Olympic-Style Drug Testing (Is Floyd Mayweather Right?) By Allan Scotto, MaxBoxing (May 12, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing
When the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight fell apart (after the two camps couldn’t come to an agreement over Mayweather’s insistence that he and Pacquiao undergo Olympic-style drug testing), Manny went on to fight Joshua Clottey, while Floyd went on to defeat the ill-fated “Sugar” Shane Mosley.
With both Pacquiao and Mayweather adding another “W” to their records, fans are once again anxious for them to finally meet in the ring and settle the debate over who beats who.
Floyd has already stated that if Manny is willing to undergo Olympic-style blood testing, he’s ready to make the fight.
But if Pacquiao is not willing to undergo blood testing, Mayweather has further stated, unequivocally, that there will be no fight.
Mayweather, who has stated a number of times that his mission is to clean up the sport, seems very serious and, at last check, it seems that Pacquiao is willing to undergo blood testing in order to make the fight.
The question now seems to revolve around a cut-off date for testing, either 21 days before the fight, or 14.
But why does that matter so much?
Well, on one hand, the closer to the fight, the more guaranteed you are that both fighters are indeed clean.
On the other hand, as Keith Kizer, the Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission points out, “Blood testing is invasive, and for a fighter, who obviously needs both arms, there is risk of infection, bruising, and possibly nicking a vein.”
But Mayweather has certainly gotten everyone’s attention, and the fact that the most influential commission in the sport of boxing is now taking a long hard look at whether to institute Olympic-style drug testing is testimony to that fact.
Asked if Mayweather’s insistence that his opponents undergo blood tests is influencing the NSAC to consider changing its testing procedures, Kizer points out that the Nevada State Athletic Commission is constantly looking for ways to improve fighter safety, and that includes improvements in testing, if so warranted.
“We’re not going to change any of our policies to give a fighter an advantage,” Kizer said, “but that’s not to say that a fighter or anyone from the public may not have a good idea.”
“We constantly re-visit our regulations,” Kizer continued. “For instance, in 2001, we added steroid testing, and since then, we’ve caught about 60 people and, interestingly enough though, most of them had not won their fights.”
The NSAC has also been meeting with representatives of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, including Dr. Larry Bowers, Chief Medical Officer of the USADA, along with its Executive Director, Travis Tygart, and Dr. Robert Voy, formerly with the Unites States Olympic Committee, who is considered an expert in drug testing.
Kizer points out, “But our discussions are not limited to blood testing alone; we are discussing whatever methods might improve our testing procedures.”
Kizer pointed out that when blood testing was introduced to the Olympics in 2000, it was met with a lot of criticism, and that all of the testing done at the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympic games produced no positives.
It is important to Kizer that the NSAC does as much as it can to keep performance-enhancing drugs out of the sport, while somehow being able to work within budgetary constraints, which can be a bit of a high-wire act.
But it is something Kizer takes very seriously.
“At the end of the day in boxing,” Kizer stated, “where the object is to hit a man in the head as hard as you can, you have to be as diligent as possible.”
Dr. Margaret Goodman was the Chief Ringside Physician for the State of Nevada until 2005, and the Medical Advisory Board Chairperson for the NSAC until 2007. Along with Dr. Flip Homansky, a former commissioner with the NSAC, she was influential in instituting many of the testing regulations currently in use by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Dr. Goodman points out that there are many different things to test for, such as human growth hormones, performance-enhancing drugs, steroids, and erythropoietin (which is used in blood doping, and can only be detected by blood tests).
Dr. Goodman states, “Although urine can be used to detect steroids and other substances, many things can disappear from the urine quickly.”
Asked if the NSAC ever considered blood testing during her tenure, Goodman said, “We never did blood for one main reason; it was extremely hard from a logistical standpoint. We never had phlebotomists, and didn’t want to send the fighter to a hospital for labs alone after a fight.”
Dr. Goodman believes that unannounced testing of fighters between fights is critical in keeping down the use of illegal substances.
Currently, the NSAC does do random checks, and sometimes fighters are given advance notice of up to 48 hours, which is a practice Goodman feels should change.
“Many substances,” Goodman points out, “including low doses of testosterone, could be out of their system in that time.”
But Goodman does share Kizer’s belief that one must be as diligent as possible.
“Listen,” Goodman said, “one needs to recognize that no current testing program is foolproof, but USADA’s is a great step.”
Goodman continued, “And this is a process that needs to be revamped constantly, especially due to the ever-changing world of performance-enhancing drugs.”
So is it time for boxing to bite the bullet and institute USADA’s testing program?
ESPN’s color commentator Teddy Atlas thinks it is, and he agrees with Mayweather that the time for blood testing has come.
“I think,” Atlas said, “if there’s smoke there’s fire. We’re already aware of [Fernando] Vargas and Mosley, and I’m sure that’s the tip of the iceberg.”
“Look, someone using PEDs in baseball hits more home-runs,” Atlas continued. “And in football, you tackle better. In boxing, you’re throwing fists at another man’s head, and PEDs put that opponent in much more danger, and boxing is a dangerous sport to begin with.”
“PEDs,” Atlas said, “makes human bodies not regular, and it makes a punch much more deadly. No doubt about it, they need to be rooted out of the sport by whatever means necessary.”
Atlas recalled a classic “Twilight Zone” episode where boxing had been banned, so they used robots to fight. When a promoter’s robot breaks down, the promoter climbs in the ring himself to oppose the robot. Needless to say, he didn’t fare very well.
“A man,” Atlas said, “can’t fight a robot, and a fighter should never be in a ring fighting another fighter who has performance-enhancing drugs pumping through their veins.”
Well, fans, you pay the bills…so what do you think?