Nevada Commission’s Keith Kizer: Blood Tests on Fight Night Could Be Unsafe

By Sherdog.com Staff Apr 23, 2012
As executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, Keith Kizer plays a powerful role in the regulation of mixed martial arts.

Kizer recently joined the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Rewind” show to discuss a variety of topics with host Jack Encarnacao, including Alistair Overeem, out-of-competition testing and more.

On why the commission tests for steroids: “I think with steroids more than anything else -- though this doesn’t necessarily not apply to other performance-enhancing drugs and/or prohibited substances that aren’t necessarily performance enhancing -- [it] is the risk to the person taking them. This is a situation where if steroids did not have these side effects that they have, then fighters could choose to take it or not. But you don’t want to put a fighter in a situation where he has to take something that is that risky to himself in order to have a level playing field. In other words, if his opponent is taking this performance-enhancing drug, he has to take it; and if he doesn’t, he’s going to be at an unfair advantage, but if he does, he’s going to have a health risk.

“Now on the flip side, though, if Fighter A has a healthy diet and Fighter B eats a bunch of junk food, there’s going to be an uneven playing field there, but the answer there is for the fighter with the unhealthy diet to eat better. There’s no drawback to that. It’s all positive. That’s the main thing, and I think that’s probably true on anything on the prohibited substance list, be it a performance-enhancing drug or not, is the concern for the health of the fighter or the athlete taking it, and you don’t want to put him or her that position.”

On urine tests compared to blood tests: “The testing we’re basically doing fight night, especially with the steroids, is the urine test. … Urine is the preferred method of testing for steroids. It stays in your system a lot longer, a lot longer. But there are certain things -- if we’re looking for someone’s total testosterone, we’ll test them for blood, and we’ve done that. …

“I can tell you the urine testing is what we do as a matter of course. Again, we’re not just looking for testosterone. You don’t want to just test somebody for testosterone. You want to test them for steroids, masking agents, diuretics. You need urine for that. That kind of gives you the whole ball of wax. That helps a lot. But if there was a need to test for total testosterone, we can do that as well. But as a matter of course, that’s something that [goes] beyond a matter of course, having guys give blood. I personally don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to jab a needle in a guy’s arm just before he gets in the ring.”

On concerns with blood tests on fight night: “The first thing might be the fact that the risk to the athlete is greater by jabbing a needle into his arm. We actually had this discussion in a public meeting about two years ago … and that was definitely one of the concerns raised, is the fact of what happens if you nick a vein? Or you get some kind of hematoma in the guy’s arm as you’re testing him for blood? There’s a concern there with the safety. That’s probably one of the bigger things, but also the fact that there’s so much more you can get from the urine. Yeah, you could do both as well, but that doesn’t lessen the safety risk. But blood is always an option.”

On having more money now for out-of-competition testing: “Last fiscal year, we basically had nothing. That was definitely nothing I wanted to broadcast to let the athletes know that, but now our legislation was very kind and understood the concern and was able to fund it for not just this fiscal year but next fiscal year as well.”

On the surprise test Alistair Overeem was given at a UFC 146 news conference in March: “I had done that once before in, I think, July, at the beginning of the fiscal year, where we had a couple of boxers here for a press conference. We still did not have someone to come on the scene from the drug-collecting agency to collect it. So in those situations, I informed the fighters where they needed to go and they went and did that after the press conference. But starting in September, as I mentioned before, we now have an agency. … They’re highly trained in the collection of urine samples and they come there and they collect the sample from the athletes. …

“We were going to have Overeem tested anyway because of the condition from his 2011 license, but that was the first thing [I thought] when I found out: ‘Oh, there’s going to be a press conference. Oh, Overeem’s going to be there. Oh, good. Good, instead of relying on him to go to a lab and give the urine sample, I can send the lab to him. It makes it easier on him and it makes it easier on me.’”

On why Overeem was not denied a license for missing the commission’s deadlines before the Brock Lesnar bout: “That was definitely an option. They made him come before the commission beyond the hearing, on the telephone there, and answer some very tough questions. That was something. Walking into that meeting … that was definitely something where he needed to prove to them that they should still give him a license. And he actually did a very good job at that meeting, and the commission gave him a license but conditioned it. He had another test that was done even before the fight when he got here in Nevada. Of course we did the normal tests fight night, but then there was also two tests he needed to do within six months after the fight. This one on the 27th was the first. There’s still one pending if it’s even necessary. So that was something where he had to go through the ringer for that one.”

On whether it’s important for a fighter to show remorse after a failed test: “I think it helps. I’m not sure if it necessarily would translate into a lesser fine or a lesser suspension, but I think it does translate into some sort of goodwill and forgiveness from the fans, which may be more important. I think it also translates into goodwill from the officials going forward, be it the Nevada commission or another commission, going forward, when the athlete has done his or her time and is coming back to the sport. I think it’s very important in those two aspects, and perhaps that’s even more important than having a small reduction in your suspension.”

Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:08:46).

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