COMMENTARY | This past Tuesday, Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole reported that the deal involving pre-fight drug screening for the October 12 bout between Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley had been re-worked by promoter Bob Arum.
Initially, an inability to come to terms on which testing agency to use resulted in an odd call for testing to be done by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as well as the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). Everything seemed settled until shortly after the press conference to announce the bout, when Arum made a drastic change in the terms of the arrangement.
Rather than work through either independent agency, Arum wants to hand the testing responsibility to the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), which will then hire (at Arum's expense) an outside laboratory to do the testing.
"Whatever the expense, we'll pay it," Arum told Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times late last week "They're the regulatory body. If VADA or USADA get a positive, so? But if the regulatory agency does, then they decide what to do with it."
Handing full testing responsibility to the NSAC, which has doggedly refused to upgrade its own outdated testing protocol, brings up a boatload of potential conflicts. Before diving into all of those potential issues, though, there's the fact that this new deal is not what the fighters signed off on, especially not Timothy Bradley.
"I understand that everyone is talking about the drug testing of this fight," Bradley wrote via his official Twitter account. "However, I have a contract that states that both VADA and USADA will be doing the drug testing for both camps and that's what it will be. I did not agree to anything else and that was a deciding factor to making this fight happen. I have yet to make any changes to my fight contract regardless of what is said."
Team Bradley, concerned with Marquez's new muscular physique and vastly improved one-punch power under the supervision of controversial strength and conditioning coach, Angel Heredia, insisted on additional testing for performance enhancing drugs. Marquez, to his credit, quickly signed on for the bout and the added stipulations.
But now the terms and conditions of the testing have been changed, apparently without the consent of at least one of the fighters. While Arum may point out the fact that testing is testing, regardless of who oversees it, Bradley still has plenty of legitimate reason to be wary and doubtful as to whether this new plan will give him the assurance of a level playing field he initially demanded.
Last October, when Erik Morales tested positive for the banned substance, Clenbuterol, prior to his rematch with Danny Garcia, everybody dropped the ball--- including the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC), which should've been the loudest voice in the area of fighter safety.
When presented with information that Morales had tested positive on two separate occasions, the NYSAC essentially passed the buck and left it up to Garcia whether he wanted to go through with the bout. Predictably, Garcia opted for the million dollar payday and the card at the Barclays Center went ahead as planned.
To explain its decision, the NYSAC issued the following statement, just as the event's undercard was beginning:
"The New York (State) Athletic Commission has taken into consideration the testing of Erik Morales conducted by USADA, an independent non-governmental organization contracted by Golden Boy Promotions to conduct testing on its boxers…Based upon currently available information and the representations made by Mr. Morales that he unintentionally ingested contaminated food, it is the commission's opinion that at this time there is inconclusive data to make a final determination regarding the suspension of Mr. Morales' boxing license.
"The commission will continue investigating the allegations and will wait until official laboratory results are available before making a final decision."
The moral of this story is that when push came to shove, the commission and promoter both opted to err on the side of business and not fighter safety. What's to keep the Nevada commission and Arum from doing the same, especially for a considerably bigger fight with even greater big fight repercussions for all involved?
According to Kevin Iole, NSAC executive director, Keith Kizer, has made it clear that a dirty test will result in a canceled fight. But boxing commissions, of any size and history, rarely evoke feelings of optimism. And for the fighters, who could pay dearly with life and well-being for any mistakes made by the commission, betting on boxing to do the right thing is not exactly a wise move.
Ideally, the USADA and VADA would do their thing, as originally planned, and the NSAC would agree to work closely with them and abide by what each agency finds. Closing off the process by putting it all squarely in the hands of the commission and promoter makes the entire deal look fishy, almost as though the aim is to make sure the testing doesn't interfere with the bout--- regardless of what may or may not be flowing through either fighters' veins. Even if everything is on the level with the NSAC testing, the appearance of even the slightest bit of shadiness voids the very purpose of testing in the first place.
Given enough time and pressure, Timothy Bradley may give in and agree to the changes made in the testing plan by Arum. At the end of the day, safety talk aside, fighters need to fight. And if that happens, regardless of what has been said by Arum and Kizer, there will be no absolute guarantee for the fans or the fighters that Marquez-Bradley will be an honest, PEDs-free prizefight.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Sources: Yahoo! Sports, Sports Illustrated, Twitter
- Sports & Recreation
- Timothy Bradley
- Juan Manuel Marquez
- Erik Morales
- Bob Arum