Canelo Alvarez is an excellent fighter who is also one of boxing’s best draws. We could argue whether Anthony Joshua has surpassed him as the sport’s biggest attraction, but the debate would be meaningless. Alvarez is a massive draw who is one of the few fighters in the world who can regularly sell both tickets and pay-per-views.
It is disturbing, though, that Alvarez and Golden Boy Promotions are apparently attempting to tie drug testing into contract negotiations for a Sept. 15 bout with Gennady Golovkin.
Alvarez, of course, was supposed to rematch with Golovkin for the middleweight title on May 5 in a bout that would have drawn a gate in the $20 million range, sold 20,000 tickets at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and attracted a pay-per-view audience in the U.S. in excess of 1.6 million.
The fight didn’t happen as scheduled 100 percent because of Alvarez. He failed two random drug tests while in Mexico for the banned substance Clenbuterol and was then suspended six months by the Nevada Athletic Commission.
Alvarez denied knowingly taking performance enhancing drugs and attributed the failed tests to having eaten contaminated meat in Mexico. After he was caught, he was subjected to random tests by the Nevada commission and passed each of them.
His team passed information to friendly reporters that Alvarez, in the midst of that, had passed a hair follicle test, with its belief being that the hair follicle test would prove his innocence.
It proved nothing of the sort, though. Multiple sources have told Yahoo Sports that the hair follicle test is not currently able to accurately determine whether Clenbuterol got into one’s system via eating meat or through intentional means. Scientists are working on tests to be able to determine that, but they aren’t ready for use yet.
Alvarez’s levels of Clenbuterol were low when he was tested, but even the doctor he brought to a news conference to announce his withdrawal from the bout admitted he couldn’t tell whether the low levels were simply because he’d eaten contaminated meat or whether he’d taken it orally earlier and it was nearly all out of his system.
This is not to say Alvarez cheated. It is to say, though, that it’s laughable to say he’s proven his innocence.
Though Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya told TMZ on April 25 that a potential rematch wasn’t tainted by the positive tests because Alvarez would be tested every day from that point forward until the fight, that’s not how the company is proceeding.
“If we have a deal done, he’ll start when the contracts get signed,” Gomez told BoxingScene’s Keith Idec. “If that’s what they want, we’ll do it like that. Canelo has no problem doing that. We went above and beyond to prove that this is an accident. So all the proper protocols will be in place. There are no issues there.”
Gomez is a decent and upstanding man who is in a horrible position. His biggest star is embroiled in a controversy and he’s stuck with no good options. But what Gomez said is galling and attempts to make the testing a point in negotiations rather than it being agreed upon before talks begin.
There are issues. And it’s not just that Golovkin and trainer Abel Sanchez want drug testing, it’s that it is the right thing to do for the sport and for Alvarez himself.
If there are protracted negotiations, Alvarez could get away with cheating and derive its benefits given he’s in no testing plan. Once he was suspended, Nevada had no jurisdiction to test him until he had a fight in place.
Alvarez, additionally, is not enrolled in a voluntary testing program, so he could be taking PEDs now. He would know when the testing would begin because it wouldn’t start until he signed a contract, thus providing a way for it to get out of his system. Any half-competent anti-doping expert would tell you that it is easier to pass a test when you know it is coming.
It’s unlikely Alvarez would be so brazen, but in cases like this, perception becomes reality. The testing system in boxing is half-assed, but it is at least better than nothing, which is what Alvarez is doing.
It’s no fun to be tested, but it’s the price to pay for making nearly $50 million in a fight. The sad truth for athletes who are clean is this: The absence of a positive test is no guarantee that an athlete is clean. There is always suspicion, but all they can do is submit themselves to a rigorous, random testing program.
Alvarez needs to do this to clear his name and prove he has nothing to hide. If he is not cheating, and would never cheat, as he has so self-righteously claimed, then it should be no problem for him to submit to testing today, and every day through the fight, as De La Hoya said he would.
But if he doesn’t submit to testing immediately, it will seem he’s found a loophole that permits him to cheat, even if that isn’t what is going on.
It’s a slap in the face to Golovkin as well as to the millions of fans who want to see the fight and who want to know which of them is the better boxer without artificial enhancements.
If Alvarez can’t see that, then he’s intentionally buried his head in the sand and is simply avoiding the obvious.
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