Exclusive: Gabriel Montoya speaks about previously undisclosed role as anti-doping consultant for title bouts

USA TODAY Sports

Max Boxing's Gabriel Montoya has been working as an anti-doping consultant for some major recent fights. The boxing journalist discusses ethical concerns in this Bad Left Hook exclusive.

Drug testing has taken a prominent position in combat sports over the last few years. While you could claim it was simply the inevitable result of public opinion having shifted in the wake of the Major League Baseball scandals of the 90's, in large part the push in boxing came from the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao negotiations.

While there are plenty of issues with Mayweather's USADA testing, which was repeatedly (incorrectly) called "Olympic style testing," what his push for increased blood testing for a potential Pacquiao -- and now any other of his fights -- did was increase attention on the ineffective "urine only" testing of state athletic commissions. This led to major commissions such as the Nevada State Athletic Commission trying to up their game slightly with some degree of random testing, but also gave rise to organizations such as the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) which use WADA labs to do thorough random blood and urine testing that goes far beyond what the state commissions are able to do.

Some recent fights in Canada have been using some new testing protocols that haven't exactly been fully transparent. Such as the Jean Pascal vs. Lucian Bute fight that fell apart due to a Bute injury, as pointed out by Dan Rafael at ESPN:

In a joint statement, the fighters, along with Bute promoter InterBox and Pascal promoter Yvon Michel, announced that “all parties have agreed on all procedures and both fighters have approved the anti-doping program. The program is inspired by the highest standards in the industry and calls for unannounced testing for each boxer before, during and after the fight. At the request of the third parties involved in this effort, all procedures and intervening companies shall remain confidential. Both promoters, together with their respective boxers and team members, will not comment further on any aspect related to the program or procedures in place."

In other words, they announced the fighters will be tested but they have declined to say whether the testing involves blood and urine, and they have refused to say which testing agency -- USADA or VADA or some other company -- is overseeing the testing. Why go to the effort of announcing testing and then refuse to disclose other important details? It just makes folks want to ask even more questions.

Bad Left Hook learned around the end of June that the testing protocol for that fight was written with the assistance of Max Boxing's Gabriel Montoya. Montoya, who wrote of the testing in Pascal/Bute at the time of the fight's cancellation:

Beyond the eventual fate of this lucrative fight is the question of what will become of the extensive random anti-doping program that both camps had agreed to. There has been much speculation in the media regarding the agreed upon testing for this fight. According to a report by Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette in late March, Larouche was initially the man who asked for anti-doping testing.

As well as sending tweets such as:

And, perhaps most damning of all:

Montoya served in the same role for the recent Adonis Stevenson vs. Chad Dawson fight. After the fight, Montoya wrote:

...its impact will be felt for some time in Canada. The anti-doping testing protocol designed by Interbox and GYM promotional outfits for the Lucian Bute vs. Jean Pascal fight postponed until late December/early January was used for Stevenson-Dawson. It marked the first time such stringent tests were performed on a Canadian boxing match both for the fight and training camp. Results are still pending from the World Anti-Doping Agency-approved testing which was paid for by the athletes.

The fight also marked the first time both state commission testing and an independent testing organization with state-of-the-art anti-doping tests collected samples on the same night.

Congrats to the fighters, GYM, Interbox and all involved including Gary Shaw Promotions, who handles Dawson. This marks the second time one of his top fighters has agreed to anti-doping testing.

Montoya has been one of the most outspoken critics of the current testing standards, but it seems odd that he would commit so many journalistic ethical violations. From being told that he had taken money from a a promoter -- in this case Yvon Michel -- to obfuscation of the truth, intentionally making it seem as though he had no information beyond what the promoters were telling him when he was directly involved with the testing.

This kind of behavior seemed to risk not only harming the public trust in journalists, but also harming the very anti-doping cause that Montoya has championed. While Montoya has been quick to point out when testing "seems fishy" in other cases, why obscure his own role in the testing for these fights? Why not promote the idea of a fully above board and transparent testing regimen, even if it's at the expense of his own

Bad Left Hook reached out to Montoya, wanting to understand what exactly his thinking was. We also reached out to Les Promotions Sportscene Inc./InterBox wanting to understand why they asked Montoya to take on this role given his lack of true expertise in the drug testing world beyond research for his personal mission.

First, Ian Edery from Interbox responded for the promotions:

"Gabriel Montoya is not a paid consultant. He helped us with Bute vs Pascal as this was the first time we were involved in antidoping protocol, a first in Canada, as our Commissions have never implemented or required out of competition testing. His expertise was very useful and gave us not only a launching pad, but also an insight into what to look for in testing, and what to include in our contracts.

"He never received a penny, and we had to stop exchanging information as the antidoping related parties required the promoters to sign non disclosure agreements."

After investigating the story, I was able to get Montoya on the phone to get his side of the story.

Initially, I asked Montoya to confirm if he was, in fact, a paid consultant for these fights and to expand on his involvement:

I was not a paid consultant for the promoters. I was contacted somewhere along in the process of after they decided that they weren't going to use VADA or USADA and the commission wasn't going to be a part of the testing process. Because a part of their anti-doping rules...their laws, are that they can't change for just one fight. So they had to find another way to do it.

I was contacted during that process by Ian Edery, director of operations at InterBox. I've known him for as long as I've been in boxing. I thought that he was calling me to get someone else's number when he mentioned anti-doping and he needed advice. And I do have a lot of those numbers. And that was actually why he was contacting me. Because I have, over the last three and a half, almost four years, been covering anti-doping in boxing and trying to reach out and understand it on a global level as it pertains to other sports to bring that to our sport. I don't think that can be denied by anybody.

So they wanted my advice. I gave my advice. I wrote it out for them, what my protocol would be and they took it from there. There's scientists involved, there's several agencies, I can't disclose what those are because they signed a non-disclosure agreement. I did not. And, that was tat. We stopped communicating.

The thinking was if people knew where the labs are and what the protocols are, they figure out how to beat the tests. And I can't disagree with them as the rest of the anti-doping community in any sport believes the same thing. That keeping the dopers in the dark is part of the process. VADA is one of the only ones that has tried to be transparent about what tests they do, but they also do the strictest tests, so they can afford to be.

Hopefully, the protocol that I recommended, I hope they took all my advice. If they did, it will be one of the best protocols in all of sport, not just boxing. It's the gold standard the way I wrote it...what I suggested to them.

In terms of ethics and if I were a paid consultant. I was not a paid consultant. What I did, was take information I've learned over three and a half years and give it as a gift to Canadian boxing. I hope they took my advice, because if they did, the drug testing protocol is awesome.

End of story.

Next, I asked him to address my concerns with the articles he wrote and tweets he sent that failed to disclose his involvement with the fights and the drug testing protocols:

With Dawson/Stevenson, I didn't know that they had gone ahead and kept using the protocol. I thought it was going to be...there were specifics for Bute and Pascal in the testing, I knew they were going to do it for that for a period of time, like over a longer period of time than just one fight. But I didn't know they were going to do it for other fights.

So, when I wrote about it, was when I found out about it. That's why the brief was so short. It's not like I was running a big ol' story with the big scoop. I know a lot more than I'm reporting, what I just told you butI can't...I just don't want to jeopardize...to me, them having good anti-doping is more important than me getting the scoop in this case.

So I'm cool with not telling people what the tests are.

I hope that people are concerned about results management. Now, I can't say how it's going to work out, but I can say this...it's not just in the hands of the promoters. There are other people who are qualified people, who are ethically sound people who are a part of the process. If they're not, they will be in the loop and if the results aren't released, the testing protocol will be over, it'll fall apart. So I feel comfortable with the way it came together, with the way it worked out.

As for talking about the Bute/Pascal thing, what I wrote...what I put in my article was what I was able to gleen. The article kind of shows that I came into the process a little late. I didn't withold anything from the public. Bute was injured as far as I knew. There weren't any malfesences as far as I know.

One thing I would say is why are people concerned about my involvement, and why is nobody writing a story about the Quebec commission and them not trying to change their laws to be more involved? I know they'll be told about the results, but why did they balk earlier. Why don't they want to be involved? Why don't they want to change their laws? That's a more interesting story than someone asking for my advice on something.

Next, I asked Montoya if he would have released a positive drug test failure as soon as he knew about it in these fights, or would he have held it until the promoter gave the go-ahead:

I would have handled it the way I handle the other positives I released. In the cases of Berto and Peterson, where I waited for the B sample. That's how it's done. That's fair. That's legal. That protects their right to privacy.

I probably wouldn't have known until...maybe I would have known right before they were going to write the press release once the B sample was done. But there wasn't going to be anything where I was told when a B sample happened. I was not part of the process to that extent. I was giving advice, I was giving my dream scenario.

So yeah, I think in some ways they wanted me there not just because I had a network of people I could consult with...which I didn't really in this case. If you read anything I wrote or listen to any interview I did on the subject, you can kind of figure out what I would recommend.

I think why they wanted me there was because I'm a news person who's known for being vocal. And, I'm sorry...some people beat me by hours breaking stories, but I knew well before a lot of these guys and I've been very plugged in.

In the end, it's a story where everyone will have to make their own judgments. There are still, in my opinion, some clear and unavoidable conflicts of interest when a media member works with a promoter in a capacity such as this.

But Montoya does seem to truly believe that what he is doing is in the best interest of the sport and a cause that he deeply cares about.

Maybe his position can best be summed up with the way he ended our interview:

They wanted me there for some sort of legitimacy because I'm very outspoken on this subject. In some ways people think I've crossed the line from a reporter to an anti-doping advocate.

Maybe somebody should be. I don't see what's wrong with that.

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