It’s a solid question. According to Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “included in the testing will be isotope-ratio mass spectrometry, which detects the use of exogenous testosterone. The IRMS test will be done in conjunction of testing for other performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids.”
Sounds good, right? Synthetic testosterone is a drug of athlete’s choice these days. It makes sense that a testing agency looking to be cutting edge and actually catching violators would implement Carbon Isotope Ratio (or IRMS) testing in its protocol.
However, it was learned that the last time Nevada did this “enhanced testing,” it wasn’t up to par at all.
As it turns out, for that “enhanced testing” protocol, CIR and EPO (a popular banned substance that increases red blood cells) were not on the menu.
So what does this mean to this latest version of Nevada enhanced testing for Tim Bradley vs. Manny Pacquiao II?
Let me put it this way: let’s look at three testing entities that service boxing (and sometimes mixed-martial arts).
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) tests U.S. amateur athletes year-round. It has a specific protocol it follows in terms of how testing is done. EPO and CIR testing on every sample collected is not its base policy. USADA, from what I gather and understand of its policies and procedures, mixes up protocol as a means of deterrent. You never know what test is coming and when.
However, when it comes to professional boxing, USADA’s testing approach is unknown. While the testing philosophy likely remains the same, other elements are unknown. For instance, the amount of missed tests allowed is up in the air as the program being geared towards an eight-to-12 week training camp as opposed to year-round. In the amateurs, an athlete can miss three tests. The third is considered the same as a positive result with suspensions and sanctions to follow.
The GYM-Interbox Protocol, named for the two Canadian promoters who agreed to have their top-tier talent tested randomly, is a bit of a mystery. Full disclosure: I consulted on this testing protocol. While I gave advice regarding what I think should be tested for along with some administrative ideas, what the program fully consists of is unknown. A non-disclosure agreement was passed around by one component of the program with the threat that if anything further was revealed about the testing, a cancelation of their involvement would follow.
While the ultimate goal is to help make it safe for clean athletes to compete as well as growing a culture of athletes who don’t feel they need drugs to enhance their performances, the mystery surrounding the GYM-Interbox Protocol makes it hard to endorse the program. Director of Operations for Interbox Ian Edery recently revealed that the program involved at least one random test a month with the full steroid panel as well as HGH, EPO and CIR testing. But without published policies and procedures and a timely release of results, the fans and media are left to take two boxing promoters’ words. A quagmire to say the least.
The third group is named the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). If you are a boxing fan or a reader of mine, you know them. They’re the group that’s detected multiple fighters with multiple metabolites of banned substances in their systems. They’re the group cheaters avoid and those who have been caught continue to cast aspersions on.
Case in point was an article interview on www.boxingscene.com in which Robert Garcia, the trainer of Brandon Rios (who was caught with DMAA in his system in a post-fight urine test in China), that ran on Monday. In the article, Garcia claimed all kinds of issues with how VADA collected samples from Rios. He also endorsed USADA, who handled the testing for Marcos Maidana vs. Adrien Broner, which was held in Texas. The state of Texas did not test either fighter, incidentally. Broner’s trainer, Mike Stafford told this reporter that USADA only collected samples from his fighter two weeks out from the fight and on the evening of the fight. USADA discounted this claim to Maxboxing.com but did not give a specific number of tests or samples they collected.
In the story, Garcia tells how when his team arrived in China, it asked the acting doping control officer how often Pacquiao was tested.
“Then we go to China and we ask them how many times have they done Pacquiao and they said, ‘Not a single time. Maybe here in China, we’ll test him,’” said Garcia to BoxingScene.
One problem there, Robert: That incident happened in Oxnard. In your gym:
And it wasn’t a “VADA” employee.
But I digress.
VADA’s policy is to test for everything all the time. Conducting CIR testing on each sample as well as EPO and HGH testing, is its signature (except TCH, which is quickly getting legalized across the country as the U.S.’ absurd drug wars continue to crumble under the will of the people). When it comes to results management, that is who gets to do what with your positive drug test result and when. VADA’s policy is to pass on the A sample positive to the fighter, who he designated access to this information , the promoter, the commission and Fight Fax. Their missed test policy is you’re positive on your second offense. They have about as much mercy with their policies as drug cheats do with their opponents.
And that is why Tim Bradley and Manny Pacquiao are not using them, in my opinion. Top Rank Promotions is promoting this fight in Nevada. Top Rank is run by one Bob Arum and his son Todd duBoef. They don’t care about cleaning up drug use in boxing. They care about selling pay-per-views. The way to do this is by not allowing some outside agency with strict policies and a commitment to actually doing the right thing to have control of results.
So where does this leave Nevada? We don’t know. What are its policies and procedures? What is its testing philosophy? Is it “We want to catch people at any cost!” or “We want to catch people but it’s on your dime, so what would you like us to not test for?”
I used to think that what we needed was to put pressure on the commissions to improve. And to a great degree, I do believe that but an athletic commission needs money. And the people involved are at heart, politicians hell-bent on keeping their spots and improving them. Few if any are here for the good of the fighters. It’s about revenue. A real testing agency absolutely dedicated to clean sport or else like VADA is never going to be welcome. But to this writer, an independent group like that is necessary.
We’ve been doing subpar anti-doping testing in Nevada since it started testing. In recent years under Keith Kizer, Nevada did more to promote drug use than prevent it. Right now presents a real opportunity to either use VADA as a safeguard to prevent things like the proliferation of TUEs for TRT or to truly build a proper model that is a real bar to be reached for by every commission in the world. But it should be one free of politics, free of corruption and out of the hands of promoters, fighters and state politicians. How that happens I have no idea. I’ve offered solution upon solution. As always, it will take a compassionate, selfless group effort to make positive change occur in this sport.
I can’t say I am crazy about the idea that not only was VADA pushed out of a fight the fighters themselves had announced they had but that no one came to their defense either. But envisioning the best possible outcome, perhaps the bar VADA set, be honestly be stretched by the NSAC’s willingness to finally improve. Hopefully this move was not set forth simply by Arum’s deep pockets and need to control what he shouldn’t.
You can email Gabriel at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim, now at its new home, www.blogtalkradio.com/thenextround or via iTunes subscription at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/leave-it-in-ring-radio-blog/id316004573?mt=2. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show www.Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PT.
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