It is my opinion that, as a nation, we are a trusting public. We believe people until they give us a reason not to. Well, maybe not all of us are so trusting, but hey, that’s just me.
When President Clinton initially proclaimed, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” those of us in the center and on the left wanted to believe him.
When President Bush announced that we were invading Iraq because there was evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction, those of us in the center and on the right wanted to believe him.
When word spread that Barry Bonds testified he did not know that the “Cream” and the “Clear” he was using were anabolic steroids, those of us …. Well, I’m not sure if anyone actually believed that.
Now comes word that WBA heavyweight champion James Toney tested positive for steroids after his title-winning effort against John Ruiz last month at Madison Square Garden. The New York State Athletic Commission declared that Toney’s victory be changed to a no decision because of a positive drug test. The new champion was suspended for 90 days.
Ruiz, who had just recently un-retired, is asking that the WBA invoke rule 18:23, which states:
If the challenger wins the championship fight and his anti-drug test is positive and the losing champion has a negative result, then the champion shall retain his title in spite of the loss and the challenger shall be disqualified and shall not box for the title from the World Boxing Association during the next two (2) years and only after presentation of medical evidence that he has been rehabilitated.
Looking at James Toney that night, it did not appear that he was a classic steroid user. This was not a chiseled body beautiful up in that ring. While his arms and shoulders looked strong, Toney appeared soft and a bit thick in the middle. He weighed a career high 233 pounds for the fight.
Now, as has been reported earlier on TheSweetScience.com, the benefits of steroids are not just cosmetic. The usage of steroids allows an athlete to train harder and it allows his body to recover quicker.
As the news of the positive test swirled, Toney released a statement: “Being accused of taking performance enhancing substances is an insult to me. I don't do drugs period. I've never used any illegal substances to prepare myself for a fight.”
His promoter, Dan Goossen, took the explanation a step further: “Toney received medical treatment for recovery from his biceps and triceps surgery last year. His doctor has stated that the combination of medications used to control the inflammation and tissue growth caused the positive test result. This is further supported, since the body, in combination with the medications, naturally create the form of substance (“Nandrolone”) reflected in the test results … It would be unjust for the sport to reprimand a fighter who was under a doctor's care and direction many months before in healing a career threatening injury.”
I want to believe James Toney and Dan Goossen, but … I’ve heard it too many times before. It seems now that each time an athlete test positive for steroids, the explanation reads as follows: “I didn’t know that my _______ (fill in the blank with trainer, doctor, nutritionist, pizza deliveryman, et cetera) was actually giving me steroids.”
There is no doubt that some of these athletes are telling the truth and perhaps James Toney ranks among them. In fairness to Team Toney, steroids can often help rehabilitate injuries. But the use of steroids is clearly a hot button issue these days and there is enough knowledge and information regarding performance enhancing drugs out there that athletes need to be held accountable. With all the media coverage on steroids, I would hope that Toney’s physician was aware that the combination of drugs he was giving him would produce a positive test. Otherwise, it seems awfully suspicious that on the very day that the positive test was announced, the doctor realized his mistake and made himself available to Goossen for the purposes of exonerating the fighter.
Two things immediately come to mind:
1) The doctor certainly knew that he was treating a world-class athlete in Toney, and if he did not know that this combination could lead to a positive test result, then the doctor should be fined and suspended for a year. Float that out there and let’s see if the good doctor is still willing to take the fall.
2) Why is it that so many millionaire athletes seem to have these rogue doctors or trainers who unwittingly slip performance enhancing drugs to their naïve clients? If I relied on my physicality and my body to earn a living – and thank God I do not! – I would be employing the best doctors, trainers, nutritionists and pizza deliverymen in the world.
Now, here’s the last statement, and it comes from Team Ruiz.
“All I've ever heard was how bad Johnny Ruiz was for boxing,” said Ruiz’s manager Norman Stone in his statement that was emailed to the media. “Who's bad for boxing now? Toney's always talking about being a man. Well, he should be a man and admit what he did instead of making excuses. He can't talk trash about us anymore. Toney said he only fears God; he should fear the New York State Athletic Commission, too.
“Toney shot his mouth off, talking a lot of BS and degrading Johnny. But who's going to have the last laugh? I believe everybody in his corner should be responsible, including Dan Goossen. They can make up all of the 'the dog ate my homework' excuses they want, but Toney flunked his test and they should own up to it.”
Now it sounds like Norman Stone is the one making sense, and those of us south of Massachusetts never wanted to believe him.
Read Robert Cassidy's Jr.'s recently published “Boxing and Steroids“