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Mayweather-USADA controversy overshadows Berto fight

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Floyd Mayweather is fighting for what he says is the last time in just two days. But the bigger story this week involves his relationship with the drug testing agency USADA.

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For the last five years and change, one of Floyd Mayweather's most frequent boasts has been that he's been on a mission to clean up the sport of boxing, to chase out the drug cheats, and ensure an even playing field. There have always been skeptics of this notion -- many have pointed out that Mayweather's claims of "Olympic-style" testing have been false, and there have been some questions here and there regarding USADA, the agency he has employed to handle the testing for his bouts.

But this week, Thomas Hauser really dug in deep to the situation, and the results of his digging are pretty troubling. At best, Mayweather and USADA come off extremely questionable. At worst, it's not hard to suspect that Floyd Mayweather cheats as much as you'd suspect anyone else in boxing does.

The headline-grabbing find is that Mayweather was administered WADA-banned IVs prior to his May 2 fight against Manny Pacquiao, which were given a retroactive pass weeks later by USADA.

The collection agents found evidence of an IV being administered to Mayweather. Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which had jurisdiction over the fight, says that USADA did not tell the commission whether the IV was actually being administered when the agents arrived. USADA did later advise the NSAC that Mayweather's medical team told its agents that the IV was administered to address concerns related to dehydration.

Mayweather's medical team also told the collection agents that the IV consisted of two separate mixes. The first was a mixture of 250 milliliters of saline and multi-vitamins. The second was a 500-milliliter mixture of saline and Vitamin C. Seven hundred and fifty milliliters equals 25.361 ounces, an amount equal to roughly 16 percent of the blood normally present in an average adult male.

The mixes themselves are not prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which sets the standards that USADA purports to follow. However, their intravenous administration is prohibited by WADA.

The article -- which is a true must-read -- also brings to memory the 2012 rumors that Mayweather indeed failed three drug tests and was given a waiver each time by USADA, and also new light that his testosterone-to-epitestosterone levels are, while not evidence of cheating, certainly red flags that make the case for CIR testing, which USADA has refused to use, claiming it's too expensive. (Meanwhile, VADA does use the CIR testing.)

Are Mayweather's boastful claims of cleaning up the sport just propaganda? Is he even doing serious drug testing at all, apart from the notion that he might be receiving favorable treatment from USADA?

Victor Conte, himself a controversial figure in this world, offers this take:

"I can't tell you what Floyd Mayweather is and isn't doing. What he could be doing is this. The fight is over. First, he uses these drugs for tissue repair. Then he can stay on them until he announces his next fight, at which time he's the one who decides when the next round of testing starts. And by the time testing starts, the drugs have cleared his system.

"Do I know that's what's happening? No, I don't. I do know that the testing period for Mayweather's fights is getting shorter and shorter. What is it for this one? Five weeks? The whole concept of one man dictating the testing schedule is wrong. But USADA lets Mayweather do it. USADA is not doing effective comprehensive testing on Floyd Mayweather. Testing for four or five weeks before a fight is nonsense."

At the very least, there are obvious concerns that anyone should have after reading Hauser's report. Some of them have been floating around more as rumor for years now. Some have never truly bought into the notion that USADA and Mayweather were "cleaning up" boxing, as there have been several instances where eyebrows were raised. Erik Morales repeatedly failing drug tests before his rematch with Danny Garcia comes to mind, and is a major part of the Hauser piece. (That was when I, myself, me, personally, fell off the pro-USADA wagon.) And there was the 2012 instance of USADA destroying samples before a Peter Quillin-Winky Wright fight.

USADA, which declined to speak with Hauser for the article, did release an official statement today:

Whether due to a genuine misunderstanding of the facts or an intentional desire to mislead, numerous unfounded and false accusations have been leveled against USADA in recent on-line articles. Since our inception, USADA's sole mission has been to protect clean sport. As such, it is unfortunate and extremely disappointing to have to address articles riddled with significant inaccuracies and misrepresentations based on unsubstantiated rumors as well as anonymous or self-interested sources that have recklessly called our integrity into question. It is simply absurd to suggest that we would ever compromise our integrity for any sport or athlete.

Although the articles in question contain a multitude of errors, all of which will be addressed at the appropriate time, we believe it is important to immediately correct the record regarding the false suggestion that Floyd Mayweather violated the rules by receiving an IV infusion of saline and vitamins.

As was already publicly reported in May of this year by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), Mr. Mayweather applied for and was granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) by USADA for an IV infusion of saline and vitamins that was administered prior to his May 2 fight against Manny Pacquiao. Mr. Mayweather's use of the IV was not prohibited under the NSAC rules at that time and would not be a violation of the NSAC rules today. Nonetheless, because Mr. Mayweather was voluntarily taking part in a USADA program, and therefore subject to the rules of the WADA Code, he took the additional step of applying for a TUE after the IV infusion was administered in order remain in compliance with the USADA program. Although Mr. Mayweather's application was not approved until after his fight with Mr. Pacquiao and all tests results were reported, Mr. Mayweather did disclose the infusion to USADA in advance of the IV being administered to him. Furthermore, once the TUE was granted, the NSAC and Mr. Pacquiao were immediately notified even though the practice is not prohibited under NSAC rules.

Over the past six years USADA has conducted anti-doping programs for over 45 fights in the sport of professional boxing, and each of those programs has been conducted in accordance with the WADA Code and the International Standards. As a result, every athlete who has participated in one of our programs has voluntarily agreed to abide by the rules of the WADA Code and willingly subjected themselves to substantially more stringent testing protocols than they otherwise would have been subject to.

There are certainly those in the sport of professional boxing who appear committed to preventing an independent and comprehensive anti-doping program from being implemented in the sport, and who wish to advance an agenda that fails to put the interests of clean athletes before their own. Despite that opposition, we will continue to demonstrate to the clean athletes we serve, the sport partners we work with, and all those who share the ideal of fair competition, that we remain committed to our mission of protecting the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of competition.

What's your take on this controversy? Is there legitimate reason to question the Mayweather-USADA relationship and USADA in general, or are the "haters" just "hating" because that's what haters are going to do (hate)?