- Michael Woods, Boxing
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Tuesday was a nice day for Victor Conte. For starters, he wasn't in jail. Not being flippant; the former BALCO bad boy, among athletes the most notable face of steroids and chemical transgressions in pursuit of performance and loot, spent four months locked up at the end of 2005 and into 2006 for distributing steroids.
Beyond being free, he was feeling a sense of satisfaction and vindication, because something he'd been railing about had, seemingly, been proven correct. It had been announced that D.C. boxer Lamont Peterson, who on December 10, 2011, had beaten Amir Khan and lifted Khan’s two junior welterweight belts from him in the process, tested positive for a banned substance.
Peterson was counting down to a May 19 rematch title defense, a re-do with Khan in Las Vegas, and had agreed to a stringent prefight testing regimen. In fact, he’d pushed for the regimen.
It emerged that a sample taken on March 19 came up dirty, for an anabolic steroid chemical; ESPN's Dan Rafael reported that Nevada athletic commission chief Keith Kizer told him that Peterson's counsel in fact admitted that the substance which caused the red flag was synthetic testosterone. Another sample, from the same specimen, was tested, and also was red-flagged by VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association), the outfit run by ex-Nevada ring doc head Margaret Goodman.
Peterson provided another specimen on April 13, which passed muster, as clean. But he didn't make it out of the woods; he would've had to provide an explanation to the Nevada commission to maintain his license to fight in Nevada. Before the specifics of that hearing coalesced, the plug was pulled on the whole card, by promoter Golden Boy. One could have seen where it might have been hard for the commission to give him the go-ahead, considering that the testosterone could give him an unfair advantage over Khan, who has not submitted an unclean specimen (as far as we know).
I reached out to Conte, who is quite likely among a handful of the most knowledgeable folks on this subject matter because of his nefarious past, though he maintains he is through with any dark-side behavior.
He said that yes, Peterson could achieve an unfair advantage by using synthetic testosterone ahead of a fight.
"That would enhance recovery, accelerate healing and tissue repair, and you can train harder and recover quicker," Conte said, "and it helps build lean muscle mass as well. I believe usage is rampant, and has been for a very long time."
He addressed the cancellation, word of which dropped a bit before 9 p.m. ET Wednesday, hammering Peterson for the debacle and for what he deems reckless behavior. "Hopefully the boxing world as a whole will learn some valuable lessons from this very unfortunate situation."
We note that Rafael reported that Peterson's attorney told Kizer that Peterson admits he used a testosterone supplement before the December bout, on the recommendation of a physician, to bolster a low count. So it appears the boxer will be defending himself with the explanation that a doctor OK'd the drug use. As of this posting, we have not heard from Team Peterson for its take on the cancellation, or further clarification of the admitted usage.
Conte was in an almost buoyant mood Tuesday, not because he has anything against Peterson. Indeed, I asked him up front if he had any dog in the hunt, considering he has consulted with boxers like Andre Berto and Nonito Donaire. No, he said, he has no vested interest in the (now DOA) Peterson-Khan rematch.
He said he was pleased because this positive was proof of what he’s been harping on for a few years, that PED usage is higher than most think, and that athletes are gaming the system because they know the existence of loopholes. Conte has said that testing heavyweight USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency), which does the testing for U.S. Olympians, doesn't have tough-enough standards, especially as compared to VADA. (Conte did have discussions with USADA years ago about being a consultant, but those broke down amid acrimony.)
VADA's methods caught Peterson, Conte said, while USADA's might have deemed the specimen clean. The Peterson sample detected a banned substance because a CIR (carbon isotope ratio) test was done, as per VADA's typical protocol. If USADA were doing the testing, Conte said, the CIR test would only have been done if a red flag was raised from their testosterone-to-epitestosterone test, or T/E ratio, test. Under USADA rules, if the T/E level breaches a 4-1 ratio, a CIR is then administered.
But Conte insists that the smart cheaters know not to breach the USADA T/E ratio, so they can, say, triple the amount of synthetic testosterone in their system, and yet still not trip a USADA warning buzzer.
"Knowing the 4 to 1 ratio is a huge loophole," Conte told me. "This is in my opinion biggest loophole in drug testing." (Note: I haven't seen official documentation regarding what the Peterson T/E ratio was. Conte's sourcing indicates that it was low enough that it would not have breached the USADA 4:1 acceptance level, or the 6:1 level allowed by the Nevada commission.)
Conte thinks that VADA flagging the Peterson specimen will result in the embrace of the CIR test, and the jettisoning of the T/E ratio test, which he dismisses as a loophole you can fit a Mack truck through.
"This is historic," he exulted, noting that the technology to flag such specimens as Peterson's have been around since the '90s, but has not been used to correct effect. (He has railed in video you can find on YouTube that testing methods aren't used properly because many entities do not want to catch athletes, for the record. That makes for compelling theory, but without proof, it's not my place to go there. Though my pal Ron Borges sagely just Tweeted that the cancellation of the event makes one understand that at the very least it might not be so high on the list of some of the sports' powers-that-be to have testing right up to an event date. Might we see language inserted in contracts putting dirty athletes on the hook for revenue lost if a card is scuttled?)
"It will have an impact at what they do at the Olympic games. The important message is people need to understand the difference between VADA and USADA testing," Conte said. "People must realize what I've been saying for years is the truth."
UPDATE: Team Peterson put out a statement, which Dan Rafael posted here. The fighter is maintaining that he suffers from low testosterone, and that is why he supplemented his testosterone. If he provides ample, irrefutable lab results from rock-solid sources, that would go some way in restoring his credibility, in my opinion. Why he didn't know, or chose not to, apparently, inform the Nevada commission of this condition and the treatment is not fathomable to me at this time.