By Jackie Kallen
The stink of steroid use in boxing rises again. This stench has appeared and disappeared many times over the past couple of decades. From the early Evander Holyfield days to the current Peterson mess, there have always been rumors (some confirmed) about steroid use among fighters.
When I managed James Toney, he was a fit middleweight who needed nothing but his two fists and his amazing speed and defensive skills. Ten years later, after supposedly beating WBA champ John Ruiz, he came up dirty in a drug test. When Nandrolene was discovered in his sample, it resulted in the belt being returned to Ruiz.
Of course Toney claimed the drugs were taken to control inflammation following tricep/bicep surgery. All athletes come up with what they hope is a plausible explanation for the positive testing.
When Fernando Vargas came up positive following his second De La Hoya fight in 2002, it was no surprise. Although the substance didn’t give him enough of an edge to win, it certainly changed his previously soft body into a Greek God-like form. It gave him a cosmetic edge, but it did not seem to improve his reflexes, speed, or chin.
Everyone connected with Jimmy Lange marveled at opponent Joey Gilbert’s body-builder-like body when he stepped into the ring in 2006. The following year, Gilbert tested positive after fighting Charles Howe in Reno. He subsequently paid a $10,000 fine as part of a settlement with the Nevada Boxing Commission.
In 2003, Shane Mosley admitted taking BALCO-supplied “supplements” before his fight with Oscar. He claims he didn’t know what he was taking, which is hard to believe since he clearly paid Victor Conte $1500 for the substances. I assume he knew he wasn’t buying Red Bull.
There has long been talk about Roy Jones, jr. testing positive after his fight with Richard Hall. People starting wondering which other fights were fought under the influence of steroids. I immediately thought back to his 1994 fight against James Toney. Did he win because he was juiced up back then? Doubtful, but it did make me wonder.
When Frans Botha of South Africa turned up positive after his fight against Axel Schulz for the IBF Heavyweight title, he was immediately stripped of the belt. The same thing happened when Mariano Carrea tested positive after beating Javier Castillejo for the WBA Junior Middleweight title. And it happened again when Orlando Salido beat Robert Guerrero for the IBF Featherweight belt.
Somehow steroid use doesn’t seem as surprising in MMA. Look at some of those monsters. You can tell they did not get that look by eating their spinach and drinking a lot of milk. But I have always hoped that boxers, who need their speed and dexterity, would avoid anything that bulked them up. Sure, the extra strength is great. But an all-around champ needs other skills and tools as well, and steroids can dull those.
When you try to imagine which other boxers may have used steroids to boost their odds in the big fights, it boggles the mind. The list is endless. So is the list of masking agents used to conceal the use of steroids. From Probenecid (which is prescribed for gout) to assorted diuretics, steroid users are always coming up with new ways to hide the drugs.
The ones who suffer the most are the fans. Those who bet fights are especially pissed off when it turns out that their man was beaten illegally. We all hope we are watching a clean, competitive fight. It sullies the sport and soils the reputations of the boxers when one turns up positive for drug use.
In the meantime, the fans are going to miss out on a big fight weekend because the Khan/Peterson fight is canceled. Damn! Makes you wish Peterson had just eaten his Wheaties instead.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen