|On February 1, of last year, ESPN
and Grantland.com’s Bill
“The Sports Guy” Simmons posted a lengthy piece called “Daring to Ask the PED
In it, Simmons declared that after many years in the business, with access and
financial support most writers could only dream of, he was finally going to start
using a long dormant piece of standard issue journalism equipment: skepticism.
In the piece, Simmons wrote about a list he has of athletes he feels are PED
cheating that ESPN would not let him publish. Instead, he printed a portion of
the criteria in which to begin suspicion of an athlete:
the Grantland office, it’s been something of a running joke: I call it my “Pee
In The Cup” list. I never wrote about that list because ESPN Me overruled
Sports Fan Me (smartly, in this case). Just know that it doesn’t take much to
get added to the list. Some of my favorite ways include …
Skip the Olympics (which has much stricter drug testing) in your prime for any
dubious reason and you’re on the list.
Enjoy your best season in years in your late 30s, four or five years after your
last “best season,” and you’re on the list.
If you’re a skinny dude who miraculously managed to add 20 pounds of muscle to
your scarecrow frame, you’re on the list.
If you chopped down the recovery time of a debilitating injury to something
that just didn’t seem possible a year ago, you’re on the list.
If you were really good and really ripped at a really young age, and now your
body is breaking down much sooner than it should be breaking down, you’re on
If you’re exhibiting a level of superhuman endurance that has little
correlation to the endurance of any of your competitors, you’re on the list.
In the modern era of sports,
post-BALCO, post-Jose Canseco (spilling the beans about the underbelly of performance-enhancing
drug use in baseball), you could call that criteria “common fan sense.” But how
about creating a list through - oh, I don't know - gathering data beyond common
fan sense? As much as it is a fact that there is a large segment of athletes,
pro and amateur, who cheat in one way or another using PEDs, randomly throwing
suspicion on athletes without anything tangible because you got fooled by the
baseball era and Lance Armstrong is irresponsible at best.
Further in that February 1,
2013 column, Simmons took an ignorant shot at drug testing in boxing when he
became a witch-hunting fan and pointed out the appearance of Juan Manuel
Marquez in the lead up to his last fight with Manny Pacquiao as proof of
nefarious activity. In the criticism of Marquez, Simmons mentioned Angel “Memo”
Heredia, a former PED dealer who now works as a conditioning coach for Marquez
and others. Rather than explain who Heredia is, Simmons simply told his readers
to use the Google and have a fun 10 minutes reading about Heredia. How lazy can
you be, Bill? Here's a link to a New York
Times profile on Heredia.
While Heredia's presence in
boxing should be paid attention to, the fact is Marquez has not tested positive
for anything. Simmons wasn't supplying anything more than popular fan opinion
with zero intel behind it to support what was claiming with little to no sublimity.
I am not defending Heredia or Marquez. I am defending good journalism.
Of boxing's drug testing,
the record, Keith Richards in 1978 after a night at Studio 54 could pass one of
boxing’s drug tests.
Maybe in 1978, Bill. But
after a night of cocaine, heroin and/or cannabis (drugs Richards might have had
in his system at Studio 54 in 1978), Richards would be caught even in most
states including Nevada (which began testing for steroids in 2002 and where
Pacquiao-Marquez IV occurred) in 2012 when the fight happened. The claim
Simmons makes, even if he is simply having a goof, is misleading.
Don't get me wrong. Nevada
and every other state athletic commission that oversees testing in combat
sports (that's one commission per state, each with its own set of rules) is way
behind the times when it comes to drug testing. New Jersey is the only state taking
blood and hair samples along with the standard urine samples other commissions collect
pre- and post-fight.
What Simmons failed to
either learn or mention is that since 2010, an anti-doping movement in boxing
has been underway. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has tested five
of Floyd Mayweather's fights since May of 2010. The most aggressive testing
program in sports happens to be done by a company named the Voluntary
Anti-Doping Association (VADA). More on them later. Canada's two most
successful boxing promoters, GYM and Interbox have implemented a stringent
random drug testing program that includes a combination of the latest
anti-doping policies and tests. MLB, NBA and the NFL aren't doing what VADA and
the GYM-Interbox Protocol are doing. Those are facts.
Simmons then went on to
mention an excellent column by a reporter named Henry Abbott who wrote a great
piece on testosterone and the NBA (http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/gaps-in-nba-drug-testing).
See, Bill; what Henry did is what you should have done instead of unburdening
your guilt on the public by giving them the go-ahead to throw suspicion around
without gathering real facts such as positive drug tests, eyewitness accounts,
client lists of age clinics or testimony from drug cheats and/or former steroid
dealers. Instead we get the “Pee in the Cup List” and piggybacking off a real
reporter’s work such as Abbott's.
Abbott accurately described “bio-passport”
passports are a different approach to anti-doping efforts. An athlete’s blood
profiles are assessed year-round, looking for the kinds of fluctuations that
come with cheating, whether with blood boosters, anabolic steroids, stimulants,
among others. When oddities arise, the athlete’s blood can be subjected to
further scrutiny, including more expensive batteries of tests that do a better
job identifying chemical supplements.
Simmons, further showing he
is a fledgling to this subject, refers to “bio-passport” as “the single best
way to catch cheaters right now.” Wrong, Bill.
Bio-passport is a solid tool
but if the problem is synthetic testosterone, (and Biogenesis, “A-Rod,” Ryan
Braun, Alistair Overeem, Lamont Peterson, Mickey Bey, Lance Armstrong, Tyler
Hamilton and a host of others have shown us time and again that it is), then
Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) testing on every urine sample collected year-round
both in and out of competition is the obvious solution.
Currently, most sports use
the standard Testosterone-to-Epitestosterone test, known as the T/E ratio test,
to determine if an athlete is under or over the World Anti-Doping
Agency-approved 4:1 ratio limit. It is still an outdated 6:1 in some states.
Like Bio-passport, the T/E ratio test is merely a red flag test. It's looking
for signs of drug use. CIR, designed to detect exogenous testosterone outright,
is looking for a specific drug. That drug, synthetic testosterone, just so
happens to be the drug of choice for modern athletes. If the testosterone in
your system isn't yours, CIR will catch it.
Keith Richards in 1978 could
pass boxing's drug testing, Bill? Really?
Remember, I was going to
mention VADA and the GYM-Interbox Protocol again. VADA's protocol, reportedly mimicked
by GYM-Interbox, is revolutionary and as aggressive as the cheaters they are
trying to detect. VADA is the first company in any sport to make using the CIR
method on every sample collected part of its policy. Their first sample,
collected from Lamont Peterson, yielded a positive result for synthetic
testosterone. As it turned out, Peterson had gotten a slow release testosterone
pellet inserted into the skin under his buttocks by Dr. John A. Thompson of the
Desert Oasis Clinic in Las Vegas, NV prior to beating Amir Khan for various
junior welterweight titles in December 2011. His T/E ratio, even with that
pellet in him, was 3.75:1, thus allowing him to pass the standard T/E ratio
test. Had CIR been used heading into that fight, the synthetic testosterone
would have been detected. VADA testing was used voluntarily by Peterson and
Khan in the rematch. The rematch never happened because CIR detected synthetic
testosterone in Peterson's system and the fight was called off.
VADA has gone on to detect
Nandrolone metabolites and DMAA in two other boxers. At the same time, it has
raised the standard for anti-doping testing in all sports by testing for EPO every time and implementing a
stricter “missed test” policy than any other sport. More than one missed test
and you've got yourself the equivalent of a positive result. Not even the
Olympics is that strict.
Beat that, 1978 Keith
Richards. Or even better, 2014 athletes.
VADA now boasts two
fighters, Nonito Donaire and Edwin Rodriguez, who are voluntarily undergoing
random year-round testing, Donaire for the second year in a row. WBO champions
Tim Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov are also doing VADA testing for their fights.
Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre underwent VADA testing in
his last fight. So did Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios. Saul Alvarez and Shane
Mosley have done it. So have Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz. More are coming.
While the VADA program is
done on a volunteer basis, more and more athletes are inquiring each day as an answer
to any given state commission's refusal to step up its testing game. Combat
sports are the most dangerous games in the world. It’s not about hitting the
long ball or running faster. It’s about extending careers and making your
ability to hit much stronger and for longer periods of time.
USADA continues to test boxers,
though its testing philosophy as compared to VADA's clear plan of attack is
A couple weeks after
Simmons' initial column ran, he “followed up” by posting a mailbag column in
which he shared some of the “nearly 10,000 emails” he had received about his
Great. Way to give readers
an unimpeded chance to throw athletes under the bus while you stay out of the
way and keep your hands somewhat clean, Bill.
Simmons’ initial piece was
passionate, self-righteous and ultimately impotent grandstanding. Why
“impotent'? Because the follow-up was weaker than diluted bathtub gin.
In the year since Simmons
declared war on turning a blind eye to PEDs in sports, this is what a search of
ESPN's website for “PEDs Bill Simmons” yields - a very short list:
Has there been a major
investigation headed up by his boutique site, “Grantland” with its budget and
ESPN-connected powers? Nope. We did a get a piece about possible PED use on
MTV's “The Challenge.”
journalism? Nope. The rest of Biogenesis' list of boxers, NBA and MLB players?
Not even close. Instead, we get self-indulgent crap that makes a columnist feel
better about being part of a generation of sports writers who blindly rode
along on the Steroid Express, powering baseball's resurgence in the wake of the
MLB strike. I liken Simmons to that same group who found its “courage” years
later by voting no one from the steroid era into MLB's Hall of Fame. Way to
crack down, fellas. Hindsight bravery is a weak tonic for the cowardice you
displayed in the past.
All that said, welcome to
the fray, Bill. We need guys on your level in this fight. “Dare to ask the PED
question,” by all means. But how about doing it consistently and responsibly?
Myself? In the four years I have been covering PEDs, with none of the resources
afforded a star writer backed by a major network such as yourself, I've written
roughly 50 articles on the subject (http://pound4poundireland/montoyas-stories-on-drugs-in-one-place),
had my work summarized and referenced by a well-known mainstream writer in
Thomas Hauser and made a ton of radio appearances discussing different aspects
of PED testing and the various stories that have come up during the years. I've
broken stories, challenged the complicit powers that be and consulted with GYM
and Interbox about their testing protocols. It's put my health and career at
risk regularly. But I stand by every story because the info gathered has been done
correctly and responsibly.
Yes, even this piece http://www.maxboxing.com/news/max-boxing-news/the-correspondence, which came knocking on my door the same day that Golden Boy Promotions CEO
Richard Schaefer claimed the testing for this fight - http://www.maxboxing.com/news/max-boxing-news/winky-wright-same-field -
“The Correspondence” still
begs the questions: Where did Golden Boy hear this rumor I was allegedly
spreading and why haven't they sued me for posting it?
The anti-doping war rages on
every day, Bill. Yes, our eyes tell us more than facts do sometimes but it
doesn't give us the right to attack or let the readers run wild in our columns.
We have access and resources to varying degrees to get the job done. Most
important, we have a set of rules. When trying to catch cheaters, we don't get
to be hypocrites and break the rules laid down for us. Passive/aggressively
throwing athletes under a bus full of suspicion through your readers’ emails is
Anti-Doping Solution Suggestion…
Yes, Bio-passport is an excellent
tool but if you are a true, knowledgeable supporter of anti-doping, you need to
educate your readers on the real facts, Bill.
CIR and EPO testing on each
sample collected must be done.
Blood samples must be
Let's throw hair samples
into the mix too.
Let's add the World
Anti-Doping Agency Code rules to all sports. No more separation between amateur
and pro rules. That includes the “No Needle” policy prohibiting athletes from using
any sort of injections from IVs to any other kinds of injectables. Stricter
rules on peptides must be implemented.
Tests for IGF-1 should be
The available test for epinephrine
(a drug used by cutmen to stop bleeding but can be inhaled and used as a
powerful pre- and in-fight stimulant) must be added to the standard drug
Bar none, every sport must
implement random, year-round anti-doping testing of the highest standard. And
it shouldn't stop at a certain number of tests so the athletes know they are
free and clear to cheat.
The UFC should pick up
VADA's standing offer to test all of their athletes for one year,
administration cost-free, and see what is under that rock.
Boxing and MMA promoters
should help fund the state commissions to hire VADA - called by many in the
industry including commentator Brian Kenny, “The Gold Standard” of testing - to
oversee their fights.
When the UFC's Dana White
comes out on TV and says, “Boxing and MMA have the hardest testing in sports,”
the interviewer and every sports pundit need to jump all over him and clarify
what he said by saying, “Only if by that, you mean when the athlete is being
tested by VADA.” Otherwise, Dana, that's pure bullsh*t. Some states don't even
test for PEDs on a regular basis. There is no universal system of testing in combat
sports. Just a voluntary testing movement started by the fighters’ needs and
answered by Dr. Margaret Goodman of VADA, who does the work not only pro bono
but using much of her own personal savings.
When a fighter such as
Georges St. Pierre offers to pay for the testing of his opponent so they both
can prove their cleanliness and Dana White calls GSP “insane” “weird” and
“stupid” for doing so, let Dana know that the only thing weird, stupid or
insane is his reaction to what GSP offered.
Improve or abolish
therapeutic usage exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy in all combat
sports. If you have such low testosterone that you can't fight without it,
guess what? You're retired.
The idea that the cheaters
will always be ahead of the testers is simply not true. If those running and
covering the sport want a clean sport and an even playing field, the tools and
rules are available.
Snarky and lazy aren’t going
to get this job done. Hard work and fearless dedication to this important issue
of Selective Journalism…
Lem Satterfield of RingTV,
which is owned by the company that has promoted Erik Morales’ last few
fights, Golden Boy Promotions, wrote
this about the Mexican legend’s impending return:
Erik Morales will
end a 17-month ring absence against Jorge Paez
Jr. in a welterweight bout on March 22 at Arena Monterrey in
Monterrey, Mexico, according to Sean Gibbons of
(52-9, 36 knockouts), a 37-year-old former four-division titleholder who has
lost three of his past four fights, was last in the ring in October of 2012 for
a fourth-round knockout loss to RING junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia.
(37-4-1, 22 KOs), the 26-year-old son of the popular former featherweight
beltholder, has won 10 straight fights, five of them by stoppage, since losing
split decision to Jose Lopez in May of 2001.
will be contested at a contracted weight of 144 pounds.
a result of the surgery, Morales had withdrawn from his originally scheduled
match up with Garcia that was slated for January of 2012 and came in overweight
for their return bout at 142 pounds.
to the loss to Garcia Morales became Mexico’s first fighter to win four belts
over as many different weight classes with last September’s 10th-round TKO over
the previously unbeaten Pablo Cesar
glorious career has been highlighted by his winning one of three bouts in
separate trilogies with eight-division title-winner Manny Pacquiao and three-division title-winner Marco Antonio
Call me crazy but
Satterfield seems to have missed a major detail. You know, Morales was banned
for two years for testing positive (via USADA) for Clenbuterol twice prior to
fighting Garcia in that ill-fated rematch. The ban was issued March 25, 2013.
You're better than that,
For more on that story,
follow the link. These links incidentally address the first accusation Golden
Boy made to me in that cease-and-desist letter.
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