Iain Kidd spoke with Ohio Athletic Commission executive director, Bernie Profato to find out why 23 fighters were recently suspended for falsifying bloodwork, and how the deception was uncovered.
BluegrassMMA.com was the first to report a large number of fighters had been suspended in Ohio for falsifying bloodwork during the licensing process, though some of the fighters originally named in that report were not actually involved in the scandal.
Twenty three fighters have been implicated in the scandal so far—21 amateurs and two professionals—though Ohio Athletic Commission (OAC) executive director Bernie Profato believes there is a possibility that a small number of other fighters may still emerge.
“I’m hoping it’s ended. Do I think it has ended? I think it’s possible there are one or two other fighters out there, but I’m hoping not.”
The 23 fighters involved, who are listed at the bottom of the article, were named by Gary Young, the matchmaker for the Primetime MMA promotion who provided the falsified documents to the OAC.
Mr. Young agreed to cooperate with the investigation in return for an agreement from the attorney general not to press criminal charges over the matter. Mr. Profato explained the decision not to pursue criminal charges at this time in exchange for details of the athletes involved:
“Commission priority is the safety and welfare of the athletes performing in Ohio, that’s the first objective. What we want to do is make sure that all these guys, or anyone else he did it for that we don’t know about, are tested and are clean. That was our first priority. The investigation is still ongoing.
If we find out the matchmaker wasn’t truthful, or there were more people involved, criminal charges could still be on the table.”
The bloodwork that was falsified is intended to check for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. These diseases are all communicable by blood. Fortunately, all 23 named athletes have since been checked, and all tested negative for the diseases.
The deception was initially uncovered by Mr Profato and his secretary, Judy McCarty.
“My secretary, Judy McCarty, noticed inconsistencies. Judy has been in the office longer than I have, and there isn’t a better secretary in the country. She looked at one of the [falsified tests] and she brought it in to me to look at, because it didn’t look right to her. I’m a former police officer, I like to investigate things, so I called the doctor and he said ‘I’m a neurosurgeon, I haven’t done a blood test since medical school.’”
From there, the investigation expanded and eventually matchmaker Gary Young’s name came to the fore. After being informed he was under investigation, Mr. Young’s attorney agreed to provide a notarized confession detailing everyone involved in exchange for no criminal charges being filed.
Under the terms of the deal, if it is discovered later that Mr Young omitted any involved people from his affidavit, he could still face criminal charges.
As a result of the investigation, all 23 fighters are suspended and must appear before the commission to explain their actions before they have the possibility of being licensed again in future.
“All the fighters knew that if no person stuck a needle in their arm and withdrew blood, then they didn’t get a blood test. The two professionals [in particular] should have known better.
The fighters have all been suspended indefinitely and were notified they will remain suspended until they make arrangements to appear before the Commission. If they don’t do that, their careers in unarmed combat sports that includes MMA, boxing, kickboxing, etc are over.”
The fraud was committed using several “templates” filled to appear like legitimate documents. The old procedure in place in Ohio, and in basically every athletic commission around the country, allowed promoters, matchmakers or fighters to deliver copies of their required medicals to the commission.
After this incident and a similar one over a decade ago which saw two promoters suspended for life, the OAC is now insisting on receiving the bloodwork directly from the lab or doctor’s office which performed them.
“Now we won’t accept bloodwork from matchmakers, fighters or promoters, only directly from a doctor’s office or lab.
[One exception is] If you have bloodwork from [a commission in] Canada or any state in the US, we’ll accept it within that year, but you’ll only get a 30-90 day license.”
The confirmed list of fighters with fraudulent bloodwork is listed below. The original report on BluegrassMMA.com contained some names not listed below. Mr. Profato explained that the OAC did not provide the list used by BluegrassMMA.com. The individuals named by BluegrassMMA.com but not listed below, were thoroughly investigated by the OAC and their medical documents were confirmed as legitimate with the lab which provided them.