PEDs: The Inflection Point

By Ted Sares on February 20, 2013
PEDs: The Inflection Point
Can “sophisticated, unannounced, impartially-administered, drug tests” be implemented?

In many articles, the notion of where there is smoke, there must be fire has taken hold. Though predicated on spurious logic…

“[The worst thing possible] hasn’t happened yet.”—Jim Lampley

“I mean, this is a physical sport and you can get hurt and end up dead…”—Carlos Molina (12rounder.com)

“We need more guys…willing to voluntarily submit to the most rigorous drug-protocols. And those who don’t and those who don’t and get nailed need to find out it wasn’t worth the risk. I’m not sure boxing commissions have stepped up to that responsibility yet.”—Larry Merchant

Just about every writer I am aware of (especially the younger ones) has written about this hot topic. Even older ones like Thomas Hauser have chipped in with detailed works. These articles run the gamut from scholarly to laugh-out-loud humor—and everything in between. Some tend to neatly summarize what many of us already know. Others seem to be more about the writer himself than the subject. However, none in my view has set off any shock waves or, more importantly, caught the attention of the greater media. After all, there is no one in boxing with the gravitas of Lance Armstrong.

In many articles, the notion of where there is smoke, there must be fire has also taken hold.  Though predicated on spurious logic, it has yielded plenty of rumors and rumor mongering, and in many cases resultant, albeit questionable, grist for boxing articles and even some “outings.”

On the flip side, these articles keep the issue at the forefront, especially as they identify confirmed abusers and cheats, even though just about every abuser has a lame excuse and just about every abuser returns to fight another day.

A recent and at first blush refreshing exception has been Mariusz Wach’s admission that he did indeed use anabolic steroids before his November 10 fight with Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg, Germany. But then, in a bile-inducing coda, he said “his greatest suspicion falls on his trainers, but there was also a much larger group who helped him during his training so he’s not sure where it came from…” So much for zero tolerance. (“Mariusz Wach Update “Fightnews.com. January 9, 2013). As Eric Raskin states, “The collective evidence has become too troubling to ignore.”

A representative sampling of what is online follows

The aforementioned Thomas Hauser wrote one for SecondsOut.com as follows: http://www.secondsout.com/columns/thomas-hauser/mayweather-pacquiao-peds-and-boxing 

He later did a widely-circulated two-part piece for Max Boxing in which he cites many other writers and sources. He also states in Part Two that “The implementation of sophisticated, unannounced, impartially-administered, random drug testing is the only way to turn the tide.”

Here are the links to Hauser’s two articles:
http://www.maxboxing.com/news/max-boxing-news/the-ped-mess-part-one
http://www.maxboxing.com/news/max-boxing-news/the-ped-mess-part-two

Writer Gabriel Montoya has been in the PEDs intergalactic wars in any number of articles and in any number of controversies. Here is an interview between Montoya and Stephen “Breadman” Edwards on BoxingTalk.com: http://boxingtalk.com/pag/article.php?aid=23521

Gabriel also explained his position in an interview on Ringside Report as follows: http://ringsidereport.com/?p=19343

The respected Ivan G. Goldman wrote a neat one along different lines for BoxingInsider.com: http://www.boxinginsider.com/columns/juan-manuel-marquezs-paralyzing-shot-will-unleash-dogs-of-chemistry/ 

Paul Magno, like Goldman, also wrote one outside the box for The Boxing Tribune: http://theboxingtribune.com/2012/11/peds-mayweather-and-the-business-of-rumor-mongering-magnos-monday-rant/

Our own David Matthew touched on it in http://www.boxing.com/game_of_thrones_the_thrill_agony_of_the_pacquiao_marquez_epic.html

Michael Woods delivered a piece aptly titled “Boxing vs. PEDs” for The Sweet Science in November 2012 as follows: http://www.thesweetscience.com/news/art cles/15610-boxing-vs-peds

Christian Red wrote a superb piece for the New York Daily News found on: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/i-team/dr-margaret-goodman-leads-effort-clean-boxing-mma-article-1.999301

Eric Raskin wrote a short piece on ESPN Boxing that posed a number of probing questions; for example, “Can you imagine an International Boxing Hall of Fame without Holyfield? Here is the link: http://espn.go.com/blog/boxing/post/_/id/1584/boxings-ped-problem-impossible-to-ignore

Lem Satterfield pitched in with one quite recently dealing with how Lamont Peterson is now embracing VADA: http://ringtv.craveonline.com/blog/177211-peterson-i-prefer-vada

Finally, two of my favorite articles were written by former Bad Left Hook colleague Brent Brookhouse. The links are:
http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2013/2/12/3976948/dr-margaret-goodman-vada-ped-steroid-interview
http://www.badlefthook.com/2013/2/13/3985624/boxing-drug-test-failures-lamont-peterson-vada-nsac-andre-berto

From his perspective, Brent sums it up nicely as follows:

“…it’s not testing from an agency like VADA that is flawed. It’s the sport of boxing from the bottom up. It’s on the promoters and the fighters. It’s on the commissions. It’s on the networks who don’t demand better. It’s on the media, all too happy to play nice and get their generic 5 minute ‘exclusive interviews’ rather than rock the boat. And, it’s on fans who don’t say that they’re sick of the transparent garbage from everyone in the game.” (BLH)

Enter Dr. Margaret Goodman

“It’s always been amazing to me that the public gets so up in arms when they think a decision wasn’t judged properly…But I cannot for my life imagine why the fans, who really can have a strong voice and put pressure on these athletic commissions, don’t speak out when they see that an athlete has tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance, and they themselves the fans watched that fight under false pretenses.”—Dr. Goodman, Las Vegas neurologist and former member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission speaks by phone with Eddie Goldman on January 13, 2013 on No Holds Barred)

Dr. Goodman is now the president and chairperson of the board of Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), an independent organization that provides sophisticated anti-doping testing for boxers and mixed martial arts athletes.

Now I’m not medically smart enough to draw definitive conclusions about Performance Enhancing Drugs; I’m no pharmacist or alchemist, nor am I a strength and conditioning coach, though I do know something about weightlifting and the related impact of natural and legal energy stimulants. However, I clearly understand that if I am trying to avoid being cut from a professional team (and losing out on the fame, benefits, and salary that being a member of that team means), I might be tempted to look at every possible edge I can get. Accordingly, and because of the need for a perceived level playing field, the number of athletes willing to use PEDs with little fear of detection will likely increase, but in this case the level playing field is not one that was intended by those in control of professional boxing and other sports. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”

The Inflection Point

Within the forgoing context, my position boils down to the following quote from the aforementioned.Dr. Goodman: “I know of only a couple commissions willing to stand up and prevent a fighter from competing before it is too late.”

Of course, we have been hearing this for years from ESPN’s Teddy Atlas. Teddy opines in an interview with Percy Crawford on FightHype.com dated June 22, 2012. See http://www.fighthype.com/news/article12709.html

As both Teddy and Dr. Goodman assert, we need to get rid of the political appointees on the state commissions and replace them with an assortment of people who have medical, legal, and boxing expertise. If political favors must be granted (and that process is understandable), fulfill these favors on other Boards or Commissions, but not on one that oversees an activity where the health and lives of the participants are at risk.

This process begins when a particular state governor appoints someone hopefully knowledgeable in boxing as the Chairperson of that state’s Boxing Commission. It continues when the Chairperson appoints others equally (if not more) knowledgeable people—people who know about or at least know where to go to determine the effects of anabolic steroids, supplements, erythropoietin (EPO), norandosterone, synthetic testosterone, clenbuterol and other prohibited substances. That, I submit, is where the initial inflection point must occur. Maybe then a “sophisticated, unannounced, impartially-administered, random drug testing” can actually be implemented.

As an aside, Dr. Goodman was named “Person of the Year in Boxing” by HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley on his show “The Fight Game.” He also named Nonito Donaire “Boxer of the Year” for his participation in VADA’s rigorous testing program.

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Victor Conte on PEDs in boxing



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  1. Ted 03:09pm, 05/28/2013

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/expert-boxing-made-no-steps-rid-itself-peds-001700539.html

  2. the thresher 08:55am, 03/30/2013

    http://www.eastsideboxing.com/2013/statement-by-kendall-holt/

    Still more eqivocation. It’s either positive or it’s negative. Doesn’t anyone ever admit it?  It really is a joke.

  3. the thresher 06:13am, 03/18/2013

    And still another with a much different angle:

    http://theboxingtribune.com/2013/03/clean-up-boxingtake-the-test-magnos-monday-rant/

  4. the thresher 05:58am, 03/13/2013

    And this from Bradley:

    http://www.badlefthook.com/2013/3/11/4091332/bradley-vs-provodnikov-timothy-bradley-in-favor-of-more-drug-testing

  5. Ted Sares 11:01am, 03/02/2013

    This just in:

    “Sam Soliman has failed his post-fight drug test after his controversial decision win against Felix Sturm in Germany last month. German newspaper sources reported today that the A sample of the 39-year old Australian was tested positive for a performance enhancing designer drug.”

    It seems out of control!

  6. Ted Sares 06:39pm, 02/26/2013

    Radio Rahim interviews Timothy Bradley before his upcoming fight with Ruslan Provodnikov. Timothy Bradley makes an astounding accusation as he explains his demand to drug test all opponents going forward.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeClaEOgv48

  7. the thresher 07:01pm, 02/25/2013

    Gee, thanks a lot Billy. If you enjoy doing research (which I love to do), then more often than not, it will be reflected in your work. I learned how in Grad School years ago and the most important thing I learned was corroboration.

  8. dollarbond 07:35am, 02/25/2013

    You know, in many respects you are doing the heavy lifting for many of the other writers out there with your signature meticulously researched articles.  This one and the Noir piece are the best summaries I have seen thus far on the subjects.  Where do you get your research techniques or maybe I should say what are they?  You must feel less than happy when you read poorly researched articles, no?  And you don’t have to answer.

  9. Tex Hassler 04:05pm, 02/24/2013

    I have for years felt that the increase of deaths in the ring was due to drugs. I personally have no proof but have a gut feeling about this. Boxing is dangerous enough without fighters tanking up on drugs that can help them withstand even more punishment.

  10. the thresher 09:37am, 02/24/2013

    Excellent points Stephen.

    When some of these guys go into the Hall, everyone will quickly forget their transgressions and get in line for some serious hero worship. But if just one guy was kept out because of confirmed violations, that would have a massive impact IMO.

  11. Stephen R Gould 09:22am, 02/24/2013

    The 1980s were the steroid era for women’s track and field.  The 1990s-2000s were the steroid era for baseball and cycling.

    We are now in boxing’s steroid era.  But it’s always going to be difficult to prove directly - after all, no-one (outside her coach and training partners) saw Flo-Jo actually shoot up.  And boxing hasn’t got remotely close to the kind of testing necessary to clean it up.  So you have to work on inference or circumstantial evidence.

    For example, Marquez suddenly turns up with hypertrophied traps.  Proof of PED use?  No - but very strong evidence.  Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach, asked the direct question “is he taking steroids” responds, “I can’t even get him to take his vitamins”.  No, Freddie - the answer if Manny is not juicing is “NO”.  If we hear from a trainer or manager, “X has never tested positive” - presume he’s juicing.  (Think about it - if you accused someone of taking your wallet and they were innocent, would you expect them to say “I didn’t take it” or “you’ve no evidence I took it”?)

    I also think that at least one major promoter is actively aiding its boxers (perhaps “Armstronging” them into taking PEDs).

    Yes, don’t necessarily believe rumours - but when you encounter actual circumstantial evidence and reactions, ask whether they’re more likely to indicate that the boxer is clean or not - don’t duck out with “innocent until proven guiltry”.  In the real world, if someone is taking steroids legitimately, does the lab supplying him list his real name, or Evan Field?

  12. the thresher 09:49am, 02/23/2013

    Donaire vs Rigondeaux: Team Rigondeaux says fight is still on, no issue with drug testing

  13. the thresher 09:38am, 02/23/2013

    Thanks Dan

  14. Dan Adams 06:34am, 02/23/2013

    Excellent piece, Ted…very interesting read.

  15. the thresher 05:10pm, 02/22/2013

    Yes, there is something wrong with some of the Cubans. I have noted that as well. Gamboa is “hinky.”

  16. the Thresher 05:09pm, 02/22/2013

    Thanks David

  17. David Matthew 05:06pm, 02/22/2013

    Truly thorough and complete work here on perhaps the most important issue in our sport.  Massive respect.

  18. Bodyshots 05:05pm, 02/22/2013

    just read Donaire’s claims that Rigondeaux is now trying to renege on his commitment to submit to random testing through the VADA for their April 13 bout, which would make him only the second fighter i know of to reject improved anti-doping measures. consequently, his actions (if true) are just as suspect. meanwhile, WTF is it with these Cuban fighters? have they no concept of what a legal and binding contract is? this reminds of Gamboa’s delayed-reaction to some contractual detail he objected too, which ultimately torpedoed his showdown v. Rios at 135lbs. as a result, he missed the opportunity to take advantage of a dehydrated and lethargic Rios for what would have been the biggest win of Gamboa’s pro-career . . . “Think long, think wrong”.

  19. the thresher 04:01pm, 02/22/2013

    Tony will go to sleep early and soundly

  20. Gutter 03:54pm, 02/22/2013

    Cheers Ted. 

    I think Thompson won’t need to worry about PEDs or boxing at all after Price finishes with him tomorrow. 

    Tony is just over there for a payday.  Hope he has that sleepy pose he used both times Wlad KO’d him ready!

  21. the thresher 03:50pm, 02/22/2013

    Thanks Gutter aka Johnny Walker—a great writer from the Boxing Tribune.

  22. the thresher 03:49pm, 02/22/2013

    Better late than never

  23. Gutter 03:14pm, 02/22/2013

    Hey Ted, nice article!

    Check out the reaction of the BBBoC to Thompson’s statements here:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/boxing/article-2282478/Robert-Smith-British-Boxing-Board-Control-Secretary-labels-Tony-Thompsons-doping-outburst-mindblowing.html

  24. Bodyshots 02:45pm, 02/22/2013

    “I clearly understand that if I am trying to avoid being cut from a professional team (and losing out on the fame, benefits, and salary that being a member of that team means), I might be tempted to look at every possible edge I can get”, which is precisely the attitude of entitlement that needs to eliminated in sports. if a player can’t compete on his own steam, he should be cut. NObody is entitled to the “benefits and salary that being a member of that team means”. didn’t it used to be that simple?

  25. Bodyshots 02:39pm, 02/22/2013

    a couple of years too late but better late than never. after all, Pacquiao* rejecting improved testing (the only fighter i know of to ever do so) was a conspicuous red-flag to any serious fight-fan not swooning under St. Pacquiao’s* PPV spell. as Conte himself pointed out, Pacquiao’s* ascent up the weight classes is “suspicious”. IMO and in the meantime, OSTing should be available on a fight-by-fight basis, i.e., if one fighter requests it there is no credible excuse for his opponent to reject it, notwithstanding Pacquiao’s* shameless apologists. under those conditions, the Mayweather v. Pacquiao* showdown would’ve already happened and Manny would’ve been spared the trauma of being dropped like a rhino in the path of a big-game hunting safari . . . or a media darling in the crosshairs of a Mexican ring-warrior on a mission.

  26. the thresher 05:56pm, 02/21/2013

    Yes he does, Meinhard, but right now PEDs are a no no so his opinion runs counter to what most people in bxing want to do. But he does have a right to it.

    As for a level playing field, I think one that allows PEDs would be a difficult one to monitor because of the vast variety of enhancers out there. One way to ensure a level playing field is to do what they do in power lifting and body building contests and that is to use a polygraph test, but I suspect that might be too expensive for boxing. The solution I tend to like is the one the baseball people use to wit: Fine them, asterisk their records, and bar them from the Hall of Fame. In short, get tough and make the risk-reward a bad equation for them.

     

  27. Meinhard Schmidt 05:46pm, 02/21/2013

    Legalization of PEDs is actually a discussion which is going on for some years (in other sports). And there are valid arguments about it! One reason performance enhancing drugs are forbidden is the idea of athletes meeting on a plain field/level… which is no more realistic nowadays… too much money in it, simple as that. I haven’t made a final conclusion for me, but t
    Thompson as any other has the right to share his opinion.

  28. Meinhard Schmidt 05:20pm, 02/21/2013

    i don´t know ted, i don´t know. i like Thompson´s courage to say something “unpopular” . i cannot follow his argument fully, but at the same time it IS actually a legitimate question, as you can see in sports other than boxing (cycling, swimming, athletics etc.)! The “war on doping” has failed in many ways (at least in other sports, boxing is behind a few years, like in training technology overall). The public always wants to see new records, and in many sports you have to take substances to be elite, sadly (in boxing, as a “skill-sport” you don’t have to do as much maybe). It is a known fact that a high percentage of elite athletes of all kinds are on “juice”. We have to decide what we want, as fans, viewers, commissioners etc… i could write a lot but it is very hard for me to write about this not-easy topic… even in German it would be—plus i didn’t decide clearly yet my own position. But one last thing: to believe there will be “clean” sports as long as the financial aspect is so huge is not realistic and if persons want to cheat, they will find a way!

  29. the thresher 04:24pm, 02/21/2013

    Meinhard, Yeah I saw that where Tony Thompson, believes doping in sport should be legalised. All the more reason why I hope Price settles his hash (pun intended).

  30. the thresher 04:22pm, 02/21/2013

    Walt, not into that sort of thing.

  31. Walt 01:20pm, 02/21/2013

    Ted, you never mentioned any boxers. How come? No outings?

  32. Meinhard Schmidt 01:14pm, 02/21/2013

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/boxing/9885175/David-Prices-opponent-American-heavyweight-Tony-Thompson-believes-doping-in-sport-should-be-legalised.html

  33. the thresher 09:30am, 02/21/2013

    Harsh, Prov, harsh

  34. Don from Prov 09:11am, 02/21/2013

    i hope all athletes shoot up until they have balloon heads & man tits—

    i mean some of us have real lives out here and need some fresh air
    let the morons do what they want: grow lab body parts/ ingest each other

    ingest a Kardashian ingest each other and all Kardashians and all ped’s

  35. the thresher 07:13am, 02/21/2013

    Thanks Billy. It took a lot of readng.

  36. dollarbond 06:56am, 02/21/2013

    Remarkable research.  Thanks Ted

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