NSAC approves tougher doping penalties

LAS VEGAS -- The Nevada State Athletic Commission unanimously approved several amendments to its anti-doping practices Friday, including a guideline that calls for a three-year suspension for first-time abusers of anabolic steroids.

The policies do not go into effect immediately, as the NSAC requires a certain amount of time to formally amend its regulations. The commission hopes that all changes will go into effect by Sept. 1.

In addition to longer suspensions for banned substances, the NSAC set higher fine amounts -- in extreme cases, 100 percent of a fighter's purse. Traditionally, first-time offenders have been suspended for nine months to one year and fined 30 percent.

Failed tests conducted on the night of a fight will now result in a loss on the athlete's record. Prior to the amendment changes, athletes who failed a test after winning a fight saw that result changed to a no-contest.

"This was a team effort by all the commissioners to enforce what we believe to be what's best for the athlete," NSAC chairman Francisco Aguilar told ESPN.com. "We are ensuring fighters can come to Nevada and have a fair chance."

Acknowledging the significant increase in penalties, commissioner Anthony Marnell said Nevada is basically telling its athletes it has a "zero-tolerance policy."

Among other additions unanimously adopted by the commission: an encouragement of all professional combat athletes who could compete in Nevada to apply for a license at the beginning of the year, a request to licensed promoters for a copy of the company's anti-doping policies and an increase in the amount of out-of-competition tests conducted by the NSAC.

The NSAC will continue to use the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned substance list but will refrain from adopting the full WADA code. The commission feels that allows it to modify certain elements of its drug-testing protocols specifically for combat sports.

As an example, the NSAC voted to add stimulants, such as cocaine, to its out-of-competition banned substance list, whereas WADA considers cocaine a banned substance only within 12 hours of an event.

Aguilar stressed the new policies will not eliminate an athlete's right to due process. In the event of a failed test for multiple substances, for instance, athletes will still have the right to a judiciary process in the form of a hearing, Aguilar said.

"I think that's something we'll continue to work out," Aguilar said. "It's important that, as we implement these, the athlete is still entitled to due process. Part of that due process is they are entitled to present their case. When we have to deal with these issues, it's not always a straight line."

No federal regulatory body oversees combat sports in the U.S., although the NSAC is traditionally a trend-setter on a wide range of regulatory issues. It is unclear at this time whether other state athletic commissions will adopt similar penalties for drug-related offenses.