What once seemed like an easy step forward in anti-doping testing in the UFC has turned into a lengthy saga that has seen both Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks suffer some public relations black eyes ahead of their UFC 167 bout. In early July, St-Pierre stated that he wanted to take part in the testing program offered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) and was extending an offer to his opponent. Hendricks quickly responded with a "Heck ya!" and it seemed it'd be smooth sailing from there.
Word came out that GSP was footing the bill for the VADA testing, a decision that UFC president Dana White called "a little weird," while stressing that extra testing isn't really needed as fighters are "tested by the government."
Then, last week, it was revealed that Hendricks never submitted his VADA paperwork to participate in the testing program. Hendricks' manager Ted Ehrhardt explained their take on the situation to Bloody Elbow, stating that they were uneasy about VADA and that the camps instead were exploring the idea of the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) running a testing program through the Salt Lake City testing lab, one of the few labs with WADA accreditation. The situation would be similar to what is currently happening with boxers Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez when they couldn't come to an agreement on VADA or USADA for their testing program.
While it would have been more comprehensive than the standard NSAC testing, including testing for all WADA banned substances and a random element to sample collecting, that plan also fell through. Ehrhardt tried to pin the blame on St-Pierre, accusing him of suspicious behavior after the camps had seemingly agreed to the NSAC testing program.
"A week later, GSP's attorney asked 15 or 20 questions about how WADA is going to test for this and that, how are they going to move the tests, how are they going to do this, a ton of questions," Ehrhardt said. "He wanted to have predetermined times. It's not random if you know when they're coming. He had questions about what they test for, and that's another red flag. Why do you care what they test for? If you're clean, you're clean. We didn't ask one question ... We were just ready to test WADA, that's what we wanted to do, and he didn't want to."
SB Nation spoke to Keith Kizer, executive director of the NSAC, who backed up the idea that the camps seemed to have agreed on the same testing methods as used in the Bradley/Marquez fight.
"I let them know how we were doing it for that fight, and I told them the same thing I told those parties," said Kizer. "I said 'we do testing through this lab.' They're using the WADA list. They're using the WADA protocols. Both guys will be tested for the exact same amount of time, and they'll be tested blood and urine. That's the extent of what we're going through here because we're not going to be giving away a road map."
Kizer clarified that everyone seemed happy with the new protocols at the end of the call: "They seemed fine with it. I answered questions they had. But as how often we'll test or how many tests or what exact tests we'll use, I'm not going to get into that. I'm not giving out that information to the people getting tested. And they seemed okay with that."
But then, questions began to hit Kizer's inbox: "I started getting all these other questions from Team GSP. I answered them and thought it was enough. Then I got more questions from GSP. Then it got to the point where I was like, 'look ...' Taking a step back, on the phone call, I said, 'if you don't want to do additional testing that's fine. This isn't an either/or situation. If you want us to do enhanced testing, this is how you do it. It will have no basis or bearing on whether you're doing other testing, as well.
"'If you want to do VADA or USADA instead of or in addition to, that's not relevant at all. The question is that [UFC lawyer Michael] Mersch wanted to let you guys know and find out for himself, how we are doing the testing for Bradley-Marquez, I'm telling you this. If you want to use VADA testing in addition to, or instead of, go ahead. But if you want to do this, this is how it's going to be done. It's not open to negotiation. It's not open to lobbying. It's not open to any attempt to craft it to the athlete's wants or desires.'"
For Kizer, it seems the questions were an attempt to determine their testing, something he eventually had enough of, "and then it got to the point where it was like, 'look, obviously it's pretty clear this isn't working. We'll do our testing on our dime, how we so choose, and let's forget about enhanced testing through the commission.'"
Kizer insists that the failure to come to an agreement on the testing shouldn't be seen as an indictment of either fighter: "I know that athletes want to point fingers at each other saying, 'if you don't do the testing I want you to do, you must be dirty,' but it doesn't mean that. They can go do what they want to do. We're going to test them how we decide to test them, and we'll have a very good clean fight.
"It got to the point with, as I call it, '20 questions,' with some questions I already answered asking what specific tests were going to be done," Kizer said. "We're not going to tell these athletes what specific tests we're going to be doing, because then they know what specific tests you're not doing. You don't tell them the frequency. You don't tell them the tests, obviously. There were other questions that seemed very irrelevant."
Kizer claims to eventually have gotten fed up with answering questions: "I finally said, 'look, we're doing our own test. Never mind. It's clear there's no interest here.' And then he wrote back, 'no no no, we're still interested. But I'm unavailable for the next 10 days. I can't be reached by email or phone. But send us all this stuff.' No, if you're gonna go incommunicado on me, there's no point. There wasn't even a point before that. There's no point now."
He even provided the email chain that led to the collapse of the testing program. It begins with Rodolphe Beaulieu from St-Pierre's camp asking questions. Kizer's responses were added to the email in bold:
De : Keith Kizer
Envoyé : 14 août 2013 13:25
À : 'Rodolphe Beaulieu'
Cc : Firas; Michael Mersch; Ted
Objet : RE:
Thank you for your email.
Please see the answers below.
Nevada Athletic Commission
From: Rodolphe Beaulieu
Sent: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 5:39 AM
To: Keith Kizer
Cc: Firas; Michael Mersch
Hello Mr Kizer,
Couple of questions.
I would like to know the exact list of substances that will be tested by the Salt Lake City lab.? See WADA's Prohibited List - http://www.wada-ama.org/Documents/World_Anti-Doping_Program/WADP-Prohibited-list/2013/WADA-Prohibited-List-2013-EN.pdf
What will be the detection limits for each test? All methods used for testing are consistent with current WADA technical documents.
Who will be the MRO (medical review officer)? Dr. Timothy Trainor is the Commission’s Consulting Research Physician.
Will IRMS analysis will be included for the 19-norandrosterone, la testosterone, la DHEA etc)? Such analysis can and may be done, at the discretion of the Commission
Two days later was the next set of questions (and, again, answers in bold):
Sent: Friday, August 16, 2013 9:08 AM
To: 'Keith Kizer'
Cc: 'Firas'; Michael Mersch; Ted
After discussing with Georges and his medical advisors, we do have a few more questions (see below).
I also want to clarify one point, VADA is NOT sponsoring the tests as Firas previously stated on the call. It was a misunderstanding. It would cost 7,500$ per fighter under VADA and VADA will absorb 5,000$ for a total cost of $20k which is in line with your estimation of the costs with the SMRTL lab.
1- Can you provide us the Nevada Athletic Commission policies and collection procedures (including results management). Please provide a copy of your policy. All the Commission’s regulations can be found athttp://leg.state.nv.us/NAC/NAC-467.html.
2- I know you indicated that the Nevada Athletic Commission will use the Salt Lake City lab. Can you confirm who will be the collection company that you intend to use? No
3- Does the Nevada Athletic Commission has an insurance for this anti-doping program? Please provide a copy. No, the Commission is a government agency.
4- How long has the Nevada Athletic Commission been conducting these un-announced program with a WADA accredited lab using Olympic level testing? The Commission has been working directly with the SMRT lab starting this summer. Do you/will you also test for HGH and EPO? I already informed you that the testing will be for substances on WADA’s Prohibited List- http://www.wada-ama.org/Documents/World_Anti-Doping_Program/WADP-Prohibited-list/2013/WADA-Prohibited-List-2013-EN.pdf.
5- How many fighters have been tested with this program by the Nevada Athletic Commission? The Commission has performed OOC testing on about 50 athletes.
Rodolphe Beaulieu, CFA
Partner - LB3i Sports
Slightly over an hour later, Mersch responded to the ongoing conversation:
From: Michael Mersch
Sent: Friday, August 16, 2013 10:18 AM
Cc: 'Firas'; Ted; Keith Kizer
I just tried to call you but did not get an answer. I thought that the options available to Georges were made clear during our last call but apparently not.
Please understand that the Nevada Athletic Commission is doing Georges a favor by offering to be involved in this process. The benefit, to Georges, of having them involved is that it brings legitimacy to any pre-fight testing procedures and any results that may come out of said pre-fight testing. I think Mr. Kizer made it clear that, if Georges want them to be involved, he had a very strict protocol that he expected to be followed and, if Georges elected not to follow said protocol, that was his choice but that the NSAC would not be involved other than to the extent they would traditionally be involved in the drug testing of athletes under Nevada State law.
Issues such as collection procedures have already been discussed. Who their medical officer is and that the Salt Lake Lab will dictate collection times in concert with the Nevada Commission has also been explained to you.
Again, the choices for Georges are very simply:
1) Elect to work with the NSAC and pay for additional drug testing pursuant to the very clear directives of Executive Director Kizer as was discussed at length on the call we had with Ted Ahrens, Mr. Kizer and Commissioner Aguilar;
2) Elect not to request NSAC pre-fight involvement
As we discussed on the call, Georges stated goal here seems to be to establish, through medical testing, that Georges is a "clean" fighter. You do not need to work with either the NSAC or VADA to establish that in my opinoin [sic]. As you may be aware, there is an accredited WADA level lab in Montreal that you can work with or you can simply have medical testing performed by any board-certified endocrinologist of your choosing to establish this.
Similarly, if Georges elects to work with VADA, that is his choice but, as described by Mr. Kizer, VADA has no role or impact on the process of licensing and testing fighters within the State of Nevada (nor in any other jurisdiction for that matter). Additionally, Mr. Hendricks has made it clear that while he is happy to submit to any testing involving the Nevada Commission, he is uncomfortable working with VADA for the reasons noted on our call and those noted above in this email.
So again, the decision is up to George. Please let me know what he elects to do.
When contacted for clarification on the intent of Mr. Mersch's email, a UFC representative simply added, "The email is fairly self-explanatory. We attempted to broker joint drug testing through the NSAC and St-Pierre and his camp elected to utilize VADA."
That appeared to be all Kizer needed as he moved to claim that GSP was effectively declining hours later:
Le 2013-08-16 à 14:32, Keith Kizer a écrit :
Mr. Mersch and Mr. Beauliue:
Thank you both for your email. Special thanks to Rudolphe for being professional enough to divulge Mr. Firas’s misrepresentation.
I am happy to answer any questions (and have – see my answers to yours latest questions below). However, the Commission does not allow any licensee to dictate or craft the testing. Not only is this inappropriate, it is not something the Commission would even consider.
I will take the latest email as a refusal by Mr. St. Pierre to request enhanced steroid and drug testing by the Commission, which is his choice. Of course Mr. St. Pierre and Mr. Hendricks must comply with any and all testing by the Commission.
Nevada Athletic Commission
Just over 24 hours later, Beaulieu responded, saying that St-Pierre was in for the NSAC testing and would also do additional VADA testing himself:
From: Rodolphe Beaulieu
Sent: Saturday, August 17, 2013 6:52 PM
To: Keith Kizer
Cc: Michael Mersch; Firas; Ted
Subject: Re: RE:
We spoke with Georges today and he took his decision so for your information, Georges has decided that if Johny Hendricks does not want to do VADA and prefers your proposed enhanced steroid and drug testing by the Nevada Athletic Commission, Georges will also do it, in addition to VADA.
I will be out of the office without access to email or voicemail until Aug. 27th but in the meantime, please provide us with all documentation, a detailed invoice and payment instructions necessary to proceed with such enhanced steroid and drug testing by the Commission.
For Kizer, the 10 days when Beaulieu would be out of the office was too much, despite his request that during that time the NSAC provide the documentation, invoice and how to pay for the enhanced testing. The testing was off.
"I don't blame Georges for this, but Georges' people decided to start muddying the waters asking a ton of questions, some which were relevant and some that weren't," Kizer explained. "And they continued to ask questions and then finally they got to the point where they were unavailable and can't be reached in any manner for at least 10 days. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that's a 'no.' That's a 'no' by one's inactions than it is a verbal 'no' or a written 'no,' but you can read the emails yourself and make up your own mind."
Beaulieu told SB Nation that all the questions he was asking were "relevant questions when evaluating the quality of an anti-doping program. There is no doubt about it."
And, when it came to Kizer's claim that Beaulieu was giving a "no" by saying yes, but that he'd be unavailable for 10 days, Beaulieu responded, "There is no possibility of reading anything else than a yes from Georges in that email. It is crystal clear with no room for any other interpretation."
"To have your opponent basically testing you creates kind of a conflict," Kizer explained in his take on the VADA tests and the Hendricks camp's feelings that GSP had too close of a relationship with the agency. "But as I've said, more drug testing is better, so if Georges wants to test himself, go for it. That doesn't prove anything one way or the other. If Johny doesn't want to pay for extra drug testing, it doesn't prove anything one way or the other either. I have no problem with supplemental drug testing. But I have no problem with the lack of it, either."
For Kizer, their testing has been effective enough: "We'll do our own tests. We've caught 17 people in the last year or so. I don't know if anyone else can say that. I'm happy with it. More is always better, so if they want to do additional testing, that's fine. But I don't think it's fair to try and pressure a fighter to doing additional testing, whether he pays for it or not."
That pressure is something that Kizer claims exists as he says he was informed of it by MMA Junkie's Stephen Marrocco, "This is a serious subject here. And it's unfortunate. This happened a month ago. It wasn't anyone's business. No one asked me about it. And then Marrocco called me and said that it appears that the VADA forces are out there trying to get people to write articles bashing and trying to bully Hendricks into getting part of this and doing this testing."
SB Nation spoke to Margaret Goodman, VADA president, via email and asked if there was any truth to the idea of "VADA forces" pressuring the media.
"Of course not. VADA forces?? I don't even know what that means. I have no idea what he is referring to with that statement, but if people are writing articles or making public statements 'bashing' or 'bullying' an athlete for not joining VADA, those people certainly have no affiliation with VADA and VADA does not condone such behavior." Goodman continued, "VADA respects Mr. Hendricks and his decision to not participate in VADA's program. I believe that both Mr. St-Pierre and Mr. Hendricks should be commended for their commitment to clean sport. The only people affiliated with VADA are listed on our website, and if anybody else is out there 'bashing' or 'bullying,' it is unfair and wholly incorrect to blame it on VADA."
In addition, SB Nation spoke to Marrocco to ask for confirmation that he told Kizer of this effort from "VADA forces" to manipulate the media. Marrocco said that he never said anything of the nature; he had simply spoken to Kizer and asked for details on the situation on a general level.
When asked for insight into the confusion over exactly how much of the VADA testing cost was supposed to be handled by St-Pierre and how much was being sponsored by VADA, Goodman gave the following response: "Firas Zahabi contacted us originally on July 2 and asked for a price quote if testing were to begin right away (four months before the fight) for both fighters. VADA had never been contacted by anybody on GSP's team prior to that."
"In the past, VADA has sponsored or partially sponsored fighters through donations, and we try to help athletes cover the costs when we have funding. Since we had a bit of extra funding at the time and the program would be four months long, I told him VADA could subsidize 25 percent of the costs, and it would be $10K per fighter (with VADA subsidizing $2,500 per fighter through donations)." Goodman continued, "But that never happened because many weeks passed and VADA did not receive any applications from either fighter. On Aub. 29, GSP submitted his application, and his program began at the beginning of September (two months after the original contact and price quote). VADA's program costs obviously depend on the length of the program and the location of the fighters. The cost at this point was $8000/fighter, and VADA no longer had the funding to help subsidize, so GSP paid the entire program fee."
She also addressed a concern that was raised by Hendricks' camp previously, the idea that GSP's likeness was to appear on the VADA website: "Incidentally, I understand that Mr. Hendricks has expressed concern about GSP's picture being posted on the VADA website. However, VADA has done that for each athlete that has entered the VADA program, and would have done the same for Mr. Hendricks had he chosen to volunteer for the program."
In speaking with SB Nation, Kizer brought up an issue that he had previously with VADA testing in his state: "We had an instance with Lamont Peterson, unfortunately we got the test results rather late. The testing, which was VADA in that case, delayed giving us the results and unfortunately it got to the point where Lamont Peterson couldn't be replaced so the whole card got canceled. Had they told us earlier, the promoter could have had time to find somebody."
In Kizer's mind, it was Peterson's opponent and boxing fans in general who suffered.
"The person who really got hurt was Amir Khan, who passed all the tests. The fight got canceled, and the fans, some of which had non-refundable airline tickets, got really hurt by all this. And if they had told us even a week earlier, Golden Boy would have had time to find a replacement for Peterson and Khan and his fans would have been satisfied, but unfortunately, they hid the results from us."
Goodman was asked to provide the VADA take on the Peterson situation and what it would have meant, if anything, for the St-Pierre/Hendricks fight: "Regarding the unfortunate Lamont Peterson situation, I agree that it would have been preferable had VADA been able to report the 'A' results to the commission. Unfortunately, two things prevented us from doing so at the time. First, our Results Management policy at the time (that was publicly available on our website) stated that VADA would only report results once the 'B' confirmation was complete. Since VADA's intent was to look out for athletes, this policy was intended to protect the athletes' reputation until an adverse result was confirmed.
"Nothing prevented the athlete from disclosing the 'A' results, but VADA contractually could not. Second, the promoter (who was paying for the testing) specifically required that VADA could not inform the commission of a positive test until the 'B' sample confirmed the 'A' sample.
"Since this requirement comported with our Results Management policy at the time, we were OK with it," Goodman continued. "However, after the fiasco that occurred, VADA analyzed the real-world application of its policy and changed the policy. Now, the athletes must agree that the relevant commission will be notified of all results, including the preliminary 'A' results, as a condition of entry to the program. Nobody -- including the athletes or promoters -- is able to contract around this policy of reporting all results to the commission. Since then, everything has run much more smoothly."
In the end, the distrust between seemingly every involved party has led a fight at different times set to have multiple types of comprehensive anti-doping reduced to business as usual, and has allowed for fans and media members to attempt to assign their own motivations for the failure of the testing to materialize.
This has served as a sad reminder that many times, there are greater risks to a fighter than just the monetary costs for getting involved in anti-doping program negotiations. Because they are often used as a means of posturing, third-party testing may be best left off the table, as a fighter's reputation among fans and the media is at stake based on their decisions.
Update: Keith Kizer contacted us to state that when he said "And then Marrocco called me and said that it appears that the VADA forces are out there trying to get people to write articles bashing and trying to bully Hendricks into getting part of this and doing this testing." that he actually meant to say that he told Marrocco of the "VADA forces" instead of Marrocco stating it to him.
The quote as it appears in the story is as Kizer gave during the interview and has been left unchanged in the body of the article.
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