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Peterson vs Khan Drug Testing Scandal: Time For Boxing to Take the Test

Lamont Peterson's name is now dirty following his failed drug test. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Lamont Peterson's name is now dirty following his failed drug test. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
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Eddie Gonzalez returns to Bad Left Hook tonight with his take on the Lamont Peterson vs Amir Khan drug testing scandal, which has canceled the highly-anticipated May 19 rematch between the two junior welterweights.

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Today, the Nevada State Athletic Commission heard the case of Lamont Peterson, WBA and IBF junior welterweight world champion, and now even more importantly, admitted user of synthetic testosterone, following his VADA drug test failure in March that wasn't reported until two days ago.

Peterson's stance was typical. "The doctor gave me this" is one of the standard defenses of doping, right alongside "I didn't know what I was taking" and "Huh?" Doping has become more of a problem than ever in sports, but because of that, sports fans have come to shrug these things off, and now the typical response isn't, "How dare he?!" Instead, they say, "How dumb is he that he got caught?"

The timing for Peterson and boxing as a whole couldn't be worse. The week following what will probably be the biggest fight night of the year, a major pay-per-view fight card that finally lived up to the build. Fans both casual and diehard alike were ecstatic with what they got for their money Saturday. Miguel Cotto forced Floyd Mayweather to back up his loud mouth, dig down deep and fight. And fight he did. Cotto challenged Mayweather like no one since Jose Luis Castillo 10 years ago, and it brought the best out of Mayweather. Better writers than me have written about this more eloquently than I am capable of, but suffice it to say that I, and just about every other boxing fan, came out of this weekend really really happy about the events that unfolded before us.

And then Monday happened.

Following boxing (and sports in general) in 2012 is a little different than in the past. With twitter, stories are broke the second they happen, and spread even faster. Rumors hit Twitter that the Peterson vs Khan rematch for May 19th was in trouble. Speculation was rampant, but the early prevailing thought was that there was an injury.

Then the worst case scenario happened: Someone failed a drug test. To make this even more dubious it was Peterson, the fighter who had pushed for advanced testing in negotiations for the rematch. To make matters worse for every single commission everywhere, Peterson's lawyer came out and said the failed test was a result of something that he took before the first Peterson-Khan fight, you know, the one way back in December. The one Peterson won and then passed the administered post fight urine test.

The thing is, that opens Pandora's box on doping in boxing (and MMA as well) that boxing fans have wanted opened for some time now. How could Peterson use these testosterone pellets before a fight and come out clean? Khan's people are now asking for the ruling of the fight to be changed to a no-contest, and I agree with that stance. I'm guessing there is some protocol here that will prevent that, but it was Peterson (via his lawyer) who admitted that he doped before that fight, doctor's excuse or not.

The mess of the situation extends beyond the card that now has been canceled. While all the logistics of that are definitely going to be a pain for Golden Boy and HBO and all the fighters involved, the effect on boxing as a whole will be worse. Peterson picked a terrible week for this to happen. More eyes were on boxing this past weekend than have been in probably 5 years and this just gives them another reason to not look back and keep singing the "boxing is dead" song that has become typical of mainstream media and casual fans. But, boxing now has a chance (a chance it probably won't take) to really take a stand against doping in their sport.

The problem that boxing now faces, something that more informed fans have been screaming for some time now, is that now there is hard evidence that the current drug testing in the sport doesn't work. It's outdated, too easy to beat to the extent that it becomes laughable for someone to be caught. The athletes that are using performance enhancing drugs now aren't the body builders of yesterday giving each other injections in the ass.

These are world class professional athletes who can pay for the services of what can loosely be described as scientists, people who design drugs created for only two purposes: (1) to enhance performance and (2) beat drug tests. Former BALCO chief and current crusader Victor Conte answered a few questions about "testosterone pellets" on Twitter and basically said that that's exactly what the pellets do.

Conte tweeted: "200 mg test pellet delivers about 2 mg test per day for about 100 days w/ stable blood & urine levels. Boost T (testosterone) yet under 4:1 radar. Perfect."

The "4:1 radar" Conte mentioned is the testosterone to epitestosterone (T/E) ratio, a ratio that in a typical man of Peterson's age should be 1:1, even though a ratio of 6:1 is allowed per Nevada rules (a ratio Conte later called a "joke"). Long story short, this drug is designed to elevate your testosterone AND keep your E/T ratio at a level that would allow you to pass a typical urine test, and according to Conte an even better ratio than the maximum allowed in Nevada.

(Editor's Note: It was later reported that Peterson's T/E ratio was 3.77:1.)

All in all Peterson's case is as hard as evidence gets to support the claim that more stringent testing needs to be in place and become the standard. It's not just that Peterson failed this test with the more stringent Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), it's that he passed the previous tests without VADA. Peterson tested dirty four months after the fact with the VADA testing. He passed whatever test was administered in Washington, DC, the night he beat Khan, less that four weeks after he used the testosterone pallets.

Somehow, some way a dirty fighter was allowed to fight, and win, two major titles in a major fight in a major American city. To make matters worse, Peterson won by controversial decision, after points were taken from Khan for shoving, in a fight that now features a drug test many will feel was bogus.

While many doubt his motives (rightfully so) in asking for better testing procedures in boxing, Floyd Mayweather is at least partially responsible for this. Amir Khan even thanked him today on Twitter. "Floyd Style Testing" (not to be confused with Olympic style testing at all) could and probably should become the standard, at least for title fights.

This level of testing is what caught Peterson, and without it Peterson most likely would have entered the ring next Saturday, fought in defense of his two titles and later passed a drug test not sufficient enough to know he had cheated. This will now allow Khan to get on his PR high horse (like Mayweather) and beat the "we need to clean up this sport" drum.

Undoubtedly this makes Khan look better, and lightens, if not erases, the blow of his loss to Peterson. So while the motives are questionable, there is undoubtedly an effect. The most watched fighter in the sport (I am hereby mandated by the Manny Pacquiao fans of the world and Bad Left Hook community to Floyd and Manny are in some order 1a and 1b) making this the standard for his fights is having an effect. Other fighters have followed suit, and it may be time for the sport as a whole to do so as well.

Where Peterson goes from here is anybody's guess. He doesn't have the promotional power behind him that Antonio Margarito had behind him when he cheated, and it is very likely that Peterson fades back into the "no title, no fanbase, no reason to fight him" obscurity he was in before he beat Khan. It's very likely that Peterson and his "testosterone pellets" have put him into the same hole that Joan Guzman and his "missed weight" dug himself into. Khan will go on to other big fights at 147 pounds as he continues to be one of Golden Boy's golden boys, while this may end up being the last we hear of Peterson in a significant fight.

Recently I told someone that the cat and mouse game that the doping "industry" plays with the sports world is very similar to the same game that the hacking community plays with Apple. Yeah, Apple can update the software on their iPhones as often as they want, but the hackers will continue to jailbreak their devices. This is the same game that those who create these designer drugs continue to play with sports as a whole. The drugs they create now are made just as much to beat drug tests as they are to help the athletes using them.

No, increased testing won't catch everyone who abuses PEDs. But it will catch some, as Peterson's dirty test proves. Even if there is some new standard put in place, this will not "clean up the sport." Not completely. But there will be an impact. Even if it's the difference between putting a band aid on a gun shot wound and tying a tourniquet near the wound to stop the bleeding, it's still a start, and it's a start that boxing needs.

A few bullet points before I leave:

  • I have been nowhere near as active on the site as I had ambitiously hoped to be when I initially made the commitment to contribute. I recorded and promoted an album, finished a semester of school and then started an am currently finishing another along with the rest of life. So for that I apologize and hope to contribute more in the future.
  • Initially, I scored Mayweather vs Cotto 116-112 for Floyd, and after watching it a second time, I scored it the unpopular 118-111. Floyd outlanded Cotto in every round but the 8th, which was probably the best round a Mayweather opponent has had against him in 10 years. But as many have said the cards don't do the fight justice. It was an incredible spectacle and will probably go down as the best fight of Mayweather's career when it is all said and done. No clue where Floyd goes from here, but after watching him show signs of exhaustion for the first time in I don't even know how long, I highly doubt he fights above 147 again. Khan taking a fight at 147 this summer and getting Floyd in the fall almost makes too much sense.
  • As for Cotto, he acquitted himself better than the scorecards say and can pretty much fight whoever he wants from here. The fight with Canelo Alverez would have been epic, but Golden Boy has other plans. No clue who else at 154 would be an attractive enough fight to keep Cotto away from a much deserved long vacation, but there are options. If a 4th Pacquiao - Marquez fight isn't made for the fall I fully expect Cotto to be the front runner in the Pacquiao sweepstakes, and if fought at 154 (it won't be) I'd actually lean towards Cotto muscling Pacquiao around how he did Mayweather and beating Manny, as long as he can stay on his feet.
  • Speaking of Marquez, a Marquez vs Khan fight would be great for about a billion reasons, but has no chance of happening for about a billion other reasons.
  • Finally, Ring Magazine named both Mayweather and Pacquiao as #2 in their pound-for-pound rankings this week. While I get the point they're trying to make, it also doesn't make much sense to not call someone the best boxer in the world. Also making this a little bit of a joke Mayweather is ranked #1 in their 154 pound rankings and #2 at 147 (behind Pacquiao). His last 2 wins are over who they rank #2 at 154 (Cotto, who was #1 last week at 154) and the #3 147 pounder, Victor Ortiz. This, along with trecent changes Ring made o their ranking system and how they award their titles, just reeks of "trying too hard." Both decisions were made with good intentions, but both are also ultimately unnecessary.

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