Arkansas to make blood testing mandatory for combat sports following failure

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Michael Mazzulli, President of the Association of Boxing Commissions, recently reached out to the Governor of Arkansas, alleging that the Arkansas Athletic Commission allowed an HIV-positive boxer to engage in a bout on November 11, 2017. Mazzulli explained that the boxer in question had been denied a license in the State of Florida due to a positive HIV test, with the license denial being noted on the suspension list kept under the auspices of the ABC pursuant to Federal Law.

Mazzulli further alleges that both he and the Florida Commission notified Arkansas through the managing agency, the Department of Health, of the HIV positive status of a boxer, but the bout was allowed to happen. This appears to be a direct violation of Federal Law and an egregious disregard for health and safety standards. Further, Mazzulli said Arkansas is the sole regulatory body in North America that does not require blood tests for combat sports.

The boxer shall remain nameless to protect his right to privacy. The Arkansas Athletic Commission said the boxer was allowed to fight after providing medical documentation showing he did not have a communicable disease. A commission investigation later determined that the records had been falsified.

Now Little Rock’s KATV reports that the Arkansas Athletic Commission will make blood tests for certain communicable diseases mandatory for boxing matches and other combat sports beginning next week.

At a meeting Tuesday at the Arkansas Department of Health, the commission approved a motion to require testing for HIV and three types of hepatitis beginning with a fight Dec. 16 in Fort Smith and for all state-sanctioned bouts afterward. A written rule on mandatory blood testing has been drafted and will take effect later, according to the commission.

A motion to require blood testing sooner, beginning with a mixed martial arts fight Saturday in Batesville, failed to pass. Commissioners were concerned that there wasn’t enough time to test the participants.

“We’re looking at pursuing this matter with the appropriate authorities that could look into such matters as falsification of public documents,” commission attorney Reginald Rogers said Tuesday.

Court records show no charges had been filed against the boxer late Tuesday.

Arkansas Athletic Commission records show that the Association of Boxing Commissions wasn’t the first to warn them that a boxer with a communicable disease had been scheduled on the four-match card in Camden. Lydia Robertson, an Arkansas boxing inspector, told the group at a commission meeting Oct. 17 but refused to name the boxer.

“She did everything she was supposed to do,” Robertson’s attorney, Jason Stuart, said Tuesday. “Whether she provided the name or not, the Arkansas Department of Health is charged with protecting the safety and welfare of all Arkansans.”

The proposed testing guidelines state that fight participants must pass a blood test administered no later than 180 days before the fight.

Commissioners on Tuesday discussed revising that time period to 60 days. The group also discussed ways to ensure the legitimacy of test results, such as obtaining them directly from a testing agency instead of boxers or promoters.

Commissioner Daniel Dring said an agency investigation is ongoing. He said officials will review the fight in Camden, as well as past boxing matches, to determine how many people the HIV-positive boxer could have exposed to the disease.

“We’ve never had this issue,” Dring said. “It’s horrible that it happened, that somebody intentionally falsified records.”

It’s horrible as well that the commission was told by multiple sources that the boxer had tested positive for HIV but because a readily falsifiable piece of paper said otherwise, he was allowed to fight. The investigation that revealed the falsifying of documents should have taken place before the fight, not after.