08-21-2012, 04:48 PM
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Ask the Fight Doc: Why don't you trust state athletic commissions with PED oversight?
I don't always agree with this guy's point of view, but he raises some valid issues in this article:
When it comes to the regulatory duties of state athletic commissions, trust is a tricky thing.
MMAjunkie.com medical columnist Dr. Johnny Benjamin has been one of the more vocal critics when it comes to what the commissions could be doing better, especially in relation to performance-enhancing drugs.
In the latest installment of "Ask the Fight Doc," Dr. Benjamin explains why improvement isn't always an easy thing, especially when so many conflicts are often built into the process.
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Doc, why do you seem to not trust the various state athletic commissions (SAC) when it comes to policing PED use in MMA? – Anonymous
Trust is a funny thing. It often asks one to suspend reason. I prefer transparency. Let me see all of the facts and relevant information, and I'll judge for myself.
Relationships that exist that may impact the outcome or process is one bit of information that I consider very relevant.
I think that the majority of state athletic commissions are doing the best they can with what they have. Limited resources as compared to many of those that they are charged to regulate create an inherent imbalance. Also, with limited budgets, they must supervise multiple levels of competition, including high school, amateur, regional and mega-dollar professional contests. Simply put, they are being asked to do too much with too little.
Another issue is the numerous potential conflicts of interest that pervade the current system of regulation. State athletic commissions generally get their money for their various programs from three sources: tax dollars, charging fees for various licenses (promoters, combatants, etc.) and fees charged for live events. Therefore, commissions must encourage promoters to come to their state to hold live events. That's called being "promoter friendly." The commissions must constantly consider the potential ramifications of any action that a promoter may consider "unfriendly" – because a promoter can always hold his or her next event in another state that is more "cooperative." The bigger and more active the promoter, the more fees they potentially generate for the commission, and the more clout the promoter potentially has over the process.
See a potential problem here?
Commissions, promoters and fighters can become a bit too cozy, and then lines may become blurred. It is not uncommon for commissioners, referees, staff members of promotional companies and fighters to socialize together and to develop friendships of sorts. Unfortunately, one's personal like or dislike for a fighter may influence the decision-making process. Whether a fighter is friendly or seems like "a nice person" – or if the promoter is generous with complimentary ticket or access – should have no bearing on the process, but as we've witnessed in public hearings, it does.
Things that make me scratch my head and question the integrity of the process:
Asking a state athletic commission to take on greater responsibilities is merely adding to the burden and potential problems.
- Commissioners at hearings discuss how friendly, nice and respectful fighters are when they are making rulings regarding said fighter. Personal feelings toward the fighter should not be relevant.
- Commissioners retiring from the commissions immediately going to work for a promoter whom they were recently tasked with regulating.
- Commissions not immediately and publicly releasing the name of fighters receiving therapeutic-use exemptions (TUE) for potential performance-enhancing drugs (PED). That information is not confidential or restricted by HIPAA.
- Commissioners, staff or referees socializing with fighters or promotional companies.
- Commissioners, staff, referees or their associates/family members receiving anything of value from promotional companies or fighters (including but not limited to pictures, tickets, access, autographs, meals, drinks, party admission and memorabilia).
- Commission staff providing lectures for promotional companies and their fighters on "How to Get a TUE for TRT." This is a discussion that should be limited to the fighter and his or her endocrinologist.
- Commissions not formally reporting rogue physicians to state medical boards and other commissions in the physician's practicing state.
- Commissions not investigating licensed ringside physicians when they are aware of misconduct.
- Nevada clinging to an outdated T/E ratio of 6:1, which is significantly more tolerant than the international standard of 4:1.
- Why do commissions monitor TRT when they don't have adequate resources to do so properly? Need any more examples?
Asking or trusting promoters to police themselves is foolish.
The most reasonable solution to create the proper checks and balances is to enlist the services of an independent third-party specialist. Combat sports can use VADA or USADA – or wait for the federal government to do it. I would suggest VADA.
I am a trained skeptic, so I prefer transparency over trust.
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Dr. Johnny Benjamin is MMAjunkie.com's medical columnist and consultant and a noted combat-sports specialist. He is also a member of the Association of Boxing Commissions' MMA Medical Subcommittee. Dr. Benjamin writes an "Ask the Doc" column approximately every two weeks for MMAjunkie.com. To submit a question for a future column, email him at askthedoc [AT] mmajunkie.com, or share your questions and thoughts in the comments section below. You can find Dr. Benjamin online at www.drjohnnybenjamin.com, and you can read his other sports-related articles at blog.drjohnnybenjamin.com.