There are a number of people around the world who simply adore a conspiracy theory. Diana, Princess of Wales was murdered by the Royal Family. 9/11 was instigated by the CIA and the Ku Klux Klan were the money behind Marlboro tobacco (look! A hooded man on the packet!).
Boxing is a sport rife with the idea of plotting and scheming. Whilst many tales of underhand behaviour are undoubtedly true there as just as many which leave the sensible majority slightly baffled.
Saturday night’s contest between WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Ireland’s Andy Lee has got the theorists frothing at the mouth once more. Within minutes of a Chavez Jr victory the knives were out for the Mexican.
Claims that the champion was “obviously juicing” and on the “magic beans” were quick to appear. At first it was easy to dismiss this as simple bitterness. Many of the accusations were coming from fans of Andy Lee. Nobody likes to see their hero defeated so the reaction was understandable, if a little predictable.
However, this is not the first time that an allegation of performance enhancing drug (PED) use has been levelled at Chavez Jr. The subject continues to rear its ugly head every time the Mexican fights. With the Lamont Peterson case fresh in everyone’s mind is there a point when we have to take the mud-slinging seriously?
Ever since Julio Cesar Chavez Jr failed a drug test in 2009 people have been understandably suspicious of him. In November of that year Chavez Jr beat Troy Rowland by unanimous decision. The result of the fight was changed to one of No Contest when it was discovered that Chavez Jr had traces of the diuretic Furosemide in his system.
Chavez Jr has reportedly faced weight cutting issues for a while now and diuretics can be used to illegally aid that process. However, as many people have pointed out, they can also be used as a masking agent for PEDs. Taking a drug to help with weight loss is more likely to damage the fighter using it than his opponent but if the diuretic is hiding more serious drug use then it becomes a more serious issue.
PEDs were on the agenda once again when Chavez Jr faced Marco Antonio Rubio in February this year. Rubio claimed that Chavez Jr had avoided a post fight urine test and had left the venue before the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation (TDLR) had been able to speak to him.
The truth of that matter is slightly different. The WBC, who sanctioned that fight demand pre and post fight drug tests on all title fights. However, in some instances they are prepared to follow the processes set out by the local governing bodies. In all there were eighteen fighters on the Chavez Jr/Rubio card. Only two were drug tested and that didn’t include Chavez Jr or the complaining Rubio.
The issue of drug testing and Chavez Jr has come to light once more in the wake of the victory against Andy Lee. HBO’s Jim Lampley stated that Chavez Jr had failed to take a urine test before the contest on Saturday. This coupled with the victor saying he was suffering from leg cramps (a supposed side-effect of PED use) during the fight got the rumour mill turning again.
ESPN’s Dan Rafael contacted TDLR for confirmation of this and was told, “both fighters, Chavez and Lee, submitted urine samples before the bout. Their samples have been sent to the lab and the results will be looked at when we get them”.
I wondered if the accusations spread beyond the teams and fans of Chavez Jr’s beaten opponents. I asked boxing writers Ray Markarian and Michael Woods if they set much store by the allegations. Markarian said, “I’ve heard the rumours but I don’t know. You can’t destroy someone’s credibility without proof”. Woods was a little more succinct, “I need some steak with the smoke. Gimme some evidence”.
Therein lies the crux of the matter, proof. Beyond the failed drug test in 2009 there is nothing to go on. Spurious claims of missed urine tests and sore legs aside, what else is there? Beaten fighters have their pride to deal with. Many fans and pundits have hugely underestimated Chavez Jr. The fact that he is now seen by many as a genuine talent makes plenty of people look daft. It is easy to devalue the champion’s success by claiming foul play.
Chavez Jr’s promoter Bob Arum has stated that his fighter will face the recognised best middleweight in the world, Sergio Martinez in September. It is a fight long in the making and one that will be a huge box office draw. Win or lose, perhaps that fight will finally see Chavez getting the respect that some think he deserves.