by Ivan Trembow
MMAWeekly’s Ivan Trembow recently spoke with Nevada’s Chief Deputy Attorney General, Keith Kizer, about the case of UFC fighter Nathan Marquardt. Marquardt tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone after his fight on August 6th, but he took a re-test this week and it came back negative.
Ivan Trembow: How did the mix-up happen with the Nevada State Athletic Commission coming to believe that Nathan Marquardt’s steroids re-test had come back positive, when in fact the re-test was negative?
Keith Kizer: Zuffa called the lab to get the results, and instead of getting the results of the re-test, they actually got the results of the original drug test, which of course was positive. So Zuffa tells us that, you know, the re-test has come in and it’s positive, and then we pass that on to the media. So then today, about the time of the weigh-ins [for UFC 54], the commission’s secretary calls me, because she had also been told that the re-test was positive, and she says, ‘I just got the actual hard copy of the test results from the lab, and it says negative.’ So I went to talk about it with Marc [Ratner, who is the executive director of the NSAC], and talked about it with some people from Zuffa, and we found out where the confusion was. Zuffa thought that the ‘positive’ test result they were given by the lab was for the re-test, but it was actually for the original test. And the re-test came back negative. So we obviously apologized to Mr. Marquardt, but we were told that the re-test was positive. I’m sure some people are going to think there’s a conspiracy or something, but we were originally told that the re-test was positive. We now know, straight from the lab, that the re-test was negative.
Ivan Trembow: So does that mean that the original test that was taken on August 6th, which came back positive, was a false-positive?
Keith Kizer: Not necessarily. From here, the complaint goes forward, because he did test positive after the fight [on August 6th], and that’s something for the commission to hear from the experts on. It could mean that there was something wrong with the first test, or it could mean that it just took a little bit longer to get out of his system, or it could mean any number of different things. That’s up to the commission to decide, and we’ll have medical experts who will testify. But in the first test, the nandrolone levels were pretty significant. The number I got was 49, although I don’t know if that’s 49 milligrams or what because I’m not 100% sure what the unit of measurement is. But it was 49 on the first test, according to the actual lab results.
Ivan Trembow: And the legal limit is what?
Keith Kizer: I don’t know what the exact legal limit is or what the cut-off is, that’s something that you would have to ask one of our medical people. But there is a cut-off that’s less than that. What I was told is that 49 is well above what the cut-off is. Now, we know that 49 is the exact number for the original test, but we don’t have the exact number for the re-test yet. We just know that the re-test was below the cut-off. So let’s say for example that the cut-off is ten. The re-test could have come in at zero or it could have come in at nine. We don’t know that yet. We just know that the re-test was under the cut-off, and the original test was well over the cut-off.
Ivan Trembow: What about the Androstenedione, which Nathan Marquardt was taking in a supplement and which can cause a false-positive for nandrolone? I know that Androstenedione is on the athletic commission’s banned substances list, but I understand that the commission doesn’t actually test for it…
Keith Kizer: …Well, if you just look at any UFC site on the Internet you will see some people say that Androstenedione can lead to false-positives for nandrolone, and then you will see some other people say that Androstenedione can’t lead to false-positives for nandrolone. That’s not for me to decide personally, that’s something for our medical experts to decide. But I mean, Androstenedione, that’s something that is banned in the United States as of January 20, 2005, and the health food stores are allowed to sell their remaining stash of it, but not anymore after that supply runs out. So in the case of Mr. Marquardt, one of the possibilities is that he was taking nandrolone and now it’s out of his system, which would be a violation. And another one of the possibilities is that he got a false-positive for nandrolone as a result of taking a supplement with Androstenedione in it, and Androstenedione is also a banned substance, so that’s not good, either. Those are two of the possibilities that it could be. Now, I don’t know if the commission is going to give him some lee-way on the Androstenedione because it was legal until January of this year, or maybe he didn’t know, if he did in fact buy it from a GNC-type store from their remaining supply. How the commission handles the Androstenedione, that’s going to be something that is up to the commissioners to decide.
Ivan Trembow: You said before that there are a lot of possibilities in terms of where the commission could go from here with this case. Can you talk a bit more about what some of those possibilities are?
Keith Kizer: Well, I think there are three questions here that we’re going to be able to answer eventually. The first question is this… is the fact that the second test came back negative relevant to the first test? It might be relevant, or it might be completely irrelevant because it might be quite common for a test done eight days or ten days later to come back negative, if it’s a steroid that cycles through your system that quickly. Guys who do cheat, and I’m not saying that Mr. Marquardt is one of them because he might not be, but the guys who do take steroids, they try to work it that way. So the first question is, how relevant is the second test result to the first test result, if it’s relevant at all? The second question is, does the level of nandrolone in the first test indicate usage of nandrolone? Was it that high compared to what’s normal? And that’s something that our medical experts are going to testify about. The third thing is, if he didn’t take nandrolone, there’s still the Androstenedione, and he would still have to answer to that. And what effect does that have on an athlete’s performance?
Ivan Trembow: But if he never tested positive for Androstenedione because the commission doesn’t test for it, can that be used against him? I mean, it’s a completely different kind of substance, but this week Randy Moss told Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that he has used marijuana, but Randy Moss has never tested positive for marijuana under the NFL’s drug testing program, so he’s not going to be suspended by the NFL. And in Nathan Marquardt’s case, he admits to using a supplement that has Androstenedione in it, but he never tested positive for it… is there precedent for this kind of situation for the Nevada State Athletic Commission?
Keith Kizer: No, there isn’t, but this is an issue that the commissioners are going to have to decide. I mean, it’s going to be very interesting to see what Mr. Marquardt has to say when he has his hearing. If he comes in and says, “I didn’t take nandrolone, but I did take Androstenedione,” that’s something that the commissioners have to consider. They might look at that and say, “It’s a less serious drug,” or they might say, “Hey, it’s the same thing to us. They’re both steroids.” So I can’t really answer you because it’s not my call, it’s the commission’s call, but I can tell you this. If not for the positive test… I mean, if he had tested negative after his fight, and we just heard that he was taking Androstenedione, we probably wouldn’t take any action against him, although you can’t be 100 percent sure about that. We generally don’t take any action against someone unless we get a positive test result back for something, and you hear rumors about people all the time. I think Randy Moss is a good example in the NFL, and generally, we don’t take action against someone unless we get a positive test back. But let me tell you this. If it turns out that he just got a false-positive on the nandrolone from taking a supplement containing Androstenedione, that does not mean that he didn’t violate the rules…
Ivan Trembow: … you mean purely because Androstenedione is a banned substance…
Keith Kizer: Yeah, but I mean, it’s still very early on. We haven’t gotten his official response yet because the written complaint just went out from our offices today, with the documents for the original positive test result attached to it. So he has twenty days to formally respond to that in writing from the time that he receives it, and we allow three days for mailing time.
Ivan Trembow: In the case of Androstenedione, that is something that a person might not necessarily know is a substance that is banned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Why doesn’t the athletic commission provide the fighters with a list of banned substances?
Keith Kizer: It’s my understanding that the commission does not provide a banned substance list because there are way too many supplements to give fighters a warning list. Individual fighters have asked the commission about certain products, and the commission told them what we knew. With the Internet and product warning labels, the athletes have a lot of information at their disposal.
Ivan Trembow: Okay, so to summarize the case as it now stands, the case is going forward even with the re-test coming back negative, due to the fact that the original test from August 6th came back positive. But the fact that he did get a re-test and it did come back negative is something that he can certainly present as evidence in his favor, right?
Keith Kizer: Yes. That’s something for him to provide. We didn’t order the re-test, he did and Zuffa did. We generally don’t order re-tests, just because some of these drugs can get in and out of your system so quickly. So, we don’t normally ask for a second test. As far as we’re concerned, the first test is what’s relevant and that’s what we’re going on at this point. But at the same time, his side has the right to present a defense, and I would assume that’s why he took the re-test in the first place, to use it for evidence. But whether or not the re-test is relevant, we’ll have to see what the medical experts have to say about that. I mean, if you’re taking something, sooner or later… you know, if you take a test every day, sooner or later it would come back negative. The question we have to ask the medical experts is: How long is eight days for this steroid? Is it a long time, or is it a short time? And if it’s a short time, does that necessarily mean that the first test was off? Or could he have cleansed it from his body in those eight days? Or could his body have just naturally gotten it out in those eight days? Or could the first test result have been faulty? That’s something for our medical experts to answer. I mean, there are so many different factors here. There are so many different products on the market that you can use to flush out your system. We do test for masking agents and he tested negative for masking agents on both tests, but there are also more natural ways to flush your system out, and whether or not someone could do it in eight days is something that we have to ask the medical experts. But as for the case in general, nandrolone and Androstenedione are both banned products, so it wouldn’t be a complete defense if someone were to say, “I didn’t take this banned product, it was just a false-positive that I got from taking this other banned product.” But the commission is going to consider everything, and they will give him every opportunity to explain himself.