On Tuesday, Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports released a piece stating that Gamboa, like Shane Mosley (who was implicated in the BALCO case and admitted in grand jury testimony to having EPO and other banned substances in his system during 2003 rematch with Oscar De la Hoya), will suffer no consequences of being implicated in a steroid ring.
Steroids have been on the brain in boxing for some time now. Last year was an absolute coming-out party for PEDs in boxing. The debate over better testing fire was stoked to a whole new level.
With the Gamboa revelation, we are faced with yet another high-profile fighter involved in a performance-enhancing drug case. Let’s stop and admit to ourselves that this is nothing new. Let’s get out of the “Lance Armstrong/Barry Bonds/Victor Conte: ‘They and they alone did it’ witch hunt” mode. Let us not pretend these are the only ones who subscribe to the age old axiom “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”
Let us be even less naïve and admit that there will always be cheaters. What we are attempting is not a pure prohibition. That never works but regulation within reason is a fair goal and an independently administered unified testing program an achievable one.
The details about Gamboa’s involvement appear to be vast but forthcoming. Let’s wait to pass judgment before bestowing full cheater status. In the social media-verse, Gamboa already is being labeled a cheater, an outcast who alone decided to be bad and take synthetic testosterone, the new Viagra of choice for the most pharmaceutically-enhanced society in history.
The fact is Gamboa has passed every drug test he has ever taken by the “best” commissions in the world with “the most extensive testing” state funded money can buy. But on Tuesday, as his name was printed boldly alongside a host of big-league talent, Gamboa tested positive for being a professional athlete just like any other, another poor slob looking to maintain his edge down the stretch of a flat lining career.
At age 31, with a record of 22-0 with 16 knockouts, Gamboa is a fighter yet to reach the ceiling of earning potential and on the other side of that magic, 30 doesn’t go to an anti-aging doctor for vitamins. According to the allegations leveled in Gamboa’s direction, they go for synthetic testosterone, human growth hormone and IGF-1.
Let’s leave HGH and IGF-1 for another article and deal with the drug of the decade so far: synthetic testosterone AKA “synth test” or “test” and is obtained in “Testosterone Replacement Therapy” (TRT). The granting of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for TRT in combat sports has been a recent hot-button issue, particularly in Nevada where there the total number of TUE for TRT given is unknown but ever growing. With the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code 6:1 T/E ratio and Nevada State Athletic Director Keith Kizer a seeming advocate for granting TUEs for TRT, going so far as to conduct a seminar on the subject of obtaining one at the UFC’s 2012 Fighter Summit, the problem is growing in combat sport’s modern Mecca, Las Vegas. With the breaking Biogenesis case along with fighters like Alistair Overeem (14:1 T/E ratio) and Major League Baseball’s Ryan Braun (20:1), it’s clear synthetic testosterone is the drug of choice. Lance Armstrong practically says so.
Time will tell the extent of Gamboa’s involvement. What is important now is that we understand Gamboa is not alone. That chain of anti-aging clinics might as well be the Desert Oasis in Las Vegas, NV by Dr. John A. Thompson. He was the doctor who prescribed synthetic testosterone to Lamont Peterson, erroneously assuring me in a 2012 interview that the substance he gave Peterson was legal because it was organic.
“I made a medical decision to treat him with something called testosterone pellets. These pellets are made from soy. They are not synthetic,” said Dr. Thompson who is not a licensed endocrinologist, the type of doctor best suited to determine a need for a testosterone or not.
The problem with that statement is that all testosterone is soy or yam-based. And anything manmade that’s injected, rubbed on in cream form, taken as a Life Saver-type lozenge, ingested as a drop or putting some form of testosterone into the body is synthetic in nature. Period. End of story. It’s also the clear drug of choice for today’s athlete.
Why I mention this particular clinic is that Lamont Peterson was recommended to that clinic by a prominent boxing person who, if I mentioned just one recent accolade, you’d know this person’s identity. And that person is attached to some serious high-level talent in the industry. Yeah. The use of testosterone and “anti-aging” clinics goes that deep and high.
Another source commented that it is their theory that somewhere between 20 and 100 active fighters were either patients at the Desert Oasis or are using the same type of slow-release testosterone pellet Peterson had in his system when Carbon Isotope Ratio testing (conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) detected the presence of the exogenous testosterone.
United States Anti-Doping Agency head honcho Travis Tygart likes to call Lance Armstrong’s doping program the most sophisticated in history. Armstrong dismissed that claim to Oprah Winfrey. A guy who did anything and everything to win seven consecutive Tour de Frances declined to admit his doping program was the best? A guy who wants to be the best at all costs declines a claim his doping program was the best by a man who spent close to $100 million collecting a mountain of evidence against him? Perhaps that is because Armstrong knows you could say that about any high-level doper you followed intently with that kind of budget.
So when faced with Anthony Bosch’ Biogenesis company, let’s put it in proper context. This is just one rock being lifted and searched under. The case is so wide-ranging in scope, it is being referred to as “BALCO East Coast” after the Bay Area Lab Collective case involving mastermind-turned-outspoken, anti-doping advocate Victor Conte and homerun king Barry Bonds.
In the BALCO case, the media sensationalized Victor Conte as the creator of the steroid age when that is simply not the case. Mark McGwire had nothing to do with BALCO. Neither did Fernando Vargas, James Toney or Roy Jones Jr. Pretty sure Lyle Alzado had nothing to do with BALCO. In fact, read the quote that opens this story and it will show how long doping has been around and in effect.
Let’s stop with fixing the blame and fix the problem because the real question isn’t “Who is doing it?” or “Who will test positive next?”
The real question is: Why wasn’t Carbon Isotope Ratio testing used before Lance Armstrong ever won a Tour? It existed. It was proven even. So, what is the problem?
One school of thought is cost. CIR costs between $400-500 per test. A positive “A” sample will incur greater costs to test the “B” sample as well as certain legal requirements. But the results are clear-cut. To my knowledge, CIR has not produced a false positive. MLB MVP Ryan Braun was caught by CIR. His legal team fought chain of custody and his suspension was lifted. With CIR in play, they didn’t bother testing the B-sample.
In Nevada, statute #NRS 467.108 allots for one dollar to be taken out of each ticket sold and used for a variety of reasons. One of which is (b) To perform random drug testing of amateur and professional unarmed combatants at any time, including, without limitation, during any period of training.
Why not kick that up to $1.50? Nevada is home to some of the largest gates in the combat sports world. You’re telling me a gate of $10 million can’t pay to randomly drug test a couple hundred fighters a year licensed to fight in your state? Where else is that money going?
One place, two sources told me on Tuesday, is to commissioners, inspectors and others connected to commissions. One source alleged no less than six tickets were given to commission officials, two of which were ringside. We’re talking tickets valued in the $1000 range and over a year of fights, that could equal in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Perhaps that could pay for a better drug-testing program or, better yet, hire a proven agency to conduct year-round random testing.
We have to get out of the pattern established by commissions and sanctioning bodies the world over who (while complicit in drug use as long as it is profitable to them years later after having wasted tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars in the process) come back and say “You dirty cheater! You won nothing at all” even if the next eight guys also tested dirty at some time in their careers.
The problem keeps presenting itself. The solutions have been there for years as well. Time to fix the problem and not the blame.
You can email Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
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