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USADA gave Mayweather retroactive OK to use banned IV for Pacquiao fight

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Floyd Mayweather Jr. reportedly was given USADA exemption to use a WADA-banned IV injection on the eve of his superfight with Manny Pacquiao.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

To the UFC fan, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is here to provide a needed regulatory body to "clean up" the sport's PED problem. It sounds like a good deal at face value, but as long-time boxing journalist Thomas Hauser uncovered in an SB Nation longform, USADA is dealing with its own major credibility issues in boxing. Far and away the biggest controversy that has made the rounds on sports media is the IV use of Floyd Mayweather the night before his mega-fight with Manny Pacquiao back in May.

Here's the meat of the (very long) story regarding what USADA found when they performed an unannounced drug test at Mayweather's home in Las Vegas after the weigh-ins were finished:

The collection agents found evidence of an IV being administered to Mayweather. Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which had jurisdiction over the fight, says that USADA did not tell the commission whether the IV was actually being administered when the agents arrived. USADA did later advise the NSAC that Mayweather's medical team told its agents that the IV was administered to address concerns related to dehydration.

Mayweather's medical team also told the collection agents that the IV consisted of two separate mixes. The first was a mixture of 250 milliliters of saline and multi-vitamins. The second was a 500-milliliter mixture of saline and Vitamin C. Seven hundred and fifty milliliters equals 25.361 ounces, an amount equal to roughly 16 percent of the blood normally present in an average adult male.

The mixes themselves are not prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which sets the standards that USADA purports to follow. However, their intravenous administration is prohibited by WADA.

WADA prohibits these IV injections or infusions "of more than 50 ml per 6 hour period" at all times when an athlete is subject to testing, and the concern over using IVs to dilute or mask other substances in one's system is essentially the same in boxing as it will soon be in the UFC.

Supposedly, when the drug testing part of the contract was ironed out between Mayweather and Pacquiao, this was the wording regarding camp notifications and applying for TUEs for substances and/or IV injections that are otherwise prohibited by WADA:

"Mayweather and Pacquiao agree that USADA shall notify both athletes within 24 hours of any of the following occurrences: (1) the approval by USADA of a TUE application submitted by either athlete; and/or (2) the existence of and/or any modification to an existing approved TUE. Notification pursuant to this paragraph shall consist of and be limited to: (a) the date of the application; (b) the prohibited substance(s) or method(s) for which the TUE is sought; and (c) the manner of use for the prohibited substance(s) or method(s) for which the TUE is sought."

Pay attention closely to that, because the story gets zanier from there. Not only did USADA reportedly not notify the Nevada Athletic Commission about the procedure until 3 weeks after the fact, they granted Mayweather a retroactive TUE that wasn't even requested until May 19th.

For 20 days after the IV was administered, USADA chose not to notify the Nevada State Athletic Commission about the procedure.

Finally, on May 21, USADA sent a letter to Francisco Aguilar and Bob Bennett (respectively, the chairman and executive director of the NSAC) with a copy to Top Rank (Pacquiao's promoter) informing them that a retroactive therapeutic use exemption had been granted to Mayweather. The letter did not say when the request for the retroactive TUE was made by Mayweather or when it was granted by USADA.

Subsequent correspondence in response to requests by the NSAC and Top Rank for further information revealed that the TUE was not applied for until May 19 and was granted on May 20.

In other words, 18 days after the fight, USADA gave Mayweather a retroactive therapeutic use exemption for a procedure that is on the WADA "Prohibited Substances and Methods List." And because of a loophole in its drug-testing contract, USADA wasn't obligated to notify the Nevada State Athletic Commission or Pacquiao camp regarding Mayweather's IV until after the retroactive TUE was granted.

Meanwhile, on May 2 (fight night), Pacquiao's request to be injected with Toradol (a legal substance) to ease the pain caused by a torn rotator cuff was denied by the Nevada State Athletic Commission because the request was not made in a timely manner.

NAC executive director Bob Bennett was not pleased with USADA's handling of the situation, particularly the decision to retroactively grant Mayweather's TUE:

"The TUE for Mayweather's IV - and the IV was administered at Floyd's house, not in a medical facility, and wasn't brought to our attention at the time - was totally unacceptable. I've made it clear to Travis Tygart that this should not happen again. We have the sole authority to grant any and all TUEs in the state of Nevada. USADA is a drug-testing agency. USADA should not be granting waivers and exemptions. Not in this state. We are less than pleased that USADA acted the way it did."

So to recap - Mayweather takes illegal IV injection, gets TUE after the fact. Pacquiao asks for legal injection on fight night, but is denied due to time.

Tygart declined an interview with Hauser on the subject, and Mayweather, who fights Andre Berto on Saturday, was not available for comment when contacted by various media outlets. However, USADA did release this official statement on Thursday: (H/T Josh Gross)

While the easy thing to do parse out of all of this is "Mayweather is a cheater", the bigger picture is entirely on USADA's questionable practices. There's a lot more to Hauser's piece than just Mayweather's illegal IV use -- there are rumors that Mayweather had 3 separate positive "A" samples but USADA gave him an "inadvertent use waiver" each time -- especially the section on handling of Erik Morales' failed drug tests back in 2012. The whole longform is anything but a good look for USADA and it's more than enough reason to be skeptical over how they will operate as the UFC's official third-party "independent" drug testing program.