Joey Gilbert has been spending more time fighting his case outside the ring than fighting opponents inside it.
The Reno middleweight’s battle with the Nevada Athletic Commission has taken an ugly turn, after his attorney accused the commission of violating state law and acting unethically.
Gilbert, 32, also an attorney, was suspended after he tested positive for steroids and other banned substances following his Sept. 21, 2007, victory over Charles Howe in Reno.
On Wednesday, Gilbert was seeking to finally resolve his disciplinary case so he could resume his career. Gilbert, whose suspension is in its 10th month, was willing to accept a fine and have his suspension considered served. An earlier settlement offer, which did not include a fine, was rejected in May.
But the commission decided to have an in-person hearing next month in Reno.
Before that decision was voted on, Mark Schopper, Gilbert’s Reno-based attorney, demanded that Las Vegas commissioner Bill Brady recuse himself from the proceedings because Brady twice had solicited information from Las Vegas physician Dr. David Watson pertaining to Gilbert’s use of steroids and amphetamines. Schopper said Brady shared that information with the other commission members by e-mail.
Schopper said Brady cannot be objective in adjudicating Gilbert’s case. He also claims the e-mail exchange of information among the commissioners, which was done privately, violated Nevada’s Open Meeting Law.
Commission chairman John Bailey offered Brady an opportunity to step aside in the case, but he refused.
"I feel I can be impartial and fair," Brady said at Wednesday’s meeting.
Bailey said he didn’t think Brady was trying to break any laws to conspire against Gilbert.
"I think Bill was just trying to be as prepared as possible if we decided to discuss it and act on it," Bailey said.
Schopper also claims that commission executive director Keith Kizer has been involved after saying in January he would exclude himself from the case.
The e-mail from Watson to Brady was copied to Kizer and mentioned him. Kizer said he wasn’t sure why, and he insists he’s not involved with Gilbert’s case.
"It’s not about me, it’s never been about me, and I don’t know why Mr. Schopper is trying to make it about me," Kizer said.
Brady asked Watson for information about Gilbert’s amphetamine levels after the fighter tested positive. Watson, who has practiced in town for 11 years and serves as a ringside physician for the commission, told Brady that Gilbert’s levels for the banned substances were confirmed and that he had been warned in June 2007 not to ingest amphetamines within a week of competing.
Brady wanted clarification from Watson, who responded in a second e-mail. Watson attacked Gilbert, professionally and personally.
"Yes, he is beyond guilty, and as an attorney, he is a pathetic human being, a ‘nonathlete’ and put his opponent at risk unethically," Watson wrote to Brady.
Schopper then went on the attack.
"It’s as though they can do whatever they want," he said of the commission. "They have no protocols. They feel they’re above the law. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of it. Dr. Watson … was not at the fight, is not a toxicologist and is by no means qualified to be giving opinions on this matter."
Watson said Thursday the first e-mail was for public perusal, not the second. He did acknowledge he used a ”poor choice of words” in the second e-mail.
"The key is the first letter where he was told not to use those medications and he did not follow the commission’s advice,” Watson said. ”He put his opponent at great risk, and it’s absurd that he and his lawyer would now try to twist this into a circus by attacking me."
Gilbert remains under suspension and unable to compete. He said Thursday he’s totally frustrated.
"We’ve offered two separate settlements, and they rejected them," Gilbert said. "Whatever they’re going to do, just do it and get it over with."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913.