Monday, October 8, 2012
Donaire a VADA test case for boxing
By Brian Campbell
As junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire prepares for his Oct. 13 title defense against Toshiaki Nishioka, he's well aware of the reality of his situation.
At any hour of any given day, Donaire is one knock on the door away from being subject to mandatory drug testing -- and he wouldn't have it any other way.
This is how Donaire, the first fighter to agree to random blood and urine testing -- 24 hours a day, 365 days a year -- by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA), envisions the day-to-day existence for all fighters, whether inside of training camp or not. It's the Filipino fighter's way of giving back to a sport that has been so good to him, by progressively getting out in front of something he believes in.
"I love this sport of boxing; it's something that has provided me all of the blessings that I have in life," Donaire told ESPN.com. "It's the least that I can do for myself, my fans and for the sport. To me, it's just a normal thing because I really don't have anything to hide in terms of my ability. I'm proud of where I am at because of my natural talent and hard work."
Donaire's most recent test came before a training session on Oct. 2, when VADA's Jennifer Hunter -- who had unsuccessfully surprised him at the gym minutes earlier -- met the fighter at his hotel after he communicated his whereabouts over the phone.
After confirming verbally through the door that Donaire was present, Hunter entered the room and began administering the test.
"The first thing that they'll do is have you unwrap all of the things that they have, so you open it yourself," Donaire said.
After giving blood, Donaire watched as Hunter filled four separate tubes with the samples. Donaire then securely fastened the tubes inside their respective clear bottles, added a label with the matching serial number that appears on the bottle, and placed them inside a clear bag to secure it.
Donaire then provided a urine sample, which was separated into two bottles, marked samples "A" and "B."
The test was Donaire's second since his June announcement to begin testing, with the first coming Aug. 22 under similar circumstances. After testing agents missed Donaire at the gym, they surprised him with a knock on the door of his hotel. The only difference this time was the amount of blood taken (two tubes on the first test; four on the second).
"You have to tell them anywhere, anytime where you are going to be at," Donaire said. "So if I am going to the Philippines, you have to give them the date, location and if you are going anywhere else. You have to let them know, and they will have people come out there randomly."
Donaire's most recent test left him weak during training, something he attributes more to not having eaten beforehand and the fact that he had a rough night of sleep the night before.
Regardless, Donaire says there isn't a potential scenario concerning the hassles of random testing that he hasn't thought of or isn't able to handle. That includes a test the day before a fight, although he hopes it doesn't happen.
"I don't think they do that, but if they do, it doesn't matter to me because I'm just so used to it," Donaire said. "I think a lot of it is all mental. It's how your mind works and how strong you are mentally. It wouldn't bother me."
Donaire admits he hasn't talked to any fighters about agreeing to similar year-round random testing, but he'd like the opportunity to educate them if approached.
"I'm hoping others will want to," Donaire said. "It's a difficult thing and an extra hassle for their body and time. There's a lot of certain aspects that could make them shy away. But I'm hoping that I can encourage them to do it for the sport of boxing and for their fans."
The willingness of Donaire to undergo such stringent testing is as refreshing as it is unprecedented. He has taken the noble blueprint laid out by Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- who has insisted on random testing for opponents and himself during training camp -- to the next level.
The reaction has been positive, albeit meager, in a sport that isn't lacking for negative headlines about the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs. The implications in boxing -- where the lasting effects of PEDs pose as much (or more) danger to a user's opponent as they do to himself -- dwarf the sort that merely inflate home run records.
There just might come a day when Donaire's new reality is simply standard operating procedure, a day when we'll remember fighters like him and Mayweather for being pioneers for safety as much as we will for titles held in an already brutal sport.
It's a day that boxing needs.