Archive for the ‘Athletics Commissioner of Ontario’ Category

Update November 29, 2016 – It is being reported that the NYSAC is prepared to waive the suspension in lieu of a fine thus clearing the way for Gastelum to be licenced in Ontario assuming prompt payment of the of the fine.



Update – Shortly after publishing this article Gastelum replied with the following tweet leading to speculation that the NYSAC may have backed away from their suspension



Today the UFC announced that Kelvin Gastelum is scheduled to fight Tim Kennedy at UFC 206 in Toronto.  This, despite Gastelum currently facing a 6 month suspension from the New York State Athletic Commission after failing to make weight and attend the weigh in for UFC 205.

The UFC is somewhat cautious in this fight announcement noting it is “pending approval from the athletic commissions“.

Gastelum is apparently appealing his suspension and if the NYSAC is willing to clear the path then no harm no foul.  If, however, the suspension remains in place he may face regulatory issues being licensed in Ontario.

Regulation 52 passed pursuant to Ontario’s Athletics Control Act governs the licencing of professional MMA fighters in the Province.  Section 8(5) of the Regulation requires Gastelum to hold a “current valid licence to take part in professional contests or exhibitions in another jurisdiction“.  This is a mandatory requirement and there does not appear to be discretion to waive it (although the requirement may violate Canadian constitutionally guaranteed ‘mobility rights’).

The full section reads as follows:

(5) A person who is not a resident of Ontario and who applies for a permit to take part in a professional contest or exhibition shall at the time of applying provide evidence satisfactory to the Commissioner that the person is the holder of a current valid licence to take part in professional contests or exhibitions in another jurisdiction.  R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 52, s. 8 (5); O. Reg. 197/06, s. 4 (1); O. Reg. 465/10, s. 7 (2).

Leaving aside an unlikely full blown constitutional challenge to requirement, Gastelum will have to produce a valid licence from “another jurisdiction“.  His New York licence is suspended so that will not do.  Unless he can provide a valid current licence from another jurisdiction or New York changes their mind Ontario’s hands may be legally tied in approving this fight.

Additionally, section 17.2 of the Regulations may act as a barrier even if Gastelum can navigate the above with the following requirement:

17.2 (1) If a participant is under contract to take part in a professional contest or exhibition, the participant or promoter of the contest or exhibition shall, by the time specified in clause 11 (1) (b) or (c) as applicable, submit to the Commissioner evidence satisfactory to the Commissioner that there are no existing suspensions, prohibitions or other limits restricting or limiting the participant from taking part in a professional contest or exhibition under any other jurisdiction.  O. Reg. 465/10, s. 16.

(2) A participant mentioned in subsection (1) who does not submit the evidence described in that subsection shall not take part in the contest or exhibition.  

After the largely popular early weigh ins conducted in California at UFC  199’s Marc Raimondi, who has been perhaps the most consistent reporter addressing rapid extreme weight cut issues in the sport, advises that the same protocols will be used for UFC Fight Night 89 this week in Ottawa, Canada.

Raimondi reports as follows:

Fighters will be able to weigh-in at the fighter hotel Friday morning between 9 a.m. and noon, rather than the typical 4 p.m. weigh-in time, Sholler said. There will still be a “weigh-in” show at 5 p.m. where the official weights gathered earlier in the day will be announced.

The new policy was first attempted by the UFC at UFC 199 in Los Angeles two weeks ago. Fighters were able to weigh-in between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the fighter hotel. The idea, developed by doctors, is to give the athletes more time to rehydrate after their weight cut. A byproduct is now fighters will be dehydrated for a shorter amount of time — and going without food and water for a shorter amount of time — rather than waiting hours to be transported to the venue and for the weigh-in show to begin.

Whenever regulators change practices I like to look behind to the legislative landscape permitting this to take place.  Fortunately for Ontario, no legal changes were needed for this concession to the UFC as the rules grant some leeway and discretion to the Commissioner for conducting weigh ins.

All that is required under Ontario’s Athletics Control Act Regulation 52, Sectio 16 is that weigh ins for professional MMA bouts take place “on the day before the day of the contest or exhibition” with the Commissioner having the power to “designate the time and place of the weighing in“.

Not all jurisdictions have this flexibility and those that don’t should consider taking the steps needed to adopt this practice along with other weight cut reforms to ensure that MMA’s rapid extreme weight cut injury list stops its troubling growth.

In the aftermath of an April  12, 2016 knockout loss by Mexican fighter Guillermo Herrera, who remains in a Canadian hospital dealing with the aftermath of a ruptured blood vessel in his brain, the World Boxing Counsel has issued a press release indicating they will no longer sanction bouts in Ontario, Canada citing safety concerns with the Ontario Athletic Commission’s practices.

The Commission came under fire  following Herrara’s injury for not requiring promoters to insure boxers leaving the Mexican fighter on the hook for presumably steep hospital services.  The WBC has gone further implying poorly drafted regulations and practices may have contributed to Herrera’s brain injury citing concerns with weigh ins and timelines for rehydration.  The WBC issued the following press release:


The World Boxing Council has been communicating with the boxing authorities of the Province of Ontario, Canada, for several years. The WBC considers the Ontario Athletic Commission’s boxing regulations to be dangerous for the participants. Accordingly, the WBC has pleaded with the OAC to comply with the established world safety standards applicable to professional boxing.

The OAC conducts its official weigh-in ceremony the very day of the fight. There is ample medical evidence that the OAC’s weigh-in practice is dangerous and can be detrimental to the health and safety of the fighters.
Ontario also limits the amount and length of material that can be used to wrap the hands of the boxers. Again, that practice goes against the widely accepted standards around the world.
On April 12, 2016, Guillermo Herrera lost a fight in Toronto by knockout in 8 rounds and today is bedridden at St. Michaels Hospital in Toronto.
Besides the OAC’s dangerous pre-fight practices, it appears that there were several irregularities in connection with the fight. The Mexican fighter was allowed to travel from Mexico to Toronto without the required permit from the competent Mexican authorities. While Mr. Herrera fights as a cruiserweight, the OAC licensed him to fight in the lower light heavyweight division. Therefore, he was forced to lose a substantial amount of weight the day of the fight. At this point, it is uncertain whether the event’s promoter had medical insurance. That is one of several facts that are being investigated.
In the meantime, the WBC considers the OAC’s practices dangerous for the boxers. Therefore, the WBC will not sanction any WBC event in which the OAC regulations apply until such time that those dangerous regulations are changed, thus affording standard safety and protection measures to boxers in that jurisdiction.


The Province of Ontario has been one of the slowest in Canada to respond to their Criminal Code powers to legalize amateur mixed martial arts and other combat sports.  As previously discussed, Ontario’s response to date has been silence making amateur MMA along with a host of other combative sports technically illegal in the Province.

Last year the Province proposed to legalize the following list of amateur combative sports –

– jiu jitsu
– judo
– karate
– kickboxing
– mixed martial arts
– taekwondo
– wrestling
– wushu

Since then the Province has still not taken any formal action despite requesting stakeholder feedback.

I follow up from time to time with Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and today they advised they remain committed to “clarifying” the legal landscape of amateur combat sports.

The Ministry referred me to the following comments advising that one of their ‘sport plan priorities’ is to

  • Clarify the legal status of amateur combative sport and work with the combative sport community to develop and implement appropriate health and safety measures

And that they have an ‘action plan’ to “clarify the legal status of amateur combative sport and work with the combative sport community to develop and implement appropriate health and safety measures in response to federal legislative changes.

Time will tell if or when Ontario will follow through with this commitment.


Lost in this week’s story by Josh Gross discussing the UFC’s role in mixed martial arts ‘TRT era’ is the important parallel story that doping is 100% legal under Ontario’s combat sports regulations.

Combat sports regulation in Ontario is filled with problems such as the government turning a blind eye to amateur MMA which is illegal in the Province.  Perhaps no bigger issue exists, however, than the Government’s complete failure to address doping in professional MMA and boxing.

As previously discussed, in Ontario the Athletics Control Act Regulation which governs the sport of professional MMA does not require mandatory drug testing.  Instead, section 17.1 of the Regulation only requires drug tests to be performed by the commission if the contract between the fighter and the promoter “requires the participant to undergo a drug test“.  The full section reads as follows:

17.1  If a contract between a participant in a professional contest or exhibition and the person holding the contest or exhibition requires the participant to undergo a drug test on the day of the contest or exhibition, the Commissioner shall, on request, oversee the administering of the test and the person holding the contest or exhibition shall pay for the costs of administering the test. O. Reg. 465/10, s. 16.

In other words no out of competition testing ever.  Day of competition testing also does not exist unless there is a specific contract between the promoter and fighter.  It goes without saying that a regulator allowing a promoter to call  the shots on performance enhancing drugs creates an obvious conflict of interest (hint – look at the PRIDE we won’t test for steroids clause).

Worse yet, where no such contract exists then performance enhancing drugs such as testosterone and EPO and methods such as blood doping will not violate Ontario’s regulations.  Baffling!

If you don’t want to take my word on it you can listen to the Government themselves who, two years ago, confirmed to me that

The OAC does not require drug testing of fighters, and does not have a list of prohibited drugs”

And more recently to Bloody Elbow’s John Nash that

The Athletics Control Act does not require testing for illegal drugs and/or performance enhancing substances. If a promoter includes a requirement for drug/substance testing in its contract with the fighters, they can request that the Commissioner administer those tests.  However, it would be up to the promoter to determine what would satisfy that contractual requirement or if an exemption should be made for certain treatments. The Commission has no role to play in such decisions. Questions about test results for drugs or performance enhancing substances for fighters in a particular event should therefore be directed to the promoter.”

Ontario has been slow to make meaningful change to their combat sports legislation and are doing little more than ‘reviewing’ their lacking laws.  If nothing else comes of Gross’ work, Ontario should be embarrassed to be North America’s largest jurisdiction with legal doping in combat sports.  For the safety of competitors and the integrity of Boxing and MMA Ontario should quickly remedy this situation.

Ontario Plans to Legalize ammy combat sports

Since last year I have been pressing Ontario for answers about if or when they will exercise their section 83 Criminal Code powers to legalize amateur MMA and other non-Olympic combat sports.

Ontario has finally provided a substantive reply and the Province advises that they plan on legalizing amateur MMA along with  many other combat sports. Specifically Steve Harlow of Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport has advised that:

For the purposes of Section 83 of the Criminal Code, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport proposes that the following amateur combative sports be designated:



– boxing
– jiu jitsu
– judo
– karate
– kickboxing
– mixed martial arts
– taekwondo
– wrestling
– wushu

You can find a copy of Harlow’s full letter here which seeks feedback from all interested in the Combat Sports community:

Ontario Amateur Combat Sports Proposed Action

The Ministry is seeking stakeholder feedback until December 8 and the formal regulations are expected shortly thereafter.

This past weekend the Canadian Amateur Mixed Martial Arts National Championships (an event affiliated with the IMMAF) took place in Ontario and the Province, apparently aware of the well publicized event, appears content to look the other way instead of passing appropriate laws to allow such events to be hosted in compliance with the Criminal Code.   The promoter has now uploaded a number of the matches on YouTube:

Apparently Ontario is doing little more than “reviewing” the situation but seem slow in making any legal changes.

As previously discussed, there currently is no legal framework in place for amateur MMA events to take place in Ontario in compliance with section 83 of the Criminal Code.  I will repeat myself in stating that if the Government is looking the other way because they are now ok with amateur MMA they are going about it the wrong way.  There is no reason why amateur MMA can’t be legalized in Ontario and the Government can choose to follow either the BC Model, the Saskatchewan Model or carve their own path.  Until this is done those that participate in the sport are taking a gamble as to whether the authorities will seek to enforce the letter of the law.  If you are a stakeholder in the Ontario MMA Community you should contact Craig Stewart, Manager of Sport and Recreation, at 416-326-4370 and make your voice heard.



Ontario Ministry of Sport Reply Letter Screenshot

The Ontario Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport has replied to my requests regarding the Province’s intentions now that Bill S-209 has passed.

The Ministry advises that the Government is “reviewing the changes in the law and considering the best approach for the province“.

The Ministry is seeking feedback from the combat sports industry and advises that “it is important we receive advice from people with an informed interest in combative sports.  In this regard, if you would like to discuss this issue further, I encourage you to contact Craig Stewart, Manager of Sport and Recreation, at 416-326-4370

All those looking to have a hand in shaping the landscape of Ontario combat sports law ought to take advantage of this invitation to ensure your voice is heard in encouraging the Ministry to make informed changes to the law.

I have previously highlighted why there is no proper framework for amateur MMA in Ontario and until appropriate post Bill S-209 laws are passed amateur MMA events cannot comply with section 83 of the Criminal Code.

Despite this it appears that some amateur Combat Sports events are taking place without government repercussions.  Pecker’d Promotions discusses at least two past MMA events on their website which apparently took place in 2013 after Bill S-209 was passed, namely the Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Championship Series 1 and 2 which are advertised to have taken place on November 13, 2013 and December 14, 2013 in Burlington and Brampton Ontario.  There are also video highlights published on YouTube:

I applaud efforts to grow amateur combat sports in Canada.  For this to happen effectively, however, a proper legal framework needs to be put in place.  Absent this those involved risk prosecution under the Criminal Code.  To my knowledge there have not been any prosecutions for the AMMACS events despite section 83 of the Criminal Code.  The question is why?  Is Ontario choosing to put their head in the sand when it comes to amateur MMA the way much of Canada did before Bill S-209 or, worse yet, is the government choosing to only selectively prosecute amateur MMA events at their discretion?

If the Government is looking the other way because they are now ok with amateur MMA they are going about it the wrong way.  There is no reason why amateur MMA can’t be legalized in Ontario and the Government can choose to follow either the BC Model, the Saskatchewan Model or carve their own path.  Until this is done those that participate in the sport are taking a gamble as to whether the authorities will seek to enforce the letter of the law.

Adding to this site’s archives addressing combat sports prosecutions in Canada, useful reasons for judgement were recently shared with me addressing charges under the Ontario Athletics Control Act dealing with an amateur kickboxing event.

In the unreported 2010 case (Her Majesty the Queen v. McNamara) the Defendants held two kickboxing bouts and were charged with “holding a professional contest or exhibition of boxing without the authority of a licence” under the Ontario Athletics Control Act.     The Court heard from Ken Hayashi, the Ontario Athletic Commissioner, who testified that he did not licence the event but also confirmed that he has no responsibilities in overseeing amateur events.  The Court also heard from the President of the Kickboxing Ontario Association (a voluntary Provincial Sport Organization) who testified that their organization did not sanction this event.

The Court found there was no evidence that the event was “professional” as defined in the statute and absent such evidence the jurisdiction of the Ontario Athletic Commissioner was not triggered.  Implicit in the judgement is that Kickboxing Ontario’s oversight was also not needed to be in compliance with the Athletics Control Act.  In granting a motion for non suit and dismissing the charges the Court provided the following reasons:

Well, it’s clear from the act that professionals are individuals who compete for a stake bet or public money.  The court heard nothing by way of evidence from the prosecution that the kickboxers, who were present for the two events from June 19, 2008 and September 28, 2008 were professional, licenced fighters.  There’s no evidence to conclude that.  And in order for the court to have this matter continue, it would’ve had to have heard that.  And that is an essential element to the charge.  So the motion for non-suit is grated.  The Court is going to dismiss the charges.

You can find a full copy of the reasons for judgement here – Her Majesty the Queen v. McNamara