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Opinion: The CSAC Needs To Shape Up

The California State Athletic Commission once again proved that there needs to be changes within its walls. In the latest meeting that took place on Wednesday afternoon, Sean Sherk’s decision was postponed due to a paperwork error at the CSAC that apparently kept important documents from reaching the commission’s hands in time for the hearing. In another sequence of odd events, Phil Baroni’s ruling was reduced by six months after he tested positive for boldenone. There is an underlying story to the entire appeal process for Baroni that reached the Underground forums with Pavia explaining the entire case. We’ll look deep into that and other cases that are in question as to how the CSAC made the decisions they did. Is there actually a trend of poor judgement, erratic behavior from the commission, or is there an outright problem with that needs to be addressed? I imagine there may be a combination of problems. Let’s take a look inside. CSAC’s advisory board

The members of the actual voting committee that oversees these appeals in question are June Collison, Mario Rodriguez, Timothy Noonan, Julio Ramirez, Howard Rose, Peter Lopez, and Dr. Christoper Giza. One thing I want to mention before I get started, all of these members are elected to the board by Govenor Schwarzeneggar. First glaring statement regarding the commission that I will back up with facts is that some of these board members are not qualified to judge any fighter when trying to determine the correct punishment, an appeal decision, or any judgement regarding boxing or mixed martial arts in general. The only member on the board that is remotely qualified is Christoper Giza. Giza currently serves as an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, as a pediatric neurologist at UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital and as a researcher at the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center. Giza is board certified in neurology and child neurology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. All of this information is extensively laid out in the CSAC Board Member Information PDF file on their website that is linked here.To elaborate a bit on Giza’s tenure, Giza has been a lone dissenter in a number of cases in which it seemed logical what the decision would be. Amazingly, Giza seemed to be the only person with any logic at all in some cases. We will touch more on this later.

June Collison is a veteran of the healthcare management field, 18 years to be exact, with a load of financial experience to boot. June is the CEO of Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, a star athlete from the 1984 Olympics, and a former 400 meter indoor world record holder. In short, she is a CEO of a Medical Center that happens to have a strong sports background, but zero experience in knowledge of the fight sport, mixed martial arts, or boxing. She doesn’t hold a medical degree as you may be put off by her high worth in the medical field, but only in the management side.

Peter Lopez is a lawyer in Kleinberg, Lopez, Lange, Cuddy, Edel, and Klein… can that be any longer? He specializes in entertainment law and is a former member of the American Bar Association Governing Board of Entertainment and Sports Industries. Again, he may know the business side of entertainment law, but there is no credible evidence in his background that suggest he is competent to decide on a fighter’s fate based on the facts about steroids, testing, and half-lives. Noonan is a president and CEO of Lockton Insurance Brokers Inc., and his entire background is in the insurance industry even as an agent back in 1982-1983. Julio Ramirez is a partner in Blackstone Group/Park Hill Group, and serves as a trustee for the L.A. County Natural History Museum. He has other credentials as chairs of boards of schools, trustee at an art college, and director of LA Metro YMCA Board. Mario Rodriguez is CEO and president of an ad specialty and promotional products business, another entertainment industry guy. Howard Rose is president of his own Agency and former member of the California Film Commission. He did serve as Director of Boxing for Univision Sports, but this seems more like an entertainment gig than anything.

My conclusion seems fairly obvious. Almost every single one of the board members seems to be an entertainment industry rich mogul who seemed to get on the board either because they already held the position previously or had done something to help their chances of receiving the position through “The Governator”. Giza seems to be the only guy on the board that may have extensive experience seeing fighters, effects of steroids and other drugs on fighters, knowing how testing procedures may work or at least has discussed and looked at data on any of it. Then again, I could be wrong. We’ll get into that in a moment. Fact is, there is a reason that the voting in the appeal process seems to have odd vote outcomes even when it is obvious as to what the proof of the testing and case presented has shown the commission.

CSAC cases

Let’s review a few cases to support my thesis above the some of these boards members should be gone once their tenures end in the next few years (2009, 2010, 2011). The first case I want to look at is an early one involving John George on 06/25/2007. Correct me if this is the wrong guy. The CSAC report didn’t seem to point out if it was, but it seems the small mark in his record during the said dates in the report coincide with the suspension. Here’s the report of what happened:

John George – Mr. George appealed his 10 month suspension and $2500.00 fine for testing positive for three different steroids. Under sworn testimony Mr. George stated that he took over the counter supplements not regulated by the FDA and did not know they contained steroids that would result in a positive drug test. There was discussion regarding Mr. George’s contention that the steroids in his system came from supplements with no participation on his part to use steroids. Mr. George argued that his suspension and fine was extreme when the users of street drugs receive a lesser suspension and fine. A motion was made, seconded and the Commission voted four ayes and two abstentions to reduce Mr. George’s suspension to 60 days and the fine to $500.00.

This case is pretty damn amazing. George tested positive for THREE different steroids. He then stated he took over the counter supplements, but it isn’t reported that he gave any scientific proof, only that the supplements weren’t regulated by the FDA. That should have been a warning sign right off the bat for John George. In an unbelievable turn of events, the commission actually reduced his sentence from 10 months to 2 months and lessened his fine by $2000 dollars. Incredible.

Next on the list, James Toney (70-6-1) is a professional boxer with an extensive career. Boxing enthusiasts will know him well, but I won’t get into the details of his career. I will get into the fiasco that occurred during his hearing:

Staff Services Analyst Bill Douglas testified regarding the collection of Mr. Toney’s urine samples. The process followed mirrored that described above for collecting Mr. Combs’ urine samples. Mr. Arnold Joseph, Mr. Toney’s legal representative, was given an opportunity to review the packet of information pertaining to Mr. Toney’s appeal. Chair Collison stated Mr. Toney’s hearing would resume after the completion of the other appeal hearings. After the conclusion of the remaining appeals, Mr. Toney’s appeal resumed. Mr. Toney asked for a reduction in time. The Commission discussed Mr. Toney’s previous suspension by New York for a positive test for anabolic agents. Mr. Toney commented on the fact that he doesn’t need steroids to compete against anyone. Mr. Joseph requested a reduction in time to 60 days based on the use of over the counter vitamins. Mr. Joseph stated that he and his client agree that the sample was not doctored. Mr. Toney is basing his request for a 60 day suspension on the decision rendered at the last Commission meeting in June. Commissioner Giza commented on drug testing procedures in relation to a “false” positive test. Mr. Joseph asked for 60 days to be considered as the final decision for the suspension. Commissioner Ramirez made a motion that the penalty be modified to a 120 day suspension and a $2,500 fine. The motion did not receive a second. Public comment – Dan Goossen, promoter for James Toney, stated that he never had any athletes test positive for drugs. Mr. Goossen commented on Mr. Toney’s history and habits of medication use and nutrition. Mr. Goossen asked for Mr. Toney’s suspension to end on December 31, 2007. Commissioner Giza stated that decisions should be based on evidence presented to modify a suspension. A motion was made and seconded to uphold the suspension and fine. The motion failed, 2 (Collison, Giza) – 5 (Rodriguez, Lopez, Noonan, Ramirez, Rose). Commissioner Noonan commented that testing is not black and white. Commissioner Giza commented on the fact that the laboratory staff are experts in this field. Chair Collison commented that there is not enough evidence reflecting that supplements caused the positive test result. Vice-Chair Rodriguez commented on the fact that supplements should not be used as a standard on which to base appeals. Mr. Toney’s attorney commented that Commissioner Giza is not an expert in drug testing. Mr. Toney stated that he has been competing for twenty years and called Commissioner Giza disrespectful and then burst into a profanity laced outburst directed at Commissioner Giza in front of the Commission and all attendees. Commissioner Ramirez commented on Mr. Toney’s “spectacular” career and made a motion that the penalty be modified to a 120-day suspension and a $2,500 fine. The motion did not receive a second. A motion was made, seconded, and carried to modify Mr. Toney’s suspension to 180 days and a $2,500 fine. 6-1 (Giza opposed).

One of the most sensational commission meetings I’ve heard about. Giza was actually right on point with how I think the commission should have conducted itself. He stated that decisions should be based on evidence that is presented. There was no evidence available to prove that it was a “false” positive, tainted sample, or another possibility. You may state that there is no way he could get that kind of proof. We will see later that you can. Noonan stated after a dropped motion that testing is not black and white. This statement is puzzling, but the lab experts should have the final say with their test results. This also leads me to believe that they should test more than once. The fact that Toney had been busted before for a similar offense only strengthens the case that he did inject steroids. Toney’s attorney says that Giza is not an expert, and he’s right, the lab expert who submitted the test results is. Toney ranted and shouted profanities at Giza, and then managed to get his suspension reduced to 180 days. Again, incredible that 6 members of the board didn’t care that there was no evidence supporting his claims.

Let’s take a look at a case that has some different tones. Phil Baroni tested positive for two types of steroids, one being boldenone that has a half-life of nearly 5 months and is only used by veterinarians in horses. Amazingly, there is evidence supporting the motion that Baroni may have been innocent. Ken Pavia made some statements regarding his fun time at the CSAC on the 31st:

All the facts are not in evidence on this thread… Phil took 67 supplements and I MADE him take a pre fight test to make sure he didn’t have a false positive. He passed for everything. Phil took a post fight test after his CSAC positive. He passed for everything. Phil took another post fight test in front of Sherdog editor and cameras at a doctors office. He passed for everything. We had the CSAC samples RETESTED at a third party accredited lab. These were the same samples that came back positive. THEY CAME BACK NEGATIVE FOR EVERYTHING. The CSAC expert said there is no such thing as a false positive, but the CSAC web site sites an Olympic committee study that says 15% of all over the counters cause false positives. His credibility should have been shot. Two of the six Commissioners voted to throw it out completely with one abstaining. Every objection that was made the entire time was ruled in favor of the Commission including one where by the Commission attorney was allowed to ask about aspects of our case on cross examination that we hadn’t even introduced. She got the info out of our exhibit packet and basically introduce all of our evidence before for us. The Commission was forced to listen to over 2 hours of steroid propaganda prior to the hearing that just by coincidence was scheduled for the same day. They actually brought in a chiropractor from New Jersey who took 45 minutes saying… steroids are bad for kids… steroids are for cheaters. They had one test that said he did steroids. We had four tests including their test that said he didn’t do steroids. Phil was innocent.

Amazingly, Pavia makes a good argument. First, the CSAC expert states that there is no such thing as a false positive, but there are studies done that claim it happens in over the counter supplements. Pavia states that Phil took a pre-fight test he passed and a boatload of post-fight tests. All together, Baroni took 5 tests in which 4 tested negative according to Pavia. The kicker is that Pavia claims they sent the other 4 tests to a CSAC approved test facility, not their own. Here’s more information:

After having to endure 2 hours of a steroid seminar where because it was not testimony there was no cross examination, we began the proceeding. The AG tried to introduce a packet of info. I objected as I had requested copies in writing over a month before of all materials. I requested a recess to review the packet and my request was denied by the presiding chair. I objected again and was denied. It was only after they started presenting that one of the Commissioners spoke up and said, why cant he see it, a mans career is at stake. When I objected to the failure of the chair to follow any sort of procedural guidelines or have an consistency in rulings I believe his words were he said that the did not have to follow civil or criminal procedure OR ADMINISTRATIVE procedure. He did say that the rulings were what he said they were. In my opening I tried to challenge the standard the chair had stated as the burden of proof. He had at the previous meeting said it was by PERPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE. That mean 51%. I asked for authority and was told it was precedent. It was not in the code or regs or minutes from previous hearings. When I got the info packet I found that they were relying on a 1999 hearing where someone applied for a auto salespersons licence from the DMV. That was their authority and the standard they were apply as gospel. Not an Athletic Commission ruling. Not the BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT standard that our criminal courts apply when someone stands accused. This case was not about a kid trying to get a licence to sell Malibus at a sled lot. It was about a man that worked his entire career and whose next contracted payday was more then ALL 8 OF HIS UFC FIGHTS COMBINED, of ALL 6 OF HIS PRIDE FIGHTS COMBINED. I began to state an objection to this standard, mind you after 2 hours of a steroid seminar that had nothing to with the facts of the case and whose prejudicial value far outweighed the probative value. I was cut off immediately by the chair and was told to bring it up in my close. I objected as I wanted to address it now so the Commission could consider it. I was cut off again and told I could not. This was the general pattern of how things went.

Pavia was basically cut off at every chance to get information, object a motion, and basically proves that there is complete disorganization in the commission hearings. The commission doesn’t seem to follow any kind of procedure. They do not use a court system, which is obvious from the statements. You may think that these statements are false, but the reality is that many press have confirmed that this happened. It’s unbelievable. Even more amazing… another comment to add to the saga:

Commissioners Ramirez and Rose voted to have the allegations completely dismissed. Commissioner Noonan abstained. Commissioner Giza didnt return after lunch. Commissioner Collison voted to throw the book at Phil along with I believe Commissioner Rodriguez. Ultimately I think it was Commissioner Lopez that swung the vote by voting for the 6 months. I have advised clients to take prefight tests, but they are expensive. Noonan seemed to sway back and forth and then didnt vote.

Noonan seemed to sway back and forth as Pavia stated. Collison and Rodriguez ignored the data that was made available. Lopez ended up swinging the vote for a reduced sentence. Giza left… very unprofessional, especially when he’s the only doctor on the board. It seems that this hearing was filled with administrative errors and horrible changes of judgement. Baroni may not be innocent, but the evidence that Pavia presents definitely makes a case for his innocence.

My last argument involves the Sean Sherk case. I will only go into the evidence at the hearing, which wasn’t much. Apparently, the CSAC can’t pass along packets of information they received in the mail to the commissioners because they have bad logistics. The commissioners didn’t receive packets that Howard Jacobs, Sean Sherk’s lawyer, had sent that contained information regarding the polygraph test Sherk took along with other evidence. Since they didn’t receive the information, his case was postponed until November 13th. More unbearable waiting for the Lightweight Title and BJ Penn. Sean Sherk’s case as to whether or not the polygraph would actually be admissable is a whole different story, but seeing how the CSAC works, anything is possible apparently.

Absolutely ridiculous

To sum up, the CSAC needs to be replaced by competent officials who are going to use evidence to prove reductions in suspensions. Having only one member on the board who is a certified doctor is ridiculous to start when we are talking about suspensions and appeals regarding steroids and other drugs that not only harm your body and health, but also put a competitor in the position to inflict more damage on their opponents. A doctor isn’t all this board needs though. The other members barely have any sports experience in their background. One commissioner used to be a Olympian. That doesn’t mean that person is qualified to judge on the livelihood of a fighter’s career. An expert on performance-enhancing drugs would make for a much better commissioner.

Another improvement could be the introduction to some kind of organization to the commission’s meetings. There currently is no type of procedure that makes sense. If the appeals were set up in a manner like a criminal court, we could see evidence presented correctly and how it should be. We wouldn’t have cases like Baroni’s that cause discarded objections for no apparent reason and evidence disregarded that actually helps the fighter put out a factual statement of his innocence. Even without the Baroni case, the commission should have some sort of set procedure that works.

Judgements need to be uniform. The CSAC can’t have one person verbally abuse them, then let him off the hook with a reduction, but then turn around uphold a case that is very similar. They also cannot reduce suspensions based on a fighter coming in and simply saying he didn’t take them knowingly and his supplements “must have been” tainted. Where’s the evidence of that? Did you test the supplements? No, there was no sufficient evidence. John George’s case is evident of that. It’s atrocious that an official commission is allowed to conduct itself this way. Also, if a fighter tests positive for a steroid, try getting material that gives you information on that steroid. Boldenone has a half-life of 5 MONTHS and is only used in horses. Toney took it and somehow received a reduction. Do they seriously feel bad for these guys?

My final issue is the fact that commissioners seem to be able to leave whenever they want during the proceedings. There is no pressure for them to actually be present and there should be. These fighters have their careers on the line and their livelihoods as fighters in jeopardy. Commissioners are appointed to the board to pass judgement and hear these appeals. A law should be put into place requiring their attendance or a penalty will be placed on them in the form of a fine.

Final thoughts

What can I say? The CSAC has done all the talking here. I want to hear your comments on the situation in California. Baroni stated he will never fight there again due to the ridiculous circumstances that took place. Will other fighters follow in his footsteps? Is the CSAC going to start screwing promoters out of profiting off of MMA and Boxing in the state? I doubt it considering they are reducing more suspensions that actually proving fighters were on steroids. Fact is, the credibility of the commission is in question and the “Governator” needs to do something about the legitimacy of the commission board members, the testing facilities, and ensure the fighters who compete in the state that a disorganized commission full of kinks isn’t going to be in charge of their livelihoods.

It also almost seems that the New Era Fighting lawsuit against the CSAC may now have some merit…

Shape up CSAC!


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