Boxing


The suspicious circumstances surrounding Julio Cesar Chavez Junior’s drug test for his fight with Andy Lee

Exclusive by Geoffrey Ciani - At the conclusion of HBO’s rebroadcast of Timothy Bradley’s controversial split decision win against Manny Pacquiao, when the commentators finished their wrap-up of the previous week’s action, the stage was set for the evening’s main event—Julio Cesar Chavez Junior versus ‘Irish’ Andy Lee! Instead of making a timely transition, as is the trademark of HBO Championship Boxing, Jim Lampley informed the television audience, “The format calls for the fighters to walk to the ring now, but there has been a delay in Julio Cesar Chavez’s dressing room. It took awhile for him to provide a urine sample. Andy Lee has been gloved up and warming up for quite some time. We’re told that in the other dressing room, Chavez tried and failed to provide a urine sample and the Texas State Athletic Commission has elected to take the sample after the fight.”

It appears, however, that no urine sample was ever provided by Chavez after he brutally stopped the Irishman in round seven.

I spoke to Emanuel Steward, who is currently in Austria training heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko for a July 7 title defense in a rematch against Tony Thompson. Regarding the Chavez-Lee fight, Steward said, “I’ve been reading myself on the internet some things about my reaction, and what I said, and what I did. I wanted to make it clear, and this is something coming from Emanuel Steward—not Team Lee, and from this and that, and all of whatever the other things are.”

Steward continued, “First of all I realized going into the fight that we were going to have everything stacked against us, so I was prepared for that. I realized that having the small undersized ring instead of the regular ones for championship or main fights—that I can accept. That goes with territory when you’re in this business. I can actually go along with a lot of the other situations there. I guess Jose Sulaiman, one of my best friends, is the Godfather of Julio Cesar Chavez Junior. Well that’s normal. That didn’t bother me at all. The argument about the gloves and whatnot, I wasn’t there. But that still, I accepted all of that. That’s part of the game again. I wasn’t complaining about the judges or anything. In fact I thought the referee, Laurence Cole, did an exceptionally great job. I thought he did a great job throughout the entire fight. I think it was a timely, very good stoppage. And all of the other things that went on, I accepted that. I’m okay with that!”

Then Steward added, “But the only thing I have a major problem with is with the drug test not being taken properly.”

Chavez Junior is no stranger to issues pertaining to drug testing. According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), Chavez tested for a banned substance corresponding with his November 14, 2009 bout against Troy Rowland, where ‘The Son of the Legend’ was awarded a unanimous decision. This outcome was later overruled and changed to a ‘No Decision’ after Chavez tested positive for Furosemide, a diuretic on Nevada's banned substance list, which is basically used to help cut significant weight in short periods of time and can also be used to mask other substances. Chavez was additionally fined $10,000 and suspended for seven months by the NSAC. He has not fought in Nevada since.

It was also mentioned during the HBO broadcast that there was another instance of perceived controversy involving Chavez Junior and drug testing. A good five minutes after first stating the reasons for the delay to the TV audience, Jim Lampley noted, “There you see Chavez warming up with his trainer Freddie Roach. A few months ago his last fight took place here in Texas, and incidentally he had trouble providing a urine sample that night as well. It came against Mexican veteran Marco Antonio Rubio.” Team Rubio, in fact, even accused Chavez of fleeing the scene in order to avoid the post fight test. Several media outlets (including ESPN) have refuted these claims, placing the blame instead on a lack of communication and organization between the WBC and Texas officials.

But is that what really happened?

Rubio’s manager, Julio Gudino, explained:

When it came to our fight back in February for the title, Friday at the Rules Meeting the day before the fight, the Rules Meeting took place after the weigh-in in which Chavez showed up about 35-40 minutes late for the weigh-in. In the Rules Meeting, both the WBC Commissioner and Dickie Cole, the Athletic Commissioner for the State of Texas, announced that we would be doing a post-fight anti-doping test. The reason for the post-fight anti-doping test and not a pre-fight is so neither of the fighters could ingest anything during the fight that’s not allowed or illegal to consume in boxing. Everybody agreed to the post-fight anti-doping test.

Fast forward to fight night, everything is fine. We go into the fight and Chavez is rehydrated 23 pounds and fights a twelve round fight like a little bull. After the fight we basically go to our assigned State Inspector that’s there and ask him if somebody is coming to do the urine test because we wanted to get Marco back to the hotel and get dinner.

He asked, ‘What urine test?’

‘Well the anti-doping urine test that was ordered for the championship fight’.

He says, ‘Well you’re going to have to ask the other Inspector because I’m not aware of any drug test’.

So we go over to Chavez’s dressing room and ask the Inspector who’s there, and he says he doesn’t know anything about it. He told us to go and ask Greg Alvarez who was kind of the head Inspector there at the time. So we go and ask Greg, and he kind of looks at me and says that that’s the WBC’s responsibility. So from there we’re directed over to go speak to Jose Sulaiman.

We find him and we address him and ask about the anti-doping test. At that point Sulaiman says, ‘Well that’s not the WBC’s responsibility, you need to go see Dickie Cole, the Commissioner from Texas’.

At this point we could see there is an obvious runaround as to who’s doing what and who’s responsibility is what, and everybody’s just putting it back on each either. So then we find Dickie Cole and ask, and he says there’s not going to be a drug test. Obviously we’re as shocked as anyone.

We say, ‘What do you mean there’s not going to be a drug test?’

He told us we have to go talk to Jose Sulaiman, and we said no, Jose Sulaiman said we need to talk to you. Then right away he said, ‘We forgot to order the anti-doping test’.

We said, ‘What do you mean you forgot to order it? You’re the one with the WBC yesterday at the Rules Meeting who said that we were doing it. It’s the WBC rules for a title fight, and you the State Commission also ordered it and mandated it for the title fight’.

‘Well, we just forgot to order it!’

So we go back to Jose Sulaiman and ask what he’s going to do about this fight not having any anti-doping tests taken, being that Chavez has already been suspended prior to this event in 2010. So there was cause for suspicion.

So the WBC Commission, even though it’s against their rules, they said it was forgotten and there is nothing they can do, and that’s how it was left off.


Regarding last Saturday’s fight, Dan Rafael from ESPN.com recently reported that Chavez and Lee both provided pre-fight urine samples. Rafael reportedly confirmed this information with Billy Keane (Chavez’s manager), Carl Moretti (Vice President of Chavez’s promotional company), and Randy Nesbitt (spokesperson for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation).

Even still the circumstances surrounding Chavez’s drug test are somewhat suspicious.

Steward’s assistant, ‘Sugar’ Hill, explained, “For this fight, at the Rule Meeting after the weigh-in, it was stated by the WBC that it was mandatory that each fighter take a drug test prior to the bout.”

Recapping his experience before the fight, Hill stated, “We’re in Andy’s locker room getting ready. Then I guess the Commissioners came in for Andy Lee to take his drug test. So they were waiting on him and he was drinking water. They waited there and then they watched him. I was called into Chavez Junior’s locker room to watch him get his hands wrapped. I went over there and watched him get his hands wrapped. Then I went back to my locker room and I told them to let me know when they’re actually going to glove him up. They come back over and tell me that he’s ready. I go over there, watch him get gloved up, and then I go back to Andy Lee’s locker room.”

Hill continued, “A guy runs over into our locker room and tells me to come back over because Chavez has to use the bathroom. He was taking his gloves off because he had to use the bathroom. So I go back over there, and there is a bathroom in the locker room. He’s in the bathroom and they’re taking his gloves off. That’s the only part I see. I didn’t look in the bathroom to see who was in there, but they took his gloves off when he was in there. There was a guy standing in front and holding a towel up across the doorway of the bathroom, because there was no door. I was standing there for maybe ten minutes at the most. They didn’t tell me he was taking a drug test. They said he had to use the bathroom. I was assuming that he had already taken the drug test because they put the gloves on him the first time.”

“Then at that point I go back over there and I’m waiting for him to use the bathroom”, said Hill. “Then finally a guy, I don’t know if he was a doctor or not, left. I asked the Commissioner what that was about, and he said, ‘That was Chavez, he just took his drug test’. I said, ‘Chavez just took his drug test now?’ ‘Yeah, yeah. He just took his test right now’.”

When Lee gave his prefight urine analysis he was accompanied by two people: the doctor and a Texas Commissioner. When Chavez gave his urine sample unbeknownst to Team Lee, he was accompanied by six individuals.

Hill recalls, “I saw two Texas Inspectors in there with Chavez, and I saw two members of his team in there. One of the team was holding a towel. I saw two. I did not see a doctor, and at some point I did not see Chavez off to the side. But another strange thing is after the, I guess, doctor left and Chavez came out, then I saw another teammate and I did not know he was in there. So that makes three Team Chavez personnel.”

The peculiar circumstances surrounding the administration of this test only serve to amplify an already increasing state of confusion amongst fans. Boxing enthusiasts want to believe that the athletes who compete are doing so on a level playing field. With all of the different types of performance enhancing drugs in existence, it is difficult for fans to discern who is cheating by trying to gain an unfair advantage, who is being innocently misguided by a team nutritionist, and the difference between “good” and “bad” supplements.

It is bad enough that fans are forced to sometimes endure bad decisions, premature stoppages, hometown refereeing, champions feasting on undeserving contenders, poor matchmaking, too many belts, marquee matches that never materialize, greedy promoters, and not having the best fighters consistently squaring off against each other. These are all aspects of the business of the sport, and things that are often frustrating for fans. We do not need the additional baggage that comes with PEDs, or even the aura of doubt and suspicion that arises from a mere allegation.

Recently there were two high profile rematches that were canceled over boxers testing positive for a banned substance. These were greatly anticipated rematches that involved Amir Khan versus Lamont Peterson, as well as Victor Ortiz versus Andre Berto. Ironically it was Berto and Peterson who requested Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) testing for their respective rematches. Berto tested positive for small traces of Nandrolone, and Peterson for synthetic testosterone. The circumstances surrounding the instances both provide valid reasons to believe that neither Berto nor Peterson was necessarily trying to deliberately gain an unfair advantage.

But even if Berto and Peterson are vindicated by the facts, their reputations may have already suffered irrevocable damage by association.

Controlling and addressing the problem of steroids in sports is especially imperative for boxing. As Emanuel Steward noted, “If someone is coming into a ring with an unbelievable big physical advantage where someone is able to enhance their performance and perhaps even enhance their strength, it’s not like in any other sport like in basketball, or maybe someone hitting homeruns in baseball, or someone maybe taking steroids or any kind of performance enhancer. But if you’re in another sport where someone is handicapped, that’s a serious thing because in boxing a human being is being beaten physically in his brains, and his head, and he’s not on an even playing field. That’s something that’s very serious! All the other sports are different from boxing.”

Major League Baseball was plagued by ongoing revelations of widespread steroid use in recent years starting in the late 1990s. To this day the sport is still suffering the consequences with many superstar ballplayers being forever tainted by performance-enhancing drugs. Baseball first started officially testing for steroids in 2003. The problem, however, is that committed users and abusers of banned substances in baseball and others sports have often managed to stay one step ahead of even the strictest testing methods available. While there is only so much that can be done prevent athletes from gaining an unfair competitive advantage, Major League Baseball deserves credit for addressing the problem, and by continuing to administer harsher penalties and more stringent testing. Boxing would serve itself well to make a serious attempt to follow suit.

In boxing the steroid issue lagged behind baseball by about a dozen years or so. To be sure, fighters like James Toney and Fernando Vargas both tested positive for banned substances years earlier, but there was no major outcry at the time like with baseball. Ironically the issue was brought to light in boxing, not by a failed test but by a mere allegation. The insinuations and suggestions directed towards Manny Pacquiao from Team Mayweather (most notably Floyd Senior and Uncle Roger) brought the issue to the forefront. Pacquiao has never failed any drug test that was required from him in a professional boxing match. Mayweather, however, wanted Pacquiao to go beyond what was required and take random Olympic style drug testing, instead.

This issue alone has since become a major roadblock that has prevented what could potentially have been the biggest fight of all time from ever happening.

This led to two schools of thought. On one side, fans felt that Pacquiao had always done what was required of him, never tested positive for a banned substance, and that he should not have to submit to these extra demands from Mayweather. Others felt that if Pacquiao had nothing to hide, he would simply take the test to silence his critics and make the fight. These general outlooks have essentially persisted ever since. With the recent episodes involving Berto and Peterson, fans and observers are becoming quite cynical about the whole thing. There are no universal rules, standards, regulations, or policies in place. Even worse is the fact that when there are rules and regulations in place for a particular region, they are not consistently applied. This was observed in Chavez’s last two fights in Texas, which only proved to generate more doubt and suspicion.

As ‘Sugar’ Hill explained regarding last weekend’s test, “In my experience it would be handled differently. When Andy Lee took his drug test we were not all in the bathroom with him while taking the test. I know that. And from my experience as a Detroit Police Officer, when you take a drug test there is no one in the bathroom but you and the doctor; or you, the doctor, and the Commissioner or whatever, as far as boxing”.

Boxing needs to address this problem and find a way to implement some kind of universal guidelines and procedures to help restore the fans’ confidence.

Or as Emanuel Steward duly noted, “This steroids stuff is really hurting the sport and I feel that that’s a major, major issue that we need to really clear up. I think this drug thing is maybe worse than the others, because you’re going to get bad decisions. But this is serious, serious stuff that can leave someone injured or dead”.

Steward will be arranging a meeting with Senator John McCain sometime in the coming weeks following Klitschko’s title defense against Thompson. Perhaps this will act as an important first step in addressing this troubling issue that lingers over the sport of boxing.

***

I would like to give a special thanks to Emanuel Steward, 'Sugar' Hill, Julio Gudino, and Joey Gamache for their time and insight

***

To contact Geoffrey Ciani:
ciani@eastsideboxing.com

Article posted on 23.06.2012



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