BY MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO " After nearly 11 months of charges and counter-charges between Reno middleweight Joey Gilbert and the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the two parties hammered out an agreement Tuesday that will allow the 32-year-old boxer to get back in the ring.
At an in-person hearing at the Reno City Council Chamber, the commission, Gilbert and deputy attorney general Christopher Eccles modified an amended stipulated agreement that calls for a $10,000 fine, 40 more days of temporary suspension and Gilbert's one-round technical knockout of Charles Howe to be changed to a no-decision.
After some negotiating between the two sides, Gilbert, who initially tested positive for six banned substances, had to take responsibility for only one: a single metabolite (out of a possible three) of Stanazolol, a steroid.
"I commend you " in particular the lawyers and Mr. Gilbert " for coming together and meeting a consensus for what is appropriate," said NSAC chairman John R. Bailey, of Las Vegas, after the two parties came to an agreement, which also calls for Gilbert to submit to future random drug and steroid testing in addition to providing a clean urinalysis before his reinstatement on Sept. 22. "I'm just appreciative that we're going to get this behind us and move forward. As (commissioner Bill D.) Brady indicated, I am also looking forward to Mr. Gilbert fighting again and becoming a valiant leader not in only in Reno but the entire state of Nevada."
Gilbert, whose record is now 15-1 with 11 knockouts, was upbeat following the hearing.
"I absolutely do feel vindicated," said Gilbert, who won three national championships as a member of the University of Nevada club boxing team. "I feel vindicated for one reason: Commissioner (Raymond "Skip") Avansino brought up being a leader for the kids here in town and whatnot. As (Gilbert's attorney Mark Schopper) stated and what I brought up to him, leadership is oftentimes doing what is not easy. On day one I had to say to myself that I did not use methamphetamine; I did not knowingly pick up a bottle of steroids or something crazy like that and think, 'This a good idea.'
"It was tough. Every month someone would jump off the bandwagon and say I needed to get over it. I'd just say, 'No, I need to sit in front of them (the commission) and state my case.'"
The commission also had its say, in spite of not pursuing charges in five of the banned substances. (The methamphetamine charge was dismissed after Gilbert's B sample came back negative in December and the other four substances derived from prescribed drugs).
"Your intent is irrelevant. What is important for our purposes is what was found in your body," Bailey told Gilbert. "You are the one that is responsible for what goes in your body and you will be the one that will be responsible if something prohibited by this commission is found in your body."
Gilbert, who had claimed he took 72 supplements before his fight with Howe, said he has quit all prescribed medications and carefully researches and consults a toxicologist on what supplements he continues to take.
A fighting-trim Gilbert, who said he weighed around 172 pounds and intends to fight within a week after his temporary suspension is lifted, also said this negative experience has had some otherwise unintended consequences.
"This down time has been positive in many ways," Gilbert said. "It's brought me closer to a lot of key leaders in the state; it's brought me closer to my family; it's brought me closer to good friends. You definitely find out who your friends are and who is truly behind you. I'm grateful for that."
Brady, in particular, made a conciliatory overture to Gilbert. Brady had been the recipient of an inflammatory e-mail that was sent to him by NSAC ringside physician David L. Watson and made public. Among other things, Watson referred to Gilbert as "a pathetic human being."
"I want to apologize to you for things that might have come out in the press of a personal nature against you that were not intended to be in the press," Brady said to Gilbert. "It was private correspondence between members of the commission that got public. They were not intended to be unkind, but I think they were. If the public might have judged you unfairly, I apologize."
Gilbert, who was stripped of his North American Boxing Organization (NABO) and WBC-affiliated United States National Boxing Championship middleweight belts, said he's ready to jump back into the deep end of the pool.
"We're not going to come back in and take tune-up fights," Gilbert said. "I'm in shape and I stayed in shape for a reason. We may get in there (for a tune-up bout) one time, but it's time to go. I lost a year. I'm going to make it up. And I'm not going to make it up by getting opponents I can walk through.
"That's not to say anything about who I've fought recently. Charles Howe just went 10 rounds with (middleweight contender) John Duddy. We trained very hard and we trained to be the best, so I'm looking forward to coming back to the ring and moving quickly. I want my rankings back and I want my belts back and now I want everyone else's belts, too."
Gilbert, a licensed attorney who plans on promoting again eventually, also said his past experience at achieving at a high level would help him to come back strong.
"The best thing about being slammed down as hard as I was is that I'll be able to bounce up higher than I was," Gilbert said. "I've been to the top of the mountain. I like it there. Anyone who says it's lonely at the top might not have been at the top. I want to get back on top and charge that hill again."
In another 40 days or so, Gilbert will get that chance.