It's the topic that won't -- and you can argue should not -- go away. And it's perhaps good that it doesn't go away, but this isn't just about Manny Pacquiao, or the fanatics on either side claiming that he cheats or he doesn't.
This was the official statement from Team Pacquiao (whose lawyers drafted and released it) regarding the whole idiotic hoax from last week:
"I have never taken steroids, HGH, or any kind of banned performance-enhancement drugs. Period. My success in the ring is due to hard work, belief in God, and the support of my fans. Like every boxer, I'm required to take drug tests in connection with every professional fight I have in the United States. I have passed every one, including my victory against Oscar de la Hoya and my most recent victory against Shane Mosley. I will fight to protect my hard-earned good name and reputation."
While it's a solid public statement, look, you cannot get around the fact that the drug testing used by U.S. boxing commissions is weak. Fair being fair -- so let's be fair -- saying, "I take drug tests for every fight," should not by itself erase doubts if anyone has them. It just shouldn't work that way because the drug tests can't detect the stuff that someone of Pacquiao's means would in theory be using. I'm not saying Manny Pacquiao can tell you what he would theoretically be on, I'm saying the guy someone would hire for someone like Manny Pacquiao could.
And before anyone takes that the wrong way, or you can't read so great: I'm not accusing Manny Pacquiao of using anything. This is hypothetical and you could replace the name "Manny Pacquiao" with the name "Floyd Mayweather" or the name "Shane Mosley" (who also never failed a drug test when he was a BALCO client) or the name "Ricardo Mayorga." And again: I'm not accusing any of them, or anyone, of using anything. I don't know if anyone does anything or who does what, but I'm also certain that unless you're being truly careless about it, the tests that boxing commissions use don't know either.
Truth be told, not many things involving boxing these days are bigger than Manny Pacquiao. But this subject is.
It has gotten to the point now where those not involved in the whole Pacquiao/Mayweather business are speaking about the subject.
Andre Ward talked about the idea of using Olympic-style testing, which as some pointed out could be a bit curious given that he currently works with former BALCO head Victor Conte. Here's what Ward said:
"I think it is [necessary for boxing]. I would welcome it. I think it's great. That way there is no confusion about who's playing on an even playing field. This is a dangerous sport. You hear whispers about guys, what they're doing and not doing. You have to figure out who's oing to pay for it, but once we get past that - I think it should be something that's mplemented in every big fight," Ward said.
As for the Conte connection, it is what it is. This is the land of opportunity and all that crap, and a land of second chances. Plus I just can't get myself worked up the way some do -- we're talking about a guy who used his knowledge to help willing athletes cheat at sports, not a dangerous predator or something like that. This is not about keeping the pedophile away from the middle school, which is the way some seem to take it. A version of Victor Conte not bent on cheating the system is valuable because he has the knowledge to beat the system if he wants to, but that doesn't mean he has to, and he knows very well what he's doing. I understand some don't trust Conte to not cheat, and I don't either, the same as being the Average Joe I am, I wouldn't trust Michael Vick to watch my dogs while I went on vacation, or any other similar situation. But he works with Ward, Nonito Donaire, and Eddie Chambers, among others, and hey, maybe he's legit now. I can see it.
Ward is right that the issue of paying for this testing -- which is much more expensive than the current system -- is an issue. Obviously unless something major happens and this is funded through an outside source, you can't test everyone this way. It's also just not reasonable for any commission anywhere to run around chasing guys on the undercard of club fights in some podunk town to take random tests. It won't fly, and it's silly to try that.
Leo Solis offered this in the comments of one of our threads on the topic:
Maybe a way to increase the coverage in boxing would be to link the requirment of the test to the overall cost of the card and not necessarily the purse of one particular fight. So if say the cost of the putting together a whole card exceeds say 30K (or whatever number you like), then mandate that all fighters on the card get tested. This could be a good initial step.
A better option for the long term, given that for these tests to work as they are intended they should be applied year round, would be for the commissions to ask both fighters and promoters for a fee (tax) proportional to their yearly profits to pay for tests year round, even if the fighter does not have a fight scheduled.
And it would be a good step. But the question now is, when will the boxing commissions stop acting like they have a real testing system in place? When will they stop trying to hide from their inadequacy? I don't believe that Nevada or California or anyone truly believes they've got the best system in place. I do believe they have the best system in place that will keep everyone happy. And if they suddenly started making moves in the "right" direction, how quickly would major promoters go against them, citing concerns about cost instead of the possibly more realistic concerns about some of their star fighters being exposed, either through failing a test or what happens in the ring when the reality of fighting without artificial aid does arrive?
I've said before that I don't simply buy that anyone is clean. Not Manny, not Floyd, not Shane, not a co-feature prospect on Solo Boxeo Tecate or Box Azteca. It's because I don't know. The only things I know for sure are this: Yes, some of your favorite boxers cheat. And no, this last idiotic Pacquiao accusation doesn't prove that he's one of them, but the fact it was a hoax also doesn't prove that he's not.
The rise of performance-enhancing drugs in the last 10-15 years has made many of us cynical. But as Rafael Palmeiro taught me, sometimes the loudest voices against it are the ones you have to watch. Like in that instance, at some point, something is going to come of all of this. But names like Pacquiao and Mayweather will probably be long retired by then, because no one is in any rush to improve the current system.