by David P. Greisman
He and his brother overcame homelessness and poverty, battling through a tougher life than most ever have to experience, all while still a child. They found an opening to a better life through an unforgiving sport where other men not only stood between them and victory, but opportunity, too.
He spent years fighting into contention, only to lose in his first big bout and have to work his way back up. Yet after fighting past setbacks and through obstacles for nearly his entire life, he had another chance at the title, performing in front of his hometown crowd, coming off the canvas to defeat Amir Khan and win two world titles.
Lamont Peterson’s story was a compelling one. And now it is being overwritten as a disappointing tale — one of a man who earned so much respect for how he fought so hard to get to the top, only to lose that respect and be toppled without a fight.
Now Peterson has a new biggest fight: the battle to save his reputation.
That is not how the 28-year-old from Southeast Washington, D.C., expected to spend last week and this, when he was supposed to be wrapping up readying himself to defend those two world title belts and all that they meant for him, preparing himself for a rematch with Amir Khan, the man to whom those belts had belonged.
Last week, though, the news broke that Peterson had tested positive for a banned substance. Then more came out: The substance was synthetic testosterone. Peterson had been taking it since before the first fight with Khan. Now the second bout was being canceled and the result of the first was being called into question.
Peterson and his team are trying to provide answers.
“Lamont Peterson did nothing wrong,” said Peterson’s spokesman, Andre Johnson, via Twitter last week. “He had a private medical matter that is now public. We will fight to the end to clear his name.”
That medical matter is hypogonadism, a condition in which people do not produce enough natural testosterone. Peterson had a “severe deficiency” of the hormone and told a Las Vegas-based doctor that he was fatigued and had difficulty focusing, according to a letter that the doctor, John A. Thompson, sent last week to Nevada State Athletic Commission officials and which was obtained by Lem Satterfield of RingTV.com.
Peterson had testosterone pellets inserted into his hip, allowing the hormone to be released over months, Thompson wrote.
That was in November, about a month prior to the first Khan fight. The hormone remained in his system on March 19, when both Peterson and Khan underwent a drug test while both were in Los Angeles for a press conference for their rematch.
Peterson had requested more stringent drug testing for this fight, and Khan had agreed, both signing on to have the tests done by the Voluntary Anti Doping Association, or VADA, an organization run by the respected former chief ringside physician in Nevada, Margaret Goodman.
Peterson’s testosterone ratio, 3.77 to 1, was short of the 4 to 1 benchmark that some agencies and athletic commissions use to flag the use of banned substances, and much less than the 6 to 1 ratio in Nevada’s regulations. Yet VADA also uses what is called a carbon isotope ratio test, which can detect whether the testosterone in a sample is synthetic, not produced by the person’s body.
Peterson had synthetic testosterone in him, and he and his team admitted as much to the commission and to all who asked. But they had never disclosed it beforehand, had never sought a therapeutic-use exemption that, if granted, would allow him to use a banned substance. They couldn’t rewrite history. Peterson had failed a drug test, and the fight with Khan had been canceled.
Peterson was not going to be able to get a hearing in front of the athletic commission to get his fight license until just days before the bout was to take place. Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Khan and was putting on the card, was not willing to go forward and put more money toward a show that might not have its main event.
The next, biggest fight for Peterson began immediately. This fight, as life has so often been for Peterson, is incredibly tough.
The sporting world has long since transitioned away from being incredibly naïve or blissfully ignorant about the use of performance-enhancing drugs by its athletes, becoming incredibly skeptical of those whose feats are phenomenal and also of those who fail drug tests and then try to explain those results away.
Those explanations have transformed themselves, from the athletes who said they did not intentionally take performance enhancing drugs (Rafael Palmeiro), to those who said they took tainted supplements (Sean Sherk), to those who said they had taken steroids to help heal from injuries (James Toney), and to those who say they are undergoing testosterone replacement therapy (Chael Sonnen).
Pro sports has its share of shady characters, the fitness gurus and nutritionists like Victor Conte and Angel Heredia who had been involved in supplying performance enhancing drugs in the past and now say they have cleaned up their acts. It’s not just athletic trainers with connections.
There’s even more shadiness beyond those operating publicly under the microscope of suspicion — there is doctor shopping, with many in the medical field willing to supply, and finding willing customers with pro athletes and pro wrestlers, such as the anti-aging clinic in Florida whose clients included wrestler Kurt Angle, baseball player Gary Matthews Jr., and a man named “Evan Fields” whose birthday and phone number matched those of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.
And so the cause for skepticism continues, despite the public face that everyone from Peterson down to his trainer and the doctor in question have provided in speaking about the case. There will be questions over whether Peterson’s condition is legitimate, and, if so, over whether his low testosterone levels were themselves natural or the consequence of previous performance enhancing drug use.
There will be questions about the testosterone level itself, 3.77. Although Peterson’s doctor said the pellets “would not produce a significant enhancement of athletic performance,” the fighter’s testosterone was high enough that it was just a little less than the level at which many drug tests would be considered as failed. There will also be questions about how Peterson could have forgotten this procedure when first seeking to provide an explanation for his failed drug test, not recalling a procedure in which pellets were placed in his body.
Peterson’s team points to the fact that subsequent VADA testing after the March 19 test came up negative for any performance enhancing drugs. They point to the fact that he had asked for and volunteered to undergo better drug testing. Peterson told Satterfield that he has been seeing Dr. Thompson for years, that he had been receiving supplements but had only had the testosterone pellets just this once.
“He was showing me that it was not a steroid, and that it wasn’t a performance enhancement drug or anything like that,” Peterson told Satterfield last week. “It’s not going to make me feel like a super hero. He said it’s just going to bring my levels up and that's all, and that my overall health would be better. He told me all of this before he went through with the procedure.
“I even went online to watch videos of them doing the procedure, because I was kind of cautious about it. So I went online, did the research, found out that it was considered an all-natural substance and supplement,” he said.
Peterson and his team are continuing to fight the ruling, fighting to clear a name that has since been tarnished with the taint of the years of athletes who failed drug tests and then fought to save their reputations despite the overwhelming cases against them.
There are those who will question everything said in support of Peterson’s case, and there are those who will believe him. It’s still very early in Peterson’s case, and there’s still so much more that will be said and reported.
That’s because Peterson’s team is battling, seeking to overturn the specter of a failed drug test and the shadow that casts over an athlete, reaching back to the time before he was known to be using and reaching into the future, as people will stay skeptical and suspicious.
This is yet another fight for a man whose whole life has been spent fighting — for a man who needs to win this fight because he has so much to lose.
The 10 Count
1. The Peterson story only underscores what so many have been saying for so long — we need better drug testing in sports, including boxing.
There have been some who say that the use of performance-enhancing drugs by boxers is widespread. There’s been nothing on the level of a Mitchell Report in boxing. That’s not to say that they’re wrong. Their educated guesses are most likely all too right, given that so many athletes in so many sports are doing so many things, legal and otherwise, to try to gain an advantage — and given that an increasing number of fighters are getting caught.
There’s no good reason not to try to clean up whatever drug usage there is, widespread or not, to create the appearance of a more level playing field than what we have now with the very lacking drug testing now being done.
Granted, promoters might now be less likely to get behind paying for VADA or VADA-style drug testing given the consequences of a main event fighter testing positive for a banned substance. Yet these major cards wouldn’t need to be canceled if the cards were deeper beyond just the main event, or if, you know, the boxers in the main event weren’t doping.
It’d be even better to take it out of the promoters’ hands, for the athletic commissions to require such stringent testing and, if so desired, pass along the costs to the promoters. California, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and even Texas should seek to lead the way, closing up loopholes and making finding performance-enhancing drug users a much more difficult cat-and-mouse game for the mice.
Sadly, that probably won’t happen, not on a widespread scale at least. States are too often in competition with each other for business, rather than working in conjunction. That’s why you see so many states give tax breaks to attract major companies out of another state and into their own, or why you see so many incentives given to film and television companies to bring productions — and money — there.
2. Amir Khan has a right to be upset that his rematch with Lamont Peterson has been canceled — but only to a certain extent.
Here’s where he crosses the line:
“Now it is all clear and I can see it all. I was wondering at the time how he kept coming back at me all the time from the big shots he was taking,” Khan told Kevin Francis of The Daily Star last week.
“He was being hit by big combinations and any other fighter would have gone down and stayed down,” Khan said. “I put him down twice in the first round and not many people come back from that. The way he came back was just unbelievable – and now we know why. The truth has come out now and it just proves that Lamont Peterson was a cheat.”
Peterson’s problems in that first round weren’t with Khan’s power, but with Peterson’s own balance and with Khan’s hand speed. And I’ve never heard of performance-enhancing drugs making someone’s chin stronger.
Now whether the testosterone allowed Peterson to recover more from his own workouts, giving him more strength in his shots and more stamina down the stretch? That’s fair to speculate about.
Khan has plenty of reason to wonder whether Peterson’s testosterone use affected the result of their first fight — just not the first round.
3. Credit to whoever selected the band that did the music for HBO’s new boxing news show, “The Fight Game,” if solely for the band’s name being appropriate:
The Boxer Rebellion.
4. So, first Showtime passes on Lucian Bute vs. Carl Froch, not wanting to use the final fight on its deal with Bute for a Froch bout, but instead hoping for Bute vs. Andre Ward or Andre Dirrell.
Now Showtime has passed on its option not to air Ward’s next fight, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com.
So after spending all this money making and marketing the “Super Six” super middleweight tournament, then standing its ground on only wanting certain fights following the tournament in order to best maximize its investment…
…Bute vs. Froch is airing on Epix.
…Ward could end up fighting Chad Dawson on HBO
…and Showtime has gotten none of what it was looking for post-tournament.
5. You wouldn’t have considered last week to be a slow news week, not in the wake of Floyd Mayweather’s win over Miguel Cotto, and not with the revelation that Lamont Peterson had tested positive for synthetic testosterone and his rematch with Amir Khan had been called off.
And yet there was this:
- “Razor Ruddock is Back: Vows to Make the Klitschkos Pay!” ~BoxingScene.com
- “Razor Ruddock, 48, mounts a boxing comeback” ~Toronto Star
-“Razor Ruddock looks to return to boxing ring, says he wants a crack at the title” ~Montreal Gazette
- “Razor Ruddock returning at age 48” ~Fight News
Sometimes you need a little levity in-between the insanity.
So, yes, Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, all 48 years of him, announced in a news release to numerous boxing writers and websites that he’ll be returning.
“Eleven years after his final fight, a spectacularly chiselled[sic], lean, and dangerous 48 year-old Ruddock is ready to breathe new life back into the comatose heavyweight scene,” the news release read.
“ ‘I've never been in this shape in my life,’ the 211 lb. Ruddock beamed.
“ ‘I always got by on my ability, and trained as hard as I knew how back in the day. But now I know so much more. Not just about boxing, but myself as well.’ ”
That weight would make Ruddock the lightest he’s been in more than 26 years, dating back to February 1986, when he was a 209-pound, 9-1-1 prospect facing an 0-4-1 foe named Carlton Jones.
I was months away from turning 4.
Ruddock lost twice to Mike Tyson in 1991,was knocked out by Lennox Lewis in 1992 and then didn’t return to the ring for another 15 months. He suffered another loss to 1995, this one to Tommy Morrison, then didn’t return again until 1998, fighting a total of eight times in 1998 and 1999, then twice more in 2001, wins that brought his record to 38-5-1 with 29 knockouts. He hasn’t been back since.
The creatively crafted news release says Ruddock wants at least three fights before challenging Neven Pajkic, who holds the Canadian heavyweight title. Here’s the rest of the gems:
“ ‘Then when Neven is healing up, hopefully he’ll take some comfort in the fact that I'll be putting Tyson Fury, Chris Arreola, Derrick [sic] Chisora, David Haye, Bermane Stiverne, Seth Mitchell and Tomasz Adamek on the exact same pudding diet too.’
“ ‘And after I feast on the appetizers, I'll dive in for two helpings of Chicken Kiev,’ Ruddock, an avowed vegan, said of facing the current heavyweight kingpins, Ukrainians Vitaly and Wladimir Klitschko.
“ ‘The older brother (WBC Heavyweight champ Vitaly) avoided me 11 years ago, and now he has to pay. And the younger one (WBA, IBF, WBO Heavyweight champ Wladimir) just bores me. I’ll have to knock him out too.’ ”
6. I can go without any of that, so long as we finally get the fight we’ve been waiting for since slap bracelets were in fashion:
Evander Holyfield vs. Razor Ruddock.
I already have the marketing tagline: “One for the Ages”
7. Some heavyweights just can’t stay retired. Others just weren’t truly ever retired at all.
David Haye has announced his own return to boxing, a July 14 bout against former heavyweight title challenger Dereck Chisora, who was last seen facing Vitali Klitschko in February.
Haye’s last fight was in July 2011, when he lost a lackluster decision to Wladimir Klitschko. Haye had announced his retirement on Oct. 13 of last year, coinciding with his 31st birthday.
Though it will have been slightly more than a year between Haye’s last fight and his next one, it’s been less than seven months between when Haye announced his retirement and when he announced his comeback.
It’s not really a ‘Welcome back’ if you never really left. And it’s not really a retirement if it was really more like a negotiating ploy.
8. On the Floyd Mayweather spectrum, Haye’s retirement comes up shorter than Mayweather’s last retirement. It was still longer than Mayweather’s first retirement after his victory over Oscar De La Hoya (which apparently lasted just weeks until negotiations with Ricky Hatton were revealed), and longer than Mayweather’s post-Hatton sabbatical, which was supposed to be two years but, again, only lasted weeks until talks for a De La Hoya rematch were publicized.
Mayweather-De La Hoya II never came to be. Mayweather instead announced his retirement on June 6, 2008.
Talks of a comeback were running through the rumor mill by March. His comeback fight with Juan Manuel Marquez was being negotiated and set in April and May, initially scheduled for July 2009 and then postponed to September after Mayweather suffered an injury.
9. Boxers Behaving Badly: Former featherweight titleholder and regular troublemaker Scott Harrison has been arrested again, this time for an alleged May 6 domestic assault, according to Scotland newspaper The Daily Record. Police did not identify Harrison by name, but did tell the newspaper that a 34-year-old man “was liberated pending further investigation, and did not appear in court.”
Harrison, 34, was released from prison in September after spending two and a half years behind bars for a 2006 incident in which he assaulted a police officer and another man and attempted to steal a car.
He was arrested this past March for allegedly “verbally abusing staff, stealing food and urinating on a window” at 2:30 a.m. at a supermarket in Rutherglen, Scotland, according to The Daily Record.
Harrison was to have his first comeback fight in March. Instead, he’s slated to fight June 8, according to the report, stepping into the ring for the first time since November 2005, when he outpointed Nedal Hussein. Harrison’s record is 25-2-2 (14 knockouts).
10. Somewhere, James T. Kirk is screaming: PETERSONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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