March 7, 2000
The chipper, friendly Jim Cassidy always says that his job as
Executive Director of the Oregon State Police Boxing & Wrestling
Commission is to make boxing happen. A new local promoter, Spartan Media,
scheduled it's debut fight card for a Saturday, February 19th at the
Roseland Theater in downtown Portland, and Cassidy, as usual, worked hard
to help. Maybe a little too hard. His amiable eagerness to please made him
a patsy for a classic scam.
It started when the Spartan Media matchmaker, Thad Spenser, failed to
meet the Wednesday deadline for all fighters license applications and
medical reports to be in the Commission office. Cassidy obligingly moved
the deadline to Thursday morning, and then to Thursday afternoon, and then
to Friday morning. Say you're a referee and the guy doesn't get up by
ten, so you count to fifteen. If he still isn't up but his manager hollers
from the corner that he's GONNA get up, you count to twenty.
At 10 a.m. Friday, the day before the Saturday, Feb. 19 show,
Cassidy still did not have paper for most of the ten boxers scheduled for
the card. Reluctantly, Cassidy told inquiring reporters he only had two
bouts licensed and he had to cancel the show.
The promoter raised a ruckus. Fighters were already in the air, flying
into town from Las Vegas and California. Cassidy backed off again.
Sure enough, the fighters and their handlers checked into the Best
Western Hotel near the Convention Center in Portland and the necessary
papers started snowing onto Cassidy's desk, forty miles away in the state
capitol of Salem.
The weigh-in was scheduled for 7 p.m. that night at the Best Western,
and around 3:30 Cassidy notified reporters that the show would go on.
Shortly after 4 p.m. a standard drug screen report on one of the Vegas
fighters spewed out of Cassidy's FAX machine. It was from the Associated
Pathologists Laboratories in Las Vegas, the big, efficient lab that the
Nevada Commission prefers to work with. This particular Toxicology Report
from APL was on a 25 year-old Jr. Welterweight named Awel Abdulai, who was
scheduled to fight Mahon Washington the following night in a semi-main six
rounder. Unfortunately, Abdulai's test showed him positive for marijuana.
Under Oregon law he could not be licensed and could not fight.
Now the Oregon Commission used to be famous for being tough about drug
screens. The WWF and the WCW wouldn't set foot in the state because the
Commission requires wrestlers to pass the same drug tests as boxers. So,
Cassidy says, he immediately called the promoters office and told him what
had happened. Then, Cassidy says, "I called the hotel in Portland and
talked to the fighters' manager, Luis Tapia. Tapia said it couldn't be
true, his guy doesn't smoke. So I told him he'd better call the lab."
Within the hour, according to Cassidy, his FAX machine sputtered again
and out came a fresh APL report on Abdulai, this time listing him as
negative for all noxious substances including marijuana. With only five
bouts scheduled for the show, cancelling Abdulai's bout or finding a last
minute substitute would have caused problems, so this was a relief to all
concerned. Cassidy did not call the lab to confirm the negative report.
Cassidy weathered the chaotic weigh-in where, as has happened before,
the doctor, Dr. Louis Rios, the Commission Chair, appeared an hour and a
half late. The following night a modest little show took place for a small
but enthusiastic crowd. Awel Abdulai lost a six round decision to Mahon
Washington. Nobody got hurt. No visible catastrophes occurred.
The Trick Is....
Almost two weeks passed before Cassidy learned what actually happened
between the arrival of Abdulai's positive drug test and the moment the
commission fax chattered out that negative report.
This is all documented by Craig Brown, who manages the drug screening
department of Associated Pathologists Laboratories. It is corroborated by
phone bills from the Best Western Hotel in Portland, which show calls that
Friday to the Las Vegas lab.
Immediately after Cassidy notified the people at the hotel that
Abdulai was positive for marijuana and could not fight, somebody who knew
the special code issued by the lab to Abdulai for ordering his report,
called the lab from the hotel. Seventeen minutes after the lab faxed
Abdulai's positive report to the Oregon Commission, the lab faxed the same
report to the hotel. Another phone call went from the hotel to the lab and
fifteen minutes later, the lab faxed a different drug screen report to the
hotel. This was a completely clean, negative screen done on a fighter
named Jamal Hodges, who had gone into the APL lab along with Abdulai, and
had a urine specimen collected and tested at the same time. Hodges was
originally supposed to fight on the Portland card but no opponent had been
found for him. Hodges did not come to Portland, but whoever phoned from
the hotel to order his report had the special identifying code issued by
the lab for Hodges.
Some quick thinker now had a copy of Abdulai's positive report, with
his name and all his identifying info at the top, AND a negative report
with exactly the same format. Apparently, Craig Brown explains, someone
simply cut the top section off the Abdulai report and pasted it over the
Jamal Hodges info at the top of the negative report. Presto-bango, what
looked like a drug negative report for Abdulai was apparently faxed to
Cassidy in Salem. Cute and simple.
But if you look close, as Craig Brown of APL explains, you can tell
it's a fake. The labs' internal tracking number is different on the
positive report than on the negative report. That number identifies the
specimen and who it came from. Another give-away is the time printed by
the lab's fax machine as it sends. On a real report, the time at the top
of the page is the same as the time printed at the bottom of the page. On
the magically fabricated Abdulai negative report, the time at the top of
the page corresponds to the time the lab sent the Abdulai report to the
hotel. The time at the bottom of the page is the time when the lab sent
the negative Hodges report to the hotel.
How the Scam Came Out
Cassidy didn't discover this trick. It was tracked down by a
sharp-eyed young reporter for a local weekly who happened to be in
Cassidy's office doing research on a different boxing story a few days
after the show. (The kid reporters' newspaper insists that neither he nor
the paper be named because they think the rival daily might get tipped off
to the idea of doing a boxing story before his can run. Fat chance.) The
kid stumbled on the positive Abdulai report loose in a file and made a
copy of it. He got a copy of the negative report from Cassidy, and he
started investigating. He called the lab and showed Craig Brown the two
reports. Between them, the kid and Craig Brown figured it out. The lab
doesn't like its credibility being sabotaged by cut-and-paste collage
artists. Cassidy is amazed.
"I probably would not have thought anything of it at all had not [the
reporter] made some comment about it. Because it's just out of my realm of
thinking that somebody would falsify a report. Why would they think they'd
get away with it? Or they probably would have got away with it easily
because I probably wouldn't have delved into it now."
The fight took place. The fighter got paid. Everybody went home happy.
But Cassidy says he has a pretty good idea of who the scissor-wielding
"The ramifications that's going to come down," said Cassidy, "I don't
think it's going to be worth it for the few bucks that he got for
fighting. Because I"m sure the suspension will be on both him and his
manager and it'll be there, I'm pretty sure, until this thing is
So far, Cassidy says he has issued indefinite suspensions for the
Boxers, Awel Abdulai and Jamal Hodges, who wasn't in the state that
Luis Tapia, who handles both fighters and who worked Abdulai's corner
for the Portland show although he was not licensed by the Oregon
Commission. Cassidy says he just didn't get around to having him fill out
an application. Tapia was actually on the National Suspension List at the
time of that show, having been suspended by the Miccosukee Athletic
Commission in Florida in September of 1999 for non-payment of a $250 fine
for use of illegal substances in the corner. Don Hazelton of the M.A.C.
says Tapia has now paid his fine.
Also on Cassidy's suspension list is Stenado Dan Williams, AKA Danny
Stenado, the Washington resident who actually arranged all the bouts on
the card although he is not licensed as a matchmaker in Oregon, as is
required by state law. The phone calls from the hotel to the laboratory in
Las Vegas were billed to Stenado's hotel room.
One source who was present at the hotel during these shenanigans
assures us that the alteration of the documents did take place at the
hotel, that several people were aware that something funny was going on,
and that the actual cut-and-paste artist may be someone not yet mentioned
on the suspension list.
Understandably, Cassidy takes this sort of thing personally. "You bust
your butt trying to help these people," he says, "and then they crap on
you. Well, they crapped on the wrong man this time."
Cassidy says he's never run across anything like this before in his
one year tenure as Executive Director of the Oregon Commission. But if he
didn't know it could happen, how would he know if it's happened before?
Those official deadlines exist to allow time for information to be
verified. Certainly it could have been worse if the faked report were
hiding something not quite as silly as pot. A contagious disease, for
example, or a history of brain damage.
The knife-eyed kid reporter points out that he stumbled on the
positive toxicology report by sheer accident. Reporters don't normally
have access to medical reports, which are confidential. And, he points
out, just months ago Cassidy inadvertently allowed three boxers on the
National Suspension List to fight on a single card. That was another case
of deadlines waived and last minute urgency. And then there's the fact
that Luis Tapia wasn't licensed at all. The kid says, "It makes me wonder
what else is in those files that we don't know about."