Arkansas commission implements blood testing after HIV-positive boxer allowed to fight
LITTLE ROCK (KATV) —
The Arkansas Athletic Commission will make blood tests for certain communicable diseases mandatory for boxing matches and other combat sports beginning next week, a measure taken after the agency learned that a boxer with HIV had been allowed to fight last month.
At a meeting Tuesday at the Arkansas Department of Health, the commission approved a motion to require testing for HIV and three types of hepatitis beginning with a fight Dec. 16 in Fort Smith and for all state-sanctioned bouts afterward. A written rule on mandatory blood testing has been drafted and will take effect later, according to the commission.
A motion to require blood testing sooner, beginning with a mixed martial arts fight Saturday in Batesville, failed to pass. Commissioners were concerned that there wasn’t enough time to test the participants.
Arkansas had been the only state in the country that did not require such testing, according to the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combat Sports.
The state’s boxing and combat-sport regulations have come under scrutiny in recent weeks after ESPN reported that a boxer with HIV had been allowed to participate in a fight Nov. 11 in Camden.
Mike Mazulli, director of the Association of Boxing Commissions, reportedly warned Arkansas officials about the boxer’s HIV status before the fight. Mazulli said he also provided documentation showing that Florida had suspended the boxer, who has not been publicly identified, over a positive HIV test.
The Arkansas Athletic Commission said the boxer was allowed to fight after he provided medical records showing that he did not have a communicable disease. A commission investigation later found that the records had been falsified.
“We’re looking at pursuing this matter with the appropriate authorities that could look into such matters as falsification of public documents,” commission attorney Reginald Rogers said Tuesday.
Court records show no charges had been filed against the boxer late Tuesday.
Arkansas Athletic Commission records show that the Association of Boxing Commissions wasn’t the first to warn them that a boxer with a communicable disease had been scheduled on the four-match card in Camden. Lydia Robertson, an Arkansas boxing inspector, told the group at a commission meeting Oct. 17 but refused to name the boxer.
“She did everything she was supposed to do,” Robertson’s attorney, Jason Stuart, said Tuesday. “Whether she provided the name or not, the Arkansas Department of Health is charged with protecting the safety and welfare of all Arkansans.”
The proposed testing guidelines state that fight participants must pass a blood test administered no later than 180 days before the fight. Commissioners on Tuesday discussed revising that time period to 60 days. The group also discussed ways to ensure the legitimacy of test results, such as obtaining them directly from a testing agency instead of boxers or promoters.
Commissioner Daniel Dring said an agency investigation is ongoing. He said officials will review the fight in Camden, as well as past boxing matches, to determine how many people the HIV-positive boxer could have exposed to the disease.
“We’ve never had this issue,” Dring said. “It’s horrible that it happened, that somebody intentionally falsified records.”