- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The United States Anti-Doping Agency has issued a two-year ban to former four-division titleholder Erik Morales of Mexico for his multiple drug test failures preceding an Oct. 20 rematch against junior welterweight titlist Danny Garcia at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The ban, however, means little because Morales, 36, has said he has no plans to ever fight again in the United States. Morales has no plans to fight the ban and has said that should he take another fight -- a possible farewell bout -- he would do so in Mexico, which is not bound by the ban. Nonetheless, USADA announced the ban on Friday.
According to USADA, Morales tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol in two separate urine samples collected out of competition on Oct. 3 and Oct. 10 at his training camp in Mexico. Clenbuterol is a prohibited anabolic agent under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing.
The positive tests came to light in the days leading up to the fight but for reasons that remain unclear the New York State Athletic Commission and Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes both fighters, allowed the bout to go forward. Morales blamed the positive tests on eating tainted beef.
Garcia (25-0, 16 KOs), of Philadelphia, had asked Morales (52-9, 36 KOs) to accept USADA's random blood and urine testing protocol during the lead-up to the fight. State commissions have their own rules for drug testing for professional boxing, some more lenient than others, but none have regular random blood and urine testing. So fighters have increasingly made comprehensive anti-doping programs done by independent agencies such as USADA part of their fight contracts.
Garcia, who defeated Morales by unanimous decision to win a vacant 140-pound title (which had been stripped from Morales for failing to make weight) in March 2012, elected to fight the rematch even though he knew about the failed tests. He brutally knocked Morales out in the fourth round in what figured to be the long-faded Morales' last shot at a world title.
"USADA conducts testing programs for professional boxing matches only when both athletes contractually agree to participate in the anti-doping program, which stipulates agreeing to abide by the applicable anti-doping rules, including the rules regarding the adjudication process and sanctioning," USADA said in its statement announcing the ban. "Morales' contractual agreement for this anti-doping testing program included his acknowledgement that USADA would be the results management authority to adjudicate any adverse analytical findings in accordance with the rules.
"In addition, the appropriate boxing commission was notified prior to the fight, and within 48 hours of USADA receiving the information, that there was a potential anti-doping rule violation.
"Morales has been offered the opportunity to participate in the full, fair legal process under the rules, but has indicated to USADA that he would not like to move forward with the independent arbitration process, and as a result, has received a two-year period of ineligibility and the disqualification of all competitive results obtained subsequent to October 3, 2012, including the forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes."
Morales will go down as one of Mexico's best fighters, having won world titles at junior featherweight, featherweight, junior lightweight and junior welterweight and engaging in numerous crowd-pleasing fights, including memorable trilogies with Manny Pacquiao and Mexican rival Marco Antonio Barrera.
4dDarren Rovell and Dan Rafael