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New York, Nevada, and the 6:1 T/E Ratio problem in Boxing
On February 7 of this year, I wrote a story called “Texas Stumbles into the Drug Testing Era.”
The story recounted the events surrounding the Texas Athletic Commission’s failure to provide an anti-doping lab to test samples collected at a fight card that included WBC and WBO title fights and a fighter, Julio Caesar Chavez, Jr, who had been suspended in Nevada two years prior for using a banned diuretic. In it, I took a side trip and a bit of side swipe at the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
“Loopholes in the system exist everywhere,” I wrote. “Nevada, which is called by some “the best commission in the world,” allows a 50% differential in their T/E ratio levels than any other commission. Normally, the acceptable testosterone to epitestosterone level is 4:1. In Nevada, it is 6:1. Nevada is also the only state commission that has thus far allowed combat athletes to have a medical exemption for testosterone replacement therapy. With those two loopholes in place, the state might as well post a “Come to Nevada and Drug Test. We Won’t Catch You” sign as you enter state limits.”
The sign bit was perhaps over-editorializing on my part. The line even bothered me as I sent it off to my editor but I let it stand. The worst part is that the paragraph has truth in it but is ultimately unclear. For that, Keith Kizer and the readers have my sincerest apologies.
Mr. Kizer called me the morning my story ran and it wasn’t to praise me. He proceeded to explain how his state had caught 21 people since February of 2010. Three of the fighters were popped for being over the 6:1 ratio.
“We’ve caught fighters for everything from marijuana to nandrolone, diuretics,” said Kizer as he read me a list of the people he’d caught and the substances they’d taken.
In short, Mr. Kizer said that by writing the sign joke I was taking away the deterrent factor from his anti-doping program and misrepresenting the fact that he and I and everyone trying to catch dopers in the sport are on the same side. I apologized for being unclear and the joke and promised him I’d write a correction. The following article is an attempt at both clarifying and expanding on that paragraph.
What I wrote was half right with some needed clarity on the side. Nevada, along with New York and from what one source told me but I was unable to officially verify by press time, The NCAA, do indeed have 6:1 T/E ratios. New York never got back to me but I was able to procure a document that confirmed it used a 6:1 ratio. They would not be the first or only people to not return my calls or respond to emails.
Nevada, California and according to Kizer, but again, unverified due to a policy not to discuss their drug protocols, New Jersey, all have a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for exogenous testosterone (testosterone from any source not produced by the body such as patches, orals, gels or creams). Nevada has allowed 2 fighters to use a TUE. California, which uses the 4:1 ratio, has allowed it for one fighter. They also accepted “hormone replacement therapy” as an excuse from MMA fighter Chael Sonnen who exceeded the 4:1 limit when he showed his TUE for testosterone. His suspension was cut to six months from a year.
Depending on who you talk to, a TUE for testosterone in Nevada is not easy to get. That only two fighters have gotten it thus far shows that. You have to get a doctor’s prescription, tests must be done to determine that you are indeed deficient and then an independent panel of doctors looks at the case.
A day after Kizer and I spoke, it was revealed that UFC fighter Nick Diaz tested positive for marijuana for the second time in Nevada. While he has a legal medicinal marijuana card back in California, the smoker’s version of the therapeutic use exemption, Diaz failed to apply for one in Nevada. Now he faces a possible year suspension. Diaz raised the total to 22 fighters since February of 2010.
Of those fighters caught using in Nevada, Three of those fighters were over the 6:1 T/E ratio. World Anti-Doping Agency founder and anti-doping legend Dick Pound summed up the fighters’ plight best in giving his opinion of Olympic anti-doping protocols.
“In my experience, if you test positive in the Olympics, you have actually failed two tests,” Mr. Pound told Maxboxing.com last week. “One is the drug test and the other is an I.Q. test.”
“So these three either got greedy or were stupid?” I asked “I mean, how much testosterone do you need?”
“Exactly,” Pound laughed.
What is the 6:1 T/E ratio Problem and why it is important? To explain, I went to one of the experts on manipulating not only testosterone levels but all manner of things in the human body, Victor Conte. If you want to catch a drug cheat, this is the man to ask about the hows and whys of doping in the modern sport science era. Like Frank Abagnale, Jr, the famous check fraud and imposter turned multi-millionaire bank fraud expert, the founder of the infamous BALCO now has set his sights on educating fans, fighters, and anyone else who will listen about the dangerous possibility of performance enhancing drugs running rampant in a shoddily regulated sport like boxing.
First, for those who may have objections to Conte as a source, I recognize he has been a controversial figure in boxing thus far because of his past. Fans are split on whether or not the man behind BALCO should be allowed in our sport. I asked Dick Pound, whom some refer to as the godfather of the anti-doping movement, his opinion of Conte.
“I don’t know the folks in your sport very well but frankly, if Victor is now wearing a white hat rather than a black hat I am delighted to have his knowledge available,” Mr. Pound said. “He knows what is being done and how it is being done. What the channels of distribution are. And how you manage the need to taper or manage the micro-doses and all that sort of stuff which a lot of other people don’t know. Having someone from the ‘dark side’ come over I think is a terrific advantage.”
“You don’t believe it is an elaborate ruse to fool us all again?” I asked.
“Listen, ‘nobody’s perfect’ and all these things. I could be dead wrong,” Pound conceded. “But I met Victor just as I finished my term as President of WADA. And frankly, we’d have done a lot more work with him at WADA if my term hadn’t ended. He was a valuable resource. Others say ‘Oh he was bad guy and once a bad guy always a bad guy. And that’s not necessarily so.”
Mr. Pound has dedicated his life to this movement. If Victor Conte is good enough for Dick Pound, he should be good enough for anyone else I can think of.
To first understand the problem of a 6:1 ratio, you have to start at the basics. Testosterone helps you heal faster, adds bone and muscle density, strength and energy. Doubling it in a boxer against a clean fighter could be disastrous on so many levels. If anything, it is simply an unfair advantage.
“I’ll try to do this in simple terms,” Mr. Conte began to explain on a recent episode of Leaveitintheringradio.com radio show. “And once again I have to qualify this. You have a number of different factors here. Based on individual metabolisms these ratios are a little bit different. Basically, [humans average] 1:1 of testosterone to epitestosterone. Asians have less. One study found them .76:1. Whites were at 1.2:1. Blacks were at 1.3:1. So you not only have individual metabolism issues you have race issues as well that affect this. So when I talk, I am talking in general terms and I am saying on average its 1:1.
“To put it in perspective, a male makes about 7mg of testosterone a day,” Conte continued. “That’s on average. A male will produce about 50 milligrams a week. That would give you the 1:1 testosterone/epitestosterone ratio. The research shows that if you double that amount and you inject these subjects with an additional 50 milligrams of testosterone Enanthate . . . in other words ‘injectable’. . . this is not a fast acting gel, cream or patch but an injectable form that is very stable 24 hours a day. That will put you right at about 6:1. So in other words, an athlete could double their testosterone level using an exogenous or injectable form and still come in just under the 6:1 limit. If you put that in milligram perspective that means that with 4:1 you can add approximately 32 milligrams a week to an already being produced 50 milligrams. So you could take more and get away with it under the 6:1 ratio than you could with the 4:1 ratio.”
And therein lay the real problem.
22 fighters caught in two years. Three of them in the last seven months for T/E ratios over 6:1. Yet, how many tested at 5.9:1? How many were over the 4:1 limit used by WADA and everyone else? How many fights happened from February of 2010 to present day? I can think of more than a few major pay-per-view fights both in MMA and boxing that took place during that time. There are almost too many fighters to count. Of those, how many were clean in New York and Nevada yet would have tested very positive in another state?
Excellent questions left in the air because the people with the answers won’t pick up the phone.
In 1985, the accepted T/E ratio was 6:1. After 20 years of research, WADA and every commission or sport’s federation adopted the 4:1 T/E ratio except Nevada, New York and certain sports that did not have anti-doping programs until recently. When I asked NSAC executive director Keith Kizer why Nevada had not changed, his answer was to simply state that Nevada used 6:1 while others used 4:1. He was not sure why. Mr. Kizer acknowledged he did not necessarily agree with the policy but that was the standard in Nevada.
When I asked who made that policy, he referred me to R.H. Barry Sample, PhD, Director of Science and Technology for Quest Diagnostics lab.
“He can probably answer that,“ said Kizer.
When I asked why the non-WADA accredited lab Quest Diagnostics was making policy for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Kizer was unsure if they made the policy but seemed confident Mr. Sample could answer my questions. Repeated messages left at Mr. Sample’s office and on his voicemail yielded no return call from Mr. Sample, PHD. I left clearly in my messages to him why I was calling.
When I asked Dick Pound why Nevada would stay so far behind the times with a dangerous substance like testosterone he said “Either they don’t know what is going on or alternatively they do know what is going and they don’t care. The 4:1 ratio has been in effect for close to ten years now. I understand that these things are government run and some commissions will take longer than others to get on the same playing field as everybody else. But at this stage when you only have Nevada holding at a 6:1, I’d love to be the headline writer and say ‘You want to fight juiced? Come to Nevada.”
Hey, he said it this time. Not me. For the record, Mr. Pound and myself were unaware new York was at a 6:1 until after we spoke.
“This is a ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’ type of a [situation],” said Conte. “When I first had about [Nevada’s 6:1 ratio] I said ‘No! That can’t be right. Go back and verify it. That cannot be right.’ And then we got a sample copy of a report and it says ‘greater than 6.’ It’s just unbelievable to me. It’s like them telling the world that it is still flat. That’s how outrageous it is.”
Conte gave a measured example of the gains of a doubled testosterone ratio in an athlete.
“There’s a lot of factors with boxing and MMA,” explained Conte. “In general terms and this is based on my experience with world class sprinters, how much faster are you using testosterone as opposed to not? I would say that it is two to three meters faster in 100 meter race. For women it is probably four to five meters faster. It is huge. It is a huge advantage. Are there great boxers and great MMA fighters that are able to become world champions or MMA champions and not use? I think there are. However, I think the majority are using some sort of drug.”
That may seem a bold statement but Pound pointed out that cheating like this has been going on for far longer than we realize. Athletes have teased the T/E ratio line for years no matter what it has been.
“Don’t forget that the normal ratio is 1:1. So you’re looking at 4:1, this is four times the normal amount of testosterone,” explained Pound. “If you look at all the tests results where it is all 4:1, [the athletes] are all playing around 3.6, 3.8. In the old days, it used to be 5.8. They just manage their dosage so that they stay underneath the threshold. I think it is far more common than we think. And they are getting assistance from people who know these things from medical books, labs, coaches and trainers and so on. It’s a very organized activity. It’s not an accident. These are people setting out deliberately to cheat.”
With all the gels, patches, creams and other methods of micro-dosing testosterone not to mention other ways of masking it, how big of a loophole is the 6:1 ratio?
“You can still manipulate the 4:1 but 6:1? That’s like taking candy from a baby,” said Conte.
The 6:1 T/E ratio problem leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
Why does Nevada use Quest Diagnostic labs which do not comply with the WADA code?
In the last seven years, how many fighters have tested negative in New York and Nevada that would be positive anywhere else?
Why won’t anyone call me back?
“Why would they not change with everybody else?” asked Conte. “The WADA Code said [in 1985] ‘equal to or greater than 6:1’ then in 2005 approximately] became “equal to or greater than 4:1.’ So if you are 4.0 that’s a positive now. In Nevada it is greater than 6. So unless you are 6.1 you are fine. So the question becomes ‘How many 3.9 to 6.0 tests were performed by Quest Diagnostic labs for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the boxing capital of the world, that were in that range that were technically, according to the WADA standard, positive?”
These are all excellent questions. Answers are thus far, not forthcoming.
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