In 2002, Fernando Vargas became the first boxer in Nevada to test positive for an anabolic steroid when his postfight urinalysis showed stanozolol in his system for his bout with Oscar De La Hoya.
Vargas said he hadn't knowingly taken steroids and laid the blame on a member of his training camp who gave him the stanozolol without his knowledge.
The Nevada Athletic Commission was sympathetic, but adopted the "captain of the ship" stance and suspended him for nine months as well as levying a $100,000 fine.
The "captain of the ship" issue is likely to arise again should Lamont Peterson, who tested positive last month for synthetic testosterone that forced cancellation of his May 19 fight in Las Vegas with Amir Khan, apply for a license in Nevada.
The commission, in its effort to rid the sport of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, has made it incumbent upon the fighters to know what they put into their bodies. Ignorance is not an excuse.
What could be an excuse, though, would be if Peterson could prove he not only didn't know, but that he expressly told his doctor he did not want to use anything that could cause him to fail a drug test. Peterson had requested that he and Khan submit to random blood and urine testing prior to their planned fight. They hired the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) to conduct the testing.
Neither Peterson nor trainer/manager Barry Hunter responded to messages left by Yahoo! Sports. However, Peterson told RingTV.com that he did not cheat.
"Well, he was showing me that it was not a steroid, and that it wasn't a performance-enhancement drug or anything like that," Peterson told RingTV.com's Lem Satterfield. "He said that it's not going to make me feel like Superman or anything like that. It's not going to make me feel like a super hero. He said it's just going to bring my levels up and that's all, and that my overall health would be better. He told me all of this before he went through with the procedure.
"I even went online to watch videos of them doing the procedure, because I was kind of cautious about it. So I went online, did the research, found out that it was considered an all-natural substance and supplement. It's a soy-based product, and I watched them actually do the procedure on several people who had the same problem that I have, and so I said, 'You know what? We're going to go through with it,' and that's what we did."
[Related: Timothy Bradley is ready for the spotlight]
Dr. Johnny Benjamin, an orthopedic surgeon from Vero Beach, Fla., who has been a friend of Peterson's for several years, suggested that Peterson was duped by Dr. John A. Thompson, who gave Peterson the testosterone pellets.
Benjamin pointed out that Peterson was the one who demanded the random tests in the first place.
"If you're trying to cheat or gain an unfair advantage, why are you the one demanding VADA Olympic-style drug testing?" Benjamin said. "It makes no sense. You're basically saying, 'Please, please catch me.' "
Benjamin said he spoke at length with Peterson and Hunter about how he wound up with synthetic testosterone in his system. Thompson injected the pellets into Peterson's hip in November after Peterson complained of sluggishness, fatigue and an inability to focus. Peterson complained he couldn't train as hard as he normally did.
After a blood test, the doctor injected Peterson with the testosterone pellets, Benjamin said. According to Benjamin, though, he didn't do that until Peterson and his team questioned Thompson about it.
"Lamont's people, recognizing that he was going to do VADA testing, asked him, 'Is this a banned substance? Is this legal?'–" Benjamin said. "They were told, 'No, there's nothing to worry about. It's 100 percent legal. It's not synthetic. It's an organic-based compound derived from soy. You're perfectly fine taking this.' "
Thompson couldn't be reached to comment on the accuracy of Benjamin's claims. Benjamin said that Peterson wanted and tried his best to comply with the rules and was taken advantage of. In essence, what he's saying is that it would be no different than if four big men held Peterson down and forced him to ingest a steroids tablet as he was kicking and screaming.
Will the commission buy that argument? Well, it certainly won't let him fight until all of the synthetic testosterone clears the system. But it's also likely that the commission will conclude that Peterson didn't do enough to make certain he wasn't going to take something that would get him banned.
Whose fault was it that Peterson did not go to an endocrinologist? Ultimately, any commission that hears Peterson's request for a license will conclude that it was incumbent upon Peterson to seek the proper treatment from the appropriate physician.
He may not have knowingly or cheated. But as Vargas painfully learned 10 years ago, the fighter is the captain of the ship. That dictum is what likely will sink Peterson.
• I was glad to see HBO gave time to boxing with the new magazine show, "The Fight Game with Jim Lampley," that aired for the first time Saturday. It was a rough debut, though. Lampley did separate interviews with Arum and Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer regarding the making of a Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao bout that simply covered old ground and didn't bring light to the issue. Lampley has the clout to bring the two together for an intelligent, high-level discourse that would have served the public more than the he-said, he-said type of interview that was conducted.
• That said, HBO has stepped up its coverage of the fight game outside of the ring with Lampley's show, the excellent "Portrait of a Fighter" series and other shoulder programming that has been long overdue.
• It won't be a Fight of the Year candidate, but I like the concept of an Andre Ward-Chad Dawson bout. They're two of the most skilled men in the sport. Not all fights are going to be Gatti-Ward.
Floyd given a free pass by media
Kevin, I enjoy your articles, but I have a question regarding the media's treatment of Floyd Mayweather. I enjoyed the fight against Miguel Cotto but I wonder why Mayweather hasn't received more criticism for his performance. When Manny Pacquiao fought Juan Manuel Marquez in November, Pacquiao was widely criticized for his struggles and some wondered whether he had past his prime. Yet, Mayweather struggled just as much against Cotto as Pacquiao did against Marquez, but the media praised Mayweather for beating a worthy opponent. A case can be made that both guys lost four or five rounds in their respective fights. Does the media give a pass to the current pound-for-pound champ? Your opinion would be appreciated.
Grand Prairie, Texas
Thanks, Jairo. The problem is your characterization of the fights. Most reporters I spoke to thought Marquez defeated Pacquiao, or that the fight was a draw. Conversely, those same reporters felt Mayweather won handily against Cotto, as did the judges. I thought the fight was close, but two judges gave Cotto three rounds and the third only gave him two. That's how most of the media saw it. You saw the fights differently than most of the reporters who were live at the events.
Should Floyd-Manny split dough 50-50?
I was just curious about your point of view regarding the 50-50 purse split issue between Mayweather and Pacquiao (obviously there are other issues, i.e. Bob Arum, drug testing, etc.). Mayweather greatly feels that he deserve the lion's share and so do some of your colleagues. I feel that given that they are both legitimate pay-per-view magnets and their pound-for-pound standings are quite close, a 50-50 split seems right. I'd like to hear your opinion. I am a Filipino after all and maybe a bit bias towards Manny.
Boks Dela Paz
Thanks, Boks. I don't think there is a reporter alive who can conclusively say what is fair. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated wrote a piece Monday that indicates the two fighters' pay-per-view numbers and revenues are similar, which would support a 50-50 split. Clearly, Pacquiao brings a massive audience from outside the U.S. and that has to be factored in as well. I don't want to cop out by ducking your question, but the truth is that no reporter who is being honest could tell you he or she has enough information to say definitively how the money should be split. It's a negotiation and there is a give and take in all negotiations. I'm simply hoping the fight occurs.
"I respect Manny Pacquiao. I respect his ability, what he's done and what he brings to the ring. I'd be a fool not to realize what he is capable of doing, and I'm not a fool. But I believe in myself. This is what I've been fighting for all my life and I believe I am going to win this fight." – Timothy Bradley, on his June 9 bout against Pacquiao.
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