According to Susan Sanford, Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, Texas’ state boxing commission does not regularly test professional boxers for the use of most performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), including anabolic steroids.
Texas implemented an updated drug testing protocol in the fall of 2011. It has widely been assumed that the process, which includes a random selection of four to six fighters from any given fight card, incorporated testing for performance enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids. However, information provided to TSS confirms the current random testing protocol is almost exclusively geared towards illicit and recreational drug screening.
According to Sanford, the nine-panel urinalysis test only includes the following:
1. Amphetamine Screen
6. Opiates (Codeine and Morphine)
8. Methadone Screen
Sanford provided documentation indicating Texas could direct combatants of any professional boxing match sanctioned by the state to undergo additional testing requirements, including but not limited to PEDs, but only at the direction of the executive director or his assistant. The rule reads as follows:
61.30. Responsibilities and Authority of the Executive Director (Amended effective December 1, 2003, 28 TexReg 10445; amended effective February 1, 2005, 30 TexReg 378; amended effective February 1, 2006, 31 TexReg 481; amended effective October 15, 2010, 9081)
(p) The executive director, or his designee, may require of a contestant, neurological or other medical testing.
“Under the rule, the agency can require a contestant to undergo anabolic steroid testing, among other tests,” Sanford told TSS. “Anabolic steroid testing is not regularly performed, but it has been done on occasion.”
It is unclear how many PED tests have occurred since the testing protocol was initiated. An inquiry made to Dickie Cole, Executive Director, has gone unanswered at time of press. Information posted at the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation website indicates random drug tests are provided either before or after a bout as directed by the executive director or his designee:
(p) A person who applies for or holds a license as a contestant shall provide a urine specimen for drug testing either before or after the bout, if directed by the executive director or his designee. The applicant or licensee is responsible for paying the costs of the drug screen.
The state also lists categories of banned substances which it would constitute conclusive evidence of a violation. However, the standard test given at random by the state does not match the eleven categories listed:
(q) A positive test (which has been confirmed by a laboratory authorized by the executive director or his designee) for any of the following substances shall be conclusive evidence of a violation of subsection (o).
(3) Cannabinoids (marijuana)
(4) Anabolic agents (exogenous and endogenous)
(5) Peptide hormones
(6) Masking agents
(9) Beta–2 agonists (asthma medications)
(10) Anti-estrogenic agents
“The agency contacts Request-a-Test, and that organization arranges a lab technician for the event,” said Sanford.
TSS obtained additional information on the drug testing protocol through a public information Open Records request. Sanford confirmed, as suggested in the document, that the nine-panel drug test is the one given in accordance with the process described therein, where four to six fighters are chosen per card at random.
Texas has received unfavorable press in the recent past due to its testing protocol. In a day when combative sports competitors continue to get bigger, faster and stronger at ever advancing ages, the suspicion of rampant PED use in the sport continues to grow. Texas’ policy of administering drug tests randomly to a maximum of six randomly selected competitors was already considered subpar by many critics. The fact that the test does not even include screening for almost any form of PED (with the exception of amphetamines) would seem to indicate the state is perhaps ill prepared to help combat the ever looming problem of PED usage in the sport.
In comparison, the New York State Athletic Commission conducts urinalysis tests before or after every fight. In addition, Nevada’s Keith Kizer told TSS his state tests every fighter on every card. Information posted at the Nevada State Athletic Commission website indicates the state also reserves the right to randomly test fighters any other time during the year. While no one would laud either of these commissions for being beyond reproach when it comes to drug testing protocols (neither fully comply with guidelines set forth by the World Anti-Doping Agency), it would seem reasonable to set drug testing every fighter on a fight card as the absolute minimum standard.
In stark contrast to what happens in Texas, the urinalysis tests performed by both New York and Nevada include screens for anabolic steroids and PEDs much more often. Laz Benitez, a Public Relations Officer for New York’s Department of State, advised that while every fighter on every card was tested for “illicit/prohibited substances,” the urinalysis tests ordered by the NYSAC for “all championship fights” included testing for PEDs. She also said the Commission uses “discretion to order additional tests if it is determined to be appropriate.” Meanwhile, Nevada’s top man Kizer confirmed the “primary” function of every urinalysis test done on every fighter in Nevada is to screen for “anabolic agents, diuretics and masking agents.”
It is clear the state of Texas lags behinds its peers in regards to PED testing.