LAS VEGAS – Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. had his fine for testing positive for marijuana last year reduced from $900,000 to $100,000 at a meeting of the Nevada Athletic Commission on Friday.
The four commissioners unanimously agreed to a settlement with Chavez Jr. that was worked out between Chavez attorneys Don Campbell and Colby Williams and Nevada deputy attorney general Vivienne Rakowsky.
Chavez agreed to the nine-month suspension he was originally handed for testing positive for marijuana metabolites following his Sept. 15, 2012, loss to Sergio Martinez. He'll be required to provide a clean drug test in addition to the fine.
The settlement was reached to avoid a court fight regarding what Chavez believed was the excessive nature of the fine. Campbell said he believed the fine violated the eighth amendment to the U.S. constitution, which prohibits excessive fines.
Because the World Anti-Doping Agency on May 12 implemented a higher threshold for a positive test in regard to marijuana use, Campbell argued in a May 15 letter to Rakowsky that a 1974 U.S. Supreme court decision meant the new WADA threshold should apply to Chavez.
That is because Chavez had already appealed the fine, and the court case, Bradley v. the School Board of the City of Richmond, held that when a case is on judicial review, if a new standard is implemented, that new standard would apply to the case on review, as well.
The new WADA threshold increased the level for a positive test to 150 ng/ML from 50 ng/ML; Chavez tested above 50 ng/ML but below 150 ng/ML.
Campbell lauded the commission for being willing to change and consider a lower fine. Yahoo! Sports suggested to him in an interview following the hearing that a $100,000 fine for using marijuana, which he agreed to Friday on behalf of Chavez, was also excessive.
Chavez, who will fight Bryan Vera on Sept. 7 at Staples Center in Los Angeles if he is able to receive a visa to enter the U.S., wanted to settle the case, however, and directed Campbell to agree to the $100,00 fine.
"I also agree that a $100,000 for marijuana is, in my view, excessive," Campbell said. "But my client wants to put this behind him. To take this through the courts would cost approximately $250,000. He doesn't want to spend that money, and I understand that, but I think quite frankly that you are absolutely right. Something has to change here in the manner in which these fines are imposed."
Campbell said he feels "it is just a matter of time" before the Nevada commission's system of fines is struck down by the courts.
The commissioners seemed to move on Friday toward a new fining system, discussing tiers related to the severity of the drug involved. The commissioners debated a tiered system, where use of a prohibited substance such as marijuana wouldn't be regarded as the same as penalties for anabolic steroids.
"You heard that discussion from us today from a philosophical standpoint," commissioner Francisco Aguilar said. "We have all these situations and these substances. We have [some athletes who have submitted] fake urine, which is an extreme 'no' to us. Steroids is extreme. Testosterone. You have diuretics. What is the intent with that diuretic? Sometimes we won't always know.
"And then you look at a substance like a marijuana and you ask, 'Where is that on the spectrum?' Society has moved over the last 10 years, and especially within the [past] two years, to make marijuana not the substance [that would be considered on par with steroids]."
It was a long and, at times, touching hearing. J'Leon Love, a middleweight boxer who tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide after a May 4 bout with Gabriel Rosado, told how the murder of his brother impacted him and, indirectly, caused him to take the banned substance.
Love said he took a hydrochlorothiazide pill on May 2, the day before the weigh-in, when it was given to him by Bob Ware, his strength and conditioning coach at the Mayweather Boxing Club.
Love admitted the use, but pleaded with the commission for leniency. During his training camp, his brother was murdered in Detroit. Love missed two weeks of camp and said he is now trying to take care of his brother's nine children.
"I'm the heart of my family," he said. "If I fall apart, they fall apart."
Love said missing time during camp threw him off and, for the first time in his career, caused him to have difficulties cutting weight.
At one point, his eyes reddening, he said, "I didn't care what happened to me in the fight. My heart was broken. … It killed me to lose my brother."
The commissioners were impressed by Love's testimony, and by the fact that he brought his mother to the hearing. As commissioners were about to rule, chairman Bill Brady, who had clearly been sympathetic toward Love, spoke directly toward the fighter.
He said he entered the meeting wanting to punish him severely, but was touched by Love's story.
"I hope this commission shows compassion and mercy," Brady said. Then, taking a stern tone, he added, "If you do it again, I'll eat your heart alive."
Commissioners voted to suspend Love for six months and fine him $10,000, or 10 percent of his initial $100,000 fine. He'll also be required to submit a clean urine sample before being permitted to fight again.
After the penalty was handed down, Brady got out of his seat and, in a highly emotional scene, walked around the table and embraced Love's mother.
"Thank you so much for coming, and I am so, so sorry for your loss," Brady said to her.
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