DALLAS TX - FEBRUARY 04: Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem attends The Black Eyed Peas Super Bowl Party presented by Sports Illustrated and Bacardi at Music Hall At Fair Park on February 4 2011 in Dallas Texas. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Bacardi)
"Wait a second... what the hell are you talking about?". Those were my words when the assistant to the district attorney told me that my inability to turn in my proof of insurance form to the Secretary of State's office held a penalty of a low-class felony charge. Previous traffic violations had apparently made the process of providing a copy of my insurance card mandatory, and by mandatory -- I was going to spend an evening in the slammer if I didn't comply.
At the time, I bickered to anybody who would listen about how unfair "the man" was treating me. Seriously, how can not turning in a tiny copy of an insurance form land me in the clink? Luckily, the adrenaline-filled panic of the news put me into survival mode. I claimed confusion to the judge, asked for a continuance, pestered the Secretary of State's office to no end, and found a way to resolve the issue within four hours of leaving the courthouse. Two days later, the judge slammed his gavel down to dismiss my case, and I narrowly escaped the clutches of a day in jail.
Strangely, my experience in traffic court shares a lesson that former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem hopefully learned on December 12. If a task affects your life, make sure it gets done before it's too late. In Overeem's case, it didn't matter how late he was.
Overeem's saga began on November 17 when he was asked by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) to take an out-of-competition (OOC) drug test along with his UFC 141 opponent, Brock Lesnar. Both men were given 24 hours to set up and presumably take the test, and Overeem failed to follow those simple rules.
On December 12, the NSAC held a commission meeting, and one of the items on the agenda was Alistair Overeem. Rumors were rampant in the lead-up to the hearing, but the most credible rumor suggested that Overeem missed a random drug test. That rumor became a reality as NSAC commissioners questioned Overeem about his whereabouts on November 17.
Overeem responded with a story that he had flown home to be with his sick mother in Holland. He departed on the evening of November 17, after his manager was notified that Overeem must submit a sample for testing that day. As you can imagine, this detail led to an accusatory Q&A session and the consequence of a conditional license with further scrutiny in the form of more random drug testing attached to it.
The punishment wasn't enough, nor was it a consequence that set a fearful precedent for other fighters who may be asked to submit a drug test randomly. Overeem's excuses were acceptable to the dummy tribunal created to regulate combat sports, but in a U.S. court of law -- he would have been asked for proof to corroborate his answers instead of being taken for his word. Imagine the reaction if I told the judge that my assistant didn't forward me a piece of mail demanding that I submit proof of insurance on my vehicle. I wouldn't have received any sympathy.
Neither should Alistair Overeem, but the body responsible for punishing him isn't under state or federal law. The by-laws of the NSAC are the law of the combative sports landscape in Nevada, and those laws are vague and open to interpretation when it comes to out-of-competition drug testing.
UPDATE: I was referencing our commission meeting minutes here and misunderstood one of the updates. I thought it stated that Lesnar didn't contact the commission in time when it was actually Overeem. The article has been modified accordingly. I rescind my commentary that Lesnar failed and should be punished.
The largely ignored issue that stemmed from the December 12 meeting was that Brock Lesnar wasn't punished at all for missing the deadline. The actions taken by the NSAC make it look as if Overeem's actions are far worse when, in fact, Lesnar is just as punishable for the same offense. Both men missed the deadline to take the test. Both should be punished.
Why wasn't a test window written into the by-laws before the program was started? Why isn't the NSAC asking for evidence to corroborate Overeem's claim that he bought a plane ticket two days before the test was asked of him? What's stopping a manager and a fighter from collusion, especially if the commission gives sympathy to fighters who blame managers? Why isn't the NSAC contacting fighters directly? Why isn't there any accountability?
The NSAC had the opportunity to set the expectations high for out-of-competition drug testing. They had the chance to set a precedent, not only to fighters, but to managers and promoters as well. If managers can't be trusted to get the word to their fighters, you can be sure that the UFC would find any means necessary to contact a fighter who is one month away from a main event title fight that could make the company millions upon millions of dollars in revenue. Instead, Overeem got a slap on the wrist, and the rest of the combat sports world got a blueprint on how to circumvent the out-of-competition testing policy in Nevada.
As much as it pains me as a fan to see a fight of this magnitude slip through the cracks, Friday night's UFC 141 main event between Alistair Overeem and Brock Lesnar should have been sacrificed for the profound message it would have sent. Understandably, I was asking for a state athletic commission to do the unthinkable, something even more drastic than the United States Anti-Doping Agency guidelines suggest, so I'm not surprised that a "Shock and Awe" decision wasn't made. The message being sent for those of us who care, however, is that we shouldn't care. If inadequacy is the foundation for which the NSAC stands on, what's the point?