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There's no Breaking Bradley

(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)

The decision to take action boldly is what separates those that want things to change and those that change them. In boxing’s anti-doping movement, WBO Welterweight champion of the world Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, 30-0, (12), has emerged through decisive, bold and steadfast action as a leader. First, when he paid for he and his opponent, Ruslan Provodnikov, to be tested by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) this past March. And second, as he weathered a media and professional storm in order to secure testing for Saturday’s HBO PPV title defense against Juan Manuel Marquez, 55-6-1, (40). Leaders stand true to their beliefs under heavy scrutiny. Like a fighter should, Bradley thus far has found a way to overcome every obstacle presented to him. All that is left now is the weigh-in and the fight.


Bradley had initially asked for in his contract that random anti-doping tests begin three months out from his fight. The agreed upon agencies were VADA and the United State Anti-Doping Agency, (USADA). But at the press conference in Los Angeles, Top Rank’s Bob Arum told this writer that he had decided to instead pay the Nevada Athletic Commission to oversea testing that would simply ape what VADA and USADA do. At the time, Arum gave no reason for the change. It was revealed that Marquez and his strength coach Angel Guillermo “Memo” Heredia AKA Angel Hernandez did not wish to use VADA, as reported by the L.A. Times this week.,0,4257559.story#axzz2hOTLAArd


Heredia and consequently Marquez’ issue with VADA appears to be in part due to his problem with Victor Conte, the former bass player for Tower of Power turned supplement guru and later founder of BALCO, which ended up being the largest doping scandal in sports history. The two men are often linked as if they worked together in the past. The truth is that their paths never crossed during their respective heydays on the dark side of performance enhancement. They’ve never met, aren’t friends, former co-workers, nothing. The commonality between them is track coach Trevor Graham who worked with Heredia from 1996 to 2000 and then moved his stable of world class Olympic athletes over to Conte’s products. As in all drug cultures, when better product arrives, as BALCO’s “The Cream” and “The Clear” apparently were, suppliers and users head to those greener pastures.


The Heredia vs. Conte rivalry has nothing to do with Tim Bradley. It has nothing to do with VADA, either, except that Heredia allegedly convinced Marquez and Arum not to use the company due to his feelings about Conte, who now has had three of his boxers undergo testing by the company. Two of them, Nonito Donaire (who no longer works with Conte) and Edwin Rodriguez have volunteered to be tested by VADA randomly year round. Donaire just signed up to begin his second year of testing at his own cost.


VADA is a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited group that has detected banned substances in two fighters prior to their fights, prompting cancellations in both. This has not made them popular with that particular promoter, Golden Boy, but has helped to solidify them among fighters like Bradley, Manny Pacquiao, Brandon Rios, Donaire, Ruslan Provodnikov and Rodriguez as the gold standard for testing in boxing. They are run by Dr. Margaret Goodman and Dr. Flip Homansky. Conte is no more an employee of VADA than Heredia was ever an employee of BALCO. As in, not at all.


VADA’s protocol of using Carbon Isotope Ratio testing on 100% of urine samples collected, has set the bar higher than any agency in any sport. The test, known as CIR, is designed to detect exogenous testosterone. If it didn’t come from your body and its still in your system, CIR will detect it. The first fighter tested by VADA, Lamont Peterson, had synthetic testosterone detected in his system using CIR. To date, no other agency has used CIR on 100% of samples as policy.


But apparently it was because of this unrelated to Bradley rivalry, which plays out on twitter fairly regularly, that Heredia was able to convince Arum and Marquez to go another testing way.


At the end of the day that’s why I wanted to go with VADA,” said Bradley of VADA’s CIR use. “They are the new iphone. Why would I go to the store and get the old iphone when I can get the new iphone5s? Why not go with the best? That’s just the way I look at it. Well, for some reason, [Marquez] didn’t want to go with the best. And everybody say ’Oh well, Conte, Heredia and [blah, blah, blah].’ What’s that have to do with me? Conte isn’t doing the drug testing. They beef is they beef.”


Bradley’s initial plan to have his fight VADA tested for three months, ended up going sour in the final hours before kicking in. In fact, Arum’s new testing proposal held up any random out of competition testing at all for awhile as it was being put together. When Bradley learned that the agreed upon plan was no more, he considered pulling out of the fight.


“I thought a lot about that every damn day,” Bradley said at a media day to promote the fight. “You know what? What I really thought about, I thought about my wife. I thought about my team. Yes, I could have passed on the fight. But the thing of it is, I am damned if I do and I am damned if I don’t. I’m in a bad position, man.”


Boxers are not protected by a unified governing body. Each fight is a separate business deal. A fighter is paid after the bout in most cases. A fighter at Bradley’s level fights twice a year. There is zero career protection for a fighter if he pulls out of the fight taking a stand. Sure, he’d be standing on principle and it would set a precedent but the damage long-term for a career that is short term, could be catastrophic.


Bradley explained, “When I say damned if I do, damned if I don’t, I mean, Top Rank is spending a massive amount of money promoting this fight. Getting the word out to everybody. HBO has a hand in this fight. Everybody has a hand in this fight and then at the last minute I just decide because he won’t agree to drug testing that I am going to pull out of this fight. I’m probably not only going to piss off my promoter, I am probably going to get an extension on my damn contract for not taking this fight. HBO is going to pissed so they’re going to say “We don’t have another date for Tim Bradley this year. We had a date but now, we don’t have one for Tim Bradley.” Then there’s no business for me. Then we don’t eat. My family don’t eat. My trainer’s family don’t eat. None of us. Nobody eats. So its like damn, what do I do.”


While VADA’s standard has raised the bar, NAC’s new protocol is largely a mystery. The strictness of the testing protocols and procedures as conducted by the NAC is unknown. NAC Executive Director Kieth Kizer says he will tell everyone about it after the fight. In a state that grants therapeutic usage exemptions for testosterone and has a 6:1 T/E ration (50% greater than World Anti-Doping Agency’s 4:1 standard), it’s hard to have faith they will be up to par.


In the dark about this new system but with the clock winding down, Bradley had three choices:


1) Go along with the program proposed by Arum, eschewing VADA testing in favor of one that may or may not be up to the standards Bradley was hoping for, 2) Not fight or 3) forge a new path that would allow him to stick to his guns.


“When Bob came to me and explained what he wanted to do, I was skeptical but I figured ’Ah whatever. They’re going to do what they want to anyways,” said Bradley.


And this is where he went from a fighter who simply wanted better testing in his fights; a request for improved fighter safety that should be embraced rather than skirted around, to being a trailblazing leader.


“Well, you know what I am going to do?” asked Bradley. “I am going to stand out on a limb and do what I said I was going to do. And I am going to prove to the world that I am clean fighter and not a dirty fighter and I am going to do two drug tests with two drug testing agencies.”


Ultimately, Bradley saved the day by offering a compromise. He would do both VADA and the Arum-Kizer-NAC testing. He asked Marquez to join him in this and according to Bradley, Marquez accepted during the taping of an episode of HBO analyst Max Kellerman’s “Face-Off” but would later go back on his word.


“This is what I said. ’OK, I will do you testing and I will do VADA. How about you do VADA testing?’ And nobody seen this. But on HBO on Face-off, he agreed to doing the damn two tests. He agreed. But they didn’t put that. They didn’t put it out there. Damn right they cut it out. But he agreed to do both tests because Max put him on the spot. He said ’Well, if Tim agrees to do both testing, well are you willing to do it?’ [Marquez] said ’Yes.’ Then two weeks later, he reneged on all the testing. And then that’s when the commission got involved, to save this fight, that’s when they got involved. To me, I think it’s suspicious as hell. I don’t give a damn what anybody say. I’m not saying he’s on anything because I’ll be legally sued but its too damn suspicious.”


When Manny Pacquiao dropped to the canvas off a right hand of the gods delivered by Juan Manuel Marquez, the chances of the Floyd Mayweather, Jr vs. Manny Pacquiao happening dispersed like so much gold dust. Right or wrong, that dust has settled into a cloud above Marquez’ head. This fight and everything leading up to it have done little to dissipate it.


But for Bradley, his actions in the face of this debacle have left only the open skies of the truth. There is nothing like knowing that when you stand your ground for what is right, nothing can break you down.


“A lot of the boxing fans, the boxing world, they have their own suspicions about the whole thing. A lot of people definitely made me realize on twitter, facebook, everything. . . a lot of people were like ’Damn, Tim. You are man of your word. You kept your promise” and that’s why I did both.”


Integrity is its own reward.


Follow the link for the full video interview with Bradley, provided by

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