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The Hauser Report: Shame on the Arkansas State Athletic Commission

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  • The Hauser Report: Shame on the Arkansas State Athletic Commission

    Click image for larger version  Name:	needle.jpg Views:	1 Size:	162.8 KB ID:	4573

    BY THOMAS HAUSER

    On Wednesday, November 22, Association of Boxing Commissions president Mike Mazzulli sent a letter to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. In the letter, Mazzulli advised the governor that the Arkansas State Athletic Commission is engaging in conduct that the ABC believes is “an egregious disregard for health and safety standards” and “appears to be a direct violation of Federal Law.”

    Mazzulli’s concern traces directly to a fight card that was contested in Arkansas on November 11. On that day, Mazzulli’s letter declares, “The State of Arkansas Athletic Commission knowingly allowed an HIV positive fighter to engage in a bout.”

    Making matters more troubling, as Mazzulli’s letter points out, the boxer in question was denied a license in the State of Florida due to a positive HIV test in July, after which he was placed on the national suspension list maintained pursuant to federal law under the auspices of the ABC.

    Worst still, as Mazzulli’s letter recounts, “Both the Florida Commission and I notified Arkansas through the Department of Health [which oversees the Arkansas State Athletic Commission] of the HIV positive status of a boxer but he was allowed to fight anyway. Since Arkansas had actual knowledge of the HIV positive result, the fighter should not have been allowed to engage in a bout and, under Federal Law, the action of Florida denying a license for medical reasons should have been honored.”

    “This situation,” Mazzulli’s letter to the governor concludes, “is one of the most serious we have seen in many years. Hence we feel compelled to bring this matter to your attention.”

    Copies of the letter were sent to Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and half a dozen personnel at the Arkansas Department of Health.

    The Arkansas State Athletic Commission website has a “mission statement” that proclaims, “The Arkansas State Athletic Commission is committed to maintaining the health, safety and welfare of the participants and the public as they are involved in the combative sports regulated by the Commission.”

    But in truth, Arkansas trifles with fighter safety. Under ASAC rules and regulations, the commission isn’t even required to conduct blood tests. There is a question on the Arkansas fighter license application form that reads, “Have you ever tested positive (even if a 2nd test was negative) for HIV or Hepatitis or Staph infection. If yes, please describe, including dates and name of doctor or medical provider.” The application also includes a HIPPA release.

    While the administration of a blood test is discretionary under Arkansas law, the commission’s regulations provide, “A positive test for the presence of infectious diseases shall result in an immediate suspension of the licensee’s license.”

    The fighter in question is not being named in this article so that he can be the one to tell family members and others of his situation should he choose to do so. Suffice it to say for the moment that he has had a long association with at least one well-connected person in Arkansas boxing. He fought on November 11 and won his bout. There‘s no indication that the opponent was informed of the situation so that he could make an informed decision as to whether or not to participate in the bout. Nor is it publicly known at this time whether the physician who cleared the boxer to fight was informed of the boxer’s HIV positive status.

    An HIV-positive test result doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has AIDS. And false positive test results have been known to exist. But the fighter in question is still on national suspension because of the findings in Florida. And the Arkansas commission can’t claim ignorance of the situation. As Mazzulli told this writer, “Multiple people at the Arkansas State Athletic Commission and Arkansas Department of Health were notified by the ABC, and the fight was still allowed to take place. We have not heard from them since the fight either.”

    Also, the facts suggest that a possible cover-up of wrongdoing might now be taking place. As Mazzulli’s letter to Governor Hutchinson states, “Eleven days later the bout still had not been reported to the Boxing Registries, which is in violation of the Federal Muhammad Ali Act requiring that results be reported to the ABC official record keepers within 48 hours.”

    A telephone call by this writer to the Arkansas State Athletic Commission was answered by a voice message that advised, “Office hours are by appointment only.” A return call was requested. To date, no one from the commission has called back.

    Meanwhile, Greg Sirb (the highly competent Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission executive director who has worked with Mazzulli on this issue) has his own take on the matter.

    “Arkansas,” Sirb states, “should stop all boxing and other combat sports immediately and should not allow them to resume until the state has regulations and policies in place that ensure the effective testing for and handling of situations involving infectious diseases.”

    Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book – There Will Always Be Boxing – was just published by the University of Arkansas Press.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

  • #2
    Very disturbing to read this story. Clearly, the Arkansas commission was aware of the matter and choose not to act for whatever reason. And they do not appear to care one bit which is just as concerning.

    This piece got me to thinking again about a national boxing commission. There is no question that changes are needed with how the sport is regulated in the United States. Some states do a decent job and others well not so good as evidenced by Thomas Hauser's piece above. Even ones that do have big flaws. Nevada, for example, seen as the best continues to give big assignments to judges with questionable track records. They do not hold their judges as accountable as they should and this reflects negatively on the sport. A national commission who has a standard of grading judges could for example hold these officials more accountable and award the biggest events to the judges who grade out the best.

    But of course there is a reason a federal commission has never been set up. There is no guarantee that the federal government could run things better. When bureaucracy is involved, who knows what will happen? Layers of bureaucracy could make for many inefficiencies and may even make things worse and not better.

    Where do I fall? Well, if boxing people and not politicians set up the structure and ran a federal commission it not only could but would work and improve things dramatically. It has to be boxing people though. If politicians ran it and put their folks in cushy positions, things would not go smoothly to say the least.

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    • #3
      Its about political hacks and bureaucratic robots. But this is no great revelation. This goes on in many states and has been for many years. What it will take is something like the Greg Page incident to bring reform.

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      • #4
        TSS was the first news site to break this story. ESPN stalwart Dan Rafael wrote about this yesterday (Monday, Nov. 27), four days after we ran Thomas Hauser's expose. Neither identified the HIV-positive fighter out of respect for the fighter's family. (Moreover, identifying him may have violated the Federal Health Privacy Law.) The results of the show, a low-budget 4-bout card at a Boys and Girls Club in Camden, Arkansas, were not released to BoxRec until 16 days after the fact.

        Some very shady things have happened in Arkansas over the years. Peter McNeeley was credited with a 6-second knockout in Fort Smith, a sham calculated to boost interest in his forthcoming match with Mike Tyson.

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        • #5
          Wasn't it Wyomong that let Tommy Morrison fight as well? On a different note, the crowd can be a real bummer but I liked the Gamboa vs Sosa match. I think Sosa won as well and I should say, on the broadcast, Lederman, who is untouchable but is getting old, was asked about the judges and he said basically "I got Don Trella into this so Im responsible, and he is usually very good" yeah right.

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