Yesterday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission granted Alistair Overeem a conditional license to fight Brock Lesnar at UFC 141. This license was granted despite a number of issues the commission had with the timing of the tests, the method of testing Overeem used and the level of communication they received from Alistair.
Those who follow me on Twitter no doubt saw me have a bit of a meltdown over the way the situation was handled and I wanted to take a moment to walk through the process and what I saw as the issues. It's much more about the way the situation was handled and the commission's willingness to take statements as fact than any sort of feeling that Overeem is "guilty" or anything. I can't stress how much I actually want to see Lesnar vs. Overeem, but fully think that the NSAC meeting yesterday was a sham.
Issue 1 - Alistair left the United States for Holland to take care of his ill mother on November 17, the same day that the commission contacted him to request a urine test be taken.
Overeem's explanation - He was unaware of the request for a test at the time when he left the country. When asked when he bought the ticket, Overeem said that he purchased it on the 15th, two days prior to being notified about the test.
The problem - I don't doubt that Overeem purchased his ticket on the 15th, but I find it difficult to accept that the commission simply took his word for it. If they were interested in truly establishing the timeline and following through on all of Overeem's actions, why not add another condition to the "conditional license" requiring that he provide the commission with proof of the date of airline ticket purchase? It seems simple enough, doesn't it?
Much more after the jump...
Issue 2 - Overeem did not respond to the commission request (again, sent on the 17th) until a follow-up made on the 21st. The initial request said that they expected to be contacted back within two days.
Overeem's explanation - He was unaware of the request as his assistant handles those matters and had not contacted him to inform him that he needed to set up a test. He said that the combination of this being his first UFC fight, his mother being ill and testing being different in Holland contributed to the issues. His assistant was also on the call and said that he was "not familiar with athletic commission stuff."
The problem - The first problem for me with the NSAC here is that they said that they felt Overeem "clearly established" that he didn't receive the request for the test in time. Again, it's not about trusting or not trusting Overeem, it's the idea that the commission took his statement as a clear establishment of anything.
Second, the reason that the NSAC takes fighter contact info is to be able to contact them for a variety of things, including out of competition testing requirements. For the commission to not so much as say that Overeem and his camp are responsible for monitoring of communications and expeditious responses seems like a massive failure on their part. Yes, Overeem was dealing with a very tough situation with an ill mother, but this is still a required part of the job. They were harder on Keith Jardine during his request for a license when talking about his suspension in Texas for shoving a commission official that he thought was a fan trying to grab his shirt. At least they made Jardine say that he understood that Nevada does not condone shoving of a state official. With Overeem ailing to contact them for almost a week, they simply shrugged.
Issue 3 - Overeem took a test on the 23rd, but took a blood test at his private doctor rather than a supervised urine test at a testing facility.
Overeem's explanation - Blood tests are what they do in Holland, and you run everything through your private doctor. He simply did what he thought was accurate.
The problem - First, let's get this out of the way...one of the most popular things in the aftermath has been that Overeem passed a blood test and blood is better than urine. But, the point of testing in a supervised environment is that you have an authorized individual watching the test from start to finish. I'm not saying this was the case with Overeem, but we have no proof that the blood test was taken by Overeem and that is as much of a reason as any that the commission couldn't accept that test as proof of anything.
Now, the communication from Nevada said to contact them and they would tell the fighter where to go to take the test. This is what Lesnar did, as he said he couldn't get to the testing facility but would go to a hospital to take a supervised urine test, which the commission agreed to. When Overeem just decided to go to his doctor, he wasn't following the guidelines that Nevada had set up, which resulted in going to the wrong place and taking the wrong test. Again, this was blamed on the assistant.
Issue 4 - Once Overeem was informed that they needed a supervised urine test, not blood, he once again went back to his personal doctor on December 7.
Overeem's Explanation - Again, in Holland you go to your personal doctor and his assistant didn't explain a need to do anything different.
The problem - Once again, this resulted in a test that the state wasn't able to accept. Again, supervision to make sure there is no "funny business" is key here. This ends with the NSAC giving Overeem 72 hours to take a new urine test in a location of their choosing, meaning that he could take the test as late as December 15 after it was requested on November 17. Now, earlier in the call, before discussing Overeem, the commission had their experts talking about out of competition testing and how important it was for the test to be taken within 48 hours of notification to catch anything in the urine. With this situation it could be upwards of 28 days, or 672 hours, between the request and an actual acceptable sample.
Again, this isn't about if Overeem is clean or not. This is about the commission holding fighters accountable for following through on the demands of getting licensed in the state. They discussed fighters in less developed countries than Overeem who have had maybe a 24 hour delay in getting a test done, but instead of seeing this as an issue, they just gave him the go-ahead.
I don't want to see the fight get cancelled. Lord knows I've been called an Overeem shill for how I fawn over him before his fights. And from a professional standpoint, Overeem vs. Lesnar is going to be good for Bloody Elbow business, much better than his getting denied for a license, so don't accuse me of "wanting scandal."
This is about the state needing to either be serious about out of competition testing and holding fighters accountable for their own professionalism. Overeem is not some undercard fighter who doesn't have the means to be on top of all things at once. He's a main event fighter, a man who has held championships and fought in the United States multiple times. Maybe he hasn't dealt with Nevada before, but it's a matter of professional responsibility here.
Overeem wasn't rushing out of the country to get to his mother, he supposedly had a ticket for two days prior to leaving. He wasn't without access once he did leave. Once it was clear that his assistant didn't give him the right information when he took the wrong test the first time, how is it not his responsibility to make sure that he has everything correct for the second test?
Nevada showed no true willingness to hold him accountable for his actions beyond some pointless extra testing. It's the commission I'm disappointed in here. But then again, Nevada's commission has never been as good as it's reputation. It's always been a commission with a reputation boosted by simply being in the state where Vegas is.
And now they've set an example that out of competition testing is as much for show as it is something they're looking to truly enforce.