PED’s in Boxing: An Overview
By Jonathan Oxley
Just how much of an issue are PED’s (performance enhancing drugs) in boxing? I’m sure everyone has heard different stories lately in boxing news updates regarding fighters either being deliberately caught out taking performance enhancers to gain an advantage or falling “victim” to a poor choice of such things as an innocuous nasal spray which would give an unusual blood test result.
We saw recently the issues that former WBO World Middleweight Champion, Billy Joe Saunders encountered due to supposedly contaminating a blood test after claiming he used a nasal spray whilst having a cold during training, this actually lead to the fighter having to cancel his fight with Demetrius Andrade, whom later went on to claim the belt which B.J.S. was forced to vacate after being unable to fulfil his obligation to fighting Andrade on the recent DAZN show in the U.S.
This now makes me wonder just how widespread a problem PED’s in boxing has become? For example, current undisputed World Middleweight Champion, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, also failed a drugs test which led to him being banned for a meagre six months.
Was this sufficient punishment for a fighter in such a position and stature within the fight game?
Just what kind of example is this showing to other fighters of all ages and levels? Is it the case that if Canelo could walk away with such a lenient punishment that it is setting a precedent that you can take a substance or substances, either deliberately or in negligence, that aid performance even whilst training for an upcoming fight that you can take a risk in the hope that even if found out it wouldn’t have too much of an adverse effect on your career, does this make it worthwhile to attempt to cheat the system?
I feel the punishment for Canelo has actually set a dangerous example for fighters, you can fail a drug test and walk away with your career intact with perhaps some clever P.R. and still maintain your status because the truth of it is you were maybe at a level where you’d have only fought twice a year anyway and the ban would in all likelihood not even had interfered in your career because it was in between any fights that you would have had anyway.
I recently read an article that former Heavyweight boxer John Ruiz had given regarding the use of PED’s and the certainly often overlooked effects that the use of PED’s have on boxing and his own career, Ruiz fought James Toney in April of 2005 for his WBA World Heavyweight title, following the fight, Toney failed a drugs test, Toney had been awarded the fight on a points decision. After giving a positive drugs test result, Ruiz was awarded his belt back and the result was overturned and classed as a no-decision.
Ruiz went on to say “That’s what is sad about boxing, basically PED’s make a boxer last longer. They are not going to get tired when it comes to the late rounds. Boxers want their opponent to get tired so that they can take advantage of it, if the other guy is on steroids and doesn’t get tired, you’re screwed.”
“When it happened to me with Toney, it took away my opportunity to get bigger fights. He got the decision, but when he tested positive, they changed it to a no-decision. I got the belt back, but it was almost like a loss. It took the wind out of my sails.”
Ruiz raised an interesting point which is widely overlooked regarding the effects on clean fighters and the way that a fighter who has done nothing wrong has their own career affected by a drugs cheat. He added
“What we tend to dismiss, as it relates to boxing and PED’s is the impact it has on clean fighters, Ruiz stated that it affected his momentum during his career following him gaining consecutive wins during his last “clean” fights, he also added that the team around him during the Toney fight “were astonished just how well the former Middleweight World Champion had taken his shots up at Heavyweight.”
As a boxing fan I sincerely hope that this issue is not as widespread as is currently seeming, on a positive side note to this article I do see a lot of fighters posting pictures via Social Media which shows such bodies as VADA doing random blood tests during a fighter’s training camp, If you have nothing to hide then there should be no reason not to sign up to random testing procedures.