Professional Boxing needs to address the issue
of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in the sport; the
present anti-doping tests and procedures are inadequate and are in
need of a major overhaul to protect the health and safety of
In every major boxing promotion thousands of dollars are paid
for security at the event, but what about the security of fighters
in the ring to ensure that they are fighting in a safe environment
and on a level playing field?
Who in the boxing industry is frightened to embrace a modern
effective regulated standardised drug testing code of practices
& procedures to protect the health safety of all fighters and
uphold the credibility, fairness, integrity and transparency of
competition in the sport?
The answer should be nobody, so now is the time for action on
Senator John McCain made a strong statement to the floor of the
U.S. Senate on June 18, 2012 indicating his intention to introduce
the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2012; all who love
boxing should support the Senator in his work to create a new
federal United States Boxing Commission (USBC).
The first task of the new USBC should be to tackle the
use of PEDs by some boxers in professional boxing and more
importantly the lack of effective regulation and practices to
detect boxers using banned drugs in the sport. The new
Commission must have teeth if it is to be effective and make
As many people close to professional boxing will testify, the
boxing industry is a poorly regulated multi-million dollar
business. The more un-regulated the business is then the greater
the temptation is for some in the industry to act in an
improper and unethical manner for their own selfish and
strategic interests at the expense of others and the risk of
destroying the reputation of the sport. Money and greed is the root
of all evil and at times drags boxing into the gutter.
As former world champion Bernard Hopkins once
said 'The business of boxing makes you want to take a
shower every time you deal with it' and another
former world champion William Gutherie once said ' I
love boxing, it's the business of boxing turns my
Senator John McCain's Bill is designed to better protect
professional boxing from the fraud, corruption, and ineffective
regulation that has plagued boxing for too many years, and that has
devastated physically and financially many professional boxers.
His statement reflects the views of so many, "the 19th century
sportswriter Pierce Egan called boxing the 'sweet science,' while
long-time boxing reporter Jimmy Cannon called it the 'red light
district of sports.' In truth, it's both. I have always believed
that at its best, professional boxing is a riveting and honorable
contest of courageous and highly-skilled athletes. Unfortunately,
the last few decades of boxing history has - through countless
examples of conflicts of interest, improper financial arrangements
and inadequate or non-existent oversight - led most to believe that
Cannon's words best describe the state of boxing today.
"Ineffective oversight of professional boxing will continue to
result in scandals, controversies, unethical practices, a lack
trust in the integrity of judged outcomes and most tragic of all,
unnecessary deaths in the sport. These problems have led many in
professional boxing to conclude that the only solution is an
effective and accountable federal boxing commission." That is the
establishment of the United States Boxing Commission ('USBC'
The media has recently reported cases of high profile fighters
in the sport failing anti-doping tests. Many respected
and investigative boxing writers at various times have highlighted
the issue of PEDs in boxing on the internet, newspaper and
PEDs have been prevalent in the sport for a number of decades.
It would be fair to comment that nobody knows the full extent of
the use of PEDs due to the fact that present anti-doping testing
practices to detect violations are inadequate and not all boxers
are tested. Sophisticated users and those aiding and abetting them
can avoid being caught and by doing so put their own health and the
health of others in danger.
The reality is use of PEDs creates a dangerous imbalance in the
ring, where one fighter is competing at a disadvantaged to the
other. In this environment the health and safety of fighters is
compromised and put at risk.
"The ring should be as fair and honorable as we can make
it," Dr. Edwin 'Flip' Homansky, Vice President of Voluntary
Anti-Doping Association (VADA) once said. "No fighter should
be allowed to gain an unfair advantage over his opponent. PEDs are
an artificial aid and no different than tampering with a fighter's
The sweet science is a combat sport in which two fighters engage
in a contest of endurance, power, strength and skill by throwing
punches at an opponent with the goal of winning on points or by
When a fighter who has correctly trained and prepared for a
fight and is naturally fatigued in the intensity of battle, but his
opponent is not tiring and has plenty of gas in the tank due to
taking PEDs, this is a scary and dangerous environment to be in and
a fighter can be seriously injured or killed. It is not competition
or an honourable contest when durability, endurance, performance
and strength are enhanced by drugs by an opponent.
Weight categories in boxing are there for a reason; to create
fairness and protect fighters in the ring, so that a physically big
fighter with additional weight, height, reach and strength
advantage is not unfairly competing with a physically small
fighter. It used to be a fighter would compete at different weight
classes over the lifetime of their boxing career, today with the
use of banned drugs like Diuretics a fighter can be aided to
weigh-in at one weight category and by the next day enter the ring
weighing excessively heavier and a number of weight categories
above the weight the fight was scheduled at.
The USBC must examine and introduce rehydration weight limits to
create a level playing field and protect fighters.
Boxing is only too familiar with the dangers of dehydration and
rehydration and fighters need to be protected from boiling down too
much to a weight limit. This is where a good trainer and manager
knows the limits and danger zone and ensures the health and safety
of their fighter is paramount and comes first.
When PEDs are used in the sport like running, the volition of
using illegal drugs can mean winning a race by seconds or yards,
but in boxing the margin could be serious injury or life and death
and that is the difference.
As former two times WBA heavyweight champion, John Ruiz aptly
put it, "The only sport in which steroids can kill someone
other than the person using them is boxing. You're stronger when
you use steroids. You're quicker and faster. If a baseball player
uses steroids, he hits more home runs. So what? I'm not saying that
it's right, but you're not putting anyone else at risk. When a
fighter is juiced, it's dangerous. People go crazy about the effect
that steroids have when a bat hits a ball. What about when a fist
hits a head?"
The boxing industry has an integrity and creditability test to
pass. Unfortunately the reality is the business is not capable of
passing that test on its own and that is why a federal USBC is
needed urgently to rescue professional boxing from its
continual decline and slide. Testing and procedures are not generic
and are different from one State to the next.
Then we have the ludicrous situation where high performance
clean fighters are put under suspicion and their performances are
unjustifiably questioned. This is another reason for reform in
anti-doping tests and procedures, so that everything is transparent
and all the ifs, buts and maybes are removed.
The industry needs to wake up and smell the coffee, clean
fighters and boxing fans have had enough and they want the
integrity of the sport restored and a zero tolerance adapted to
drug use in boxing. Boxers that tested positive for drug use should
be severely dealt with and banned from the sport.
The industry owes it to the majority of fighters who are clean
to put measures in place to protect them from the cheats and rid
the sport of the use of drugs. Fighters owe it to the next
generation to be clean fighters, to act as role models to inspire
young people by showing example and practising the principles and
values of true sportsmanship, fair play and respect for one's
Negotiations for the biggest multimillion dollar super-fight of
our times, Floyd Mayweather against Manny Pacquiao at one time fell
apart over the issue of drug testing. If the industry had in place
an adequate and trusted regulated standard code of practice for
drug testing perhaps the parties involved could have made the
The first step on the road to recovery is for all in boxing to
face up and admit there is a drug problem in the sport and that
present testing practices are inept to properly detect and deter
Testosterone is the base all steroids are created or modelled
on, enhancing strength, speed and recovery. It can be administered
via gels, liquid and pellet injections, patches and creams.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids are the synthetic versions of
testosterone. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is an anti-catabolic
hormone that stimulates cell reproduction, regeneration and growth.
Erythropoietin (EPO) increases red blood cell production creating
more oxygen in the blood to increase endurance.
Without an effective testing method for detection, the cheats
will continue to use banned drugs and find ways to avoid being
Any new USBC needs to consult with some of the experts in
drug testing in sport the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Voluntary
Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency
(USADA). John Fahey, President of WADA, Dr Margaret Goodman,
President of VADA and Travis Tygart CEO USADA and Dr. Richard W.
Cohen, Chair of the USADA Board of Directors have diverse,
experienced and talented individuals in this field.
One possible solution is that for all interim world and world
title bouts and all major non-world title bouts that drug testing
should be mandatory. The programme would have a combination of
fixed dates and random dates for testing over an 8 week period
before the date of the bout; tests would be both blood and urine.
Testing would include the day of the fight before and after the
The USBC would determine what tests that are used and when; the
standard Testosterone/Epitestosterone ratio (T/E ratio) Test and
Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR Test) are used when testing urine
The average male has a T/E ratio of 1:1, the WADA code allows
for a 4:1 ratio, New York and Nevada allow a 6:1 ratio. An agreed
ratio needs to be determined and this will be the standard for all
Commissions in the USA.
Erythropoietin (EPO) is tested by doing blood tests.
All boxers granted licences to fight in the USA regardless of
their country of residence would be subject to mandatory random
drug testing at any time of the year and not just in the 8 week
period before the date of a bout. Those at the top end of the sport
would be subject to more random drug testing - any time and any
Every Commission in every State in the USA would have the same
Code of Practice, Regulation, Policy, Procedures and Rules for
Anti-Doping Testing. A generic code of practice & regulations
across the USA would also mean that all sanctioning bodies,
promoters and fighters would have to abide by that code and
Sanctioning bodies, commissions, promoters and fighters would
share the cost of Anti-Doping Testing in boxing. This is a multi
dollar business, those that derive the most revenue and income will
make the greatness contribution to pay for drug testing in the
sport. Some of the cost can be factored into the adjustable gross
revenue of promotions.
When fighters take 3 steps forward in the ring to put everything
on the line everyone else takes 3 steps back to sit in the comfort
and security of their seats, those taking their seats need to
protect the health and wellbeing of all fighters and ensure the
ring can be as safe an environment as possible.
Fighters and boxing fans hope the day when boxing can hold its
head up as the noble art of self defence and fighters can compete
on a level playing field in the absence of PEDs is not too far
away. Boxers will enter the ring as equals touch gloves and the
sentiment of all will be 'may the best man or woman win.'
The United States has an opportunity to introduce anti-doping
reform and provide an example to the rest of the world.