The Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA), an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2011 to offer and promote effective anti-doping programs in boxing and mixed martial arts, finished the 2012 tax year, its first complete year of operations, with a 12% budget deficit. In order to cover the deficit, VADA Founder and President, Dr. Margaret Goodman, provided a personal loan of $25,107 to the nonprofit organization.
“Our board/officers, including myself, stand behind a clean sport,” Goodman told me. “Administrative and other costs can add up. Sometimes you have to put your money where your mouth is if you believe in clean sport.”
Adrian Zapata, a former nonprofit partnership banking officer for BBVA Compass Bank, told me losses were commonplace for any first year business, especially a nonprofit.
“Yes, it can be common for a nonprofit to lose that amount of money, but I would highly suggest looking to see where that money is going and how it's being spent.”
Information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show VADA’s expenses were almost $195k in 2012, $170k of which was dedicated to paying professional fees and independent contractors. It appears the bulk of these costs, if not all, were related to specimen collection and lab expenses, though Goodman said there may have also been a small subset related to accounting and legal services.
The remainder of the total, around $25k, was earmarked for other expenses related to overhead costs. Items noted in this category include $11.5k for website costs, almost $8k for insurance and $375 for public relations.
VADA’s 2012 highlights included the testing of its first batch of fighters, welterweights Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz, as well as eventual 2012 BWAA Fighter of the Year, Nonito Donaire (pictured above, holding BWAA Fighter of the Year award for 2012), signing up for year-round drug testing with the organization. Donaire is the first professional boxer to undergo advanced year-round random drug testing.
VADA proved effective from the start. Two out of the first six fighters put through a VADA program, Andre Berto and Lamont Peterson, tested positive for banned substances. Each bout was subsequently cancelled.
The year also featured opportunities for VADA to improve.
In the case of Lamont Peterson, VADA was forced to rethink its Results Management policy. The inaugural policy only notified relative athletic commissions after both samples, ‘A’ and ‘B’, tested positive for a banned substance. Critics of the policy, including the NSAC’s Keith Kizer, argued VADA’s approach was unfair to everyone involved, including Peterson’s opponent, Amir Khan, as well as fans and promoters.
“The person who really got hurt was Amir Khan, who passed all the tests,” Kizer recently told Brent Brookhouse. “The fight got cancelled, 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.”
VADA has since updated the policy.
“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…,” Goodman told Brookhouse. “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.”
By the end of 2012, VADA had established itself one of the premier providers of advanced PED testing programs in the world of combat sports, alongside the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). While USADA operates on a much larger scale and across multiple sports (USADA is recognized by the U.S. Congress as the official anti-doping agency for US Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic sports), VADA specializes exclusively in providing educational resources and testing programs for athletes competing in professional combat sports.
VADA does not have employees, and none of its board members, including Goodman, receive any form of compensation for their work. That means no annual salaries or bonuses, discretionary or otherwise. In comparison, USADA CEO Travis Tygart took home well over $350k in income and other compensation in 2011 alone.
According to its 2011 application for recognition as a nonprofit organization with the IRS, the volunteer status of Goodman and her cohorts has been planned from the very beginning. One might say Goodman and company are putting the ‘V’ in VADA.
Goodman said there are no current plans for that to change, and that she couldn’t foresee an instance where it would change years from now either.
Goodman founded VADA on September 29, 2011 by submitting nonprofit articles of incorporation papers to the secretary of state’s office in Nevada. Beginning with just $5k in cash assets, the fledgling organization collected almost $28k in revenue during the three remaining months of the year and finished with net assets totaling just under $2.5k after expenses.
So how is 2013 looking so far?
“I'm not sure, to be honest,” said Goodman. “We don't request any more funding from athletes than is necessary to run the program.”
Goodman said the current setup was to have athletes find sponsorships or provide payment themselves.
“Sometimes it has been the promoter, sometimes the athlete or his team, sometimes from unrelated donors,” she said. “The first year or so, we wanted to demonstrate to commissions that unannounced random, stringent PED testing could work.”
Goodman said it was impossible to know whether she’d find herself in the position again of needing to provide another personal loan to VADA. She also said the possibility wouldn’t stop VADA from their mission, which includes offering sponsorships to program participants when funding is available.
“In combat sports, the fighters deserve more in terms of protecting their health. It can be expensive, but it's the right thing to do.”
Goodman is a practicing neurologist in Las Vegas. Her work in boxing does not appear to be driven by the bottom line of an accounting ledger. The former NSAC medical advisory board chairman said her volunteer work to move boxing and MMA towards safer standards didn’t start with VADA. She spent 6 years with the NSAC in a role where she was responsible for reviewing medical tests and dealing with other medical issues, and she did it for free, working as many as 20 hours a week.
“Bottom line, donating my efforts to helping fighters is not a new thing for me. And it is not just me. Many others — like all those involved with the Association of Ring Physicians — do the same. I have respect for the fighters and believe in protecting their health through the promotion of sophisticated and thorough PED testing programs.”