By Ryan Maquiñana
BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com confirmed information received Thursday afternoon that Antonio Tarver has tested positive for a banned substance following a pre-fight drug test administered by the California State Athletic Commission after his split draw with Lateef Kayode on June 2.
Steven Feder, Kayode’s manager, and CSAC chief inspector Che Guevara spoke about the matter on Friday morning.
“I’m aware of the situation, and I’m going to meet with Lateef this afternoon, and once I do we’ll come out with an official comment,” said Feder. “We’re just very surprised that someone of his stature would even take a risk and even do this. Neither one of us ever thought that someone at this level would ever do this.”
According to Feder, Tarver tested positive for an anabolic steroid.
"A member of the California State Athletic Commission contacted me via text that Antonio Tarver tested positive for drostanolone, an anabolic steroid, in his pre-bout drug test. I've been aware of it, but I wanted to make sure I had the go-ahead from the commission to say this, but now it's public information. It's just unfortunate," Feder said.
Showtime, which televised Tarver-Kayode, and also where Tarver works as an expert analyst, had no comment on the situation.
"Not at this time," Showtime's Chris DeBlasio said when asked for comment.
Kayode's promoter, Gary Shaw, wants to compile the facts before discussing the situation in public.
"I don't think it would be fair for me comment on the situation until I have all the facts," said Shaw.
The issue of performance enhancing drugs has engulfed the boxing world in recent months.
Unified junior welterweight champion Lamont Peterson and former welterweight titleholder Andre Berto both failed tests administered by VADA, and had their respective bouts with Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz fall apart.
Random drug testing of blood and urine was initially a point of contention in preventing the biggest fight of this era from happening between archrivals Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Both sides have debated on whether random drug testing should be administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). They have also disagreed on a cutoff date for testing before the actual fight.
With the spotlight now on a respected figure like Tarver—who must still be allowed his chance to be heard—this issue must come to the forefront of problems plaguing the sport. Rolando Arellano, manager of Ortiz, eloquently described the situation in an interview with The Ring’s Lem Satterfield.
“If you are reluctant to hire someone or something that's going to improve your sport and protect the safety of the fighter, then that's a problem,” Arellano said. “That's not what this is supposed to be about. The fighters are the essence of the sport. Without them, there's no managers, no promoters and no boxing content.
“So as a sport, we need to take care of the people who provide paychecks for all of us. If you're not looking out for the fighter, I mean, if that's the case, then that means that you're condoning potentially illegal substances for the purpose of the almighty dollar.”
A likely future Hall of Famer, the 43-year-old Tarver (29-6-1, 20 KOs), a current commentator for Showtime, discussed the recent controversy surrounding Julio Cesar Chavez’ prefight and postfight drug tests last week under the auspices of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations on his Twitter account Thursday afternoon.
Tarver tweeted verbatim, “i've been through the drills of the dreaded drug testing, you'll have a better chance of eluding the FBI then some commisions [sic].”
Regarding Chavez, last week’s incident is not his first regarding drug testing. In 2009, he tested positive for using a diuretic, and in a much-publicized incident in February, the Texas commission inexplicably forgot to book a testing laboratory to collect samples from him following his WBC 160-pound title fight against Marco Antonio Rubio.
“It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t the WBC’s fault,” Texas commission head Dickie Cole told Sulaiman in a video recorded by Rubio’s manager Julio Gudino III . “It wasn’t the fighters fault. It wasn’t nobody’s fault. I am going to blame Dickie for not having the dope people here.”
Ironically enough, the co-featured bout to Tarver-Kayode between middleweights Peter Quillin and Winky Wright was slated to have drug testing overseen by the United States Anti-Doping Agency—only for USADA to both call the agreement off mere days before the fight and destroy the collected samples .
Such programs administered by organizations like USADA and the recently established Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) go beyond the minimum standard of testing required by state commissions, the latter option of which was selected by Tarver and Kayode.
Peterson and Berto, however, pushed for VADA testing. In Peterson’s instance, the use of synthetic testosterone was detected ; the fighter maintains his innocence, arguing that his physician prescribed it. In Berto’s case, trace amounts of nandrolone were found in his test results, something that has called into question whether he intentionally consumed the banned substance or if contamination was involved.
Nevertheless, VADA has been embraced by junior featherweight titleholder Nonito Donaire and his nutritionist Victor Conte, the BALCO founder turned anti-doping consultant.
The pair announced last week on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area that starting the day after Donaire’s July 7 unification bout against Jeffrey Mathebula, the fighter will make history by enrolling in a VADA-run program that will randomly test him year-round.
“It doesn’t matter what time, day, [or] location,” Donaire said. “I’m here, I’m fair, and I know I’m a clean fighter, and I think it’s good for boxing. It’s good for the whole sport that an athlete presents himself in an honest way, and not only that, but it gives credibility to my work with Victor.”
Mayweather was the first fighter to agree to random testing, but under the USADA banner for the weeks leading up to his bouts with Shane Mosley in May of 2010, Victor Ortiz last September, and Miguel Cotto in May.
“Whether Nonito has a fight or doesn't have a fight, he wants to go above and beyond anything Floyd Mayweather has done as far as drug testing goes,” Conte said. “This is going to be true Olympic-style 365/24/7 drug testing.”
Tarver made worldwide headlines for his shocking second-round knockout of then-pound-for-pound king Roy Jones Jr. in a 2004 rematch for supremacy at 175 pounds. Tarver also earned mainstream attention for his role as Mason “The Line” Dixon in the film Rocky Balboa.
With a bronze medal from the 1996 Olympic Games and wins in the pros over several former or current light heavyweight titleholders like Montell Griffin, Glen Johnson, and Clinton Woods, Tarver sought a move up in weight in 2010.
One year later, the southpaw from Orlando, Fla., captured a fringe title at cruiserweight over Danny Green before drawing with Kayode at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., three weeks ago.
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a panelist on the Ratings Board for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.