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Nevada Athletic Commission Modifies Drug Testing Policy, Joins Brain Study

The Nevada state athletic commission on Tuesday slightly modified its drug testing policy, requiring additional analysis to blood tests that may indicate use of performance-enhancing drugs.

During a meeting on the subject, NSAC moved to require hemoglobin and hematocrit tests, which can indicate blood doping or PED use. Fighters are already required to submit to annual blood tests for licensing with a focus on infectious diseases.

The hemoglobin and hematocrit tests would essentially test blood for for unusual levels of red blood cell percentages. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine's National Institute of Health, a normal test for men is between 40.7 and 50.3 percent while for women it's 36.1 to 44.3 percent.

Standard urine tests for anabolic steroids, T/E ratio, masking agents and diuretics will also remain in use.

In April, NSAC explored further blood testing that would help detect the use of human growth hormone. Travis Tygart, the chief executive officer of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, had argued for more strenuous testing that would be more likely to catch those who used designer drugs, but Robert Voy, formerly the chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic committee, helped dissuade HGH blood testing, telling commissioners that to date, the testing was still "not effective" and "unreliable."

The commission made one other change, requiring an immediate steroids test to anyone seeking an exemption for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).

TRT is allowed for athletes with low testosterone levels as long as they can prove they have a legitimate medical condition and have an accompanying doctor's note. Fighters are still tested for T/E ratio to ensure they are not gaining a competitive advantage, and the accompanying steroids test will serve a similar purpose.

Perhaps the most important long-term development, though, came through an agreement the commission reached with the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, in conjuction with the Cleveland Clinic, to conduct free testing for mixed martial artists and boxers.

The two medical centers will partner for a "five-to-10-year" project that is designed to advance the study of brain trauma, concussive injury and neurological health among athletes. Fighters would receive annual physicals, including brain scans, to aid in the collection of data.

Fighter participation will be voluntary for the study, the cost of which is covered by outside funding.

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