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Texas’ Random Drug Test for Combative Sports Includes Anabolic Steroids, Not Diuretics

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In a Texas-sized shocker, the Lone Star State released information recently indicating it does regularly test fighters for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) as part of its random drug testing program for combative sports.

According to information obtained through an open records request, as of February 20, 2014, the state of Texas has tested 87 professional boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes for anabolic steroids since the inception of its updated drug testing program in the fall of 2011. Texas performed eight tests in 2011, 20 in 2012, 51 in 2013 and had completed eight more in 2014 as of the report date.

All 87 athletes were given a five- or nine-panel drug test, which focuses on illicit recreational drugs. The fighters were also tested for anabolic steroids. The five-panel test screens for amphetamine, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine and cannabinoid. The nine-panel test screens for the same as well as barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methadone, morphine and propoxyphene.

None of the 87 athletes were tested for the use of diuretics.

This data suggests something different than what was previously reported by The Sweet Science back in February 2013.

When Texas implemented the updated drug testing program in 2011, it was widely assumed at the time that the process, which includes a random selection of four to six fighters from any given fight card, incorporated testing for PEDs such as anabolic steroids.

However, information provided to TSS by the governmental body that oversees combative sports, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), indicated the random testing protocol was almost exclusively geared towards illicit and recreational drug screens.

At the time, a spokesperson confirmed testing beyond the standard recreational drug screen “could” and “had” been done as part of the new protocol, but would not say how many times the tests included screens for PEDs. Moreover, the spokesperson explicitly said Texas did not regularly test fighters for PEDs.

“Anabolic steroid testing is not regularly performed, but it has been done on occasion,” TDLR information Officer Susan Stanford confirmed through email in 2013. When asked what tests were performed in the program, she said only the nine-panel test.

Apparently, though, Stanford misspoke.

“I don’t remember the conversation we had. When you say ‘regularly test for anabolic steroids’ I wonder if I thought you meant every contestant is tested,” said Stanford via email. “As you can see from the Request-a-Test chart, anabolic steroids are tested for when a drug test is performed.”

Texas orders drug tests through Request-A-Test, a service provider who facilitates a wide range of drug tests including pre-employment, medical and otherwise. The actual lab work is done by one of Request-a-Test’s partners, LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics.

Texas provided TSS a chart from Request-A-Test indicating what tests had been completed as part of its program since 2011. The information provided conflicts with what Stanford said last year.

Part of the issue seems to be the very nature of government in the state itself. Texas, a conservatively aligned state, generally sways towards the side of the aisle which votes for limited government. So where other states have large governmental bodies solely responsible for the regulation of combative sports, the TDLR regulates 25 other statutes as well as boxing and MMA.

However, excerpts from last year’s email exchange indicate it might just have been a miscommunication by the TDLR:

“Can you give me specifics about what the drug screen tests for…?” TSS asked.

“The drug screen test is the standard nine-panel test,” said Stanford.

“Can someone please also help me find out what these tests screen? I mean to say, what specific drugs does Texas test for?” TSS asked.

Stanford replied detailing the nine-panel drug list.

“If that is the urinalysis test we perform in Texas, it means we don’t regularly test for performance enhancing drugs or steroids?” TSS asked.

“Those are the tests that are performed on the nine-panel drug test,” replied Stanford. “…the agency can require a contestant to undergo anabolic steroid testing, among other tests. Anabolic steroid testing is not regularly performed, but it has been done on occasion.”

Stanford also confirmed this by phone shortly thereafter. No other representative from Texas would go on record.

Despite the relatively good news that Texas is testing boxing and MMA athletes for PEDs, as with many other state commissions, if not all, there is still much to be desired with Texas’ drug testing program.

First, the majority of boxing and MMA athletes who fight in Texas are not tested at all. Only four to six contestants per fight card are randomly selected by a computer program to undergo testing.

Second, Stanford said most tests are administered before the bout due to the expectation that a fighter will be dehydrated afterwards. This could allow for the use of a stimulant or other PED during the fight as there would be no test given after the fact to detect it.

Third, drug tests are only done on fight night, and it remains unclear how many tests are done, if any, using blood instead of urine. A call made to Request-A-Test confirmed the company does not even offer a blood test for anabolic steroids or diuretics. While the company does not list on their website a test for diuretics at all, the Request-A-Test representative confirmed the company could facilitate a urinalysis for them if asked to do so.

Fourth, it is unclear exactly what type of anabolic steroids tests are being performed and how. A link to an anabolic steroid test sample report posted at Request-A-Test’s website, indicates the state might receive information on various anabolic agents as well as whether a fighter has an elevated testosterone to epitestosterone (T/E) ratio. Per the report, a ratio is reported as elevated when the calculated result is greater than 4:1. Is this the test they use? And what happens if a fighter’s T/E ratio is elevated? Is he or she allowed to fight? What happens to the results after the executive director receives them? Has Texas ever caught a fighter using a PED with the new program? Have they ever allowed a fighter to fight who has tested positive for PEDs?

These questions were submitted to the state but have gone unanswered.

Fifth, it is difficult to understand why Texas would say it was not regularly testing for anabolic steroids in the first place. Last year, Stanford indicated they did not keep records of testing, but when I posed a general inquiry a year later into the current state of drug testing to TDLR Executive Director, William Kuntz, I received the information, which appeared to come from the service provider, Request-A-Test. But why was I told previously they were unable to provide the information?

Finally, in a related note, all of this may close a chapter on what happened in Texas during June 2012’s Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. vs. Andy Lee fight in El Paso.

What we knew before is that both fighters submitted urine samples for the fight. This was confirmed back in 2012 by TDLR’s Randy Nesbitt as well as both fight camps. Now we know both Chavez and Lee were tested for anabolic steroids. After all, per their own records, Texas has tested all 87 fighters who have submitted samples as part of their drug testing program for anabolic steroids.

But what we also know now is this: Texas did not elect to test either Chavez or Lee for diuretics. This is especially troubling since Chavez tested positive for Furosemide just three years earlier in Nevada — a diuretic that can be used to cut weight as well as a mask the use of steroids.

In fact, unless Texas changed its approach for last weekend’s Chavez-Vera fight, Texas has never elected to test Chavez for something he’s already tested positive for in any of the four bouts he’s fought in the state since Texas implemented the program.

By rule, Texas can direct combatants to undergo additional testing requirements, including but not limited to testing for diuretics, at the direction of the executive director or his designee. For boxing, that’d likely be program manager Dickie Cole.

But it hasn’t, and so what happened in Texas back in 2012 is that the TDLR failed to do all that could have been reasonably expected to keep both fighters safe.

Because if a jurisdiction has record of a fighter failing a drug test for a particular substance, if that substance can both help an already naturally larger fighter make weight as well as potentially mask the use of anabolic steroids, then the regulating body with the authority and means to test for the substance should absolutely do so.

Texas didn’t.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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