On Wednesday, The Ring’s Lem Satterfield reported that Marcos Maidana had demanded performance-enhancing drug testing for his bout next week with Devon Alexander.
Golden Boy Promotions, who promotes both fighters, readily agreed and left the procuring of a lab and enforcing of protocols to Tim Lueckenhoff, Executive Director of the Missouri Office of Athletics and President of the Association of Boxing Commissions. According to Lem’s story (My attempts to reach Mr. Lueckenhoff were unsuccessful), Mr. Lueckenhoff has hired the services of LabCorp who will be collecting urine samples from both fighters before and after the fight.
There’s a major problem with that. LabCorp does not do anabolic steroid testing of any kind. Though their law department refused to answer even the simple question of what kind of drugs they test for, I was able to gather that in fact, LabCorp hands over steroid testing to another lab, National Medical Services, which is WADA accredited.
But there is still a problem.
Collecting samples for anti-doping testing is much different than collecting samples for, say, a drug test to determine employment eligibility. Collection officers must be anti-doping certified and trained in those particular protocols. In the day and age of such tactics as fake penises filled with urine from someone else, all manner of masking agents and the best performance-enhancing drugs money can buy, the chain of custody part of the process has become incredibly vital. A certified anti-doping officer would know to make sure a subject goes through the proper procedure while a boxing commission inspector may not. This breach of protocol could be exploited should a sample turn up positive.
For example, in order to avoid things like “The Whizzinator,” which is a product made to look like a fake penis (there’s a female version as well) that dispenses clean urine from someone other than the test subject, a certified officer will make the subject lift their shirt halfway up and their pants all the way to the ankles. The subject will then face the officer and dispense the sample into a cup while the officer looks on. It’s invasive but comprehensive. Someone not certified may just hand off the cup, let the subject go alone into the bathroom and then who knows what happens?
As they say in the doping industry, test results are only as valid as the history of the sample.
Yet another problem is that Mr. Lueckenhoff gave away the protocol of how the samples would be collected down to the time they will be taken. Any doping expert will tell you that knowing the window of testing is an important key to getting around a drug test. In addition, only urine will be taken as a sample. Without blood testing, not every drug that could be possibly used can be tested for.
What is supposed to be a precaution now seems either a dog-and-pony show or a sad commentary on how far behind the rest of the sports world boxing appears to be.
If Ryan Braun’s lawyers, who never attacked the validity of his positive tests for exogenous testosterone but rather the chain of custody, can beat WADA-trained officials, what do you think a good lawyer could do with Missouri? Or Vegas? Or anywhere in boxing, for that matter?
Our sport needs to do one of two things. It either needs to be exposed as covering for performance-enhanced fighters or it needs to revamp its testing policy completely, hand it over to an independent, non-profit group who can’t be influenced by anyone in the sport. We need 24/7/365 full testing with carbon isotope ratio testing used as a screener like Victor Conte suggested in this New York Daily News article about Major League Baseball. Right now, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association offers that cost effectively.
It would be nice for once if boxing didn’t feel like the dark ages when compared to other sports. Here’s our chance.