By Ryan Maquiñana
With Friday’s news that Antonio Tarver failed a drug test conducted by the California State Athletic Commission before his June 2 draw with Lateef Kayode, fight fans were left wondering the identity of the banned substance in question.
When BoxingScene.com broke the news that it was drostanolone, an anabolic steroid, nutritionist Victor Conte went on the record to discuss the performance-enhancing drug as well as possible scenarios where it could have shown up on Tarver’s test.
Conte, the BALCO founder turned anti-doping consultant, works with a multitude of fighters, including junior featherweight titleholder Nonito Donaire, who has agreed to be the first professional boxer to enroll in a year-round random drug testing program conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) starting on July 8.
As for Tarver, he has announced that he will appeal the California commission’s ruling. According to CSAC Executive Officer George Dodd, he has been fined $2,500, suspended, and has 30 days to submit written notice if he intends to appeal. The fight result itself will also be changed from a draw to a no-decision.
BoxingScene.com: We have established that Antonio Tarver has tested positive for an anabolic steroid, but what exactly is drostanolone? A quick search brings up Masteron in conjunction with it.
Victor Conte: One is the generic name and one is the trade name, just like stanozolol is the generic name for Winstrol. So it’s basically sold as Masteron, but it actually is drostanalone.
In my opinion, this is not something that would appear to be an accident. If somebody was going to be very smart about testing and avoidance of testing, this is a drug you would use—the anabolic steroid. The reason is because it clears relatively quickly. Some forms can be out of your system in about three weeks.
I want you to have a background on this. There are two types. The one you typically see is a propionate, the ester, which is a fast-acting form. We don’t know what he took. It could be Masteron. That is what’s called drostanolone propionate.
But then they have this new kind of drostanolone called Mastabol. It’s a combination of two esters. There’s the fast-acting ester called propionate, combined with a slower-acting ester called enanthate. It’s not likely that’s what he took.
It’s more likely he took Masteron. The reason why is because it’s perfect for a boxer in that it doesn’t cause water retention. Two, the propionate version clears much faster—three weeks, compared to the enanthate form which could take up to three months.
So my take is, if you knew you weren’t going to be tested, and you wanted to make sure the drug had cleared your system, and you didn’t want to have extra water weight, for an athlete who has to make a weight limit, this would be the right stuff. This is my opinion, only, but this might be a drug that somebody who has an understanding of the way anabolic steroids work would recommend to a fighter like Antonio Tarver.
BoxingScene.com: How would something like this be taken, especially in terms of trying to beat a drug test? According to you, the propionate version of drostanolone is fast-acting in contrast to the enanthate version of drostanolone, which is slower to leave your system.
Victor Conte: This is really important stuff here. Testosterone propionate is called a fast-acting ester. I want to explain this in lay terms so you can get it. What that means is that the half-life, meaning when you have to take another dosage, is two days. However, the clearance time is about three weeks.
That means when you have propionate form of this particular drug, drostanolone propionate, you have to take it three times a week like Monday, Wednesday, Friday, perhaps an injection every other day. It is also my understanding that drostanolone is available as an oral steroid called “Superdrol” as well.
BoxingScene.com: What about if you took drostanolone in the much slower-acting enanthate form?
Victor Conte: If you took a testosterone enanthate or a drostanolone in enanthate form, and not the propionate, it stays in your system much longer. Because Masteron doesn’t stay in your system as long as Mastabol, why would a smart guy ever take the latter knowing it would be detectable in your system for longer?
BoxingScene.com: MMA fighter “King” Mo Lawal tested positive for drostanolone but initially claimed he might have taken some contaminated supplements. The same issue of contamination has surrounded Andre Berto’s recent positive test for trace amounts of nandrolone as well. Is a similar scenario possible in Tarver’s case? Is there a situation where this all could have been an accident, in your opinion?
Victor Conte: It’s certainly possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a contaminated supplement in history that contained trace amounts of drostanolone. “King” Mo just tested positive for this substance, too. My understanding is that it was a result from a supplement he bought over the counter from Max Muscle. I’m not sure if the product was Superdrol or not.
Here’s the thing that could happen. There are these underground labs that make all kinds of steroids. They use glassware such as flasks and beakers, and if you don’t clean those thoroughly with very strong, powerful acids to remove the ultra-trace amounts of each steroid, you can get cross-contamination when you manufacture other legal products with the same equipment. So it could be trace contamination, but either way you look at it, it’s bad news.
I’ll give you a hypothetical. Let’s say this lab was making testosterone, and they were selling it on the black market. Then they don’t thoroughly clean the flasks and beakers good, and then they made a batch of this drostanolone on the same equipment, and it gets contaminated.
So conceivably, a guy could buy black market testosterone and take that in micro-doses to keep his testosterone ratio below the legal threshold of 4-to-1. Problem is it came from the black market, and he could have taken testosterone contaminated with another steroid, and then test positive for that steroid.
I’ve never heard of drostanolone-contaminated meats, like I have other steroids such as nandrolone and clenbluterol. But drostanolone is the type of drug that bodybuilders use for cutting cycles, and not bulking, meaning it burns fat, and two, it doesn’t cause water retention like testosterone.
Masteron and Mastabol are also seen as more exotic steroids, and two to three times more expensive than something like testosterone cypionate, which is what people generally use for injectable testosterone replacement therapy.
BoxingScene.com: Ultimately, what do you think happened here?
Victor Conte: Hypothetically, if Tarver knew that he wasn’t going to be tested for a month, and was intentionally using this drug, he would have likely been using the Masteron brand and not Mastabol because it’s the fast-acting form with a clearance time of about three weeks.
Whatever it was that Tarver took, if there was trace cross-contamination, much like the Berto case, bottom line is when you take these sorts of products that have these wacky names listed on them, you’re just asking for this sort of stuff. If there’s something you want to take, and you’re unsure, VADA and USADA have experts you can call on a hotline who will tell you if it will or won’t cause a positive test.
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28