second prong to finance out-of-competition drug testing was announced on Thursday. SB 469 was previously voted and approved by the Senate’s Business & Professions committee on an unanimous vote. Today, the Senate Appropriations committee passed SB 469 on an unanimous vote. In Appropriations, SB 469 was modified to change the punishment system for fighters who fail drug tests. The maximum fine used to be $2,500. That has now changed… to a fine of 40% of a fighter’s purse.
Because the financing mechanism in Senate Bill 469 puts a lot of pressure on the state to find a way to recover the costs associated with out-of-competition drug testing, there will be enormous & aggressive incentive on nailing fighters who are doping because it will be in their economic interest to do so.