Let’s Talk Oscar Valdez, VADA, WADA and the WBC “Clean Boxing” Program

Further Update September 7, 2021 – VADA themselves have now come out with public comment in wake of this scandal noting that their prohibited list bans certain stimulants at all times because “stimulants can enhance performance in ways that include, but are not limited to, increased metabolic rate, power, and strength. They decrease fatigue, aid in weight loss, and suppress appetite” and further has some strong words about the level and efficacy of Athletic Commission anti doping testing norms in combat sports. The full statement can be found here.

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Further Update September 7, 2021 – The WBC, the ABC and Oscar Valdez’s lawyer have all weighed in on this matter. Here were their statements –

The WBC stated as follows: –

The WBC created its Clean Boxing Program in collaboration with VADA. The WBC-CBP is one of the best and most comprehensive antidoping programs in sports. The purposes of the WBC-CBP include, but are not limited, to the following: (1) safeguard the health and safety of boxers; (2) educate boxers, trainers, teams, and members of the boxing community; and (3) impose requirements and take measures that are equitable, just, and fair by examining every situation on its particular merits.
The WBC-CBP administered by VADA List of Prohibited Substances includes hundreds of substances and metabolites. There are marked differences among the different categories of prohibited substances in terms of their effects, dangers, and contraindications, there are extreme differences from any given substance to the others.
Upon learning of Oscar Valdez’ adverse analytical finding, the WBC formed a panel that included scientific and nutrition experts to investigate, analyze and evaluate all the available facts and evidence, and to recommend to the WBC how to proceed in this particular case. The WBC panel held an inquiry hearing with all the interested parties, including Champion Valdez and his team, and representatives of the overseeing commission and of the promoter. Champion Valdez and his team have been 100% cooperative at all times during the process. The WBC panel also held internal meetings to analyze the information and materials it received, so the recommendation to the WBC could be well informed, educated and fair.

Among the factors the WBC panel considered are: (1) a urine sample collected from Champion Valdez on August 13, 2021, yielded an adverse analytical finding for Phentermine; (2) samples collected on July 22, 2021 and on August 30, 2021, tested negative; (3) Phentermine is an appetite suppressant prescription medication with no documented in-competition performance enhancing effect or advantages; (4) Champion Valdez has been a boxer for 19 years with a long and celebrated amateur career, which included participating in two Olympic Games; (5) during his heralded trajectory as an amateur and professional boxer, Champion Valdez has tested negative in numerous antidoping test, including more than 30 as a professional; and (5) Champion Valdez has insisted in enrolling in the WBC-CBP, and has demanded antidoping testing in all his bouts.
After conducting its own analysis of the situation, the Pascua Yaqui Athletic Commission, which is the local commission overseeing the Valdez v. Conceicao bout, has confirmed its commitment to allow the bout to take place in its jurisdiction as originally scheduled on September 10, 2021.
The WBC Panel`s recommendation to the WBC, which the WBC Board of Governors has authorized and adopted, comprises:

1 The WBC will officially sanction the Valdez v. Conceicao bout for the WBC World Super Featherweight Title, which will take place as originally scheduled on September 10, 2021.
2. The WBC will donate the totality of the sanction fees it will receive from that bout into the WBC-CBP program and into the WBC José Sulaimán Boxers Fund.

3. The WBC will design and implement several mandatory programs at Champion Valdez’ sole cost including:
a. Taking a substantial number of random antidoping tests in the next six months as determined by the WBC-CBP;
b. Enrollment, active participation, and strict compliance with a weight management program including nutrition and hydration components designed by the WBC Nutrition Committee; Champion Valdez and his team must receive completed certification of this program.

c. Once he completes the above programs, Champion Valdez shall serve as a WBC Ambassador, whereupon he shall make a minimum of six personal appearances to promote and educate attendants on principles consistent with clean boxing, Weight management proper practices and with the WBC social responsibility values.
4. The WBC will place Champion Valdez in probation status for a period of 12 months. Any whereabouts failure or adverse analytical finding during the probationary period will result in an indefinite suspension from all WBC activity, immediate suspension of recognition of any WBC privilege (championship or status) until the matter is resolved; and being shown as Not Available in WBC World ratings.

Clean Boxing is one of the bedrocks of the WBC. The WBC will maintain its leadership in the sport by investing resources and efforts in making sure that boxing is clean and that boxers are educated and protected, while justice prevails at all times.
The WBC wishes to acknowledge and thank all those who participated in this complex process, including the Pascua Yaqui Athletic Commission and its advisors, the Association of Boxing Commissions, Top Rank, Inc., Team Valdez, and the experts and consultants who diligently worked on the case.

The ABC stated as follows –

At the 2012 Association of Boxing Commission (ABC) meeting in Clearwater, Florida the ABC unanimously voted to adopt (Pascua Yaqui Tribe was present) the World Anti-Doping (WADA) Prohibited List and took an important step in the prevention of abuse of performance-enhancing drugs in combat sports.

President of the ABC Board, Mike Mazzuli has announced the Association of Boxing Commissions concurs with the findings of the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Athletic Commission and its Executive Director Ernie Gallardo in allowing WBC world champion Oscar Valdez to fight on September 10, 2021.

WADA banned substances are broken into two categories.

The first category (out of competition) are substances that are banned both in and out of competition. (For example, steroids, steroid derivatives and masking agents which hinder detection of banned substances.)

The second category (in competition) are substances which are only banned in competition. The term competition: “the period commencing at 11:59 pm on the day before a competition in which the athlete is scheduled to participate through the end of such competition and sample collection process related to such competition.”

The drug in question regarding Oscar Valdez, Phentermine, is not a prohibited substance unless there is a positive test taken during the period of the “in competition” testing. Mr. Valdez tested positive for that drug on August 13, 2021, which is over one month prior to the fight on September 10, 2021. He tested negative on subsequent tests.

Again, the ABC supports the ruling by the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Athletic Department in allowing Oscar Valdez to fight.

Pat English, Valdez’s lawyer, wrote as follows

Over the past few days I have been reading numerous articles and comments regarding Oscar Valdez. Some are thoughtful. Too many others are not. The purpose of this statement is to set the record straight.

First, a disclosure and my background . I represented Oscar Valdez in the hearing before the WBC and the Pascua Yaqui tribal athletic commission and have been involved in his contracts as a lawyer for years. However, I am no newcomer to the issues involving drugs in sports. In 1998 I was appointed as a member of the medical committee of the National Association of Attorneys General task force on boxing. I was a major advisor to John McCain in the drafting of the Professional Boxer’s Health and Safety Act  and the Muhammad Ali Act. I have taught regarding the issues at a major law school and written on the subject. I have advised the ABC on drug related issues. 

Now let us turn to the real facts in the Oscar Valdez matter – not  assumptions or opinions but facts.

In a sample taken on August 13 a very small amount of a substance called Phentermine was detected. When I write that  a small amount was detected I write this because the required reporting level is 100, and the level reported was only 77. In a sample taken on August 30 no trace was found.

Phentermine is a mild stimulant, often used for weight loss. The finest minds in the world, the physicians and other experts at the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) have determined  that Phentermine is not a performance enhancing drug unless used in very close proximity to an event. Unless found within a day of the event it is clearly specified by WADA as “not prohibited “. It is not a steroid  and it is not a masking agent.

After years of pleas to standardize anti doping procedures and substances the Association  of Boxing Commissions (ABC) voted in 2011 unanimously to adopt the WADA standards, which created uniform standards among the different states and tribal commissions. This was a huge step forward in the anti doping quest in boxing. The Pascua Yaqui Tribal Athletic Commission is a long standing member of the ABC and voted in favor of standardizing drug testing  by adopting the WADA. standards.

Mr. Valdez is a two time Olympian and was tested many times during his Olympic and amateur career.

He has insisted in drug testing during his two champion reigns, since 2016. He has had approximately 40 negative results, meaning results showing no sign of any prohibited substance.

Mr. Valdez has not changed his training regimen except for one thing.he has given up coffee and has taken to drinking an herbal tea instead. Thus the working hypothesis is that the trace amounts came from the tea, but is is not beyond the realm of possibility that it was from some other supplement with trace contamination. While this has been scoffed at by some, it has been given credence by Dr. Justin Seltzer, a physician and toxicology fellow at U.C. San Diego.Dr. Seltzer cites a 2018 study showing that the adulteration of supplements is a “humongous problem”.Without getting technical, 776 supplements were found to be adulterated  by the FDA with pharmaceutical grade substances not on the label. (Interview courtesy of https//wwwcrumpe.com 

Dr. Seltzer had nothing to do with this matter. He is offering an independent view.

Those who are calling for Mr. Valdez to be stripped and/or to lose his upcoming bout are speaking and writing from ignorance. They are calling for the head of a young man who, a month before a bout, had a trace amount of a substance which will have no effect on his performance ,and which the finest minds in the science of PED management have called “ not prohibited”. They are calling for the head of a young man tested scores of times , since mid 2016 at his own request, and who has always come up clean.

If Mr. Valdez was again competing in the Olympics this would be no issue. If he was an MMA Fighter, the head of the UFC drug testing program has stated it would be no issue. If you go to the Global computerized drug directory, commonly used by athletes worldwide (Global DRO) it is written that this should be no issue. If he was a football or baseball player or a college athlete he would not be placed on suspension

Give Oscar Valdez a break. He is not a cheater.

I would be remiss if I did not address the argument, which has been advanced, that this was VADA testing, not WADA testing. First, there is no such thing as WADA testing. WADA sets standards. It does not independently test. Secondly, VADA is quite clear in its purpose. It is a testing agency. It does not adjudicate what standards are to be used. It reports results, and does so well. It is up to the Commission having jurisdiction to adjudicate and, if a title is involved, up to the relevant ratings organization. In this instance there was a full hearing. No outcome was predetermined. The Commission having jurisdiction determined the WADA standard to be appropriate and the Commission and the WBC determined after hearing all the facts to allow Oscar Valdez to fight Robson  Canseicao. We submit that most critics would have done exactly the same if they knew all the facts and had heard the testimony at the hearing.

I know there will be critics. Some are journalists seeking “click bait” . Some may have contrary views for other reasons. Either way, it is important that there be a fair understanding of what transpired and that is what I have attempted to do here.

Thank you for reading.

Patrick C. English, Esq.

Dines and English, LLC

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Update September 3, 2021 – The WBC have apparently now weighed is as per below. It is difficult to understand how there is any integrity left in their self named ‘clean’ boxing program when they have the right to unilaterally arbitrarily and retroactively say a contractually banned substance is ok to ingest.

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Let’s drill down the Oscar Valdez doping story.

Valdez, the WBC super featherweight title holder, is scheduled to defend his belt on September 10, 2021 at the Casino Del Sol in Tucson, Arizona, United States.

Valdez reportedly tested positive in an out of competition test for phentermine.

As of today the bout is apparently still proceeding. So what does this all mean?

The bout is scheduled to take place on tribal land in Arizona.  The Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission has jurisdiction. They do not readily publish their anti-doping standards online as many other athletic commissions do but have advised ESPN that they use WADA standards in their jurisdiction. The State of Arizona also use WADA standards which is worth pointing out because under the Professional Boxing Safety Act, bouts that take place on “Indian Reservations”in the United States must have health, safety and licencing requirements that are “at least as restrictive” as those in the State where the bout is taking place or the most recently published version of the recommended regulatory guidelines of the Association of Boxing Commissions.

WADA does not ban phentermine out of competition. So accepting that WADA standards are in place no harm no foul right? As far as the regulator is concerned that is a fair stance.

But why would a substance not banned out of competition be tested for out of competiton? Enter the world of private contracts, the WBC and the Volunatry Anti Doping Agency (VADA).

The WBC boast about their “Clean Boxing Program”. Given that different jurisdictions have different anti doping standards the WBC have signed on with VADA to ensure that “the world champion and the first 15 male classified fighters of each division and for the champions and first 5  ranked fighters in  women boxing” adhere to VADA standards.

VADA standards largely mirror WADA standards but with a few key exceptions. Phentermine is one of them. WADA only bans the stimulant in competition but VADA bans it at all times. A sensible question is if stimulants give an unfair advantage in competition then why allow them during training when athletes are preparing for the bout. Leaving that observation aside we have a violation of VADA’s standards. Standards that the athlete agreed to comply with. Standards that the WBC say are needed to ensure ‘clean’ boxing.

VADA does not hand out their own punishments. They simply test. The results of their tests then are passed on to the powers that be.

So the question is will the WBC allow the bout to proceed with their title on the line? If so why? Their integrity and the integrity of their ‘clean’ boxing program call for an answer.

The Association of Boxing Commissions recently cracked down on a sanctioning body for mischief in their title picture. It is also worth asking whether the ABC will have anything to say about this peculiar situation.


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