If ‘Canelo’ Alvarez isn’t suspended, label those drugs tests a joke

Updated March 5, 2018 - 8:01 pm

It’s as simple as some basketball coach selling rump roasts out of his car in Lithuania: If a positive drug test for the banned substance Clenbuterol doesn’t earn “Canelo” Alvarez a suspension and postponement of his May 5 rematch against Gennady Golovkin at T-Mobile Arena, then it’s really not a drug test at all.

It’s a joke.

It’s a test simply to tell the public you’re administering one.

I thought the year’s only meat story worth noting would be that nutty Virginijus Šeškus, who coaches brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball at Prienu Vytautas while offering a full-service deli from his trunk after practice each day.

But then it was announced Monday that Alvarez, training for his unified middleweight world title match against Golovkin, tested positive and has blamed tainted meat in Mexico for his Voluntary Anti-Doping Association sample coming back dirty.

There are all sorts of possible angles to this, and none are good for Alvarez or Golden Boy Promotions.

First things first. It happens. Clenbuterol is an anabolic agent that is found in meat in certain countries, with Mexico being one. Athletes in mixed martial arts and other sports have also cited tainted meat as the reason for a positive test.

But it’s also a stimulant that may be used in stacks with other anabolics to help preserve muscle mass while cutting fat.

“Clenbuterol is a very potent and effective performance-enhancing drug that would certainly help a boxer,” said Victor Conte, guru behind the BALCO doping sandal. “(Alvarez and Golovkin) fought six months ago. What have they been doing since then? For four months, they had the green light to do whatever they wanted.

“Here, we end up with this dog-ate-my-homework type of excuse and everyone thinks (Alvarez) was doing drugs. It is plausible that he did not intentionally cheat. Nobody can say for sure if there was intent or not. He could have used Clenbuterol for three months and there are still traces in his body. Or he could have eaten tainted meat.

“But these are multimillion-dollar athletes. I’d be shipping in fresh meat from someone other than Mexico. They had to know this was a possibility.”

Remember this term: principle of strict liability.

By definition from the World Anti-Doping Agency, it means each athlete is strictly liable for the substances found in his or her bodily specimen, whether he or she intentionally or unintentionally used a prohibited substance or was negligent or otherwise at fault.

Which means Alvarez is guilty, whether he outright cheated or was just fed some bad steak.

Conte is right. We’re not talking about some cross-country skier who makes $1,000 a month off an Olympic stipend who happened past some restaurant and was hungry and not thinking.

Alvarez is a world-class fighter with an entire team of folks who should be testing for absolutely every known trace of what is put into his body.

They have just one job: Protect the fighter.

A statement from Golden Boy said the positive test was “consistent with meat contamination that has impacted dozens of athletes in Mexico over the last years.”

Then why in the world was the company’s golden goose training and eating in Guadalajara eight weeks out from such a megafight? Alvarez either cheated or those around him are incredibly stupid or arrogant — or both.

If you don’t suspend him, why test anyone? What weight would VADA hold? What would stop any athlete from cycling on and off Clenbuterol and blaming tainted meat when caught?

It seems everyone is now waiting final word from the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

My guess: The fight goes on. Most reports suggested as much Monday. In the world of drug testing, you can’t police and promote at the same time, and you can’t tell me Nevada isn’t worried that if it gets too strict in such cases, it fears losing such lucrative fights to states with less stringent testing. It’s a money thing, is right.

It seems Alvarez will receive the same benefit-of-the-doubt on the whole tainted meat claim as the California State Athletic Commission bestowed Fernando Vargas in 2016.

But if you don’t suspend Alvarez and postpone the fight, just stop drug testing. The whole thing will have become as much a joke as some Lithuanian basketball coach doubling as a butcher.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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