Nevada to begin random drug tests
The Nevada State Athletic Commission is once again in position to randomly drug test licensed fighters who are out-of-competition. Regular testing of athletes is expected to start this month.
The commission has had the authority to randomly test its athletes since 2008, but financial restrictions have limited its ability to do so since 2009. That changed last month, when Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law a bill that will feed close to $20,000 into the state's program during the next two years.
"We have the money this month, so I would be surprised if we didn't do some tests in July," Keith Kizer, executive director of NSAC, told ESPN.com. "Each test runs right around $200, so when it's all said and done, we'll test a pretty good chunk."
Out-of-competition testing provides the commission a strong tool to catch athletes who are abusing banned substances during training camps. Typically, fighters are tested the week of competition, which allows time to cycle off certain supplements.
Although all licensed fighters are fair game to be tested, Kizer said the commission would likely focus on those who have a fight scheduled in Nevada within the next two months, as those are the ones most likely to be using.
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"From my understanding, about 4-to-6 weeks out is the best time to test somebody for steroids or similar substances because that's probably when they're at their peak," Kizer said.
The NSAC is aware, however, the more predictable testing schedules are, the easier it will be for athletes to navigate around them.
To counter that, the commission will vary the timing of the tests as well as test fighters who might not have a fight scheduled at all or are scheduled to fight in another state.
"We don't want to be stationary with these tests," Kizer said. "If a guy is a user but has no fight coming up, he might not be on it. So, we want to test them when they're planning to use.
"But, we'll probably have a few guys who may have fought a couple months earlier we'll call up. They might say, 'What the hell?' but I don't care. They're going in."
Should a case come up where a fighter fails a drug test and is scheduled to compete in another state, the athlete would have the right to a hearing before the NSAC ruled on a suspension. Although it would be case by case, chances are the fighter would be pulled from his scheduled fight.
"It wouldn't be an automatic prohibition of them fighting somewhere else," said Kizer, regarding that situation. "But I can say on the flip side, if it happened in another state and was brought to our attention, they wouldn't be fighting here."
Any licensed athlete that does not comply with a random drug test request would not be automatically suspended, but would have to explain his or her circumstances to the commission.
"If you don't do it, that can be used against you," Kizer said. "You're going to have to explain why and if you have no explanation, you'll be denied a license for failing to comply."
The program was put to use in 2008 and early 2009 before funds dried out. During that time, 100 percent of the athletes who were randomly selected took the test and passed. The list included high-profile names such as Brock Lesnar, Tito Ortiz, B.J. Penn, and boxing champions Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
All results of the random tests will be available on public record, according to Kizer.
Brett Okamoto covers mixed martial arts for ESPN.com.