Antonio Tarver's failed drug test in California has promoter Gary Shaw wondering where to go next with drug testing in boxing. (Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime)
Gary Shaw, who promotes Lateef Kayode, has weighed in on Antonio Tarver's failed drug test in California, where he tested positive for steroids after going to a draw with Kayode on June 2. Shaw says that the sport needs a strict drug testing policy, better judges, and more cooperation from promoters.
"It's very worrisome where our sport is heading these days with the recent array of fighters testing positive for banned substances," Shaw said. "With all these fights being canceled it's killing the sport and I hope the networks are not going to lose interest. As promoters, we do our best to make sure everyone is abiding by the rules. I'm happy that the commissions are stepping up their stance on catching fighters cheating because the safety of the fighter should always come first."
Now, from my perspective, I don't see the commissions stepping up their stance on catching fighters cheating -- the fact that Tarver failed a California drug test says a lot more about what he was taking -- either on purpose or by contamination -- than it does about the testing.
Drostanolone, more commonly known as Masteron, is not an unfamiliar drug used for performance-enhancement by athletes. Earlier this year, MMA fighter Muhammad "King Mo" Lawal tested positive for the same steroid:
Of the 15 fighters tested, only Lawal's came back positive. The steroid of choice? Drostanolone, an expensive 'designer' anabolic steroid which has unique qualities. Drostanolone is part of the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) family and has various medical uses, mainly for lowering cholesterol and in chemotherapy. One of the most unique qualities is that it allows an athlete to add strength without adding mass, which makes it a perfect steroid for athletes in sports that require weight cutting.
Let's be really honest here: It does not look good for Antonio Tarver. Period. And this wasn't California doing anything special. Lawal, who was later fired by Zuffa (the company that owns UFC and Strikeforce), tested positive in Nevada. We're talking standard commission tests. California didn't "step up" anything.
Shaw went on to say that he hopes Tarver's B sample will come back clean.
"It's unfortunate that in Lateef Kayode's first major opportunity, he had to fight on what appears to be an unlevel playing field. I have a lot of respect for Antonio Tarver and would be very disappointed to find out that he knowingly took performance enhancing drugs. It is my hope that Tarver requests that the B sample will be tested and will show that Tarver was clean.
"However if the sample comes back dirty, then the commission should take appropriate action. It was a very close fight as it was ruled a split draw, but now that we have been informed by the California State Athletic Commission about the alleged drug use, I'll have to talk to Lateef and his management team to see what we'll do to resolve this matter."
California has already indicated that they'll likely be changing the decision to a no-contest, which is standard.
Shaw didn't stop there, though, and also addressed other problems in the sport, including judging, and promoters not working together for the good of the sport, but doesn't say anything about making USADA, VADA, or another agency a permanent part of the sport.
"In addition, the horrible scoring by the judges, the excessive use of PED's, and the inability of promoters working together, is only going to kill this sport,'' Shaw continued. "Something needs to be done and major changes need to be made, and the time is now. The boxing business is getting worse by the day and we are losing fans by the minute. Boxing has been around longer than any other sport and we must keep the integrity of the game pure. I implore the commissions around the United States to take severe action against any fighter who doesn't abide by the commissions' standards. We need a strict drug testing policy to rid the sport of those that don't want to play by the rules, and we need more competent judges."