By Keith Idec
NORTH BERGEN, N.J. – Steve Cunningham claimed Tuesday that there is a “massive” steroid problem in boxing, particularly within the heavyweight division.
“I’ve fought guys on steroids before and beat ‘em,” Cunningham said before an open workout at Global Boxing Gym. “I know that for a fact. I’m not saying any names, but boxing’s a small community. Everybody talks. If you’re in training camp, everybody’s trading stories. … We know steroid use is rampant in boxing. A lot of people know. Everybody should know. Guys is out here killing their wives for $200,000 in life insurance. You don’t think people are going to cheat for a possible shot at a heavyweight world title?”
Philadelphia’s Cunningham (28-7, 13 KOs), a former cruiserweight champion, is scheduled to face former light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver (31-6, 22 KOs, 1 NC) in a 12-round heavyweight fight Friday night at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
The California State Athletic Commission suspended Tarver for a year because he tested positive for an anabolic steroid, drostanolone, following a June 2012 fight against Lateef Kayode in Carson, Calif. His steroid suspension also cost Tarver his television job as an analyst for Showtime, which televised the Kayode fight.
The 39-year-old Cunningham didn’t suggest Tarver, 46, is on steroids. He also said he didn’t undergo random blood and urine testing throughout training camp for this fight. Tarver was scheduled to be part of the open workout to promote Friday’s Premier Boxing Champions card (Spike; 9 p.m. ET/PT), but didn’t attend and couldn’t be reached for comment regarding Cunningham’s comments or whether he was tested throughout camp.
“It was there, available for us,” Cunningham said in reference to random blood and urine testing for the Tarver fight. “But me and my wife, we just didn’t put it up there. It wasn’t a top priority at the time. We just didn’t press the issue at the time. Then it hit me later in camp. And we’re just like, ‘We’ll just settle for the before and after tests.’ ”
Nick Lembo, general counsel for New Jersey’s State Athletic Control Board, said Tuesday that Tarver and Cunningham, like all boxers and MMA fighters that compete in the state, will be subject this week to pre-fight and post-fight blood, urine and hair testing for performance-enhancing drugs including blood doping, diuretics, external testosterone, human growth hormone, masking agents and steroids. New Jersey’s SACB tests in accordance with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) guidelines and sends samples only to labs approved by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Though Cunningham didn’t demand random blood and urine testing throughout camp for this fight, he said he would seek monetary compensation if an opponent ever tests positive for a PED.
“It should be mandatory for every fight,” Cunningham said, again referring to random blood and urine testing. “I have personal views of steroid use in boxing. We’re already men who are, to an extent, super. We’re already men with great athletic abilities, with power, more power than the average man. So anybody using any type of drug or anything illegal to get more power, and to get in the ring to do that, I mean, we see guys die from the average fighter. Now we have guys that are trying to make themselves even more powerful? What happens when the first guy gets caught using steroids and he kills a guy in the ring? What happens?
“Me, personally, if I ever fight a guy and he gets busted on steroids, I’m putting a civil suit on him for attempted murder. You know? Assault and battery. You know? That’s how serious this is. Boxing isn’t a game. It’s not basketball. It’s not football. It’s close to hockey. … But it’s so dangerous already, and for these guys to go and soup themselves up even more, I think that’s criminal. We wanted the test, just because this man [Tarver], he has a history now. That’s what he got busted on. I don’t know what he’s doing. I hope he isn’t, for his sake. But I know for a fact that I fought guys and beat them [when they were] on steroids before. We’ve got rules for a reason in boxing, you know?”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.