Did drugs nearly kill Pacquiao?
PEDs testing in boxing is among the most lax in sporting events.
Recently on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Lance Armstrong, the incredible seven-time winner of the Tour de France cycling tournament - the most grueling competition in the sports world - shocked millions by confessing publicly that he used an array of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in winning all seven events.
Among other things, Armstrong's confession confirms the effectiveness of PEDs in significantly pushing to extremes the capabilities of athletes. It also means that passing stringent tests does not mean an athlete is clean as in Armstrong's case. Certain kinds of PEDs are undetectable with the current standard testing protocols. Unless stopped. the number of athletes using these are likely to increase. The fabulous fortune, fame and other rewards for top dog in major sports are too tempting.
In 2005, a case involving the sale of PEDs to elite athletes by a small laboratory in Burlingame, California - made the headlines. Known as Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative or BALCO - it's Chairman and founder Victor Conte - pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute steroids and other PEDs.
Conte referred to specific drugs as "the clear", "THG" and "the cream" which were either taken orally, injected or rubbed into the skin. While these can be detected if specialized detailed testing is done, they are practically undetectable when usual standard testing procedures are used. Years later, Conte also revealed certain ways to beat different testing systems for PEDs in sports events.
Some 30 elite athletes were listed as among the secret customers of BALCO which included the great Barry Bonds, holder of baseball's all time home run record and seven time MVP; Marion Jones, dubbed the "fastest woman alive" and the biggest track and field star in the 2000 Olympics in Australia and former boxing champion Shane Mosley, winner of world titles in three divisions.
Users of PEDs display certain observable signs: a new physique with ripped bulked up muscles, markedly increased power and strength, speed and remarkable stamina.
Juan Manuel Marquez showed these visual signs in his last fight with Manny Pacquiao causing suspicions of PEDs use. But it was the presence in his corner of a shadowy figure named Angel Hernandez that was seriously bothersome. Angel is officially designated as Marquez' conditioning trainer.
Just before Marquez' spectacular dead to the world knockout of Manny Pacquiao last December 8, 2012, while watching HBO's reality show "24/7 Pacquiao - Marquez", convicted BALCO Chairman and PEDs supplier Victor Conte recognized Angel Hernandez and came out with the bombshell public revelation that "Hernandez" was an assumed name and that the man was formerly known as "Angel 'Memo' Heredia" - a known user and supplier of PEDs to elite athletes.
In a 2008 U.S. government's PEDs case against Olympics track coach Trevor Howard, in order to avoid prison, Angel agreed to testify for federal prosecutors. He revealed that he supplied PEDs to Marion Jones and other star athletes in various sports.
During the trial, a New York Times article profiled him:
"Mr. Heredia, a former Mexican national discus champion, is a secretive figure on the track circuit who describes himself as a chemist, scientist and nutritionist...He said he used family connections to pharmacies and labs in Mexico to help his business. For years, Mr. Heredia said, he helped clients flout the rules and easily avoided detection. Substances like the human growth hormone and the blood booster erythropoietin or EPO, are still virtually impossible to detect, and its still easy to use testosterone with fast acting creams, he said. 'You combine all these things - boom! - you get amazing results.' Mr. Heredia said.”
In one report, he claimed that he had created about 20 different undetectable PEDs. A 2009 German documentary downloadable in YouTube also shows Angel injecting himself with a PED and telling the viewers how easy it is to get these drugs in Mexico.
Even Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach doubted that the new bulked up chiseled body of the 39-year-old Marquez was the result of natural training. Roach's comment: "I'll kiss his ass if it is." Marquez so far has kept his pants up.
In their three previous fights, Pacquiao took Marquez' best punches and not once did Marquez knock him down. In this last fight, Marquez showed unusual power first knocking down Pacquiao in the third round with a powerful hard right on the face and then in the sixth, knocked Pacquiao cold with a frightful monster right on the jaw. The Pacman crushed to the canvas face down unconscious for a scary two to three minutes. A lesser conditioned fighter could very well have died from that Hulk punch.
Was Marquez fueled by PEDs in his last fight with Pacquiao?
Various articles in the electronic and printed media suggest that this may be the case especially with PEDs expert Angel in Marquez' corner. According to TV boxing commentator Jim Lampley, after the Pacquiao-Marquez fight, Mexican boxing great Erik Morales tweeted the comment: "The Mexican pharmacy was better." - and then deleted this, probably concerned about being criticized by his countrymen.
Marquez and his camp understandably deny these doping allegations. However, he and his trainer should welcome investigations to clear the air of these accusations of cheating.
Not only is it obvious cheating to use PEDs in any sport, but in boxing and other martial arts sports, it's deadly dangerous and criminal to do so. It can result in death, brain damage, blindness or other serious injuries to boxers.
But PEDs testing in boxing is among the most lax in sporting events. Standard uniform testing for PEDs are not even required. Strict testing for PEDs has to be included in the contract between two fighters to make it happen. In the case of Pacquiao-Marquez 4, no pre-fight testing was even done for both fighters.
One would think that the gods of boxing such as the managers, trainers, promoters, state boxing commissioners, federal officials and the boxers themselves - ought to recognize that they bear a heavy moral responsibility in preventing death or permanent brain and other serious damages to boxers by establishing uniform stricter testing protocols for PEDs. They don't.
"As long as the money is very good, why rock the boat?" seems to be the attitude.
Bovine dung! Greed should not be the primary polestar and mantra of the movers and shakers in the sweet science world. They owe it to the fans, the boxers and the sport to at least have fair fights and reasonable protection of life and limb for the gladiators who are engaged in an already dangerous sport.
In the case of cycling, despite heightened suspicions of PEDs use by Armstrong and other cyclists, the governing International Cycling Union were in constant general denials that PEDs were involved in their sport. Too much money was involved from sponsors, advertisers and other sources to risk changes.
It took the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to seriously investigate drug use by cyclists that helped lead to Armstrong's shocking confession of his use of PEDs.
IT is high time for state and federal officials to step in and seriously investigate the use of PEDs in the boxing world - starting with the last Pacquiao-Marquez fight. Preventing cheating as well as unnecessary deaths and serious injuries to athletes is a very legitimate moral concern for everyone.
The USADA should also be involved in urging uniform strict testing for PEDs in boxing. Even if this organization's main mandate is control over the anti-doping programs for U.S. Olympics, Paralympics, Pan American and Parapan American sporting events, it can use its influence to change the doping landscape for the good of all.
Angel who describes himself as a chemist is also the conditioning coach for Jamaican track and field star Usain Bolt who broke speed records and won all kinds of medals in the last Olympics.
The phone number of USADA within the U.S. is 800-233-0393. From outside the U.S., call 001-719-785 2020. Their email is:
Email this article to the USADA or call urging them to investigate the Pacquiao-Marquez fight and for them to push for a mandatory standard strict
series of testing procedures before and after boxing events.