by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
When Pride runs its first show in the United States on October 21st at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, the drug testing will be different than it normally is in Pride. For one thing, there will be drug testing. Pride’s fighters are not drug tested in Japan, but that will obviously not be the case in the United States.
Keith Kizer, the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s Executive Director, told MMAWeekly, “Testing for Pride would be the same as for other promoters.” Kizer was previously the Chief Deputy Attorney General for the state of Nevada. Kizer is now the Executive Director of the NSAC after previous Executive Director Marc Ratner was hired by Zuffa to work for the UFC.
What this means for Pride is that any fighters who participate in championship fights will be drug tested. The NSAC also has the option of randomly drug test other fighters, but has not used this option with MMA events more than a handful times in recent years.
If there are no title fights on any given MMA card, including Pride’s October show, the NSAC could choose to drug test the two main event fighters, or two fighters who are randomly selected out of all the fighters competing on the event.
The NSAC’s drug policy is such that when Wanderlei Silva challenges for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, which could happen in November, there is a 100 percent chance that he will be drug tested, as is the case with all fighters in title bouts.
The same will apply for any other Pride fighters who compete in the United States, whether they’re competing on a UFC show or a Pride USA show. If it’s a title fight, the fighters are definitely going to be drug tested. If it’s not a title fight, the fighters are very unlikely to be drug tested.
The NSAC’s drug tests screen for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, as well as a number of illegal recreational drugs. They do not currently test for abuse of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), nor does any other major sanctioning body, due to the fact that a reliable test for HGH abuse has not yet been developed. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency claims to be close to developing a reliable test for HGH abuse.
One specific fighter who you might think would be competing on Pride’s U.S. debut show is Josh Barnett, but he will not be allowed to fight on the show unless he takes and passes a drug test.
After Barnett won the UFC Heavyweight Title in March 2002, he failed his NSAC post-fight drug test when banned anabolic steroids were found in his system.
The normal procedure for such a situation is that the fighter gets suspended for a certain number months, then they have to take a drug test and pass it, and then their license to fight in Nevada is reinstated when they prove that they’re clean. That’s the process that Tim Sylvia and Nathan Marquardt went through after they failed drug tests in 2003 and 2005, respectively.
However, that’s not what happened in Josh Barnett’s case. In Barnett’s case, he failed a drug test, got suspended, went to Japan, and never fought in the United States again. He has never been re-issued a license by the NSAC because he has never taken a follow-up NSAC drug test.
When asked whether Barnett would have to pass a drug test before he could be licensed to fight by the NSAC, the NSAC’s Keith Kizer told MMAWeekly, “Josh Barnett would have to provide a clean urine test before licensure, as did others in the same situation.”
In addition to passing a drug test sometime before the event takes place, Barnett would also be overwhelmingly likely to have to take another drug test immediately after his fight as well.
In general, when a fighter has failed an NSAC drug test in the past, that fighter is subjected to more drug testing than any fighter who has never failed an NSAC drug test. In the specific cases of Sylvia and Marquardt, even after they served their suspensions and passed drug tests in order to get their licenses back, they were also drug tested immediately after their first fights back from suspension.