Did Floyd Mayweather Fail Multiple Drug Tests? (And Other Riddles)

Boxing writer royalty Thomas Hauser has concluded his latest opus this week, and it's the usual maddening mix: teases of brilliance, a bunch of things you'd need a decoder ring to translate.

The headline-grabbing stuff — look, up above, it grabbed this headline! — is the "rumor" that Floyd Mayweather failed a drug test three times but that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency essentially gave him a pass for it. If you read between the lines, you can detect that Hauser is insinuating there is truth to the rumor. And since USADA doesn't respond, and Mayweather's semi-promoter Golden Boy doesn't respond (at least for THIS article; more on that later) and since Mayweather doesn't respond, the rumor just floats out there in a journalistic gamble as audacious and off the map of mainstream industry practices as any you'll ever see. So questionable was the maneuver that I strongly considered simply ignoring the whole story, so as not to give an unsourced "rumor" credence, but this blog is in many ways a snapshot of and analysis of what people are talking about in boxing, and people are talking about this, as you might imagine.

The less ethereal stuff is less glamorous, but in the two-part series that wrapped up Tuesday, it's the strongest material. You'll come away from the article with serious doubts about the nature of the USADA-Golden Boy relationship; about whether states like Nevada, California and New York are, plain and simple, screwed up on the PED issue; and with some concrete suggestions for how to fix it.

Then there are scattered quality revelations and questionable source motives and the usual lot.


So about that rumor…

What we know about it from this article is that on May 20, someone "with extensive knowledge in the area of drug testing" told Gabriel Montoya that he "believed" Mayweather had tested positive three times with his "A" samples, but got an "inadvertent use" waiver from USADA that made it so there were no follow-up tests. At least we know something about the source, but I'd feel more confident in the rumor if we knew from the article that this person had information about Mayweather's tests specifically, and knew rather than believed. It'd be nice if we knew whether this person had an axe to grind against Mayweather, and whether there was another person confirming hard information. The rumor "filtered through the drug-testing community," Hauser writes, and other writers have said pubicly that they'd heard the same rumor. Top Rank's Bob Arum has referred to inadvertent use waivers but only that he'd "heard" of them. It's not clear to me whether these people heard it it independent of what came later in the form of a published letter from GBP, once Montoya began asking about it.

Hauser takes pains to say that he doesn't know if Mayweather has used PEDs. But the set-up casts it as though Mayweather has something to hide. The reason? The legal team of Manny Pacquiao asked for documents related to the "rumor," and Mayweather tried to quash the request, and eventually the case was settled with a confidentiality agreement, and some sources said Pacquiao's side got a surprisingly high settlement.

I'll grant this: You can look at these entrails and see suspicious behavior. But you can also write some of it off. There's nothing at all shocking about two parties in a civil disagreement reaching an agreement that has a confidentiality requirement, for instance. There's nothing about the timing that strikes me particularly as evidence of causation; the Pacquiao team filed for those docs on June 4, and the settlement was reached Sept. 25, a period of more than three and a half months that makes it hard to say the request is connected to the settlement. (P.S. Around May 20, when the "rumor" apparently surfaced, Andre Berto was getting popped for failing a drug test. More mysterious timeline business!) The "larger than expected settlement" bit has a bit more smoke, but we don't know who said that. And the attempt to quash is questionable, although it's possible there's an innocent explanation.

While Golden Boy wouldn't talk to Hauser for this story at length, they had sent a letter to Montoya explicitly denying the rumor in question, and threatened a lawsuit over it. That doesn't mean the rumor is untrue. It just means that GBP considers it serious enough to deny it and put muscle behind it. FWIW. Should they have talked to Hauser about this, and should USADA? I would say so. These are serious allegations that, if they are untrue, should be aggressively squashed. In regards to topics discussed in the Hauser pieces, USADA has only revealed test results saying Mayweather was negative for all the fights in question, which would appear to contradict this report unless there's some way a positive "A" sample becomes a negative in the event of a waiver (its testing procedures are right on their website, too, and no reason is given for Hauser's assertion that what was tested for is "murky"). GBP explicitly worries about Hauser's allegiances, and by reputation, Maxboxing is often thought of as a pro-Top Rank outfit, and Top Rank is GBP's top rival. I understand them being suspicious of the questioners, but it's not a good look for GBP and USADA to let these kinds of allegations hang out there. (There's been a response of sorts from someone in the Mayweather camp here, by the way.) And USADA has gotten particularly closed-lipped of late, with some boxing reporters discussing publicly that they haven't heard back from the organization like they used to; I reached out to them on a story a few months ago, and didn't hear back from them, either.

By my reading, Hauser feels pretty confident about his "rumor," but doesn't have someone willing to go on background, even, to discuss it. Since the thing surfaced in May, and it's now November, I wonder if he's hit a few dead ends and is now throwing what he has out there to see if other reporters follow up on it. We'll see if they do.

If they do, and if it turns out that the rumor is totally false, Hauser ought to be done as a reporter. Remember, he has biffed a big story before, and this one's even bigger. On the other hand, if some evidence emerges to support the rumor, watch out: We are looking at an enormous, enormous story in boxing. The Mayweather clan would come off like giant hypocrites for lobbing PED allegations at Pacquiao — and somehow, another of them did recently, despite the court settlement — and having their own PED usage issues, including a cover-up. There's also a possible middle explanation; maybe it's never resolved to anyone's satisfaction, or Mayweather has some legitimate reason for having tested positive and it being exempted. But even then a cloud will and should hang over Mayweather, and a new one would gather over GBP for denying something that turned out to be true.

For now, I'm deeply, deeply uncomfortable with a story based on a "rumor" that amounts to a career-shattering allegation if true. I'd never be surprised if it turned out that anyone was on PEDs, up to and including Mayweather, since some of the people demanding tests of their opponents in 2012 (Lamont Peterson, Berto) are the ones who have tested positive. The rumor might be true. But it's still just a "rumor" five months after it supposedly emerged. And anyone who's had any dealings with rumors can tell you how unreilable they are.

The Material On Stronger Footing

Where the pieces are strongest is on the GBP/USADA relationship, some additional material on a series of positive tests, how the state athletic commissions reacted to them and how they should've, and some substantial recommendations for cleaning some of this up.

It is now clear to me in a way that it wasn't before that GBP had a far different standard for what happened in the Peterson case with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency than what happened in the Berto case and the Erik Morales case. I had a rough sense of it, mind you, but these stories make it much clearer to me. They were mad as a promoter when VADA didn't share test results about Peterson with them, but didn't share the Berto test result information they received with Berto's promoter, Lou DiBella. Some of that is related, I'm sure, to the nature of the deals they set up, but that needs to be fixed. It's also true that GBP probably ought to have had something nice to say about VADA for catching Berto at all. And that neither USADA nor GBP shared Morales' early failed test results with New York State… yeah, they're not so hot on "disclosure" as a general principle.

Also shady is the repeated testing of Morales. I don't think what happened there was all that geared toward benefiting Danny Garcia, though. Garcia's team was deeply angry about Morales testing positive, or else they were really good at acting like they were. I think this quote about GBP's Richard Schaefer probably sums up GBP's shifting attitudes: "'I think that Richard really wanted to be in the forefront on drug testing when he first got involved,' one Golden Boy employee (who, for obvious reasons, wishes to remain anonymous) says. 'He knew it would ingratiate him with Floyd. It would get him some good PR. And it was a way to stick it in [Bob] Arum’s ear. But talking with him, I also felt that he thought it was the right thing to do. Then he realized that things were a lot more complicated and, probably, a lot dirtier than he’d thought. And at that point, his priorities changed.'”

On the state level, maybe it makes some sense that states would want to rely on their own test results rather than those of an outside body, be it VADA or USADA. But I think there's an argument in Hauser's stories for the states setting up a procedure whereby they honor the test results of organizations that go beyond the limited state tests. It does look hypocritical for California to say they have a "zero tolerance" policy on PEDs when they're allowing Berto to be licensed there after he tests positive with another organization.

I can't offer my opinion on federal boxing legislation due to my day job, but Hauser makes the argument for it. I like a whole series of suggestions he offers after that: the grant of a boxing license coming with the possibility of spot testing at any time; required disclosure of drug testing contracts with outside bodies and results; and allowing a fight where a boxer tested positive for PEDs to go forward if the opponent is OK with it, but harshly penalizing fighters who test positive afterward. One recommendation he leaves out that I think would make a huge difference is if Showtime and HBO insisted on stricter drug testing for fighters who appear on their networks. Showtime and HBO are the financial muscle in the sport in the United States. ARD in Germany has insisted on such drug testing.

The Rest

–We have the first public allegation of specific GBP control over Ring Magazine content, predating even the arrival of the new team of editors. It's made by Margaret Goodman. I've got no insight on the accuracy of the allegation, but until now, nobody had come forward that I've seen and said, "Here's how GBP altered content."

–Convicted PED peddler Victor Conte, cited throughout (he's apparently gone to the side of the "angels"), never gets dinged for his affiliation with Berto, who tested positive for PEDs this year. Another Conte client did, too, albeit in Major League Baseball. Even if you believe in his conversion, the affiliation with Berto really ought to have been mentioned for full disclosure.

–Ryan Connolly with VADA seems to suggest that Peterson probably used PEDs long ago, as an explanation for hypergonadism and the treatment for it that resulted in his positive test. Fascinating.

–Top Rank is given short shrift here. There is only a brief section on the issues of Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., who's one of the more problematic PED figures in boxing (and it's not as if some other Top Rank fighters don't have a cloud hanging over them). I don't mean JCC Jr's positive test for marijuana. I agree with those who think marijuana shouldn't be a PED. And I suppose in the sense that Top Rank hasn't held itself out as wanting to clean up PEDs, the focus on GBP makes some sense. But is it worse to try to do testing and screw it up, or not have any interest in it at all? Hard to say.

–The only source for Peter Quillin's test samples being destroyed remains, to this day, to the best of my knowledge, Winky Wright's team. It would be nice to confirm that independently from a non-hostile party. That's something I asked USADA way back when, and didn't hear back from them on it.

–Apparently there are "reform movements" within the WBC. I haven't previously read about them, so maybe that's my oversight, but I'd like to read more about them somewhere. Not that I have any confidence that any of the alphabet gang can be reformed in a way that would actually make them credible.

–On Twitter and message boards, folk have said that they don't recall the kind of outrage over unproven allegations and poorly sourced reporting when the PED microscope was focused on Pacquiao. I remember a lot of it. I was involved in it. Unproven allegations and poorly sourced reporting deserve scrutiny no matter the direction in which they're aimed.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.