by David P. Greisman
The news of Mickey Bey’s positive test for elevated testosterone raised eyebrows, at first, because of how outrageously high the results were.
His testosterone to epitestosterone ratio was more than 30:1, the second-highest ratio the Nevada State Athletic Commission had ever seen, five times higher than the commission maximum of 6:1, and more than seven times the World Anti-Doping Agency maximum of 4:1.
Those following the case of Bey’s positive test would soon raise their eyebrows once more, this time because of how outrageously low they saw the amount of his fine and the length of his suspension as being.
They saw it not just as inadequate punishment given the nature of the offense, but also as woefully disproportionate when contrasted with the verdict the commission had handed down to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. just a few weeks before.
Chavez, who had tested positive in the state in 2009 for a banned diuretic, had come up positive last September for using marijuana prior to his fight with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. For this second offense, for a substance not considered by many to be performance enhancing, Chavez was suspended for nine months and fined 30 percent of his purse, a whopping $900,000.
Bey, caught with a performance-enhancing drug in his system, would leave his March 20 hearing with a three-month suspension, a $1,000 fine — 1/8 of his purse, and 1/900 the size of Chavez’s fine — and with his Feb. 2 third-round knockout of Robert Rodriguez overturned into a “no contest.”
Sports fans have had their eyes opened during more than a decade of revelations about athletes seeking to get away seemingly with anything, and everything, in order to compete at an even higher level. So many have tested positive for banned substances, while others have been connected to pharmacies and doctors found to be illicitly distributing these drugs.
It is because of this reality that fans can no longer believe an athlete when he or she offers up an explanation or excuse. It has become a black and white issue to them. Too many athletes have cheated. Too many have lied about it.
In Bey’s case, however, three of the five commissioners believed there to be shades of gray, believing his story.
They believed that Bey had legitimate concerns about his health when he went to a clinic that was not a typical medical facility, but rather a place that advertises itself as “the most cutting-edge center in weight loss, bio-identical hormone therapy and anti-aging,” and which lists two substances banned in competitive sports (testosterone and human chorionic gonadotropin) prominently on its website.
They believed that Bey was a victim of a doctor who prescribed testosterone treatments despite him voicing concerns about not taking any performance-enhancing drugs prior to his upcoming fight.
They believed that Bey should not be held wholly responsible for the banned substance that went into his body, even though the rules explicitly state what is and is not allowed to be taken, and even though he never informed the commission that he had been injected three times in the weeks before his bout with Rodriguez.
No matter what the truth is, it is hard to look deep at the details of this case and not be skeptical — and not just because of the reality that is this modern world of doping.
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Bey’s patient report shows that he was first seen at the Las Vegas Health Center on Jan. 2, a month before his fight with Rodriguez.
Bey’s attorney, Joe Brown, told the commission that his client had felt fatigued and listless in December 2012 and was worried about missing the upcoming fight, which was to be his first in more than a year. His roommate, who had lost weight via the Las Vegas Health Center, recommended the facility to Bey.
“I was sick for maybe four weeks, and it was terrible,” Bey told the commission last month.
Bey testified that he answered questions for an extended period of time at the outset before the doctor, Carmen F. Jones — who is listed online and in state licensing records as specializing in pediatrics — recommended that he take a blood test. She would later diagnose Bey as having hypogonadism, testicular hypofunction, adrenal insufficiency, hormonal imbalance, chronic fatigue and decreased libido.
Brown claims that Bey said he could not have any performance enhancing drugs. Jones’ notes from Jan. 5 — three days after his first visit to the clinic — say that the patient “is aware that performance enhancement is not an option,” but later in that same line, the doctor wrote that he “will be treated with low dosage on [a] consistent basis to help with symptoms.”
That day, he was injected with 100 milligrams of testosterone, according to Bey’s patient report.
He would return on Jan. 8 for a vitamin C shot. Three weeks later, on Jan. 29, he came in for 100 milligrams of testosterone and a B12 lipotropic injection that, according to the Las Vegas Health Center’s website, would help increase energy and burn fat. Two days later, on Jan. 31, he returned once again for 100 more milligrams of testosterone, another B12 lipotropic injection, and something called a “B12 Folic” shot.
“That’s certainly not a typical way that hypogonadism is treated,” said Dr. Timothy Trainer, the athletic commission’s consulting research physician, speaking at the March 20 hearing.
While a typical dose would be 100 milligrams of testosterone a week, Bey received two doses in a three-day span — and just a handful of days away from his fight.
Beyond that, Trainor feels that Bey shouldn’t have been diagnosed with hypogonadism to begin with.
Trainor pointed to the results of the blood tests done for Bey on Jan. 3, which showed a testosterone level of 335, which fell within the expected range of 292 to 1,052.
“It’s a low normal value, but it is normal,” he said.
Bey’s calculated free testosterone, meanwhile, was 6.3, which fell within the expected range of 4.8 to 25.0.
“If he had provided these laboratory studies to us and had requested a [therapeutic-use exemption to use testosterone], I certainly would not have granted it to him,” Trainor said.
On Feb. 1, the day before his fight, Bey submitted paperwork to the commission indicating that he had not taken any prescription or over-the counter medication in the previous two weeks.
On Feb. 2, the day of the fight, he gave the commission the urine sample that would later test positive for an elevated testosterone level.
Bey’s attorney argued at the hearing that his client “was not in any way attempting to deceive the commission or violate the rules.” While he didn’t contest that Bey did indeed violate the rules, “there was no intent whatsoever. He was an honest victim of an ambiguous questionnaire and some shoddy medical treatment.”
The attorney said Bey was honest in his answers, that he did not think that injections given at the Las Vegas Health Center constituted receiving a prescription or getting a drug over the counter.
Further, the attorney argued, the application for a fighter to be licensed in Nevada does not include information about the procedure for seeking a therapeutic-use exemption for otherwise-banned substances.
“I wasn’t intending to break any rules or anything,” Bey said at one point during last month’s hearing. He later added: “I wouldn’t let them touch me … until they told me everything was legal and was natural. And then I put it in their hands. If they had said otherwise, I would’ve sprinted, I would’ve run out of that building.”
But using testosterone, no matter the amount, without first receiving a therapeutic-use exemption is against the rules in Nevada, according to Keith Kizer, the commission’s executive director. The procedure for applying for such an exemption is on the commission’s website, he said.
“I do understand that not everyone is Internet savvy, but I think calling the commission and asking (as many fighters have done) is quite easy to do,” Kizer said via email last week.
Kizer also said that he does not believe there is a potential loophole in the questions the commission asks about prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
“We always want to use plain language and make the questionnaire easy to understand,” he said. “If we can make the questionnaire even easier to understand, we should (and will) do that.”
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The athletic commission members questioned Bey, who was under oath, during last month’s hearing.
Pat Lundvall noted that Bey’s patient report shows that he was supposed to return to the Las Vegas Health Center on Feb. 9, a week after his fight, for another B12 lipotropic injection and a second B12 Folic shot. He never showed up.
“I had a lot of media things I was doing at the time and couldn’t make it,” Bey responded.
Bey’s representatives, in a filing with the commission prior to his hearing, had said he had sought medical treatment because he had the flu. Yet there was no mention of that ailment in the health center records provided to the commission, Lundvall said.
“I actually didn’t know what it was,” Bey said. “The flu was the only thing that I can really assume that it was, because I had never been this sick this long, except for when I had pneumonia.”
That time period in which Bey was purportedly ill coincides with when he said he was picking up his training for the fight.
Nevertheless, a majority of the commission members wound up voting in favor of a lesser punishment.
“I think there’s an obligation on all of us as commissioners to carefully consider the mitigating factors,” commission member Skip Avansino said during the hearing. “I believe in Mr. Bey, just listening to him.”
“Sure, the rules were violated, but I’m very concerned that he went in there and got a doctor that was not competent,” commission member T.J. Day said during the hearing. “I don’t think he had any intent of violating the rules … I think we need some judgment here.”
Avansino and Day were joined by commission chairman Bill Brady in their vote. Lundvall and Francisco Aguilar voted against being so lenient.
“This fighter has fought in Nevada at least three to five times before,” Lundvall had said during deliberations. “He therefore should be well aware that we have prohibited substances for which he may be tested for, and that he is responsible for determining whether or not he has ingested these prohibited substances.”
She suggested a six-month suspension. Instead, Bey will be able to return to the ring as of May 3 — the boxing equivalent of suspending a starting pitcher for four games.
In the days after the hearing, Bey has spoken about the allegations against him and the verdict that was rendered. He has insisted that he was not seeking to cheat. In an interview with Percy Crawford of FightHype.com, Bey pointed to what Dr. Trainor of the Nevada commission had said about the testosterone treatments likely resulting in more stamina and an increased level of energy.
“But it was a two and a half round fight,” Bey told Crawford. “I could have had a slight stamina advantage, but no strength or power advantage. The fight didn’t go the distance, so stamina didn’t come into play.”
Bey, at the time, was 18-0-1 with 9 knockouts. Rodriguez was 7-2 with 3 knockouts.
“If I was trying to cheat, to be honest, more than likely, I wouldn’t have failed the test because cheaters are good at cheating,” Bey told Crawford.
As last month’s hearing came to a close, commission chairman Brady told Bey that he could apply for a therapeutic-use exemption, though he didn’t believe it would be granted.
“I don’t need it,” Bey responded. “In the first place, it wasn’t my idea. I felt good all the way up to this point.”
The 10 Count
1. Rematches of fights that ended by KO or TKO tend to go one of two directions — either the winner of the first bout wins again, and even sooner, or the loser is able to make the necessary adjustments and come out victorious.
I thought that Brandon Rios would stop Mike Alvarado quicker than he did the first time they met. Alvarado proved me wrong, putting on a great performance, giving Rios his first pro loss and setting the table for a presumed rubber match between these two warriors sometime down the line.
Rios knew that Alvarado would try to box more, looking to avoid the exchanges that ended up hurting and undoing him last October. So many have thought they could stand and trade with Rios, and they have found early success, yet Rios has always been able to sustain it and break them down.
Rios didn’t think any strategic shift would prove beneficial for Alvarado, however.
“Honestly, I don’t see there is anything he can do different,” Rios wrote in a chat on ESPN.com days before the fight. “We’ve been thinking, ‘What can he do differently?’ He could try boxing more, but it will end up the same way.
That’s how the opening rounds went. Alvarado started out circling, but he didn’t appear to have the footwork to box effectively against Rios. Rios was soon able to get to Alvarado, hurt him and draw him into another brutal battle.
Alvarado’s adjustments ended up working, though. He brought himself back to his game plan, using a jab to create distance and moving around the ring in order to buy himself time to breathe. This way, he could land hard shots and score points, but would also work to prevent himself from being caught standing in front of Rios for too long.
He was brave, but not too brave for his own good. Both men still took enough punishment to land them in the hospital afterwards. This time, though, Alvarado won a close and competitive victory.
2. I’m not sure how many people predicted that the Rios-Alvarado rematch would make it through all 12 rounds — and I’m not sure how many of those who proved to be correct were brilliant and how many were just being bold.
Nevertheless, the bout went the distance, and the right man got the victory. I scored it 116-112 for Alvarado from my seat in front of the TV but could see narrow rounds going the other way and allowing for the decision to be closer. (My father had it 115-114 for Alvarado.)
Interestingly, at a Nevada State Athletic Commission hearing 10 days before the bout, Top Rank’s Hall of Fame matchmaker, Bruce Trampler, objected to two of the nine potential judges for Rios-Alvarado 2: Duane Ford and CJ Ross.
“We lack confidence in their ability, stemming back to the Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley fight, and we just don’t feel that their performance that night warranted their selection for a fight like this,” Trampler said, according to a recording of the hearing.
“I personally have known Duane for over 30 years,” Trampler said. “I like him very much personally. But there have been fights that we question his ability at this point. It’s not a reflection of his character. It’s not a reflection on the commission in general. We just are not comfortable with Duane.”
Ford and Ross were the two judges who somehow saw Bradley beating Pacquiao, 115-113. Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer would recommend that the commissioners select Ford, Bill Lerch and Dave Moretti, the trio that scored the main event this past Saturday.
Kizer told BoxingScene.com via email that he believes this was the first time Top Rank had objected to the combination of Ross and Ford, though he thinks Ford might have been objected to once a few years ago. Such objections are rare, he wrote, with Top Rank objecting to an official maybe once a year, and there being perhaps three objections total each year from all promoters combined.
“I check each proposed official’s history with each boxer per BoxRec.com to avoid any possible conflicts, so an objection should be, and had been, very rare,” he wrote.
3. It’s been about a decade since HBO’s “Legendary Nights” boxing documentary series first premiered.
It’s been about a decade since Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward had their third and final war.
It’s fitting, then, that the long-desired return of “Legendary Nights” will feature an hour-long look back at one of this sport’s greatest trilogies.
“This retrospective will offer new perspectives and deliver revealing insights on the two ring warriors who produced this all-time great moment in boxing history,” said Ken Hershman, president of HBO sports, in a quote attributed to him in a statement.
Boxing fans are suckers for nostalgia, and had long been nostalgic about “Legendary Nights,” which presented great looks back at Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns; Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney; Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello; Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Hearns; Hagler vs. Leonard; Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas; Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor; Evander Holyfield vs. Riddick Bowe; George Foreman vs. Michael Moorer; Bowe vs. Andrew Golota; Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad; and Lennox Lewis vs. Tyson.
No other episodes have been announced beyond this Gatti-Ward special. But this is a sign that HBO could someday be open to spotlighting more of the most dramatic fights and memorable events.
4. It’s a shame that one perspective that will be incomplete on the show will be that of the late Arturo Gatti, who left us far too soon in 2009.
I presume that there is footage from interviews done with Gatti before and after his three fights with Ward.
5. Boxers Behaving Badly: If someone were to tell you that Floyd Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero would potentially be in jeopardy due to a felony arrest, how many of you would have picked Guerrero as the one to wind up in police custody?
Yet it was Guerrero being arrested that hit the headlines last week. And while the biggest fight of his career on the May 4 pay-per-view looks as if it will still be going forward as planned, Guerrero’s status afterward as a free man could be in trouble.
That’s because prosecutors in New York seem to be coming down hard on Guerrero, who allegedly was checking in with a ticket agent at John F. Kennedy International Airport when he “presented a locked gun box” with “an unloaded Smith and Wesson M&P 40-caliber handgun and three unloaded magazines with the capacity to hold 15 rounds of ammunition,” according to a news release from the Queens District Attorney’s Office.
The problem for Guerrero is that he had a firearm in a place where gun laws are among the strictest — and while he reportedly had a permit to carry his gun in other states, that apparently did not apply to New York.
“I hope that Mr. Guerrero fights better than he thinks,” District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a statement. “For anyone who hasn’t gotten the message, let me be crystal clear. You cannot bring an unlicensed weapon — loaded or unloaded — into this county or this city. And if you do, you will be arrested and face felony charges.”
Guerrero, 30, is facing one misdemeanor count of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon for the gun and three felony counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon for the ammo clips, according to online court records. He has been released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on May 14, which is 10 days after the Mayweather bout.
6. On paper, there might have appeared to be nothing wrong with the opening bout to last week’s episode of “Friday Night Fights” on ESPN, which featured junior middleweights Taras Shelestyuk and Kamal Muhammad.
Both were making their pro debuts, after all, making it seem to an unknowing observer to be an even match-up. Except, as commentator Teddy Atlas rightly explained, these debuting fighters were not made equal:
Shelestyuk fought 210 times as an amateur, winning all but 15 of his bouts. He was an amateur world champion in 2011 and would go on to capture a bronze medal representing Ukraine in the 2012 Olympics.
Muhammad, meanwhile, only had six bouts as an amateur. He would be summarily dispatched about halfway into the opening round.
As many have noted time and again, this kind of matchmaking is par for the course for acclaimed amateurs. All too often, they turn pro and suddenly go from stepping in the ring with experienced and capable opponents, to instead facing foes whose role is to fall down or give the young pro some rounds as they continue to fine-tune their skills.
In February, bantamweight Rau’shee Warren — who had fought the best amateurs in the world in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics — was paired with an opponent who had lost all five of his pro bouts. Warren won by second-round technical knockout.
Then again, British junior welterweight and 2012 Olympic quarterfinalist Thomas Stalker has apparently needed these kinds of soft touches to work out the kinks early in his pro career. He went the distance in February against Kristian Laight, who was 7-139-6 at the time — though it must be said that Laight has now been stopped only four times in his 144 defeats, with the last stoppage coming three years and 75 fights ago.
“I felt a bit flat,” Stalker was quoted on this website as telling Sky Sports afterward. “It’s going to take a few more fights to get into my groove.”
Stalker’s second pro fight came this past Saturday, and again he went all four rounds for the victory, taking a points win over 0-3 opponent Andrew Harris, who also has yet to be knocked out in any of his defeats.
“I came down with a virus five days ago, but no excuses. I was not at my best tonight,” Stalker was quoted on this website as saying afterward.
Perhaps it’s better for fighters, though, if they have a little trouble against durable foes early in their career rather than easily taking care of clearly overmatched opponents.
That’s only the case if they can continue to improve and can further distance themselves in skill and ability, even as they continue to step up against a higher caliber of challengers.
7. You might not have considered Saturday’s bout between Zsolt Erdei and Denis Grachev to have much significance beyond it being part of the “Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super 4 Tournament” in Monaco. Grachev topped Erdei via split decision and will go on to face Edwin Rodriguez, who beat Ezequiel Maderna to advance to the finale.
You might not have seen Erdei-Grachev as being significant, given that Erdei hadn’t fought in nearly 22 months, while Grachev was coming off a unanimous decision loss to Lucian Bute.
But in the eyes of some, Grachev’s 10-round victory over Erdei makes him the new lineal light heavyweight champion.
And there is a split among boxing observers as to whether that should be the case.
Erdei became the lineal champ more than nine years ago, when he topped Julio Cesar Gonzalez, who had beaten Dariusz Michaelczewski, who had beaten Virgil Hill, with whom the lineage was recognized as having restarted following his 1996 unification win over Henry Maske.
Except that lineage wasn’t overly respected in the United States. When “The Ring” magazine restarted its championship belt at the turn of the century, it ignored the existing lineage in more than one division and established Roy Jones as being the real champion at 175 pounds. That line then went on to Antonio Tarver, then Glen Johnson, back to Tarver, and then to Bernard Hopkins before ending with Joe Calzaghe’s retirement.
Erdei remained a titleholder and the bearer of the lineal recognition, though. In the eyes of some, that changed in 2009, when he cast off his sanctioning body belt at 175 and went up to cruiserweight, winning a world title there before retiring.
Cyber Boxing Zone, a website that tracks championship lineage, shows Erdei as vacating his lineage in 2009. BoxingScene columnist and historian Cliff Rold also wrote, a week prior to Erdei’s cruiserweight bout, of seeing the lineage as coming to an end.
By 2010, Jean Pascal and Chad Dawson were seen as being the top fighters in their division. Pascal’s victory over Dawson made him the new “Ring Magazine” champion and, to some, established new lineage. That line has since gone from Pascal to Hopkins and back to Dawson.
Erdei’s retirement didn’t last long. He resumed training in early 2010 and came back to the ring in November 2010. He won that bout, and then fought again in June 2011. Injury and inactivity had kept him on the sideline since then.
There are good arguments on both sides. “You can vacate belts, not lineages,” argued Ryan Bivins of the Bad Left Hook boxing blog.
Lineage has been vacated in the past. After Manny Pacquiao knocked out Ricky Hatton in 2009, he became the true champion at 140 pounds but never fought in that division again, going on to face Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey at welterweight in his next two bouts.
“After the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey welterweight fight was signed, ‘The Ring’ contacted Team Pacquiao to ask if he would voluntarily relinquish the world junior welterweight championship he won by knocking out Ricky Hatton,” Nigel Collins, then the magazine’s editor, wrote in early 2010. “Pacquiao’s adviser, Michael Koncz, discussed the situation with Manny, who requested that he be allowed to keep ‘The Ring’ 140-pound title until after the Clottey fight.
“ ‘The Ring’ granted that request, but informed Pacquiao that if his next fight after Clottey is not a defense of the junior welterweight title, ‘The Ring’ will consider it tantamount to relinquishing the title. Pacquiao and Koncz agreed to these terms,” Collins wrote.
He also noted at the time that Tomasz Adamek was vacating his championship at cruiserweight, as he would be staying at heavyweight.
It doesn’t appear as if any such communication ever happened with Erdei, likely because the magazine never recognized him as its champion. And that has since led to this disparity — and this debate.
8. And now for your “Dancing with the Stars” Update for week two of Victor Ortiz’s appearance on the reality show competition. We watch it, so you don’t have to — or, rather, Jake Donovan watched it so that I didn’t have to.
Per the recap written by BoxingScene’s ever-versatile veteran writer, Ortiz again ended up with just 18 out of a possible 30 points with his jive performance on Monday, and the combined 36 points for his first two weeks of dancing — along with viewer voting — put him in the bottom three and in danger of being the first celebrity to be eliminated.
But retired figure skater Dorothy Hamill instead pulled out, citing an injury. Ortiz will return tonight (April 1) — and can now do no worse than Evander Holyfield, who participated in the show’s first season and was the second contestant to be eliminated.
9. That should be the only time you ever see Victor Ortiz and Evander Holyfield’s names side by side.
That is, until someone compiles a history of head butts…
10. Max Kellerman is a G-rated analyst in an R-rated sport. Who knew?
“He grabbed himself in a certain area,” Kellerman said of the taunting and trash talk Terence Crawford unleashed at one point toward Breidis Prescott, “and called him the B-word.”
This came on the same network that broadcasts Game of Thrones, Girls and True Blood…
…and aired Real Sex, Sex and the City, and The Sopranos.
…and Cathouse, and G-String Divas.
…and George Carlin, who would duly note that “the B-word” isn’t one of those seven words you can’t say on television.
…all of which you can still say on HBO.
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]