New Drug Testing, New Attitude for CSAC

By Loretta Hunt Dec 7, 2008
When Bill Douglas was promoted to the position of assistant executive director of the California State Athletic Commission last week, he didn’t want to rush into the state’s revamped drug testing program too quickly.

For the last year, Douglas had been researching a more efficient way to test the athletes the CSAC oversees for drugs of abuse and steroids. With the sudden resignation of supervisor Armando Garcia, Douglas suspended CSAC drug testing in late November as he transferred the program over to the UCLA laboratory used by NFL, minor league baseball, men’s and women’s NCAA sports, the Dept. of Defense, and even the recent Asian Games.

That new program rolls out on Dec. 11, and will include changes in the way samples are collected, what they are collected in, and how they are transported to the lab.

The move is a first for the office Douglas says has undergone a “philosophical change” since the departure of Garcia on Nov. 8.

Douglas saw the alterations as a necessity. He’ll be the first to admit that the CSAC has come under fire for its rigid handling of steroids cases involving middleweight Phil Baroni, former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk, and mostly recently, EliteXC heavyweight champion Antonio Silva.

In 2007, the CSAC went toe-to-toe with world-recognized doping attorney Howard Jacobs. The Los Angeles-based lawyer had defended Tour de France winner Floyd Landis and Olympic sprinter Marion Jones in their steroid appeals. Now Jacobs was representing Sherk, who the CSAC had allegedly tested positive for Nandrolone use following his victory over Hermes Franca at UFC 73 that July.

A driving point of Jacob’s case had been the chain of custody Sherk’s sample followed and the CSAC’s inability to completely document its path from the inspector’s hands to the laboratory.

Photo by Sherdog.com

The CSAC came under fire
for it's handling of
Sean Sherk and others.
In the past, CSAC specimens had been mailed as far as Montreal for testing. Now all samples will remain in state.

Douglas said any samples taken south of Bakersfield will now be delivered directly to UCLA laboratory the evening its collected, eliminating a step where the specimens would be transported by a third party like FedEx or UPS.

Under the same guidelines used by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), on-site specimens will be collected in glass Berlinger containers that can only be compromised in the laboratory by machine. The CSAC had previously used plastic two-chamber containers.

Douglas said the new system will not only nullify most arguments of contaminated samples, but it will also enforce the CSAC’s responsibility in the collection process.

“Unless everything is delivered in pristine condition from us, UCLA will reject the sample,” said Douglas. “It forces us as an agency, to step it up. Anything less than this is a disservice to the athlete.”

As part of the new WADA protocol, UCLA will test the A sample and if it comes back as positive, the CSAC will report it as a positive result. A second B sample will also still be collected and used as a confirmation, though it will remain at the same laboratory tested by a different scientist with different equipment. UCLA currently has 15 stations for testing.

If a sample is deemed unacceptable, UCLA will not test it and Douglas says the athlete won’t be notified.

“We wanted to go to the top of the food chain with this,” said Douglas, who will lead the commission until a new executive director is selected sometime before March 2009. “It’s at the highest possible level of testing that it could go. If someone questions this testing, they’re questioning the testing used by a lot of the top sports programs.”

In the meantime, the Dept. of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the CSAC, has begun a nationwide search for a new executive director. Douglas said he was undecided if he will run for the position.
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