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Will Arum's proposed Nevada testing endanger Marquez vs. Bradley?

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


There’s no question that once WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley and the legendary Juan Manuel Marquez are done hitting each other October 12 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, we’ll have a potential “Fight of the Year” on our hands., However, there is a question whether the fight will happen at all. While it’s has been officially announced, there is a question as to who will conduct anti-doping tests for the fight. The answer to that question may very well decide if the fight takes place or not.

 

Amidst the pleasant Top Rank press conference at the old school opulent Beverly Hills Hotel, Timothy Bradley, dressed sharply in a blue-grey tailored summer suit, sporting a beard with his signature bald head was a fiery king on Thursday. He wasn’t so much answering questions regarding who would be handling the testing so much as laying down the law of his particular kingdom: VADA and USADA testing as per his contract or no fight.

 

“It’s USADA and VADA,” Bradley told a gathered group of reporters as a production assistant mic’d him up for interview sessions with HBO and ESPN. “It’s both. Both companies is in my contract.”


“Bob just told me thirty minutes ago you aren’t doing either,” I informed the champ.

 

“No. We are,” he glared.

 

“I’m just telling you what Bob told me,” I said, getting a glimpse into what he has in store for Marquez October 12.

 

“I don’t care what Bob say,” he said with a shrug and headed off for his next close-up, every bit “The Champ.”

 

(The full exchange courtesy of @InlandEmpireBox Alex Martinez http://vimeo.com/68813606)

 

Heading into his previous fight, against Ruslan Provodnikov, Bradley had declared all future opponents would submit to random blood and urine testing throughout training camp and after the fight. When the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) declined to conduct testing for the contest, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) stepped in. Satisfied with their work and perhaps turned off by the less than spotless track record of USADA testing in professional boxing, most notably the case of Erik Morales vs. Danny Garcia 2 (http://www.maxboxing.com/news/max-boxing-news/usada-golden-boy-and-positive-drug-test-management-part-one), Bradley asked for VADA heading into this fight.

 

Marquez asked for USADA testing and a compromise was made to do both.

 

“I don’t know how you do VADA and USADA in the same fight,” Arum said to me after the press conference.

 

Using both presents a significant issue considering that both agencies collect blood and urine samples to be tested as many as eight times a camp. In this scenario, VADA and USADA could both take blood samples at the time. While the samples taken may not overall seem terribly excessive, that is still a lot of needles going into both men throughout the testing period.

 

“I thought about it but I don’t care. I don’t care,” said Bradley about the amount of blood to be taken.

 

Thirty minutes previous to speaking with Bradley, Bob Arum had told me and two other reporters that the VADA/USADA compromise was now at an impasse. He had decided that neither VADA nor USADA would be used. In their place will be a testing protocol based on VADA and USADA’s paid for by Bob Arum and presumably designed by someone at the Nevada Athletic Commission.

 

“Neither side can agree on VADA or USADA so we’re having Nevada do the testing, I’ll pay for it and that it,” said Arum. “The Nevada commission is taking over the testing. Who they use and what they use, etc. except they are going to do complete random blood and urine testing. For this fight.”

 

“For this fight” raises a question that as of print time, the NAC member contacted, Bill Brady, had not responded to: Is changing the anti-doping protocol for one single fight against commission rules? This is not the same scenario as having an independent anti-doping agency testing in addition to a local commission’s testing on the night of a fight. Allowing the fight camps to have such a stipulation is within the rules. But a state commission allowing its protocols and standards to be changed for one fight only at a promoters’ expense raises questions.

 

“The idea . . . we talked to the Nevada commission and they are going to do it as vigorously as VADA and USADA do it, maybe more so,” said Arum.  “This is not something for a promoter. This is something for the regulatory commission. And as long as [testing] is totally vigorous, these fighters don’t understand. There’s no VADA. No USADA. As long as the testing is the same as [those agencies] are doing, as long as the tests are administered by the commission, that’s as good as you’re going to get.”

 

That’s not necessarily true. In a logical and perfect world, the state commissions charged with overseeing boxing would follow WADA Code and have anti-doping testing that is both year round and state-of-the-art. But this is boxing which is very far from logic or perfection. Each state has different rules about everything. Some states don’t test at all. And when they do, it’s not a lock they’ll test for PEDs.  Some only test for recreational drugs.

 

The truth is that whenever USADA or VADA have been conducting tests for fights in Nevada or elsewhere, both agencies conducted more stringent and state-of-the-art testing than any state commission. That’s because each group uses World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited sample collectors and labs. Nevada uses Quest Diagnostics, which uses neither WADA-trained and accredited sample collectors or labs. The labs USADA and VADA use, either the UCLA Olympic Testing Lab or the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) in Salt Lake City, Utah, can conduct tests for drugs of choice like the endurance building blood doping agent EPO, or Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and synthetic testosterone. Quest Diagnostics does not have that capability.

 

“So maybe they’ll use another lab for this,” said Arum when I explained this to him.

 

That Arum did not know this rudimentary detail raises yet another important question: who is designing this protocol that will, according to Arum, be based on VADA and USADA’s? Who is the “PED expert” in charge of detailing what drugs need to be tested for and how often? It took VADA roughly a year to put together its protocols with people such as WADA co-founder Richard Pound, former Tower of Power bass player, BALCO founder and anti-doping activist Victor Conte as well as co-creators of CIR Dr. Rodrigo Aguilera and Dr. Don Catlin weighing in at various stages along the way. In the recent Lucian Bute-Jean Pascal promotion, testing was also an issue. Unable to come to an agreement over VADA versus USADA, both promotional companies lost valuable testing time as they tried to come to an agreement, find a lab and put together a protocol agreed upon by all parties.

 

The point is that it’s not as easy as paying someone to “do it like VADA or USADA.”

 

Another question is whether or not this promotion’s testing protocol will follow WADA Code or Nevada’s. For example, WADA allows for a 4:1 T/E ratio which is in essence, an allowance of four times the amount of testosterone that your body produces, at any given time in or out of competition. Nevada has a 6:1 T/E ratio for reasons still unclear.

 

http://www.maxboxing.com/news/max-boxing-news/new-york-nevada-and-the-61-te-ratio-problem-in-boxing-

 

Nevada also has a controversial recent history of allowing therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for synthetic testosterone for MMA fighters. In several cases, the TUE was not revealed until after the bout. Could that happen here?

 

Arum said he had spoken to both Nevada chairman Bill Brady and Executive Director Keith Kizer about the plan, which apparently began forming last week.

 

“They said to me that as long as I pay for it, they will do testing as extensive, if not more so, as those organizations do,” stated Arum. “If that means, using another lab, they have no contract with the labs they are using.”

 

The validity of the latter statement remains to be seen.

 

Arum raised the idea that this new proposed testing, paid for by Arum, is the way to go. The commission gets the money they need for better testing, the fighters get the assurance that their opponent is clean and the sport’s health and safety gets an upgrade. For one night.

 

“The only role I have is to pay for it,” said Arum. “And this is the only solution for this drug testing. Otherwise, there is no solution. Otherwise, you have crazy shit like what happened in Brooklyn with Morales because there is no state authority. I’m a lawyer. I understand what state authority means. Now the commission acts on the basis of state authority. It’s a legally authorized regulatory body and they have to handle everything regarding a fight and if the fighters want drug testing, they are the ones that should do it. They can’t do it half-assed. They have to do it real.”

 

But let’s remember: this is for one fight only. Once this fight is over, so is Arum’s payment for better testing. The commission will return to its normal protocols.

 

“It’s wrong for the promoter to be involved, except to pay for it, and it’s wrong for these organizations, without any authority to do it, because all you do is confusion, said Arum, referring to the cases of Andre Berto and Lamont Peterson, two fighters who tested positive for banned substances prior to their respective rematches last year. “Now, if God forbid somebody comes up positive and the commission is handling it, then the commission rules whichever way the commission rules.”

 

This feels like a red herring argument. The decision to use Nevada, despite Tim Bradley’s contract which says otherwise, has nothing to do with VADA’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness as a testing organization. In the cases of Berto and Peterson, both fighters tested positive for banned substances under VADA testing and both saw their million dollar fights cancelled because of it. Neither man was punished for their offense by a state commission for the offense.

 

In the case of Peterson, when he tested positive, he admitted he had synthetic testosterone in his system when he initially fought and beat Amir Khan for his junior welterweight titles. Despite that admission, the D.C. commission never punished Peterson and instead gave him a license to fight there the next year. Berto was given a pass for having Nandrolone in his system in a private California commission hearing.

 

If we are discussing everyone doing their correct jobs, (testers testing, regulators regulating, promoters promoting), then the blame in those failures must fall firmly on the D.C. and California commissions not the testing agency who successfully carried out their mission.

 

Those precedents those raise another question: If a fighter tests positive prior to the bout, is the fight off?

 

“Not necessarily. Not necessarily,” Arum said. “Maybe somebody is a positive before the fight and there is an explanation for the positive that the commission will accept. And the commission will say "Ok we’ll fine you and the fight goes on." It’s the commission that decides under their rules.”

 

That is an odd reply considering Arum stated that he did not want what happened in Brooklyn with Morales and Garcia 2 to happen in this fight. Morales tested positive twice for Clenbuterol in the weeks leading up to his fight with Danny Garcia yet was allowed to fight by the New York State Athletic Commission, USADA and the promoter of record Golden Boy. Arum’s reply sounds a lot like what happened in Brooklyn.

 

The future complicity of other state commissions regarding “Arum Testing,” remains to be seen. It’s uncertain how each will react to Arum telling them his fighter thinks they’re not up to standard (whatever that standard that is deemed to be) and so here is payment for better testing, the details of which is to be handled by  . . . who exactly?

 

“If the state commissions have other rules, then they will follow their other rules,” said Arum. “I know the Nevada commission has its rules and we will follow its rules. But they are the regulatory authority for this fight. And whatever they decide they decide. Now if in New York there are other rules, I would go and say we were doing the fight in New York and the fighters wanted drug testing, I’d go to Malvena [Lathan, Executive Director of the New York State Athletic Commission] and say "get your medical people to do it the same way that USADA and VADA do it and all the results go to you and you handle it. And she would probably say ‘Ok as long as you are going to pay for it, we’ll do it.”

 

Again, the latter statement remains to be seen.

 

With Tim Bradley and his manager Cameron Duncan confirming that VADA and USADA testing is in Bradley’s contract (Bradley’s wife, Monica, confirmed the same in Lance Pugmire’s L.A. Times piece on the subject), the question remains: what happens next?

 

None of this appears to bring clarity to the cloudy issue of anti-doping testing in boxing. Arum is not solving the problem but instead he is essentially creating yet another agency for one night only. Perhaps all this raises the most important question of all: A boxing promoter paying a state commission directly to oversee stringent anti-doping tests for his multi-million dollar main event? What could possibly go wrong?



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