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Let’s rid boxing of suspicion

The Nevada State Athletic Commission has cleared both Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez in drug-testing after their fight but only their urine underwent examination. The analysis did not include blood extraction to detect illegal substances in their system.

Before the fight, Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach suggested for the fighters to undergo testing by an organization called Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) headed by Dr. Margaret Goodman. The private, non-profit VADA relies on fighters or promoters paying for the testing and isn’t involved in tracking use of illegal drugs unless contracted. Roach said his suggestion fell on deaf ears because certain individuals involved in the promotion of the fight had a personality conflict with Dr. Goodman. He confirmed Pacquiao’s approval to undergo VADA testing.

VADA employs the Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) testing method, a urine test created to detect synthetic testosterone, wrote Gabriel Montoya in Boxing News. It is regarded as more transparent than another testing group, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). VADA was credited for exposing Lamont Peterson’s illegal use of synthetic testosterone. VADA also found Andre Berto positive for traces of nandrolone, a powerful steroid. Montoya said VADA is “tailor-made for combat sports” and a key element in its program is educating fighters on the parameters of conditioning, use of performance-enhancing drugs and overall health.

According to Montoya, the “drugs of choice” in boxing are anabolic-androgenic steroids, testosterone (“the building block from which all steroids are created or modeled on – strength, speed, recovery: this is what testosterone is all about”), human growth hormone (stimulating cell reproduction, regeneration and growth) and erythropoietin (EPO) (a drug that increases blood cell production, creating more oxygen in the blood and increasing endurance).

WBO superbantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr., is an advocate of VADA testing and in an effort to affirm the integrity of boxing, announced he is available for random testing any day or any hour of the year.  He is the first professional boxer to submit to random blood and urine testing under VADA in a 24/7/365 program, noted Montoya.

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While the Nevada State Athletic Commission has cleared Marquez, there is no move for the Mexican to be tested by VADA or USADA. The problem is drug tests aren’t fool-proof. Cyclist Lance Armstrong had used EPO for years without testing positive until he was finally exposed. “EPO is a hormone which increases the oxygen-carrying ability of the blood,” said Yahoo! Sports. “It helps the muscles perform better and over a more lengthy period of time. If injected directly into a vein, EPO will clear one’s system in fewer than 24 hours. An athlete who took EPO in the evening would have no fear of testing positive the following day. According to WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) protocols, athletes have to provide a one-hour window to be available for testing. Since EPO passes the system so quickly, those using it can simply take it after the one-hour window has passed.”

Writer Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review Journal said, “any protocol Marquez might have used to prepare for the fight would have been stopped by now (before the fight) and his system cleared of such substances ... EPO, for example, can be undetectable on tests within 24 hours of being injected.”

For the Pacquiao fight, Marquez was visibly bigger than the Filipino even if he weighed less, raising speculation that he may have used “foreign” substances to bulk up. He was shown undergoing extraordinarily tough drills in the gym on HBO’s 24/7, lifting massive amounts of weight in squats. “If you want to stimulate speed, power and strength, you do it by using heavy weight and exploding from under that weight with enough on your shoulders in the squat rack,” said Victor Conte, a conditioning coach who was imprisoned for producing PEDS to distribute to athletes. “But how many boxers do you know who are in the weight room squatting huge poundage? You’re sore and unable to walk for two or three days unless you are using testosterone or other steroids to accelerate the healing where instead of it taking three days to recover from that type of workout, you’d recover in one day.”

There is no conclusive evidence that Marquez took illegal drugs to build up his power but his display of strength in knocking out Pacquiao was a shocker. In three previous fights, Marquez never floored Pacquiao even as he landed squarely on several occasions. But in their fourth meeting, Marquez’ power was overwhelming. In the third round, he decked Pacquiao with a looping right that came from long distance – an awesome display of power considering how far the punch had to travel to connect. The “two-inch” blow that led to the knockout was an absolute stunner.

To rid boxers of suspicious behavior and clean up the ranks of the fight game, VADA testing should be mandatory. Not too many fighters are like Donaire who is voluntarily submitting to random blood and urine testing any day of the year. But if boxing is to preserve its integrity as a sport beyond reproach, the only way to go is VADA testing.

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Tomorrow is the last day of submitting entries to our Christmas contest. You’ve got until 5 p.m. tomorrow to send in as many entries as you like to The Philippine STAR sports section, Railroad corner Oca Streets, Port Area, Metro Manila. We’ll pick 25 lucky entries and we’re giving away fabulous prizes, including P50, 000 cash for the first prize winner.

It’s easy to join, just answer three questions: (1) Which Los Angeles Laker is endorsing a Nike shoe that is the lightest ever made for basketball? (2) Who was the last opponent beaten by Pacquiao? (3) Who was the MVP in the PBA last season? Additionally, there are three questions we’d like you to answer in three sentences or less: (1) Whom would you prefer Pacquiao to fight next and why? (2) Which team do you think will win the PBA Philippine Cup and why? (3) Why do you read the sports section of The Philippine STAR?

Every entry must be identified by the sender’s name, age, occupation (if student, what year, course, school), address and cell phone number. Winners will be announced in this column on Friday and we’ll award the prizes in a get-together at The STAR office, 11 a.m., on Saturday. A photograph of the winners will be published in The STAR. Hurry! Send in your entries now.

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