Coming into this week’s bout which saw boxing returning to Brooklyn after an 80 year absence, not much was thought of the aging Morales’ chances. He looked pudgy in the media promotional videos and while he appeared focused and in shape, at 36, he was given little chance to win. To add insult to that injury, the fight card as a whole was not selling well.
At 2:37 pm PST Thursday October 18, the boxing world learned from Halestormsports.com reporter Scott Hale and his colleagues Joe Calix and Eric Anaya that the multi-division champion Morales had tested positive for a substance later in the day reported to be clenbuterol.
The time of the report is significant because as late as 7:47 PM PST Rick Reeno of boxingscene.com tweeted “Source from the NYSAC told me he doesn’t know anything about Morales testing positive, other than a "site he never heard of reporting it."
By 8:19, Reeno had confirmed with Golden Boy president Richard Schaefer that Morales had tested positive for a banned substance. By 8:42 pm PST, Reeno had a quote of Schaefer confirming the positive test and stating “I think what is important here is that there is not going to be a witch hunt against Erik Morales. Let’s allow the process to play out.”
Two questions in a field of many: What exactly is that process and would it be playing out had Scott Hale and his team not broken the story?
Sandwiched in between Halestormsports.com’ story and Reeno’s tweet was the final press conference. As the story broke, Boricueboxing.com caught on camera an emotional Angel Garcia, father and trainer of Danny, speaking largely in Spanish and agitated about something he appears to not be revealing.
Later, he gave an interview to RingTV where he again acted as if he had something he wanted to get off his chest but wouldn’t reveal it until after the fight. Was his agitation caused by knowing Morales testing positive yet the fight on its way forward anyways?
The assembled media knew nothing of the story that Hale and Co. were working on since early Thursday morning. Hale told Maxboxing.com that he knew nothing of Garcia “flipping out” at the final presser because he was busying following up leads.
At 7:32 later that night, USA Today and Ring Magazine boxing writer Mike Coppinger tweeted that he spoke with Golden Boy matchmakers Eric Gomez and Robert Diaz who both denied Morales had tested positive.
“Robert Diaz of Golden Boy Promotions shoots down all the Erik Morales PED rumors, saying "If he failed, he wouldn’t be licensed,” Coppinger tweeted.
Coppinger later tweeted “[Golden Boy matchmaker] Eric Gomez told @rmaq28 and I hours ago that Morales did not test positive, not looking me in the eye as he did so. Interesting.”
We know that soon after Schaefer would publicly acknowledge the positive test to Sports Illustrated, ESPN and the media outlet owned by Golden Boy Promotions: Ring Magazine.
In a statement given to SportsIllustrated.com’s Chris Mannix, Schaefer said of the “irregularities” the United States Anti-Doping Agency found in Morales “A” sample: “USADA has now started the process,” Schaefer told SI.com. “The process will play out. There is not going to be a rush to judgement. Morales is a legendary fighter. And really, nobody deserves a rush to judgement. You are innocent until proven guilty.”
Dan Rafael of ESPN.com would publish:
“Two sources involved with the card said the fight is expected to go on Saturday. It headlines a Showtime-televised card featuring four world title bouts at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The reason the fight has not been called off, according to one of the sources, is because Morales’ "A" sample tested positive, but the results of the "B" sample test likely won’t be available until after the fight.
"As far as I know, the fight is going on," one of the sources told ESPN.com. "There is nothing that can be done to stop it" because the "B" sample test result has not yet been disclosed.”
Further from ESPN.com’s report:
“(USADA) said it could be a false positive," one of the sources with knowledge of the disclosure said. "But from what I understand, they won’t know until the test on the ’B’ sample comes back, but that probably won’t be until after the fight."
Late Thursday, Morales cited contaminated meat as the source of the clenbuterol in his system.
Clenbuterol is clarified by several sources as such:
Examine.com defines it as “an illegal beta-adrengic agonist used to beef up livestock (before a metabolite was found to be toxic). It is like Ephedrine, except much more potent and stays in your body for a day rather than just 4 hours. It is a potent fat loss and muscle preservation agent with side effects.”
According to e-steroid.com “Clenbuterol is not a steroid but it is widely used by bodybuilders and athletes. This drug helps you eliminate adipose tissues or excess fats due to its thermogenic property. Clenbuterol helps increase the metabolism of the body, and process the conversion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats into useful energy. This drug is known to boost muscle growth and suck out the excess fats caused by some aromatizing steroids. This is popular not only because of its slimming ability but also because of its minimal side effects.”
Side effects include insomnia, nausea and jitteriness. In cases of clenbuterol abuse, (high doses for prolonged periods of time) the enlargement of the ventricles.
When it comes to illegal use, according to the website, steroidabuse.com:
“Clenbuterol Cycles & Doses:
There are generally two schools of thought on how to best utilize Clenbuterol safely and effectively. The most common method is 2 weeks on followed by two weeks off. While the 2wks on/2wks off is most common, increasingly a steady and longer duration of administration has increasingly become more popular.
2wks on/2wks off: The idea is simple, start with a low dose and increase it every 2-3 days until you reach your maximum dose desired. Once you’re body begins to adapt discontinue use, wait two weeks and then begin again close to the dose you ended with or even with the exact dose; repeat as many times as necessary.
Steady Use: Begin with a low dose and increase the dose slightly every 2-3 weeks as needed. Generally the increase will come in spurts of 20mcg and will continue to increase every 2-3 weeks until a desired level of fat-loss is achieved.”
The site goes on to state that the “steady use” method is most effective.
The drug is now banned by the FDA, however, it is allowed in Mexico which is significant because according to Wikipedia, there are many cases of clenbuterol contamination in athletes, particularly in Mexico.
“Cyclist Alberto Contador of Spain was banned for two years from professional cycling after testing positive for the drug at the 2010 Tour de France. He was later stripped of the 2010 title of the Tour de France and the 2011 title of the Giro d’Italia. However, CAS found that Contador did not take clenbuterol as a performance-enhancing drug, but probably tested positive due to a contaminated food supplement.”
Most notably is the citation regarding the 2011 Mexico national football team who “were found with clenbuterol in their bloodstreams, but were acquitted by WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] after they claimed the clenbuterol came from contaminated food. FIFA has also claimed 109 players from the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico tested positive for this drug, because Mexican meat is contaminated.”
For every contamination case, there appears to be high level athletes and trainers willing to use this drug for its fat burning and cardiovascular expansion properties. Morales and the media reporting his claim and citing the wiki link to back his claim of contaminated Mexican meat have conveniently missed the wiki entry “Former New York Mets clubhouse employee Kirk Radomski admitted in his plea deal to distributing clenbuterol to dozens of current and former Major League Baseball players and associates.”
Or the entry “In 2006, San Francisco Giants pitcher Guillermo Mota, while a member of the New York Mets, received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for clenbuterol. In 2012, MLB announced they were again suspending Mota for 100 games due a positive test for clenbuterol.”
Point being, yes contamination exists. So does the abuse of the drug. While it is true Erik Morales lives and trains in Mexico where clenbuterol contamination is quite possible, he is also a 36 year old fighter caught with a banned substance in his body that helps weight loss while giving a minor anabolic effect as well as cardiovascular advantages.
Normally, I wouldn’t be ripping quotes from Wikipedia. But the quotes are interesting to note because Morales issued a statement late Thursday citing contaminated meat in Mexico as the reason his “A” sample came up with clenbuterol in it. Odd that Morales was able to determine the cause of his positive test yet when Schaefer went public late Thursday with the news he stated that all parties involved were waiting for the results of Morales “B” sample. By Friday, Schaefer referred to the clenbuterol in Morales’ system as “very small traces” which is redundant. The WBC acted as if nothing at all happened and stated they would not accept the positive test as anything but rumors.
On Friday, things got even murkier.
Lem Satterfield’s article for RingTV pointed out what appears to be a possible break from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code or protocol.
“What they’re going to be doing is that the results from these samples were taken on Oct. 3, but further tests were taken on Oct. 10, and then, another one, three days ago. So what Angel is referring to is that by tonight, we should have the results of that Oct. 10, and the test from three days ago. What he’s saying is that if those test positive as well, then he will pull Danny Garcia out of the fight. So I think what is important as well," Schaefer told Satterfield.
Looking at that statement one has to ask, and to my knowledge no media outlet with access to Richard Schaefer has, what were the results of the Oct. 3 “A” and “B” sample? Is Schaefer referring to the Oct 10 test as the test of the “B” sample? Or is that a separate collection along with the one “three days ago?”
According to Angel Garcia in a story by Kieth Idec on Boxingscene.com, both the “A” and “B” sample from that Oct. 3 (in Idec’s story it is given as an Oct. 4 sample set) sample collection set tested positive. “Garcia said the fighters took another drug test Oct. 10 and yet another on Wednesday. Garcia said he was waiting for the B results of the latest tests which USADA was shipping them ‘express” according to Idec’s report.
If we are talking about three separate sets of tests in a scenario where they keep testing Morales until he comes back negative, Brooklyn, we have a problem.
Why didn’t Golden Boy and Schaefer announce the testing in the first place?
Why did it take a website Rick Reeno has never heard of to report USADA testing for this fight and that one of the combatants had tested positive?
When was the NYSAC informed?
Was Golden Boy going to wait to announce the positive test even if that meant waiting until after the fight for the “B” sample to be tested?
Further, what is the wording in the Golden Boy contract regarding this testing? When Lamont Peterson tested positive under VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) this year, Golden Boy was upset because of how long it took Peterson and his team to inform them of the A sample positive result. Peterson waited until he tested the B sample t reveal and by then the promotion could not be saved. Schaefer appeared to publicly blame VADA and has since used USADA for all further testing. It would be interesting to see what his preferred contractual protocol is in regards to handling of the “A” and “B” sample.
It begs another question: Should the promoters be in charge of handing out the results to necessary agencies like state commissions? Talk about a conflict of interest.
On the WADA website they have their list of banned substances of January of this year. Clenbuterol is on it. There is no allowance for it in the system. It doesn’t say “If you have tiny small trace amounts you are good to compete.” Unless you can convince a doctor to give you a therapeutic use exemption for clenbuterol (good luck with that) you cannot have it in your system. Period.
The point of stringent independent drug testing beyond the state commission standard is transparency. The athletes asking for the testing want to know that each combatant is clean. They want to prove they are clean. Doing the testing without the general public’s knowledge appears counter to that goal. What is the point of testing if no one knows you are doing it?
One has to wonder if that independent site had not bravely trusted its sources and stepped forward, would the major outlets have brought this to light? Make no mistake. This story was not broken by a press release. It was broken by an independent group of reporters who trusted their sources, protected them and were proven right once the story got out and had to be addressed.
That a smaller, independent news site broke the story is nothing new. That the major websites did not credit them is nothing new, either.
Following the weigh-in Friday, Morales (he weighed 139.2) told two different news sites that a member of USADA approached him and assured him the fight would go on and that he had nothing to worry about.
"I just spoke to USADA, which is something that I don’t have to tell you guys, but I’m going to tell you this. I just got a call from USADA, and they said that I don’t have to worry and that everything is okay," said Morales, through interpreter Ramon Gonzalez. "Everything is okay. You’re not guilty until we prove that you are guilty, and the commission already has accepted the fight, so the fight is on."
What is a member of USADA doing assuring Morales he is all good without the due process that Schaefer called for? Were we not waiting for the results of the “B” sample still?
Boxing finds itself yet again in new testing ground. That Morales tested positive for a fat burning agent with minor anabolic properties will make many fans say “Hey, he was just trying to lose weight.” For some, that may be an easy excuse to just pay Garcia a little hush money and move the fight forward.
If the NYSAC excuses a banned substance because of what it is designed to do so a fight can go forward, we are going down the slipperiest of slopes. The door is already open with testosterone replacement therapy. If we open the clenbuterol door or even simply go forward with a fight because the “B” sample could not be tested in time, we are legalizing drugs in boxing. Plain and simple. Using a testing agency like USADA or VADA to detect banned substances in fighters is pointless if you ignore even the initial result and go forward with the fight anyways.
What happens Saturday night if Erik Morales comes back late in the fight or looks sharp from bell to bell? Will it be the resurrection of Erik Morales or the chemical rejuvenation? How can we be certain when clenbuterol can be used as a masking agent for other substances?
Do fight fans care either way? Do the boxing powers that be?
A lot comes down to the New York State Athletic Commission decision and I don’t just mean the fate of a fighter or a fight.
Late Friday night, The New York Daily News seemed to confirm the speculation regarding the multiple tests. The fight appears as if it will happen despite the possibility that the two initial tests by Morales came up positive.