Drug testing in professional sports has been a hot topic among fans for years. Following the implication of many professional baseball players in the use of performance-enhancing drugs, the scrutiny from the general public, the federal government, and fans of each and every sport has been on the rise. Most fans feel that throwing money at the problem could eventually bring a halt to the steroid era, but there are others who believe it will only diminish the product, a product that is supposed to be consumed as entertainment.
Mixed martial arts and boxing have been under the radar in comparison to Major League Baseball, but we've had our own mishaps. One of the most anticipated mixed martial arts match-ups in the history of the sport, a showdown between the arguable #1 and #2 heavyweights in the world in Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett, did not happen due to a positive drug test for Barnett. One of the biggest predicted paydays in boxing history in Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao didn't happen because of the possibility that drug testing could occur.
Now... more fuel is being added to the fire. The Chief Executive of the United States Anti-Doping Association, Travis Tygart, is speaking out about boxing commission drug testing:
Q: Shane Mosley obviously slipped through some cracks on urine testing alone in Nevada. ...
A: "Let me correct that premise for you. The current state of drug testing done by these state commissions is a joke. They don't test for EPO. They don't test for designer steroids. They test for a basic, simple menu that anybody with a heartbeat will escape. I just hate to hear that Shane Mosley did something really sophisticated to get around their testing. No, he didn't. He would've been caught dead to rights in our program. But it doesn't take a whole lot to sidestep the simple kind of drug testing that these state commissions are doing.
"Again, I hope it's familiarity, I hope it's knowledge, because part of the growth is for entities, but also athletes, to become knowledgable about these issues. If you're a clean athlete, or you're a sport organizer, promoter, state commission, whatever, if you want to protect clean athletes' rights, you're going to put in a clean program.
Tygart responded to the question in regards to Mosley's 2007 grand-jury testimony related to the federal BALCO investigation. The testimony implied that he used EPO, purchased from the BALCO laboratory.
The rest of the interview is very, very interesting, and I encourage all of you to go and read it. The most interesting stuff involves the masking of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, and the incremental cost of adding these newer tests that scan for more drugs than standard tests.
I'm certainly all for seeing the sport cleaned up and seeing fights between completely clean athletes, and I was a bit dumbfounded by the reaction to the Mayweather-Pacquiao terms when the negotiation was going down. Some fans, even in our own community, were outraged that Mayweather would request tests close to the fight, and Pacquaio's reasoning that blood tests would hurt his training were blatantly ridiculous in my mind.
Tygart points out something that fans should have been hearing years ago. An athlete can mask a steroid or PED if he knows about a random drug test even 10 minutes before it's being instituted, and it's obvious that there are a lot of extreme measures in which athletes will go to test clean.
I'm not going to crap all over the state athletic commissions because I'm not an expert on their financial situations or what their budget is per year, but it might be a dilemma among those commissions to do this testing. Not only can it up their expenses, but it can also cause some promoters to be cautious of promoting in those states anymore.
It'd be interesting to see a federal initiative to fund the USADA to do all testing across the country for one year. How many fighters in both sports would get popped? We won't ever see that happen, but the issues that Tygart brings up are hard to ignore.