Maryland has become the ninth state to make testing for the AIDS virus mandatory for professional fighters and kick-boxers licensed by the state.
The Maryland State Athletic Commission, headed by chairman D. Chester O'Sullivan, voted unanimously Thursday night to require annual blood tests for AIDS and highly contagious Hepatitis B no more than 30 days before a first-time licensee or a boxer seeking a license renewal will be allowed to fight within the state limits.
Under the new regulations, fighters currently holding state HTC licenses will be required to take the tests at their cost.
Commission secretary Patrick Pannella recommended instituting the AIDS tests in Maryland after former heavyweight contender Tommy Morrison tested positive for HIV before his scheduled bout against Arthur Weathers on a Las Vegas card Feb. 10.
Morrison has been banned from fighting.
At the time, Nevada, Oregon and Washington were the only states that administered AIDS tests to fighters. Georgia, New Mexico, Utah, Massachusetts, Arizona and now Maryland have followed suit.
"The safety of the boxers is our main concern, and also boxing officials and ringside spectators who may be in jeopardy," said Pannella. "I consulted with a number of leading health officials in the state, and they believe a yearly AIDS test will provide sufficient protection."
Formal approval of the new regulations will not take place in time for a show scheduled at Martin's West on March 20, featuring heavyweights Sam Hampton and Jason Waller.
Last week, Del. Joan Pitkin (D-Prince George's) introduced Emergency Bill 1396 to the state legislature. It would make AIDS testing mandatory for state-licensed fighters every three months.
The hearing date is March 20 in the House Environmental Matters Committee.
"I believe my bill served as a model for the Maryland commission," said Pitkin, who a few years ago initiated a bill that made neurological exams mandatory for boxers. "I'm proud of the fact that Maryland has been at the forefront for testing boxers."