The PED Mess

By Caryn A. Tate on September 29, 2017
The PED Mess
We don’t know whether it was a simple error in judgment, and we may never know.

“I had a stress breakdown last night and it wasn’t healthy for me…I’m really considering walking away…”

It was revealed late Thursday evening by Mauricio Sulaiman, president of the World Boxing Council, that heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz had tested positive for a banned substance. Sulaiman said the test was conducted under the organization’s Clean Boxing Program, done in partnership with VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association).

This is the second time Ortiz has had a positive drug test result—the first time was in 2014 following his knockout of Lateef Kayode, when he tested positive for nandrolone, an anabolic steroid. It was reported Friday morning that this positive test may have been for chlorothiazide and hydrochlorothiazide. These substances are diuretics and can be prescribed for high blood pressure, which Ortiz’s camp is insisting is the reason for this positive result. But it should also be noted that the drugs are on WADA’s banned substances list, as they are commonly used by athletes to mask other banned substances.

If Ortiz was indeed taking the drugs as prescribed by a doctor for high blood pressure, the question must be asked why he and his team didn’t disclose this information to VADA up-front. All testing organizations ask athletes to disclose any current medications when beginning the testing process. Regardless, for now we don’t know whether it was a simple error in judgment, and we may never know. But it may result in the cancellation of the highly anticipated Wilder-Ortiz fight.

The other issue at hand is the impact on Ortiz’s scheduled November 4 opponent, WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder. Wilder is well-known and respected in the sport for insisting upon stringent drug testing, both for himself and his opponents. Ortiz is the third Wilder opponent who has tested positive for banned substances, and in the previous two instances, the champion did not hesitate to cancel the fights in question. In 2016, Wilder was scheduled to face Alexander Povetkin, then the WBC’s #1 ranked contender, in Moscow. But days before the bout, it was announced Povetkin tested positive for meldonium. Wilder and his team successfully sued Povetkin for $5 million in damages for the money he lost on the preparation for the title fight.

Mere months later, Andrzej Wawrzyk, scheduled to face Wilder next, tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. The fight was canceled as a result.

The positive drug tests of Wilder’s various opponents raises questions about the culture of PED use by athletes. If a fighter signs up for the WBC Clean Boxing Program, or agrees to 24/7 VADA testing ahead of a specific bout, they should know by now what that entails. They and their teams should have a decent understanding of the methods VADA uses—it’s the preeminent testing organization in the sport, more stringent in their testing, and employ completely random sample collection (so a fighter and his team never know ahead of time when he’ll be tested). So one would think that if the fighter was once using performance enhancing drugs, he would stop prior to testing with VADA. It’s worrying and telling that, since the implementation of the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program, so many fighters have had positive test results, because it reveals a much larger problem. These fighters can’t all be ignorant of how VADA’s testing works. So it raises the distinct possibility that the fighters in question just feel an actual need to use PEDs. This is more concerning than simple positive tests, because it makes one realize how large and out of hand PED use may have become.

Wilder posted a message to his fans and followers on Instagram on Friday morning. “Over this last past year and a half I’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars…I had a stress breakdown last night and it wasn’t healthy for me…I’m really considering walking away from this sport I love so much.”

It highlights one of the biggest problems in boxing that someone like Wilder, a world champion who insists on fighting clean opposition, is not necessarily being held up as an example of clean sport. Here is a world champion who has made a distinct stand against performance enhancing drug use, and has walked the walk by competing clean himself. Sports need more positive examples and role models like Wilder, who stand up for what’s right even when it’s not easy or convenient.

Follow Caryn A. Tate on Twitter@carynatate

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  1. Steven Stahler 06:37pm, 09/29/2017

    And then, one day Wilder gets caught it will be something he ate. I believe Ortiz will be exonerated if indeed it is blood pressure medicine. It should be easy to prove, however, once the rumor is on the street the bloodhounds never give up. Shame on them.

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