Background on Drug Testing, how Anti-Doping became a major factor in combat sports and predominantly in Boxing.
Drug testing has taken a distended position in sports especially in major combat sports like Boxing over the last decade. You could argue it was simply inevitable after the wake of the Major League Baseball scandals of the 1990s. In Boxing, a major factor came from the failed negotiations of Floyd Mayweather’s proposed super-fight against then pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao in March 2010. This when both fighters were in their physical prime. That fight would then fall through, it would not take place than for another 5 years, finally, in Las Vegas, they fought when both legends were then way past their prime. They would lock horns in 2015. The older yet elusive master defensive tactician Mayweather would outbox Pacquiao over 12 rounds in a dull yet uneventful fight which, Pacquiao would later blame on a supposed injured shoulder, yet controversially also claim he felt he won the fight somehow; while the majority of fans and neutral observers felt he was competitive yet clearly outboxed in 8/9 of the twelve rounds. The fight failed to exceed expectations outside a couple of rounds in the first half. The failed negotiations, 5 years prior was a breakthrough for anti-doping in Boxing. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao both could not agree to drug testing in 2010, which they both later agreed, ahead of their 2015 fight, after somewhat going back and forth, for months in negotiations which included agreeing to drug testing, a controversial stumbling block and hurdle which they managed to come to a middle ground on.
If there was, in fact, stringent drug testing in place back then, by a commission or sanctioning organisation who were following lead protocols in 2010 then maybe we would not have been clamouring and fantasising about the fight right up until 2015 when both finally met. This was when both guys clearly had lost a step and slowed down. Many in attendance and those like myself who forked money on Pay-Per-View had felt let down and short-changed. Boxing maybe was and still is viewed as the sweet science, but the vast majority of spectators felt unimpressed at the lack of action from both guys especially since there was so much hype surrounding ‘The Fight of the Century’ Floyd Mayweather was typical Floyd Mayweather. I expected nothing more or nothing less. I felt the fight took too long to come to fruition, after Manny Pacquiao had been knocked out cold in devasting fashion by Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012 it felt like the end of the ride. Eventually, by the time they fought, it was way too late, the clash of styles never gelled and at times it felt ‘better never, then late’ it was a chess match, as many like myself actually predicted. The fight was more sizzle than steak.
So over 10 years later, as we head towards a busy summer Boxing schedule, what have we learned, has anything changed?
While there were plenty of issues with Floyd Mayweather’s USADA testing, which he insisted upon to carry out drug testing for the mega showdown, USADA was (incorrectly) called “Olympic style testing,” by Floyd Mayweather Jr in his push for increased blood testing for a proposed super fight with Pacquiao, this did unexpectedly increase attention to drug testing in Boxing. This also raised awareness of the effectiveness of drug testing while some disputed quantity, others like Victor Conte and former Boxing journalist Gabriel Montoya, amongst others argued over the lack of quality testing for banned substances and illegal drugs. One major problem was tackled by the ineffective “urine only” testing which was often carried out by many state athletic commissions. This also led to major boxing commissions like the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) trying to make drastic changes with some degree of random testing, but this also raised more awareness with the rise of different organizations such as the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) which would use WADA labs to do both random blood and urine thorough testing, which goes way beyond what the state athletic commissions were able to carry out.
Is VADA the resolution to Anti-Doping?
Since VADA has come into Boxing, they have done a particularly good job. They have caught many fighters’ red-handed who were taking PEDS. VADA has been working closely with the WBC for a couple of years now as a part of their new (CBP). Furthermore, regarding VADA only, a couple of fighters in Boxing have ever voluntary agreed to be tested 24/7 – 365 which is the gold standard for anti-doping not just in Boxing but combat sports. 24/7 – 365 random testing is carried out by VADA; this is carried throughout a full calendar year. Nonito Donaire voluntarily agreed in 2013, shortly after Edwin Rodriguez also committed to being tested voluntarily 24/7 – 365 by VADA. Not long after in November 2013 Rodriguez would later take on then ranked 2 P4P Andre Ward in Los Angeles. Ward would win a lopsided 12 round unanimous decision in a rough physical fight where referee Jack Reiss deducted 2 points from both guys before Ward would take over the bout winning on points. The third known male fighter in Boxing to be tested 24/7 – 365 within a calendar year, by VADA was Saul ‘Canelo ’Alvarez. Alvarez enrolled in 365 year-round, random testing conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) after the Mexican star tested positive on February 17 and on February 20 in 2018 following urine tests conducted by VADA. Alvarez tested positive for a banned substance; clenbuterol ahead of his May 2018, proposed eagerly-anticipated rematch with then IBF, IBO, WBA, WBC unified Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. The fight was cancelled, which would later be rescheduled, that year in September, which Canelo would go on to win a razor-close 12 round majority points decision.
Donaire against Casimero latest, fight to go ahead or cancelled? Casimero’s manager Sean Gibbons insists ‘We are fighting on August 14, with or without Donaire.
After scoring a highlight reel knock out stoppage, on May 29, over then WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali, to rewind back the clock. Donaire was looking for a dance partner after winning the title to defend his newly won WBC title. After Guillermo Rigondeaux pulled out of a potential fight with WBO Bantamweight Filipino champion John Reil Casimero. WBC champion Nonito Doniare stepped in to challenge his fellow Filipino countryman, in a major unification. After the fight was announced quickly, but yet unexpectedly, controversy arrived over drug testing and a lack of stringent prefight testing. Donaire a future Hall of famer and an advocate of clean sport was not happy with Casimero and his camp, some members of his team who tried to at first, avoid stringent drug testing, while insisting their man was enrolled in the WBC clean boxing programme which is completely different to stringent voluntary drug testing carried out by VADA which is within an agreed date and time scale, which most likely would be for 8 or 12 weeks regularly, as currently no active fighter in Boxing, to my knowledge (per VADA) is enrolled in 365 – 24/7 ‘VADA Testing’. After agreeing to be tested voluntarily normally both fighters would be tested randomly, which would be conducted by VADA, in the premise if only both camps voluntarily agree as this is not mandatory testing, this would generally be before testing takes place. After both camps went back and forth online arguing about drug testing, Nonito’s wife Rachel Donaire was very outspoken on Twitter, she had several heated exchanges with Casimero’s manager veteran Sean Gibbons who resolved to childish name calling and tried other back handed tactics, which miserably failed by deflecting several questions asked by the Donaire team and head of SNAC Victor Conte. In the last couple of days, it seemed Gibbons on behalf of Casimero was hesitating to agree to stringent testing which would only be conducted by VADA and not USADA. Gibbons was insisting on the fighters only being tested by the local California athletic commission because both fighters were already enrolled in the WBC’s ‘Clean Boxing Programme’ which is a completely different programme to random testing voluntarily being carried out by VADA. California was the destinated sate location where the fight was due to take place. Many fans had a lot of speculation and questions, regarding the controversy regarding drug testing. It was surely a ‘Red Flag’ in my eyes and many others. As a long time, researcher in drug testing and (PEDS) ‘Performance Enhancing Drugs’ my stance is simple if you are a top-rated fighter, who claims to be a clean fighter and has nothing to hide, why not set an example by agreeing to do stringent drug testing for either 2 or 3 months before a fight which would be carried out by VADA, this to avoid further suspicion about doping. Regarding anti-doping in combat sports where lives are at risk, fighters must be extremely careful as there is not one specific governing body or commission which has an overall say on drug testing in Boxing like WADA does in Athletics regarding PEDS. There are many fighters and athletes who have tested positive numerous times, in Boxing very recently Jean Pascal and Jarrell Miller were both busted for multiple PEDS after being tested by VADA.
Moving Forward, the future Donaire drops a bombshell.
If both fighters couldn’t come to an agreement over drug testing, what happened? Nonito Donaire recently just posted on his Twitter page the following.
“I am known to take stands people are afraid to take. I STAND for VADA 24/7/365 testing for ALL boxers. This should never be refused or delayed. I stand against BULLYING in any form. I STAND against the disrespect and ABUSE of women and children physically, mentally and emotionally. AND I STAND against misogynistic culture. A grown man recently told the mother of my boys to ‘snack on his —-‘. We cannot ignore this unprofessional behaviour. We cannot excuse the disgusting trolling memes created of my wife as ‘just for entertainment. I do not want other pro athletes to cross this line and think this type of behaviour is acceptable. We have to maintain a respectable character, especially online, for future generations to emulate, and not promote ignorance and foul behaviour. For the boxing culture to change, promoters and networks should veer away from unacceptable behaviour and not encourage it. That being said, as we’ve stated before, we cancelled this fight when they delayed turning in the VADA paperwork for 5 days. We have proof that the opposing side was neither honest nor forthcoming in providing the proper information to begin VADA drug testing. AFTER we cancelled the fight, then and only then did the paperwork suddenly appear. I do what I say. And as much as I want to knock him out, I’m going to take the high road and instead of highlighting his misbehaviours, I’m not going to give his example the stage or the payday that comes with it.”
Casimero will now most likely go ahead with a title defence of his WBO crown on Saturday, August 14 in Los Angeles against another opponent. As for Nonito Donaire, the veteran may pursue a rematch with the Lineal consensus, number one fighter in the division, ‘The Champion’ the current unified IBF/WBA and Ring Magazine belt holder ‘The Monster’ Naoya Inoue from Japan who dropped and defeated Donaire in a unification bout of the ‘World Boxing Super Series Finale’ back in November 2019.
It was reported on June 27 by BoxingScene.com that both fighters have enrolled into VADA which was later was confirmed by VADA on their own Twitter page. So as both fighters wait to find out who they will be fighting next, as thousands of fans wonder if they will be able to somehow see an agreement even after it was reported both fighters have enrolled into VADA. As Boxing fans want to see one of the most anticipated fights this year in America, one wonders why Donaire walk away from this showdown? is it to peruse other options? Or simply want an even playing field. Donaire seemed to be unhappy about how long it took Casimero’s team to agree to have their fighter be enrolled by VADA for a proposed upcoming fight on August 14. Donaire may be able to negotiate a Pay-Per-View worthy fight in his homeland of the Philippines or somewhere else based in Asia, possible a rematch in Japan vs Naoya Inoue who remains a household name in Japan where he is adored by millions.
There was ‘Major Speculation’ the fight could be off if both parties could not come to an agreement. In a screenshot posted by Rachel Donaire on Twitter, it was suggested Dr Margaret Goodman, head of VADA Testing (Voluntary anti-doping agency) sent out an email that she suspended testing, it was noted ‘It appears there’s no scheduled bout. I am sending out emails to all parties that testing has been suspended unless we are otherwise notified, or either camp wishes to continue with testing eligibility” (until further notice) If so as reported one wonders why this was sent out by Dr Goodman.
This could all be future negotiation tactics maybe, one team is playing hardball, if both fighters agreed voluntarily to the proposed VADA testing to be carried out but not other details regarding anti-doping whereabouts then we could maybe see this fight possibly take place maybe at a later date, it’s unlikely to take place now this summer. The summer Boxing schedule remains stacked, in the upcoming weeks and months. The schedule all leading up to a mega PPV showdown in late August, which includes Manny Pacquiao back in action after 2 years out of the ring, Pacquiao a fellow Filipino compatriot of both Donaire and Casimero. Pacquiao at 42 years old looks to dethrone undefeated, unified IBF/WBC Welterweight Kingpin Errol Spence Jr to add to his illustrious career, the fight is due to take place on August 21 in Las Vegas, Nevada live on FOX Pay-Per-View in America.