This past Saturday night, the New Jersey State Athletic Commission scrapped a scheduled WSOF 5 semi-final middleweight tournament bout, between Elvis Mutapcic and Jesse Taylor, because one of Mutapcic’s corner men was found to be in possession (back stage) of a bottle of prescription medicines, which the commission had neither approved nor been informed of.
Further, it's been reported that an official connected with the event witnessed Mutapcic’s corner man administering one of the pills to Mutapcic, just prior to his fight.
Upon notification by one of the events Inspectors, NJSAC counsel Nick Lembo had the bottle retrieved and its contents examined by the event’s (ringside) physician. Discovered within the bottle were six different types of pills. An interview with one of Mutapcic’s corner men was conducted by three NJSAC officials and subsequent to that Q & A, the panel felt uncomfortable with allowing the fight to move forward.
Regarding the facts of the case, it appears that Mutapcic could well have been a victim of mistaken identity.
As it turns out, Mutapcic’s manager, who has a heart condition and appears to be the offending party in the debacle, was also doubling up as a corner man for his fighter that night, and it seems to be that a commission member mistook the two; manager for fighter. As such, it was reported to Lembo that Mutapcic had been seen taking a pill prior to the fight and as commission counsel, he took action. However, the commission member later recanted her story and stated that she never saw the fighter taking any pills.
Beyond that, there are no allegations from the Commission that the pills found in his manager’s possession were performance enhancers. Nor has it been demonstrated or established, that any drugs were in Mutapcic’s system. In furtherance of the point, Mutapcic immediately went to a local hospital and got himself tested for drugs. The (disclosed) results of that test came back negative. For their part and although not accusing Mutapcic of any improprieties, NJSAC has stated that any tests that were conducted would not conform to WADA testing and as such, are meaningless.
On the subject and to address concerns over the scratch, NJSAC has (today) released an official statement and at its core, appears to be the issue of protocols.
From the point of view of the commission the rules are clear, “fighters and corners should be aware of (the) published banned substances lists. Fighters are also responsible for what their chosen corners bring into the backstage area.”
In a nutshell, whether it’s the fighter directly or any member of his / her corner indirectly, a team must be aware of an event’s backstage prohibitions and must comply with the published rules. It’s that simple and apparently NJSAC takes the infraction seriously, and subsequently, has a zero tolerance level for infractions. On this point, what has happened to Mutapcic should stand as an example to all MMA fighters and regardless of the promotion that they fight for; know what your team has in its possession backstage at an event and know the published rules.
On a positive note, Mutapcic has not been banned or suspended by NJSAC, was paid his show money for the event (as was Taylor) and, in all likelihood, their match will probably be re-scheduled for next month’s WSOF 6, in Florida.
The full body of NJSAC’s official statement is as follows:
"It is always the least pleasing option for a Commission to cancel a contest, especially on fight night. We are very cognizant of the negative effect on the promotion, fighters and our fans. However, our first and foremost concern must always be the health and safety of the competitors and the integrity of the contest.
Simply put, there are substances which are permitted to be in the possession of the fighter and his or her corner; but there are a multitude of substances that are NOT allowed in the corner.
Fighters and corners should be aware of published banned substances lists Fighters are also responsible for what their chosen corners bring into the backstage area. Such may be why some promotions refuse to allow corners to even bring their own water, Vaseline, Gatorade or other items into the venue warm up areas.
This agency recovered substances which were not permissible to be in the corner, and which were never disclosed to the Commission in advance. Several different types of a cache of pills were found all located in one single prescription container.
The prescription bottle was noticed by an Inspector, the Inspector advised Nick Lembo of its presence. Next, Lembo went with the Inspector and Referee Dan Miragliotta to retrieve the bottle. The bottle was obtained, and was brought to cage side physicians. At that point, the corner man was questioned in the presence of three NJSACB representatives. Based on the recovered bottle as well as the conversation with the corner person, this agency was very uncomfortable with moving forward with the scheduled contest.
Again, a fighter and his corner team cannot bring any substances of their choosing into the locker room, especially when not declaring same. The dressing room and backstage area is a non-public, controlled area for an obvious purpose. That purpose is to limit the ability to allow an individual to provide an unfair advantage, mitigate later unfair advantage claims, and limit the ability to tamper with substances and equipment.
We have not yet been provided with any independent drug test results, but would be surprised if such testing included all substances on the WADA banned list, and was performed by an accredited lab. From what we have been told by reporters about this independent test, the number and types of substances tested for were minimal at best. Regardless, whether or not the banned substances were ingested, they were not permissible in the locker room area. These items were not allowed to be in the possession of the fighter or his corners. These items were not permissible to be kept without advance disclosure.”