Home Boxing News Tommy Morrison still seeks redemption and answers

Tommy Morrison still seeks redemption and answers

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The past 15 years have been difficult for former heavyweight boxing champion Tommy “The Duke” Morrison. Once on top of the world, he was allegedly diagnosed with HIV in 1996 and barred from the sport he loves. The only problem is that a decade and a half later, Tommy is not sick, has not succumbed to HIV, not succumbed to AIDS, has not taken medication and cannot get a straight answer from anyone regarding his current status or his 1996 test results.

After several years away from the ring, Morrison began an improbable comeback in 2007. Questions swirled: Was it a false positive in 1996? Did Tommy ever truly have HIV? How reliable are the two tests required by the Boxing Commissions which hold disclaimers from their manufacturers confirming they do not detect any such HIV infection? What do we really know about HIV?

Those questions all seem rather reasonable coming from an athlete who had his life and livelihood stripped from him.

Anyone given a death sentence should be entitled to both scientific and medical answers to their concerns.

Unfortunately, Tommy has had a tough time receiving any information or assistance from the boxing community or the manresponsible for co-discovering HIV, Dr Robert Gallo.

Morrison has been able to fight sporadically since the comeback began in 2007. For a fighter written off years ago,  expected to die by the time he got to his car and told to “get his house in order” he has done rather well.

In February of 2007 he defeated John Castle by 2nd round TKO in West Virginia. He followed that up in June of the same year with an MMA victory over Matt Stover in Arizona, and a September of 2008 3rd round TKO of Matt Weisharr in Mexico. His last professional appearance to date is a 1st round KO of Corey Williams in a Muay Thai matchup in Wyoming. Those victories put Morrison professional record of 48-3-1, 42 KO’s (Boxing), 1-0 (MMA) and 1-0 (Muay Thai).

If you include his post-diagnosis 1st round TKO over Marcus Rhode in Tokyo in November of 1996, that makes his overall fight record 5-0 since that dreadful day in February of 1996.

Supporters of Morrison are quick to point out that those five opponents are all currently in good health. None contracted HIV in the ring from Morrison, and the reason in Morrison’s mind is clear and plain and simple – he does not believe and has not received confirmation that he has a contagious virus, and says he has unsuccessfully reached out to the Nevada Boxing Commission, the ABC and Robert Gallo for explanation and guidance on his situation.

Now 42 years old, Morrison is more determined than ever to get back into the ring. He has seen several opportunities come and go over the years, due to skepticism over his health. Most recently, his fight in Montreal on February 25th, 2011 was cancelled, once again dealing “The Duke” a horrible setback. In numerous interviews with the media Morrison has openly stated that he has been ready to take a supervised blood test in front of the world that will detect the presence or absence of a contagious active HIV virus in his body.

Oddly enough though, obtaining such a test has been impossible thus far, even though Morrison claims to have made numerous requests to the FDA, CDC, ABC, Boxing Commissions,Quest Labs and Robert Gallo.

Current standard HIV tests used are called the Elisa and Western Blot (The Western Blot is no longer used in the UK.) The serious problem according to Morrison and many in the medical community and the manufacturers from the pharmaceutical companies themselves, is that both of these tests do not detect the presence of an active contagious virus in the human body but do detect numerous conditions not affiliated with an HIV virus – in fact they detect up to 80 other non-contagious ailments.

Morrison’s quest of late has been to obtain a test that will detect the absence or presence of an active contagious HIV virus itself and to obtain the actual results of his 1996 test. Both goals would seem simple, but yet he says he has been blocked on all fronts.

A short time ago, Morrison actually offered his WBO heavyweight belt – won by beating the legendary George Foreman – as a reward to anyone who could provide him with an actual HIV virus test. To date, no-one has been able to complete the task and claim the coveted prize. Morrison and his fans worldwide have even reached out to Robert Gallo and his staff for answers and guidance in finding such a test, also with no results. Everyone seems content to simply point to the Nevada Athletic Commission’s “verbal” test results from 1996 as ironclad evidence of being contagious in the ring. The only problem is that no one is able to produce the actual hardcopy results, the type of test used and their disclaimers, or which doctor made the alleged diagnosis.

Apparently APL laboratories in Las Vegas (now Quest) performed the test and forwarded the results to the Nevada Commission -and yet the Nevada Commission denies ever having received the results. When he began his comeback in 2007, a story was printed by USA Today which was then picked up globally by the media, stating:

Margaret Goodman, chair of the Nevada commission’s medical advisory board, was prompted to check on Morrison’s status after learning about his comeback. She said she contacted John Hiatt at the diagnostics clinic where Morrison was tested in 1996.
“At my request, Dr. Hiatt reviewed the archived results yet again,” Goodman said. “He says they [the positive results] are ironclad and unequivocal.”
Morrison contends that he’s been trying to get a copy of the original test results for the past 15 months.
“We’ve asked but they can’t come up with it,” he said. “I don’t think it ever existed.”
Goodman said that’s nonsense: “All Mr. Morrison has to do is contact the laboratory and they would immediately release the results to him.”

This is an odd statement considering that from 2007 until the present day, Morrison has requested the original test results and information from both the lab and the Commission, and his questions are yet to be answered. Morrison recently reached out to Quest Diagnostic Incorporated’s Counsel Faye Caldwell in 2011 for clarification on these comments made by Margaret Goodman and John Hiatt. Faye Caldwell responses in 2011 included:

“with regard to the statements ascribed to Margaret Goodman, relating to Dr. Hiatt, in the article “Morrison fights claims of recent positive HIV test” published in the online edition of the USA Today on June 22, 2007, Margaret Goodman contacted Dr. Hiatt regarding laboratory procedures for HIV testing.  Dr. Hiatt did not have a copy of your test results and did not provide any comments specifically related to your test results.  Rather, Dr. Hiatt explained the procedures of ELISA screening and Western Blot testing used to detect HIV antibodies.”

The average man would certainly be confused by these conflicting statements, especially as Margaret Goodman went public in the media with her statements and especially as she was not his official doctor, violating the strict HIPPAA Laws and the ABC protocol.

One would assume that such high-profile medical records would have been better safeguarded and documented. According to Morrison, “It is not good to be labeled as someone that may or may not be infected with the HIV VIRUS without 100% scientific proof – it has harmed my reputation and my career.”

I personally met up with Tommy Morrison in February of 2011 in Montreal and I admit I too would be afraid to enter the ring with him, not for fear of contracting a virus, but for fear of his sinister left hook. He looked to be in good shape for a man given a death sentence 15 years ago, and was ready to do battle until his bout was cancelled and he was replaced by the very boxer he fought in the ring and beat only three years prior.

Once and for all, Robert Gallo, the Nevada Commission and the ABC need to get on the same page and agree to sit down with Morrison and get to the bottom of things.

Until this happens, the circus atmosphere will continue and too many questions will remain unanswered.

It really is time to get to the bottom of this issue once and for all by providing Morrison and his camp with scientific proof of the presence of such a virus and an explanation as to why the ABC and the boxing commissions are requiring tests whose manufacturers are claiming do not detect HIV infection.

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