Archive for the ‘Edmonton Combative Sports Commission’ Category

Following a first round disqualification loss due to an intentional head butt at World Series of Fighting 18, Cody McKenzie was handed a 3 month licence suspension by the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission.

Cody McKenzie Head Butts Andrew McInnes WSOF 18

McKenzie appealed the decision and his appeal was dismissed this week with the Hearing Panel holding as follows:

In his February 26, 2015 e-mail to the Executive Director the appellant stated ‘when I made the choice to headbutt my opponent I broke the Unified Rules of MMA and I accept the loss that I received because of it’.  Nonetheless the Appellant submits that he should not be subject to suspension, or, in the alternative, should have his suspension reduced based on a number of factors…

The Appellant has not demonstrated an error that has been made which requires correcting.  An Appellant has not providing any evidence that there has been a misapplication of the rules and regulations.  The evidence that has been provided by the Appellant has not provided a sufficient basis to amend the decision of the Executive Director.

For these reasons, the Commission confirms the suspension by the Executive Director.  The suspension was made after witnessing the infraction and was made in consultation with presiding ECSC officials.  Sufficient grounds to reduce the suspension have not been provided by the Appellant

A full copy of the Appeal Decision can be found here – Cody McKenzie ECSC Appeal Decision.  I’d like to thank Mike Russell for sharing this with me.

McKenzie’s only avenue to further challenge the decision would be to seek judicial review by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.  The suspension would be served in full before a judicial review can realistically take place making this an unlikely avenue for McKenzie.

Interestingly, an analysis of Edmonton’s Combative Sports Bylaw show a gap which may make them vulnerable to Judicial Review and just as the Nevada State Athletic Commission should consider legislative overhaul following the Wanderlei Silva affair, the ECSC should look to review their bylaws addressing licence suspension.

The reason being is that the Commission suspended McKenzie’s licence after it was already expired, a remedy which may not survive judicial challenge.

Section 6(2) of Bylaw 15594 states that “A Licence issued to a Contestant is only valid only forth Event specified in this Licence”.

The ECSC relied on section 16 of the Bylaw to suspend McKenzie’s licence which reads “The Executive Director may revoke, suspend, refuse to issue or renew, or imposition of conditions on any Licence or Event Permit if, in the opinion of the Executive Director, it is in the public interest to do so”.

Here is the issue– McKenzie’s licence expired after the event took place.  The ECSC then ‘suspended’ it.   You cannot revoke or suspend a licence that is no longer valid.   You also cannot impose conditions on a licence that is already invalid.  The commissions powers appear limited to “refuse to issue or renew” a licence if McKenzie was to apply for a new one.

This is a legislative gap.  The Bylaw should be amended to reflect this.  It is a technical argument, not a sympathetic one (much like the Wanderlei Silva judicial review underway in Nevada right now after he was punished for running from an out of competition drug test).  The Bylaw is poorly written for situations such as this one and amendment should be considered.

Update October 12, 2014 – the ECSC has released their official Bout Results and these include an Indefinite Suspension for Ford noting a “fractured right forearm“.

Update November 5, 2014 – It is reported that the ECSC has suspended Ford for 6 months due to the below conduct.

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Following the World Series of Fighting’s card in Edmonton on October 11, 2014 it was widely reported that Ryan Ford, a fighter not unfamiliar with controversy, entered the bout with a pre-existing fractured arm.  Ford lost via first round rear-naked choke.

The pressing regulatory question is who, other than Ford, knew of this fracture and what consequences will these individuals face?

Ford clearly knew of the extent of the injury as evidenced by this video filmed over a week prior to the bout:

The Edmonton Combative Sports Commission, the regulatory body overseeing this event, requires pre-bout medical information to be disclosed from combatants.  If this information was hidden from the commission Ford and his handlers are in breach of their duties to the regulator.  While a fighter’s ‘the show must go on‘ attitude is understandable with their livelihood depending on it, from a regulatory perspective this cover up calls for disciplinary consequences.

The above video apparently was published prior to the bout.  If the WSOF or other licensed entities with the ECSC knew about this pre-existing injury and failed to bring it to the commissions attention the sport’s integrity requires a wide disciplinary net being cast in order to send a message of general deterrence.  Athletic Commissions exist first and foremost for combatant safety.  Any steps that threaten the integrity of this vital role must be met with strict consequences.

ESCS Logo

Last week, while browsing  TopMMANews, I read that the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission announced an “MMA Fighter of the Year” for 2013.

I noticed this was written in the April Fool’s day edition of the Rumour Mill so I chalked it up to a gag.   Curiosity got the best of me, however, and I searched the ECSC’s website to see if they actually hand out annual awards and to my surprise the answer is yes.  While their website says nothing verifying the rumoured 2013 selection, their “News” section highlights at least one past such award show.  The 2011 press release discusses awards in the following categories:

  • The Athlete of the Year in boxing
  • The Athlete of the Year in MMA
  • The Athlete of the Year in professional wrestling

The press release goes on to note that “Each year the ECSC also reviews nominations for induction into the ECSC Honour Roll for either lifetime achievement or for an outstanding athletic accomplishment.

There is nothing wrong with recognizing excellence in the performance of sport.  I make no comment on any of the ECSC’s choices.  What is noteworthy, however is that a government regulator is hosting an awards show recognizing those that they regulate.  Imagine being a licensed combatant facing an opponent that the government regulator has deemed to be an “athlete of the year“.  If this does not amount to actual bias it at the very least, from my perspective, creates an appearance of bias.

I find it difficult to find a parallel to this situation but it seems akin to a Judge announcing ‘lawyer of the year‘ awards or to a Government Liquor Control Board handing out ‘Pub of the year‘ trophies.  If I appeared before a judge that bestowed a “lawyer of the year” honour on my opposing colleague I would have little difficulty removing that judge from the case based on a reasonable apprehension of bias.   There is simply no place for a regulator to engage in such activity.

Combative Sports commissions exist to regulate sport.  There is no room for blurring the lines of oversight by picking favorites.  While there is a time and a place for recognizing excellence in combat sports, Government regulators should not fill such a role if for no other reason than that of appearances.

Last month I highlighted the Manitoba Combative Sports Commission’s practice of releasing minimal information when dealing with fighter injuries.  I discussed why this is likely the legally correct thing to do not to mention a practice that is in the fighter’s best interests.

Moving a few Provinces west, today I look at the  Edmonton Combative Sports Commission which chooses to provide somewhat more detail when releasing official event results.  To take the latest example, following AFC 19 the Edmonton Commission’s official results hand out an indefinite suspension to Ryan Ford who won the AFC’s welterweight title via rear naked choke.  He apparently fractured his right arm in the first round before battling on to a 5th round victory.  The official results specifically note that Ryan suffered a “fractured right forearm“.  This information has been shared with other Commissions and also, I am advised, various media outlets.

Ryan Ford has not been shy about his injury openly discussing it at TopMMANews.com and even releasing a picture of the X-ray depicting the fracture:

Ryan Ford Forearm Fracture Xray

The AFC 19 official results released by the ECSC also highlight another right wrist injury requiring an X-ray which I don’t see being publicly discussed by the fighter involved.

While fighters are free to openly discuss the details of their injuries are Commissions free to do so as well?    Is it legally ok for the ESCS to share this information with the media?  Probably not.   Here’s why –

Edmonton’s Combative Sports Bylaw deals with releasing injury information.  Section 6(4)(d) requires licensed fighters to consent to the release of suspensions reading as follows:

the Contestant consents to the Commission notifying the Contestant’s governing bodies and other commissions regulating Combative Sports that a medical suspension was issued and the duration of the medical suspension.

Section 15 goes on to specifically allow the Commission to report medical suspensions.  The section reads as follows:

The Executive Director must forward the results of an Event, including all medical suspensions issued to Contestants, to the relevant governing bodies and other commissions regulating Combative Sports not more than forty-eight (48) hours after the Event

There are a few points of interest here.  The legislation requires medical suspensions to be released, however, injury details do not have to be released.  While the public always likes more information, unless a government organization is compelled to share such information they should be cautious in doing so.  Second, the Bylaw only allows the commission to share this with “relevant governing bodies and other commissions regulating Combative Sports“.  An exception for media is not made.

Alberta, like most of Canada, has Provincial privacy legislation on the books.  The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act creates strict requirements about what information government organizations are free to share.  This legislation specifically prohibits personal information being shared with others except in limited circumstances.  Section 17 of the act reads as follows:

“The head of a public body must refuse to disclose personal
information to an applicant if the disclosure would be an
unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy”

Medical details are presumed to be “an unreasonable invasion” of a fighter’ privacy with section section 17(4) of the Act stating as follows:

A disclosure of personal information is presumed to be an
unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy if
(a) the personal information relates to a medical, psychiatric or
psychological history, diagnosis, condition, treatment or
evaluation.

I reached out to Edmonton Commissioner Pat Reid for feedback on his elected approach. He advises as follows:

I like our process – like I said “protecting fighters against themselves” we have caught LOTS of fighters trying to come here who are already injured, hoping to get by the weigh in and then get in the cage and with the first punch they claim an injury and therefore medical treatment locally (free).  

 So I think it makes sense to let other commissions’ ringside physicians know what to look out for.

 Another compelling (supportive) factor to our approach – the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) makes public any positive drug test results (they even end up on public lists and in the paper), so if it is good enough for the “World” body (giving out personal medical information to inform others) then it’s good enough for us.

While there may be some valid points here these do not get around provincial legislative privacy protections. Canadian Commissions should be cautious in releasing injury details to the public at large.  Medical suspensions must be shared with other commissions with enough detail to allow them to make an informed decision about whether a fighter should be licensed, the public at large should not be given the injury details underlying the the suspension by a Commission who only get access to these confidential health details by virtue of their statutory powers.