There is plenty of reason to be suspicious of Juan Manuel Marquez's new body. At 38 years old, he added an incredible amount of bulk that increased his power, and yet, he retained his flexibility, speed and quickness.
He works with one of the most notorious trainers in sport, Angel Guillermo "Memo" Heredia. Heredia admitted in court he supplied many athletes involved in the BALCO case with performance-enhancing drugs, and has done videos that essentially document how athletes can hide their PED usage.
Prior to working with Heredia, Marquez was always lean, without a lot of definition, and looked puny when he jumped to welterweight in 2009 to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Marquez, however, was not a puny welterweight in December when he knocked out Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas at the end of the sixth round of their fourth fight. He was thickly muscled with definition and showed a power he hadn't previously displayed.
Marquez angrily denies using PEDs, and Heredia denies supplying them to him. That very well may be the truth. Marquez's larger body could be the work of a more focused, more scientific approach to his physical training just as he claims.
Marquez will fight Timothy Bradley in what could be a sensational battle for Bradley's WBO welterweight title on Oct. 12 in Las Vegas. But before he signed to fight Marquez, Bradley demanded that the fighters be drug-tested. He signed an agreement, as many fighters have, to be tested randomly by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency.
Marquez, though, wasn't comfortable with VADA handling the testing and for a very understandable reason. BALCO founder Victor Conte is A) an extraordinarily outspoken proponent of VADA and B) an extraordinarily outspoken critic of Heredia's.
Conte and Heredia battle on Twitter on an almost daily basis, much of which is for show since it's going to have no impact on the way either of them goes about their business.
Marquez wanted to use USADA as the testing agency.
But promoter Bob Arum, an old-timer who hasn't shown a great grasp of PED issues in the past, came up with a perfect solution.
All testing will be handled through the Nevada Athletic Commission, with Arum footing the bill. A qualified laboratory will be hired to test the fighters before and throughout the duration of their camps for all substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited list.
Conte's close association with VADA rightfully makes those who are suspicious of his contempt for Heredia fearful, while USADA's actions in the Erik Morales case certainly call its judgment into question.
Last October, USADA was running the drug testing program for a New York bout between Morales and Danny Garcia. Morales tested positive on more than one occasion for levels of clenbuterol, but USADA said nothing and allowed the fight to proceed. So, those on the Bradley side have every right to wonder what USADA might do if Marquez came up with a positive test.
Arum's solution should fix that. Nothing is perfect, and there are always conspiracy theorists out there who will be ready to argue that the U.S. didn't land on the moon, but having the commission manage the results is the best possible solution.
"I am not a cheater, and I told you that before," Marquez said. "I don't know what I have to do to prove I'm clean. Before the [Pacquiao] fight [in December], I was asking to be tested. The reason my body changed was months of hard work.
"I knew I didn't cheat, and that's why I wanted to be tested. When [Pacquiao trainer] Freddie Roach said he thought I was doing something, I said that I would piss in a cup any time he wanted to prove I was not."
Marquez has, throughout his career, been an extraordinarily honorable guy. He's fought hard, he's fought clean and no matter who has promoted him – he's been with Top Rank, Golden Boy, Forum Boxing, Zanfer Promotions and others – his reputation had always been impeccable.
It was, that is, until Heredia showed up.
Heredia also admitted his past failings, like Conte has. But what made many suspicious of the Marquez-Heredia pairing is not just that Marquez got demonstrably bigger and stronger, but that they trained primarily in Mexico, where oversight of PED usage is far less than it is in the U.S. and where steroids are much more freely available.
Though Pacquiao is the prize of Arum's stable and the bulked-up Marquez knocked him cold with one punch, Arum's faith in Marquez's honesty never wavered.
"I know the kid, and I know what kind of values he has and the kind of person he is," Arum said. "And look at the fight. He was getting the [expletive] kicked out of him and was one round away from being stopped until Manny ran into that punch.
"There is nothing suspicious. Manny ran right into it and Marquez was going forward. It was a great punch at the perfect time and place. If I didn't know the kid as well as I do, maybe I'd be suspicious. But he's as classy and honest a kid as there is."
If the commission approves the Arum Plan at its meeting next month – no one involved sees any impediments – the commission will handle the testing.
You can be sure, if one of the fighters has a positive test, he won't be fighting. Keith Kizer, the commission's executive director, has made that very clear.
This testing, then, will serve as something of a vindication for Marquez. If he passes all of the tests, looks the same as he did in December and then performs well, all but the most virulent critics should be satisfied.
Performance-enhancing drugs have no place in sports, particularly in combat sports when they can help one to seriously injure another.
Nor, though, is it correct that a clean athlete should compete under a cloud of suspicion.
The plan to have the Nevada commission handle all aspects of the testing should, once and for all, prove who is right: Marquez, or the many critics of Heredia.
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