Pressure mounts for Provincial intervention in Edmonton following Tim Hague death
Tim Hague, a former UFC fighter, died from brain trauma after a boxing bout on June 16, 2017, in Edmonton, Alberta. He was clearly outmatched being knocked down three times in the first round by opponent Adam Braidwood with an arguably fourth knockdown that the referee deemed a slip.
In the second round, Hague was dropped for a fourth official time and allowed to continue. Shortly thereafter the final knockout blow landed.
Hague had a history of recent brain trauma prior to the bout. He suffered a series of recent combative sports losses by KO and TKO.
Braidwood was pic.twitter.com/H682h6rwJu— Adam Braidwood (@BraidwoodBoxing) June 19, 2017
Serious questions arose regarding the regulation of this bout, Hauge’s suitability to be licensed, and the efficacy of the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission. Further, in June Hague's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Edmonton AC. It seeks a total of $4,268,000.
Unlike the USA where the sport is regulated solely on the state or tribal level, Canada also has municipal athletic commissions. Alberta is in fact the sole Canadian province without a provincial AC, leaving regulation solely in the hands of municipal bodies, but there is now pressure to evolve.
A December 2017 independent review into Hague’s death cited the patchwork of local regulators as something that needed to change and called for the formation of a provincewide commission. Some recommendations were urgently addressed by the Edmonton commission, including aligning medical suspensions among all combat sports and consistent record-keeping of suspensions.
But the authority also decided to take a deep dive into its 13 dated policies through a “comprehensive review,” to address any gaps and ensure regulations are consistent with current fighting practices. Work began on the review at the beginning of 2019, starting with priority safety policies around licensing to fight, medical clearance and mandatory rest periods.
The seven-member Edmonton Combative Sports Commission met publicly last Monday for the first time since the professional boxing and MMA regulator was one of 11 parties sued in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit surrounding the death.
Some of the questions the commission will be grappling with include mandatory drug testing, a formal appeals process, and regulation of matchmaking.
The commission has set a year-end target to complete the review. While working on its review, the commission remains steadfast in the corner fighting for a provincial body.
Executive director Troy Courtoreille said the commission is in favor of provincial regulation and would like to see action. But Courtoreille, the operational lead of combative sports in the city, told the seven citizen volunteer members last Monday he isn’t aware of any movement on that front and hasn’t yet discussed the issue with the new UCP government.
A meeting of the commission in January heard that discussions with the former NDP government were postponed because of the impending election.
Minister Leela Aheer, whose portfolio of culture, multiculturalism, and status of women includes sport oversight, said the province is working to understand the complex issue and the positions of all parties involved.
“We understand that not all municipalities are united in their support for provincial oversight. We are looking forward to addressing this in a timely and responsible manner,” Aheer said in a statement to Postmedia.
But there is no timeline for a response and no promise of change.
The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, which lobbies on behalf of cities, towns, and villages in the province, has a second resolution on its books urging the province to take charge of combative sports. Championed by Red Deer and Edmonton, the association has been calling for consistent standards on licensing, conduct and qualifications since 2013.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the city’s position has long been that a provincial body is the way forward.
“City council’s been consistent for a long time that we would prefer that there be a consistent provincewide approach, mainly so information sharing can be seamless about fight records and health records for combatants,” he said.
Speaking to the lawsuit in June, the Hague family’s lawyers said they hope the case brings attention to the way combative sports are handled across the province.
“I think there should be a provincial agency that has better oversight over combative sports throughout Alberta so fights are properly recorded and something like this never happens again,” lawyer Ari Schacter said.
Schacter said no statements of defense had been received as of last Monday, but are expected soon.