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Scrutinizing Lamont Peterson (And The Rest) Over PEDs

Following a drug test last year that found synthetic testosterone in his system, junior welterweight Lamont Peterson couldn't fight in Nevada until a public hearing on his license. Yet, this Friday, Peterson is boxing in his native District of Columbia sans such a hearing. It's the kind of thing that gets people to wondering: Why?

TQBR reached out to the D.C. Boxing And Wrestling Commission to ask about the procedures for vetting Peterson in advance of a bout with Kendall Holt. On Wednesday, Skip S. J. Brown, commission administrator, wrote: "The Commission accepted the IBF decision by concurring with the review by independent physicians Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology that Mr. Peterson did not take performance enhancing drug(s); the use of the substance was for therapeutic purposes.

"Additionally, the Commission is following the request by IBF, for its Championship Title Defense to ensure that Mr. Peterson and Mr. Holt are tested for drugs, performance enhancing or steroid use." Here is what Brown is referring to, with the IBF physicians.

By contrast, Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, explained to TQBR this week the purpose of a public hearing as a condition of Peterson fighting in that state, as he saw it. Kizer also discussed the state's past and future interactions with independent drug testing outfits like the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.

"I think you have to get him out there to have a hearing in public," Kizer said, "for his opportunity to explain himself, and for the commission to look this guy in the eye, ask any question it deems relevant, then make a decision afterward. It's very important to have these public hearings, for the sake of the fighter and sake of the fans as well."

Peterson, though, is free to seek a license from anyone despite the lack of a Nevada license. (Contrary to what I mentioned here, there's no state reciprocity issue because there was no suspension in this case.) "It's different from here to there," Kizer said. "Here we would’ve at least made him show up for a hearing. [Antonio] Margarito, we would have made him appear" after his handwrap scandal, but he went to Texas instead and received an license without a hearing.

Peterson's status in Nevada right now is actually similar to that of most boxers, since licenses expire at the end of each calendar year, Kizer said. Kizer said Peterson's team, which delayed and postponed a number of hearings, should feel free to take its time to reapply until it plans to fight in Nevada again. Even if a hearing would have gone poorly for him last year, by now any penalty would've been served. "The usual time out is nine months from date of the test," Kizer said; Peterson has been away from the ring for 14 months. "The odds are it wouldn’t have even affected him detrimentally."

One of the questions Kizer mentioned Peterson might have to answer is why there was a delay in his positive test and Peterson recalling the use of testosterone pellets. At a news conference Wednesday, Peterson told TQBR: "When the whole drug test came through, they never said anything about testestorone. They told me to look for a cream-like substance. They said 'steroids.' I knew I didn't intentionally take any steroids. The idea of the pellets being the case, that pushed it further to the left, and made me think about other things."

Despite the failed drug test via VADA, Peterson does plan to use VADA for bigger fights, although Peterson's promoter Golden Boy has a strained relationship with VADA and has instead relied upon USADA. "In the future, I'll do my best to do random drug testing," he said. "At this point, random drug testing is not cheap." (Dr. Margaret Goodman, head of VADA, said recently that she would've been willing to negotiate a lower rate with Peterson if cost was a factor.)

"As far as now, the D.C. commission is going to do the same tests they always do," Peterson said. "It's not a test that you can just get over on. If anything that I take that's not legal or any other fighter on the card take that's not legal, they're going to be caught."

It's worth noting that Peterson said he passed a urine test for the Amir Khan fight in D.C. in 2011, however, by which time he had been taking the testosterone pellets, according to his own timetable. The VADA tests were able to detect the synthetic testosterone via the use of Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) testing despite Peterson's levels falling below the World Anti-Doping Administration 4:1 standard for Testosterone/Epitestosterone Ratio. Mickey Bey recently failed a drug test in Nevada, which conducts urine testing without CIR, because he was above 30:1.

VADA, USADA, Nevada

There's been more than a bit of disconnect between state commissions, promoters, networks and testing entities in the past year over performance enhancing drugs. Kizer revisited how the Peterson test unfolded and compared it to what happened in New York, when there were delays by USADA last year in notifying state authorities after Erik Morales' positive drug test.

Peterson, Kizer observed, was VADA's client. The "B" sample confirming the original results for Peterson came in May 3; Kizer said Nevada received a fax from VADA on Saturday, May 5, when the commission was busy at the Floyd Mayweather bout that day; which meant that the commission didn't receive the notification until Monday. Three days' notice are required for a public hearing of the commission. By the time the commission could've acted, it would've been very near fight time; in a similar situation, New York allowed Morales' fight to go forward with Danny Garcia pending further investigation.

Commented Kizer: "I don’t know if they were trying to wait until close to fight time like USADA did with Morales, which is my theory, but that didn’t fly with Keith Kizer."

Goodman, via e-mail, replied: "That is not accurate. VADA reported to the NSAC immediately upon receipt of Mr. Peterson's B sample, which was the first instance VADA was authorized to report the results. VADA now requires that athletes authorize VADA to report A sample results as a condition of their participation in the VADA program."

Goodman referred TQBR to the timeline in this story, where a fax was mentioned as being sent May 4. Kizer supplied a copy of the fax, dated May 4, with a header noting its receipt on May 5.

Goodman did acknowledge that there were reporting issues for the Peterson case, though, and said they've been rectified. "This a new process for all, including VADA, the promoters, the fighters, and yes, even the NSAC," she said. "VADA has been a positive force in expanding the discussion on the extent of PEDs in boxing and MMA. As I mentioned in my earlier email, we now require athletes to allow us to release results of A samples as a condition of their VADA participation. Subsequent to this first adverse sample event, everything has been running very smoothly."

Kizer also praised VADA for learning that lesson and including improved notification requirements in its contracts. But when discussing another case involving state licenses when VADA had caught a boxer with a banned substance in his system — Andre Berto — he pointed out that Berto's nutritionist, Victor Conte, had also been affiliated with VADA. (Conte has widely been described as an "adviser" to VADA.) That, Kizer said, "sounds like a major conflict of interest."

Answered Goodman: "Victor Conte has never had any affiliation with VADA either formally or informally. I completely agree that 'sounds like a conflict of interest' for someone in a VADA fighter's camp to have an affiliation with VADA, which is why we maintain independence from athletes, trainers, managers, promoters, etc."

Kizer also made some additional points about USADA. He said that when Top Rank's Bob Arum balked at using USADA for a Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight, "I couldn't blame him" because of remarks USADA CEO Travis Tygart had made about Pacquiao. (TQBR has never received a reply to any request for comment from USADA, but will supply this blog post to USADA in the event it chooses to reply, and update if/when.)

Is this why, then, states haven't embraced USADA or VADA test results as their own? Kizer said there were issues with states relying on outside bodies for drug testing overall. When someone fails a drug test, there's a burden on states to establish things like chain of custody. When states do their own tests, that's easier. It's not that states don't trust the methods of the two big testing outfits, Kizer said — "I would feel comfortable with USADA and VADA that the test was done correctly" — it's that the state would still have to do its own due diligence anyway.

Kizer said that during the Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations, there was a discussion about the promoters funding the kind of expanded testing that USADA was doing at the time, although Mayweather rejected the idea. He said that could also work going forward.

"We could do the same exact tests if I had the money," he said. "It could be a commission-based test, with the same exact procedures… There would be no middle man." 

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., where he is a staff writer for CQ Roll Call.

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