By Ryan Maquiñana
In the last installment of HBO’s “24/7” series, Juan Manuel Marquez revealed a chiseled physique, which he partially credited to the addition of strength and conditioning coach Angel Hernandez.
However, former BALCO chief Victor Conte is wary of the new face in the Mexican star’s camp, especially when citing his own history with Hernandez.
Hernandez, then known as Angel Guillermo “Memo” Heredia before changing his last name, testified before a San Francisco court in May of 2008 that he had sold banned substances—namely EPO, growth hormone and steroids—to Olympic sprinters.
“This Heredia story is certainly no surprise to me,” Conte told BoxingScene.com via e-mail. “He was the government's star witness in BALCO doping cases against track stars including Marion Jones. Angel was at the top of the food chain in the drug distribution case against Jones' coach Trevor Graham. The feds rolled him over on everybody involved in the case including several world champions and Olympic medalists. Bottom line.
“We both know people from the dark side of sport and I'm certainly suspicious of his current activities. I also understand that many may feel the same way about me. However, there is a simple and basic difference. I chose to accept full responsibility for my very serious mistakes. I also chose not co-operate in the prosecution of any others involved and I served my time in prison. Memo made a different choice.
“He decided to become a puppet for famed BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky and provide extensive evidence and testimony against a long list of his athlete clients. But who knows. Maybe this Heredia and Marquez story will end up being helpful in bringing more attention to boxing's serious need for effective drug testing.”
Conte served four months for his role in orchestrating the BALCO steroid distribution scandal. However, since his release five years ago, he has become a staunch advocate for anti-doping reform, earning allies along the way such as former WADA president Dick Pound and longtime Nevada ring physician Dr. Margaret Goodman.
“This Angel ‘Memo’ Heredia and Juan Manuel Marquez story supports the reasons why there is a huge need for more stringent drug testing in boxing,” Conte added. “ ‘If you can't beat them, then join them’ is the not-so-subtle message that is being promoted in the boxing world today.
“I believe the use of PEDs in boxing is only going to get worse as time goes on unless a more effective drug testing program is made available. The real question is whether or not there is actually a genuine interest in reducing the use of drugs in the sport. I'm not so sure there is at this point.
“For example, [Manny Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach] Alex Ariza has recently stated that he thinks there is no need for more effective drug testing in boxing. I believe otherwise. The testing being utilized by the boxing commissions now is simply inept and can easily be circumvented."
Marquez will undoubtedly field questions on this topic, as he was initially scheduled to speak to the press in a Tuesday conference call, but it was postponed until Wednesday.
The busy week has just begun for the former featherweight, junior lightweight, and lightweight champion. This Saturday, he is also slated to hold a public workout alongside Timothy Bradley at Santa Anita Park in Southern California in preparation for his third fight with WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 12 in Las Vegas.
Ryan Maquiñana is the boxing correspondent at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Advisory Panel. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his blog at www.maqdown.com or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.