WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Kathy Duva checked in with TSS, and talked about progress on the PED testing issue for #KovalevPascal.
“Sergey Kovalev has informed me that he wishes to arrange for random, WADA Code compliant VADA testing in advance of his WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight Title defense against Jean Pascal on March 14th,” she told me. “We are beginning to make the necessary arrangements with VADA today (Wednesday).
“Until mandatory drug testing is done year-round and regulated by a competent and neutral regulatory body that also provides education to boxers and their teams, I believe this kind of ad hoc enhanced testing is nothing more than a PR stunt. In my view, no meaningful progress toward cleaning up the sport will be made this way. Our efforts should be focused on reform and regulation,” she continued.
“However, since Pascal has accused Sergey of using PEDs, Sergey is eager to take Pascal up on his offer to pay for the tests. While I have consistently stated that I am opposed to such unregulated testing as a matter of policy, I understand why Sergey wants to take the tests and silence the critics.
“Because some have suggested that I oppose this kind of testing out of fear that Sergey will test positive, I wish to set the record straight right now. I am not the least bit concerned that Sergey is cheating. I am, however, worried that Pascal could test positive and we will have to cancel the fight. Both Pascal and Sergey stated that they would be willing to go through with the fight in the event of a failed test. However, this is not legally possible. Pascal suggested that a monetary penalty would be appropriate in the event of a failed test. So, apparently, Pascal’s concern for his own health and safety has a price.
“In a surprising number of documented cases, it was the fighter who demanded the enhanced testing who failed,” the promoter continued. “On the other hand, I do not believe that this kind of testing prevents or catches all kinds of cheating– especially where a fighter has a known PED provider on his team.” (ED. NOTE: This is a reference to the controversial strength and conditioning and supplement expert “Memo” Heredia, who does indeed advise Pascal.)
“Of course I am concerned for the health of all fighters. But it seems that much of the recent talk about ad hoc, unregulated testing is being promoted by the very “nutrition scientists” who simply want to prove to their clients that they can beat any test–thereby ensuring an uneven playing field.
Having said that, I believe that no matter what Jean Pascal does, he cannot beat Sergey Kovalev. This action by Sergey will allow everyone to focus on the fight rather than publicity stunts.?”
So there you go. Fightin’ Kathy Duva comes back with a hardcore flurry, as expected.
Jean Pascal seemed undaunted by the task of taking on Russian terminator Sergey Kovalev on March 14, in Montreal, at the NYC presser for the HBO bout which unfolded on Wednesday. The Haitian-born hitter was intense but polite at that event. But he’s gotten a bit more feisty around the issue of PED testing. Pascal told TSS that he’s keen to do random testing ahead of this bout, and he wants to make sure The Krusher is of the same mind.
“Kovalev is scared to do the test,” is the conclusion Pascal told me he came to.
Kovalev manager Egis Klimas checked with TSS on the matter. “We did agree to random testing if (Team Pascal) will pay for it,” he said. He suggested I talk to his promoter, Kathy Duva, to get more deets. So I did.
Duva’s response: “It has come to my attention that Jean Pascal has asked why Sergey Kovalev’s team turned down a request for drug testing,” Duva said. “Like Pascal, Sergey is a proud, clean professional athlete and he did not refuse to submit to enhanced drug testing. I am the one who doesn’t want to do it.
“I have consistently said that I do not believe promoters should attempt to act as regulators. None of us have the competence, expertise or neutrality that is necessary to conduct drug testing in a fair and transparent way. We understand that this is an unpopular position, but after careful consideration we believe it is the right position nonetheless.
“When Major League Baseball implemented drug testing, they conducted tests for years before imposing any consequences–which allowed for the development of responsible policies and player education. We do not have that luxury. The recent history of this type of testing in boxing has been spotty at best – results known to promoters but not disclosed to fighters, disputes over the consequences of a failed test, non-uniform tests and procedures, “lost” tests, planned tests that never happened, advance notice of when “random” tests would be administered, etc. Looking to other combat sports, the UFC announced, this month, that they had scrapped plans for a year-round testing program due to the failures and confusion caused by their experiments with enhanced drug testing.”
“I’ve talked to a lot of fighters about this,” Duva continued. “My question to them is always: If your opponent tests positive, do you want me to cancel the fight? Every one of them has said no. In fact, Jean Pascal’s management indicated that they would wish to go through with the fight and asked that a monetary penalty be assessed in the event of a failed a test. That is simply not possible. If someone tests positive for a banned substance, the fight cannot happen.”
I asked Pascal about this potential situation. He told me that yes indeed, he would agree to have the fight go on, and would accept a cut from the purse of a foe who tested positive, so the event could go forward.
Duva continued: “We explored the possibility that we might embargo the results until after the fight. Rightly so, our lawyers agreed that we could not conceal the results. These ad hoc, unregulated tests available only to fighters who can afford them are not a solution.
“Well-intentioned efforts often cause unintended consequences and simply create new problems. Enhanced drug testing is an issue that boxing commissions should study and work with before formulating plans for its implementation. These plans must consider all of the potential complications (for example, what constitutes in-competition and out-of-competition banned substances and when those periods start and end), testing at all levels, and education for all fighters. We fully support boxing commissions in those efforts.”
Pascal isn’t down with Duva’s stance. “She should be concerned about the health of the fighters, instead of losing money on a promotion,” he told me.
Duva’s daughter Nicole, an attorney, touched on the “health of the fighters” angle. “One thing to consider, though, what is the point of doing the testing if you’re willing to go through with the fight regardless of the result? You can’t claim it’s about the fighter’s health anymore,” she said.
Should Team Kovalev come around on the matter, Pascal said, he’s still willing to foot the bill for testing for both he and Kovalev, which he said would run anywhere from $25-40,000. He told me that he’s been doing random testing since he fought Lucian Bute on Jan. 18, 2014, and has been tested “two or three times.” He is not afraid to cite his association with controversial supplement specialist “Memo” Heredia, who has worked with for about two years. “I want a clean sport,” said Pascal, in closing.
My take: I’m seeing merit in what both sides are saying. I like Pascal’s push for testing. And I have less than zero reason to suspect Kovalev is on anything odious. And I don’t take issue with Duva’s well composed reasoning on the subject. This subject is such a work in progress, and we are in the infant stages regarding how we treat PED testing in fight sports.
So, I report, you opine. Talk to me…
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Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events