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GAB, DOH set free medical exams

MANILA, Philippines -  GAB chairman Abraham Mitra yesterday set a target date of Sept. 18 for the effectivity of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that the government agency signed with the Department of Health (DOH) to provide free medical examinations for boxers applying for a license or a renewal.

Last week, the technical staff of GAB and DOH met to finalize the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the MOA. “It will take, more or less, two weeks after the IRR is signed as DOH has to meet with heads of 25 government hospitals to inform them of the MOA and its IRR,” said Mitra. “No need for a law to be passed by Congress.” GAB is the government agency tasked to supervise professional sports under the Office of the President.

Once implemented, the MOA will cancel the GAB requirement of each boxer to undergo an annual CT-Scan for a license renewal. A CT-Scan costs anywhere between P1,200 to P2,000 to include the CD of a copy of the image. A medical clearance from an authorized government hospital will be the new requirement for a professional boxing license. To apply for a first-time license, an MRI is required to provide baseline data. Mitra said both the CT-Scan and MRI will be free of charge, according to the terms of the MOA.

Mitra said GAB recently cracked down on fighters turning in falsified or tampered CT-Scans. An internal investigation was supervised by GAB chief medical officer Dr. Radentor Viernes and uncovered anomalies. It was later discovered that fixers were paid a fee of P800 to use a “clear” CT-Scan template without actual examination for the purpose of a boxer securing the renewal of a GAB license.

Mitra said 150 fighters were found guilty of the anomaly and promptly, suspended. However, he gave them a chance to reapply. So far, only 32 of the 150 have resubmitted genuine CT-Scans to comply with GAB’s requirements. Mitra said if the 118 remaining boxers fail to comply, they will be stricken off the GAB rolls and lose eligibility for the monthly GAB ratings. Suspended boxers who are rated were given 30 days to comply from last month’s GAB ratings committee meeting. Failure to comply will mean losing their ratings.

Dr. Viernes explained that every boxer will be given a two-tier medical exam. “The first tier is basic, like ECG, chest X-Ray, complete blood count, urinalysis and drug testing while the second tier is neurological where if necessary, a CT-Scan or MRI will be made,” Dr. Viernes explained. A boxer who is contracted to fight for a world title will be provided additional services, including eye examination and HIV and hepatitis C screening.

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“All boxers will get free medical check-ups and if tests show they need a CT-Scan or MRI, that will also be provided for free,” said Mitra. “If a provincial hospital is not equipped to perform the examinations, then the boxer will be referred to the regional hospital. From what I’m told, once the MOA becomes effective and free medical exams are available, we could get over 1,000 applicants for new licenses and renewals. I think this is a boost to professional boxing.”

Mitra said the initiative wouldn’t have been possible without the support of DOH secretary Paulyn Rosell-Ubial. “I’m very excited about this,” said Mitra. “We’re not only promoting professional boxing but also ensuring the overall health and welfare of our fighters. We’re grateful to Secretary Ubial for making it happen.”

For her part, Ubial said, “I assure our dedicated professional boxers that DOH welcomes this ongoing partnership with GAB which aims to secure their overall well-being in the practice of this profession.”

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