Boxing Needs Stronger Drug Testing Before a Fight Ends in Tragedy

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2012

Garcia will fight Morales on Saturday, despite a positive drug test.
Garcia will fight Morales on Saturday, despite a positive drug test.Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

You can love or hate Floyd Mayweather Jr. But, he was on to something long before the rest of us. And that was the need to enforce a strict drug-testing regimen to get performance enhancing drugs out of boxing.

Reports came out last night that Erik Morales became the latest prominent boxer to test positive, for the drug Clenbuterol, which is known to aid in weight loss and muscle growth, leading up to his fight Saturday against Danny Garcia (Via/USA Today).

While Clenbuterol is not technically a steroid, it has many of the same properties in terms of burning fat and building muscle mass.

Morales is only the most recent, but he is not alone. In just the past year Andre Berto, Lamont Peterson and Antonio Tarver have all had positive drug tests that revealed PEDs. 

All of the above have had, and will have in the future, stories about how their positive drug test was due to everything but intentional use, but in a sports era riddled by steroid accusations, many of them ring hallow.

Morales has claimed that the presence of the drug in his system is the result of beef consumed in Mexico. But in his previous fight with Garcia, Morales failed to make weight, and was stripped of his title as a result. 

Given that this drug is known as aiding in weight loss this could call into question Morales defense. The problem is that we won't know, possibly until after the fight, which is unacceptable.

There are disputed reports on when Morales second sample would be tested, with some saying it should be ready Friday and others not until after the fight.

So it's possible that Danny Garcia will enter the ring Saturday night, against an opponent on PEDs, and nothing is going to be done about it.

Regardless of whether Morales is eventually vindicated or not, the larger problem of PEDs in the sport remains. 

It's almost stunning that the public has not responded to these recent PED scandals in the way they did to Antonio Margarito's loaded hand-wraps back in 2009. 

Now this is not in any way meant to defend Margarito. What he did was despicable, and truth be told he never should have been allowed to fight again.

But the outrage had to do with introducing a foreign substance, designed to add more force to his punches, that could seriously injure and even kill another fighter. 

That is a risk that hovers over every single fight. As fans we appreciate the sport for its tactics, skill and brutality. We love to see the big punch land, and the huge knockout. 

But in the back of our mind there always remains that thought; that a huge punch could end more than a fight, it could end a career, or even a life. 


This is not baseball.

Steroids in baseball may make you throw the ball harder, hit the ball further, or run the bases faster.


Steroids in boxing may make you hit harder, hit faster and move quicker in the ring.

In baseball, nobody is going to get hurt because a ball traveled 410 feet and not 360 feet. Nobody is going to get hurt if a ball is thrown 95 MPH, rather than 91 MPH.

Somebody can get hurt, badly, if a punch lands with more velocity, or gets there quicker. 

Boxing is a violent sport. Anybody who participates is aware of this fact. But boxing commissions have an obligation to ensure that every fighter that steps foot in the ring does so on the up and up. They have an obligation to ensure that no fighter has an unfair advantage.

But most important of all, they have an obligation to make sure that the fighters are protected.

This is obviously not an exact science. Things happen in the ring, some of them tragic, and are unavoidable.


In a combat sport like boxing, where the goal is to hurt your opponent, steroids have absolutely no place. And the fighters who use them have no place.

Boxing commissions need to get serious about this problem, and they need to do it before we have a tragedy on our hands.

Olympic style testing, which is extremely strict and unforgiving, is something that has become popular in recent years. Many fighters, most notably Floyd Mayweather Jr, now insist that both they and their opponents participate before making a fight. 


Recently middleweight champion Sergio Martinez has also expressed support for the tougher testing regimen, after defeating Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, who failed a post-fight drug test, though not for PEDs.

Is this the answer? It could be. Olympic standards are extremely high, and many legal, over the counter supplements can and do produce false-positive results. 

So, maybe some tweaking needs to be done, or an appeals process needs to be included to ensure that fighters who legitimately get snared improperly can vindicate themselves.


But those who are caught, and cannot prove anything improper, should face severe punishments. You can call it draconian but a first steroid-related suspension should result in a two-year ban in the United States. 

A second positive steroid test and you're done. A lifetime ban. That is a punishment that has serious teeth. 

Under current law a suspension from one boxing commission must be upheld by all others. So if a fighter is suspended in Nevada, all 49 other states cannot grant him a license until he is cleared there. And if you get a lifetime ban you may be able to find word somewhere else, but you won't here.

Boxing needs to act on this and do it quickly. It's no longer just about the integrity of the sport, it's about the safety of the fighters and that's much more important.