Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Take the test? Chavez did
By Dan Rafael
No conspiracy: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. took a prefight drug test for Saturday's bout with Andy Lee.
As if there weren't enough scandal and controversy in boxing already, now we have a manufactured one due to an honest error -- but one that many fight fans can't seem to accept as just that.
I was watching HBO's "World Championship Boxing" telecast Saturday night, waiting for the start of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s middleweight title defense against Andy Lee at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, when announcer Jim Lampley informed the audience that "there has been a delay in Julio Cesar Chavez's dressing room. ... Andy Lee has been gloved up and warming up for quite some time. We're told that in the other dressing room, Chavez tried and failed to provide a [urine] sample and the Texas state commission has elected to take the sample after the fight."
That sounded reasonable to me, but a look at my Twitter feed and Facebook page revealed a deluge of comments from boxing fans who, for whatever reason, believed that something was amiss -- that Chavez having difficulty providing a sample was evidence he was using some sort of illegal substance or was looking to duck the drug test.
That's a big reach.
In fact, Chavez (and Lee) did provide a prefight urine sample, according to his manager (Billy Keane), his promoter (Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti) and, most important, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation -- all of whom I spoke with to check on the issue.
On Tuesday, I spoke to Randy Nesbitt, a spokesperson for the TDLR, which oversees boxing in Texas.
"Both fighters, Chavez and Lee, submitted urine samples before the bout," Nesbitt said.
According to Nesbitt, the rules in Texas allow regulators to ask for a sample before or after a fight, and both fighters were tested before the bout. They were the only fighters on the card tested, which is permissible under Texas rules.
"Their samples have been sent to the lab, and the results will be looked at when we get them," Nesbitt said.
As for Lampley's ill-timed comment, HBO spokesman Kevin Flaherty told ESPN.com: "Jim's comments at the time were accurate. We were unaware that shortly thereafter a sample was provided. That was unfortunate."
In other words, it was an honest mistake by HBO, even though some won't accept that.
These are the same people who wrongly believe that Chavez refused to provide a sample for his previous fight, a victory against Marco Antonio Rubio in February in San Antonio. Once again, Chavez got a bad rap.
Chavez didn't refuse that drug test. Instead, as the TDLR admitted after the fact, it screwed up by not having the proper testing equipment on hand for the fight. In fact, Chavez did not flee the event after the fight to avoid the test. I was there. Chavez was at the postfight news conference and leisurely answered questions. He was not a man in a hurry to leave.
But once again, the conspiracy theorists want to believe the worst about Chavez. It's understandable that some are inclined to, because in November 2009 Chavez tested positive for Furosemide -- a diuretic that is typically used to help cut weight or as a masking agent for steroids -- in conjunction with his fight against Troy Rowland, which took place on the Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
For the positive test, the result of a prefight urine sample, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Chavez for seven months and fined him $10,000 (10 percent of his $100,000 purse). The fight result, originally a lopsided decision for Chavez, was changed to a no-decision.
But that positive test has nothing to do with Texas' blunder in February, nor does it have anything to do with Saturday night, when Chavez provided a prefight sample without any other issue than not being able to pee on command.
According to the TDLR, Chavez-Lee generated a gate of $756,461 from 10,799 tickets sold, with 2,677 complimentary tickets given away. The attendance (13,476) was a far cry from the 30,000 to 40,000 Top Rank originally anticipated, but Top Rank president Todd duBoef said the banning of beer sales at the Sun Bowl was one factor that hurt gate figures.