Entire sport of boxing to blame for failures to truly address positive drug tests

Scott Heavey

An examination of what has happened in the wake of positive VADA and USADA drug tests in boxing, and why there is no reason to look at them as a failed endeavor that should be tossed to the side.

While I disagree in principle to a lot of what Scott wrote yesterday in his article "Morales vs USADA: Boxing's 'Olympic-style' testing being widely exposed as a fraud," there were certain points where the message was, to my mind, correct. Still, I'm a fan of the mission of groups like VADA and, prior to the Morales situation, USADA.

Personally, I think the correct way to view the primary mission of drug testing isn't from the punishment aspect, but from the fighter safety point of view. In that way, VADA has managed to catch fighters and prevent them from fighting while using banned substances. While it's debatable that standard commission tests would have caught Andre Berto as VADA did, even Keith Kizer of the NSAC admitted to Boxing Scene at the time that their testing almost certainly would not have caught the synthetic testosterone in Lamont Peterson's body detected by the CIR testing that is a part of the VADA program:

BoxingScene.com: If VADA was not involved, a lot of people have asked if this was something that the Nevada Commission would have caught in Peterson’s system?

Keith Kizer: Probably not from the facts that I know. His [testosterone] level, by his doctor, was kept under 4 to 1, which is the lowest level used… some use 4 to 1 and some use 6 to 1. Even VADA uses 4 to 1, but they also use this CIR [carbon isotope ratio] test to detect synthetic testosterone regardless of your level and that’s what happened here.

My understanding is that his level was 3.77 to 1… and I don’t know if that was a purposeful attempt to conceal [his use] by keeping it under 4 to 1 or not. That’s a question for someone else and not for me. But regardless, the CIR was able to catch it without the level being high.

Year-round testing is obviously what is needed to make a significant dent in the use of banned substances in the fight game, but the month-long testing is still effective to a reasonable point. Even the NSAC's expansion into out-of-competition urine testing has been effective in catching some fighters.

The larger problem with the "effectiveness" of the expanded testing is that there is no one pushing to make a good start into a better process.

VADA caught two high profile fighters with their testing and what was the result? Golden Boy blaming VADA for a fight falling apart and then an almost universal move away from the agency and toward USADA. And USADA responds by catching Morales and allowing him to fight on anyway. Because that's what the promoters really want. As Scott said yesterday, it's the bullshit version of "look at us, cleaning up the sport."

And now, USADA, knowing they failed their own mission, decides to swing in with their two year ban as though they're the force of righteousness. That entire situation is a joke from the athletes to the testing to the New York commission.

The Peterson case is what should be looked at as the proper way for these situations to work. The fighters and promoters agreed to testing, when there was a failure and the NSAC was notified, they wouldn't license Peterson. I talked to Kizer earlier today and he said that everyone involved seemed interested in the fight moving ahead but there was "no way" he would license Peterson after he had been caught with synthetic testosterone in his body.

The NSAC would not grant Peterson a license to fight in the state without going through a hearing, where the standard punishment would be a span of 9 to 12 months where he would be suspended from receiving a license. Peterson's attorney asked for the hearing to take place in June of last year, then it was moved to July when his camp had a "conflict," then Peterson's attorney asked the hearing to be moved to August, and then...basically nothing.

ESPN had written about it back in May around the time of the initial issue:

If he is not licensed, Kizer said the commission could bar him from reapplying for up to 12 months from the date of the test, although as a first-time offender the punishment has usually been nine months.

"But they could make it a full year from date of the test," Kizer said. "And there is no guarantee that they would license him after that either."

Kizer said that if Peterson is denied in Nevada he could still seek a license in another state but that other states "could recognize any action taken (in Nevada)."

While he never had his hearing, a number of factors led to Peterson still serving nine months from the date without a fight.

The problem is what Kizer told me earlier. That Peterson still hasn't been licensed in Nevada and won't be until he comes for a hearing.

But, because they never came to the hearing, there was never a formal action handed down. So no other commission has to recognize actions that would have been taken in Nevada. He served nine months without fighting, but it very well could have been twelve had he had the hearing. And most states recognize other state's actions due to expectations from the Association of Boxing Commissions and others. There are times where they don't, but it is standard procedure. And the ABC cut off the state of Michigan briefly -- fighters from the state were not to be licensed anywhere else and results from the state were not to be considered "official" -- for not recognizing PED and medical suspensions from other states last year.

This is a case where the scattered nature of boxing, the state-by-state structure allows guys to get caught and not ever fully have to deal with it. D.C. at the behest of the ABC should have really put Peterson through the ringer to get licensed, he should have had to have explained the situation, and why he never participated in the hearing he and his team kept pushing for.

Berto failed his VADA test and there was reason to believe it could have very well been due to a tainted supplement as noted anti-PED crusader Gabriel Montoya wrote at MaxBoxing at the time:

Sources have informed me that analysis of Berto's positive tests results for nandrosterone (a metabolic byproduct of nandrolone) revealed "ultra-trace amounts of Nandrolone in the low parts per trillion range and consistent with contamination not intent."

In other words, the amount in his system is so minute [very little] that it is highly unlikely that he intentionally ingested nandrolone but was rather contaminated by food or a supplement.

The problem isn't really with Berto being relicensed in California as quickly as he was, it's that he didn't even have to go through a hearing to do it. They just went ahead and gave him his license when he applied. Of course, the CSAC has been in shambles for over a year now.

Effectively it's not that the testing is "fraudulent," it's not. It's far more effective than the standards we have now. It's that promoters and fighters choose to leave agencies that are getting the job done. And other commissions aren't upholding their end of "cleaning the sport up" when they issue licenses without really delving into the entire situation.

I've had plenty of negative things to say about the NSAC in my day, but it was revealed today that Alistair Overeem had to submit a blood test after his fight at UFC 156 because he had just come off a suspension for elevated testosterone levels. That is an example of a commission that, while it still has tons of room for improvement, listened to VADA when there have been positive tests and held fighters accountable, or, at least in Overeem's case, held athletes who test positive under their own testing accountable and to a higher standard the next time they fought.

Commissions, fans, media and everyone in the boxing world should look at things from that perspective. VADA caught Peterson with synthetic testosterone in his system. Why is there not a demand to understand why he was granted a license? Why is there no demand that he undergo the same level of strict testing that caught him the first time around at least for his next fight?

Until everyone bands together and expects better and stops agreeing to go along with whatever bullshit fighters and promoters come up with, 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.

Truly, it's on all of us.

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