Canelo Alvarez Exonerated? Does It Even Matter?

By Paul Magno on April 30, 2018
Canelo Alvarez Exonerated? Does It Even Matter?
Fans will hate their targets forever, no matter what happens in or out of the ring. (Getty)

Boxing fans are a stubborn lot and once they decide that someone is persona non grata, there’s little anyone can do to budge them from their opinion…

You can round up all the YouTube conspiracy theory investigative videos and Facebook-ready memes you like, but not even a steaming, mountain-sized pile of it amounts to actual proof of anything.

We all should know that, right?

Boxing fans, though, are a stubborn lot and once they decide that someone is persona non grata, there’s little anyone can do to budge them from their opinion—even if something huge comes along that should shake the very foundation of their bias.

This certainly seems the case when it comes to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and the two positive tests for clenbuterol he registered in February.

As I wrote over at in this Monday’s Notes from the Boxing Underground column:

“On March 29, Alvarez had his hair tested at the WADA-accredited Sports Medicine Research & Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City. According to the results, which were apparently shared with ESPN, Alvarez came back clean—something which seems to destroy the case for doping and support the fighter’s claim of accidental ingestion via contaminated meat.

“In his coverage of this story, ESPN’s Dan Rafael reached out to and got this statement from the authoritarian doping in sports site: ‘Clenbuterol, like many other substances, accumulates in very small amounts in hair follicles. If an athlete has taken the substance over a period of time in the past, his/her hair test might return a positive for a period of six months or longer. Conversely, if the clenbuterol resulted from a single incident, in which the subject had eaten meat for example, a hair test would almost certainly be negative.’”

Hair follicle testing is not 100% reliable and the technology, at this point in time, is a bit erratic, but false negatives for an amount consistent with doping-in-sports levels is not a noted issue. From the main ESPN report, everything appears to be on the level and the negative result would seem a fairly strong exoneration when it comes to the wildly aggressive claims from fans and media that Alvarez was guilty of doping. Unless ESPN and the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) are part of a conspiracy to exonerate a guilty Canelo (and, believe me, there’s a lunatic fringe right now making that very case), the Mexican star deserves, at the very least, the presumption of innocence he was denied when fans and media rushed to form self-righteous lynch mobs over his alleged doping.

This writer had many debates and discussions about Canelo and his situation over the last several weeks and not a single one could go any further in their claims after I insisted on hearing actual evidence of intentional wrongdoing. There was just never any evidence proving that Alvarez was grasping at an intentional cheat. Any blanks filled in after he tested positive for a banned substance were merely in the minds of the accusers and had no actual basis in reality. This was never to say that Canelo was NOT guilty, though—it just meant that we, as reasonable and fair people, had no right proclaiming him a cheat with nothing but whispers and our whims as evidence.

The NSAC went ahead and suspended Canelo, anyway, because they have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to clenbuterol and that’s absolutely fine. However, the hair testing apparently rules out the intentional misuse accusations while supporting the fighter’s claims of accidental ingestion via contaminated Mexican beef.

Alvarez’s people, of course, have been eager to scream “I told you so” since the hair testing results were made public.

“From the beginning, Canelo has insisted that he accidentally ingested clenbuterol from eating tainted meat,” Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy Promotions told ESPN. “The fact this NSAC-required hair follicle test came back entirely negative for any traces of clenbuterol should lay to rest any suspicion that he was intentionally taking a banned substance. Canelo is looking forward to getting back into training and returning to the ring in September. He thanks all of his fans for sticking by him and believes this test proves once and for all that he is a clean fighter.”

But the silence has been deafening when it comes to those who happily ravaged Alvarez’s legacy and reputation at the first sight of possible bad deeds. There’s not been even a whisper of revisiting the issue with new perspective. No writers are turbocharged and pounding their keyboards with “Let’s rethink the Canelo situation” pieces. With just one or two lone exceptions, nobody is even bothering to mention this important new piece to the puzzle.

This is because, at the heart of almost all boxing outrage, is the reality that most of it is simply fans being fans (and writers being fans). Fans have “their” guys and the guys they hate—heroes and villains.

And some fighters—maybe because they are too good looking, too easy to smile, too “un-warrior-like” in their general demeanor—always find themselves targeted for perpetual scorn by “hardcore” or “purist” fans. Canelo happens to be one of those wearing the fan target, just like his promoter Oscar De La Hoya wore one full generation earlier.

Fighters who don’t fit into the ideal image of what a boxer is supposed to be will find that they can never satisfy the critics. Obstacle after obstacle to respect gets placed before them in a never ending line and no opponent they beat is ever the “right” opponent, even if they were accused of ducking the guy right up until fight night. Fans will hate their targets forever, no matter what happens in or out of the ring. And when a drop of blood—like a failed drug test—falls into an already-agitated piranha tank of hate, just watch the mayhem.

Expect no new, post-hair follicle test dialogue in this Canelo mess. Everyone is already firm in their beliefs and actual facts have little to do with any of it.

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  1. Your Name 07:32pm, 05/05/2018

    Well thanks Mr. Magno for putting everyone in the same box.  Who are you exactly to make such a judgment?  The reliability of hair follicle tests has been brought into question.  Now whether this is correct or not I don’t know.  But here is the point, Canelo can easily move and train elsewhere then in Mexico.  If he wants to stay in Mexico and train, that’s fine.  Just make sure Oscar and his team make sure Canelo eats meat that isn’t from the part of (or all of) Mexico where the danger lay.  That’s all.  Your statement about boxing fans sounds like a variety of all whites are racists, or all blacks are so and so, all Asians are so and so, all (fill in the blank) are so and so. 
    Since I was a kid, going back a lot I have almost always found that boxing fans are the fairest I have ever ran into.  Regardless of race, religion, etc. my experience is that boxing fans as a rule will say that so and so is a better fighter than so and so, and total respect comes from that.
    I fail to see why you haven’t seen this.

    Mike from Brooklyn

  2. don from prov 12:47pm, 05/01/2018

    “And some fighters—maybe because they are too good looking, too easy to smile, too “un-warrior-like” in their general demeanor—always find themselves targeted for perpetual scorn by “hardcore” or “purist” fans. Canelo happens to be one of those wearing the fan target. ...”

    Actually, he looks like the prick just waiting to start a fight in the local bar.

  3. The Beast of Bodmin 12:30pm, 05/01/2018

    Even accepting the fact Canelo accidently ingested the drug, I think he has got off lightly compared to other sports and it shows how far boxing is behind in the area of PEDs, which is screwed up given the nature of the sport and the dangers involved.
    Here in England, several years ago a high profile, international footballer missed a drug test because he forgot the tester was waiting for him after training. He realised a few hours later and tried to go back but the tester had gone. He took a test the next day I believe, and passed, but on the strength of missing the test he was banned for 8 months, if memory serves me correct. And that is for football.
    I believe Canelo’s story but he has a responsibility as a professional athlete to be more careful, especially in a contact sport. Less of a ban than Sharapova got in tennis. Boxing just doesn’t want to tackle the issue of PEDs properly and is just another way the lack of a central governing body damages the sport.

  4. NYIrish 04:52am, 05/01/2018

    PEDs or not he still needs the “right” judges.

  5. Hix 11:05pm, 04/30/2018

    Plane cheat period!

  6. Balaamsass 02:32pm, 04/30/2018

    This doesn’t change anything….you write like it’s all good now and the case is closed! He’s dirty dog dirty and everybody knows it now….but guess what….Diogenes himself would be shit out of luck finding even one single solitary chauvinistic fuk of an aficionado south of the border that gives a flyin’ fuk…all that matters as that he wins….period!

  7. Balaamsass 02:17pm, 04/30/2018

    “Hair follicle testing is not 100% reliable and the technology is a bit erratic”. If the same could be said for blood testing for banned substances…why even bother testing at all. Did Canelo go to Salt Lake City personally for the test….or did he submit a follicle(s) back home in Mexico which was then transported to SLC….was the chain of custody broken at any point? Was this part of the testing protocol or was this GBs attempt at rebuttal for two positive test results for banned substances on a test that is 100% with proper controls

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