Floyd Mayweather Jr., in the parlance of our times, has always been problematic. With Mayweather, you have to close your eyes to a lot of ills in order to enjoy the spectacular thrill of victory.
His fights aren't often very interesting. Neither are his opponents. He's a boorish braggart who can't stop talking about his money.
And oh, by the way, he's also a serial batterer of women.
But the two things Mayweather could always hang his hat on were what matter most in the world of athletics—Floyd won big, and he won clean. Mayweather, a vocal opponent of performance-enhancing drugs, had always appeared to be above reproach.
Days before Mayweather's final fight, Thomas Hauser, the dean of boxing reporters and Muhammad Ali's official biographer, dropped a bomb aimed squarely at Floyd's legacy. According to Hauser, Mayweather used a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned IV to administer fluids after the weigh-ins the day before the Manny Pacquiao fight in early May.
As Hauser explains, the mixture of saline and vitamins administered in violation of WADA policy, about 16 percent of the body's total blood supply, is a bigger deal than it may seem on the surface. It's not the saline solution that is against the rules; it's the underlying possibilities that make it a problem:
...in addition to being administered for the purpose of adding specific substances to a person's body, an IV infusion can dilute or mask the presence of another substance that is already in the recipient's system or might be added to it in the near future.
While use of an IV after a tough weight cut certainly isn't proof of performance-enhancing drug use, it does open the door to speculation. Mayweather, who has positioned himself as a PED crusader in the latter part of his career, suddenly finds himself in the crosshairs of a potentially damning controversy.
PED scandals were for the other guy, not for Floyd Mayweather. He was the guy so vehemently and vocally anti-drugs that he found himself in hot water with opponents like Pacquiao because he couldn't stop himself from voicing accusations.
Now he faces accusations of his own. If true, the use of the banned IV shows, at the very least, that Floyd himself wasn't above taking the easy route.
According to Hauser, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), an organization Mayweather's team pays to provide drug testing for his fights, didn't report his IV use—not to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and not to Pacquiao or his team—for 19 days. And Mayweather got away with it, Hauser asserts, thanks to the contract he and adviser Al Haymon agreed to with the USADA in exchange for a $150,000 fee.
It's a shocking claim, one the USADA, in part, is contesting. Floyd the PED crusader? The same Floyd who bragged incessantly about his Olympic-style drug testing?
"Olympic-style" testing doesn't allow the athlete to decide when testing begins and ends or provide a retroactive hall pass for PED use. Mayweather-style testing, apparently, does just that. He should be ashamed, and the USADA, which reportedly allowed itself to administrate this farcical testing, should be too.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, Hauser wasn't done dropping bombs yet, reporting there is reason to be suspicious of three other Mayweather fights—bouts with Shane Mosley, Victor Ortiz and Miguel Cotto—where drug screening was supervised by the USADA.
According to Mayweather's contract with the group, they are allowed to grant him retroactive permission for any illegal substance they might find in his system, something Hauser alleges may have happened multiple times:
... it was rumored that Mayweather's "A" sample had tested positive three times and, after each positive test, USADA had given Floyd an inadvertent use waiver. These waivers...would have allowed testing to continue without the positive "A" sample results being reported to Mayweather's opponent or the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
If true, it's damning. It would make Mayweather one of the most blatant drug cheats in sports history, on par with Lance Armstrong, and the worst of the worst. It's one thing to use PEDs to get an edge. It's another to do it while standing on your soapbox loudly proclaiming yourself drug-free and making unfounded accusations about others.
For years, we've debated Mayweather's legacy. While he's unquestionably the best fighter of his era, plenty of questions remained about his level of competition, his tendency to delay fights until his opponents were past their prime and his willingness to win by simply not losing.
Now you can add a potential PED scandal to the list. To me, it all adds up, the sum of his various controversies overshadowing his accomplishments.
If his fight Saturday with Andre Berto is indeed the last of his career, Mayweather will be leaving quite a mess in his wake. While it's not his fault there is no successor in place to take over as boxing's leading star, his fights with Pacquiao and Saul Alvarez have left the public skittish and done active harm to pay-per-view. Mayweather and boxing have overpromised and underdelivered time and time again. Others will pay the price for that.
When he's gone, the memories left behind won't be of greatness. They'll be of his interminable fights and gaudy displays of wealth. Pushing himself to his limits against fighters who could challenge him has never been part of the program. Floyd has always done the minimum expected from a great fighter, just enough to earn the respect of his peers and historians.
But if he's done it all with the aid of performance-enhancing drugs, all of that respect vanishes in an instant, a lifetime of accomplishment washed away by arrogance. Did greatness come with help from a needle?
Say it ain't so, Floyd.
Jonathan Snowden covers combat sports for Bleacher Report.