Nearly 150 Filipino boxers found to have falsified brain scans – GAB

Agence France-Presse
Nearly 150 Filipino boxers found to have falsified brain scans – GAB
Approximately 150 professional boxers have been found to have submitted falsified brain scan results

MANILA, Philippines – Approximately 150 professional boxers in the Philippines have been banned for falsifying brain scan results aimed at detecting serious head injuries in the sport, regulators said Tuesday. 

The government has been imposing strict medical testing procedures following the deaths of several Filipino boxers from injuries sustained in professional fights in previous years. 

“The welfare and safety of our boxers is part of our mandate. We do not want any more boxing deaths,” Games and Amusements Board (GAB) chairman Abraham “Baham” Mitra told reporters Tuesday. 

The ban means one in 7 of the country’s 1,054 Filipino professional boxers are not allowed to step in the ring until the matter is clarified, the country’s sports regulator said. 

The board found 150 boxers had submitted “fake” CT scan results this year, apparently because they could not afford an actual test, the board’s medical officer Radentor Viernes told AFP.

Mitra tells Rappler that Viernes submitted a list of 120 boxers with suspicious records, with an additional 21 reported by the Davao branch. He adds that the GAB will visit Olivarez General Hospital to check on “conflicting reports” of 7-9 additional boxers.

“So far wala naman denied licenses for those who complied because they are licensed already. We just did not allow them to fight again unless they submitted an authentic CT scan.”

About half of those blacklisted have since submitted the required medical examinations and the ban against them will be reviewed, Mitra said. 

The board is also investigating the involvement of other parties in the CT scan fraud, he added. 

In 2012 the undefeated flyweight Karlo Maquinto, aged 21, collapsed and later died from a brain injury after only his ninth pro fight, having rallied from two early knockdowns to salvage a majority draw against a Filipino opponent.

Two other Filipino professional boxers also died from ring injuries in 2005 and 2008, Mitra said.  

Apart from the boxing deaths, Viernes said the board had also refused to renew the licenses of 5 other boxers due to brain injuries or fluid build-up in the past 5 years since the GAB mandated annual brain scans as part of licensing procedures.

Four of them had been diagnosed with “minute hemorrhage” from blood vessels in the brain, believed to have been sustained in previous fights, while the fifth had brain edema, Viernes added. 

The scandal first opened up in July when several scans emanating from a single clinic in Batangas were found to have the same control numbers.

(READ: GAB ‘blacklists’ 70 boxers for submitting fake CT scans)

The Philippines is a boxing hotbed that has produced the likes of legendary Manny Pacquiao, winner of world titles in an unprecedented 8 different weight divisions.

For many in the impoverished Asian nation, Pacquiao is an icon and role model and prizefighting offers one of the shortest tickets to fame and fortune for young Filipino males. 

However, Mitra said many success-starved Filipino fighters were earning puny prizes and could not afford CT scans that the health ministry says cost at least 6,000 pesos ($170) or the more expensive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans costing almost 3 times as much.

“We’ve been criticized for being too strict but still that’s our job and we maintain it that way,” he added. 

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial told reporters Tuesday the government had no plans to outlaw boxing, only to “regulate” it.

To help the hard-up boxers and prevent more boxing deaths, Mitra and Ubial announced Tuesday that government hospitals will in future offer free medical tests to Filipinos applying for professional boxing licenses. – with additional reports from Ryan Songalia/Rappler.com

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