File Photo: Dave Mandel
Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett’s appeal of his denial of licensure to fight in the state of California was continued for a fourth time Monday. The appeal is now scheduled for the April 20 California State Athletic Commission meeting.
Counsel for Barnett was present and ready to plead his case regarding the testing procedures and chain of custody regarding his positive steroid sample from June 2009. However, the commission ruled they would not proceed without the fighter being present. Barnett is out of the country, according to his attorneys.
Barnett was scheduled to fight consensus top-heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko Aug. 1 at “Affliction: Trilogy.” His positive pre-fight test scuttled the bout and was a contributing factor in the dissolution of the fight promotion arm of the clothing purveyor.
“We’ve been diligently preparing to present Mr. Barnett’s case and his defense, and he was unable to be here today and we are extremely shocked and disappointed that the commission ruled that they would not go forward with the hearing without Mr. Barnett being present,” said Michael J. DiMaggio, an attorney representing Barnett. “It’s particularly surprising in light of the fact that we’re not aware of any rule or regulation that insists that he be here. Obviously, even criminal cases go forward without the accused present in some instances.”
Recently hired CSAC Executive Director George Dodd told Sherdog.com that Barnett had been informed he would have to appear in person in the original letter sent to him, which detailed the process he would have to follow to regain his license in California.
“This is obviously the commission’s rules, which are very vague and unknown to us,” stated DiMaggio.
Barnett’s defense seems to be centered on the procedure of the test and the handling of the sample after its administration, points on which they feel their client has nothing to add.
“Presenting issues and raising issues relating to the test results, the chain of custody, the protocol, those type of issues are issues that can be addressed without Mr. Barnett being present,” said DiMaggio. “His presence and his ability to be cross-examined is irrelevant to those issues.”
Again Dodd countered by stating the original letter sent to Barnett outlined the manner in which he would have to proceed to regain his license to fight.
“The letter is very clear that you must appear before the commission,” Dodd said. “It doesn’t say anything else besides appear. You can bring counsel, but it says the word ‘appear’ in there.”
Should Barnett attend the April hearing, he will have to answer questions from the commission on his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, something that would have been avoided if his team had been allowed to make their case today.
DiMaggio also pointed to the length of time that has passed since the denial. He openly questioned whether Barnett would be better served to just let the appeal go.
“That will be nine months into the ineligibility of Mr. Barnett, which begins to beg the question … at what point does it become worth it to pursue this versus just waiting out the ineligibility period and preparing to move on?” asked the attorney.
Dodd, however, said that might not be the end of the matter even after a year has passed.