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Did VADA jump the gun?



By Paul Strauss: After conducting its own independent investigation, The International Boxing Federation (IBF) has decided to allow Lamont Peterson the right to defend his Jr. Welterweight title. This of course is in lieu of VADA’s (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) revelation that Peterson tested positive for a banned substance. As most fans know, the banned substance was testosterone.

Peterson explained that due to low testosterone levels, his physician prescribed testosterone pellets be implanted to bring his level up closer to normal, which seems innocent enough. In other words, what’s wrong with normal?

The Peterson team’s argument, of course, was there was no intent to take any kind of banned substance that would produce a “performance enhancing” condition. That begs the question, “Did VADA jump the gun?” Before they decided to slide the lab results over to the “banned substance” category, shouldn’t they have checked more closely concerning possible explanations for their test results? Don’t they have a responsibility to investigate whether presence of the substance was indeed a “performance enhancing” situation? It would seem the answer, as far as they are concerned is “no”. It appears they based their actions on, “We got a hit here…….banned substance, and it’s our duty to set off the alarms and sound the sirens.

Well, in the Peterson case, an independent investigation established the intent and effort of Peterson and his physician was to help bring the individual’s condition to something closer to normal to levels, and was not an attempt to gain unfair advantage, and indeed would not have. What’s wrong with that? Where’s the common sense? VADA seems to be acting like the haughty maid who arrogantly informs everyone, “I don’t do windows”!

Fighters and athletes in general have always tried to be in the best condition possible. That has involved and still involves some pretty strange diets, injections of pain killers and injury healing steroids, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, refraining from sexual activity, dieticians, nutritionists, strength coaches with all kinds of weird systems, special shoes, gloves, hand wraps and who knows what. Several teams see value in working on the head too, requiring their pugs go through sessions with psychologists or even hypnotherapy. Whatever works!

Obviously, boxing needs to catch cheaters, those individuals clearly trying to gain an unfair advantage, but in this case, it would seem obvious there intent to do so wasn’t there. Common sense would seem to dictate the need for VADA to go a little further and earn their money before simply announcing a PED has been detected. It’s not sufficient to scare the hell out of everyone and get fights cancelled and cause detrimental effects to many people and the sport itself. After all, they are getting paid a lot of money.

In other words, there needs to a demonstrable linkage between someone innocently taking a prescription or even an OTC supplement versus the person who desires to gain unfair advantage. It would be interesting to hear VADA explain what the exact benefit ( not just in general terms) is or would have been to Antonio Tarver and Andre Berto respectively. In other words, the presence of a so called “banned substance” should not be enough.

In each instance, VADA should be required to show that not only is there presence of a banned substance, but at what level or amount and specifically explain how it would result in an unfair competitive edge. If they are indeed saying, “they don’t do windows” (sic) then the commissions and sanctioning bodies should make it mandatory that an independent review to be conducted in each instance when VADA declares detection of a PED. The question seems to be, is VADA really helping to clean up the sport, or are they causing irreparable damage to some good and honorable fighters? Right now, it would seem questionable science holds trump over common sense.