Analysis, discussion, commentary and opinions still fly about weeks after The Fight of the Century, in all its glory and lack thereof, unfolded in Las Vegas.
The financial results are in, and all agree, the event was a rousing success from that standpoint. About 4.4 million pay per view buys were activated, the gate at MGM Grand tallied over $71 million, the boxers will gross between $150 and $200 million each.
Bigger picture, things are not as uniformly rosy. The action was fair to middling, vastly disappointing to some uneducated to the Mayweather Method of winning, which means doing so in risk averse fashion, paying as much or more attention to defensive adeptness than offensive output.
Lawsuits are at 30 plus and counting, targeting Manny Pacquiao for entering a bout with a bum right shoulder, after suffering an injury less than a month before the clash, which had him pondering pulling out.
One element of the drama which continues to be discussed comes as a result of a story by the dean of fightwriters, Thomas Hauser, the Muhammad Ali biographer and prolific author. Hauser dropped a story on Boxing Scene on Tuesday which contained a tidbit which had eyebrows raising in many circles. The story was titled “The Big Lie” and in it, Hauser reported a previously unreported fact about the PED testing for the super-fight. Here is the portion of the Hauser story which stood out most for me:
In early March, USADA presented the Pacquiao camp with a contract that allowed the testing agency to grant a retroactive therapeutic use exemption to either fighter in the event that the fighter tested positive for a prohibited drug. That retroactive exemption could have been granted without notifying the Nevada State Athletic Commission or the opposing fighter’s camp.Team Pacquiao thought that was outrageous and an opportunity for Mayweather to game the system. Pacquiao refused to sign the contract.Thereafter, Mayweather and USADA agreed to mutual notification and the elimination of retroactive therapeutic use exemptions. A copy of the final contract contained a section entitled “Therapeutic Use Exemptions,” which states: “Mayweather and Pacquiao agree that both athletes shall be notified within 24 hours of either of the following occurrences: (1) the submission by either athlete of a TUE application; or (2) the approval by USADA of a TUE application submitted by either athlete. Additionally, any modifications to an existing TUE by either athlete shall be communicated to the other athlete within 24 hours. Notification shall include: (1) the date of the application; (2) the prohibited substance(s) or method(s) for which the TUE is sought; and (3) the manner of use for the prohibited substance(s) or method(s) for which the TUE is sought.”
That phrase, “retroactive therapeutic use exemption.”
Hauser wrote that he had in his possession a copy of the “final contract” which laid out particulars if in fact either boxer applied for an exemption, which would be the case, we can presume, if either man tested positive for a banned substance, but wished to proceed without penalty unimpeded, to be able to participate in the fight.
Boxing hasn’t had as much experience in this “therapeutic use exemption” realm as has mixed martial arts, but there have been occasions when fighters have asked for permission to be able to use a substance, one which might be seen as a “PED,” with the OK from a physician, because, they maintain, they have a legitimate medical or physical need to use said substance, which would over-ride the potential performance enhancing property of that substance.
By way of example…Lamont Peterson tested positive ahead of his May 2012 rematch with Amir Khan. He showed an elevated level of testosterone in his bodily fluid. The scrap was cancelled, and Peterson explained the issue, in a story which ran on Boxing Talk. He said he was feeling fatigued, went to get checked by a doctor, and the doctor said he “had low free testosterone.” The boxer then took “testosterone pellets,” but was flagged. He was informed that some commissions will allow a TUE, or therapeutic use exemption, but stated that he didn’t know that an allowance could possibly be made for him, and also that he didn’t think he was using anything “performance enhancing.”
Back to MayPac…
That phrasing, that seeming desire to insert what seems like a contractual loop-hole to override a positive sample, struck me as at best curious. I reached out to Mayweather publicist Kelly Swanson, and emailed a request for comment or clarification regarding the matter. I received no response.
I also reached out to the testing agency Hauser mentioned, USADA, on Tuesday evening, and they told me they would furnish a reply, and I will insert that when it arrives. (UPDATE ALERT: A reply from USADA arrived Thursday at 12:45 PM ET):
Here is the USADA response:
The information in Mr. Hauser’s article concerning the final contract for USADA to run the anti-doping program for the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight is inaccurate.
The final contract signed by both fighters was clear that any TUE that was granted would be sent to the opposing fighter within 24-hours and that the granting of TUEs would be determined by USADA in its sole discretion in accordance with the WADA International Standards for TUEs, which includes retroactive TUEs. Any approved TUE will also be sent to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. TUE processing is a normal part of all international anti-doping programs.
I wanted to compare and contrast methods of operation and standards, so I reached out to Dr. Margaret Goodman, who heads up VADA (The Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) to see where her organization stood on the TUE issue. She sent this explanation which is contained in the VADA policy statement:
6. An application for a TUE will not be considered for retroactive approval except in extremely rare cases where:a. emergency treatment or treatment of an acute medical condition was necessary, orb. due to exceptional circumstances, there was insufficient time or opportunity for an applicant to submit, or VADA to consider, an application prior to doping control.The Athlete MUST inform VADA as soon as possible by fax or email if one of these circumstances occur. A TUE will not be considered for retroactive appeal if there is a failure to timely inform VADA of the exceptional circumstances.
The issue of testing has attached itself to both these fighters for many years. Mayweather barked for many years at Pacquiao to “take the test,” and also had to publicly apologize and make a payout to Manny for insinuating he was on PEDs. Pacman’s trainer Freddie Roach has a suit lodged against him by former Pacman strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza, whom Roach accused of giving Manny “shady” drinks. Mayweather in the leadup to MayPac boasted that he’d gotten under Manny’s skin by hiring Ariza, and has credited Ariza with being most instrumental for Manny’s success, more so than Roach. So, there is ton of water under this particular bridge…
I don’t pretend to be anything resembling an expert on PEDs and testing and regimens and protocol. Victor Conte, who runs a supplement company and advises a bunch of athletes, is; he’s been on the dark side, as a peddler, and now, he maintains, he’s seen the light and wants a clean sport, and clean athletes doing their thing on even playing fields. He is a proponent for how VADA does testing and has been quite public about not caring for the USADA way. No surprise, he took aim at USADA after learning of this development in the Hauser story. “In my opinion, the request for a retroactive TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) clause by the Mayweather camp was suspicious and should never have been granted by USADA,” Conte told me. “Plain and simple. The fight took place under the jurisdiction of NSAC, not USADA. The fact that USADA did not inform the NSAC of the Pacquiao injury presents serious questions” about their ties to Mayweather, he continued. Conflicts of interest can pop up, he told me, if a testing agency is being paid by one of the athletes, or by one of their cohorts. “USADA’s primary role in boxing is to serve as an independent entity and protect the health and safety of the two fighters,” he continued, and it is clear he isn’t of a mind that their independence is unquestioned.
My take: This issue is a sticky one, a controversial one, and one that is mutating. Boxing, but of course, is a sport unlike any other. It shares, with MMA, the status of being a one on one endeavor, which makes testing and subsequent potential issues of punishment, which could include cancellation of an event which has been in the planning stages for many, many months. People find it hard to fathom the possibility that the May 2 Mayweather-Pacquiao bout could have been cancelled, for whatever reason, at the 11th hour. Certainly, the discussion following the disclosure that Manny Pacquiao came in with a bad shoulder attests to that; “what did you want him to do, risk being called a wimp if he pulled out?” many folks said. Never mind the immense expense that has already been outlaid and the procedural nightmares which would ensue if refunding had to be performed, for the tickets to attend, the hotels, the airlines, etc. We do understand the “show must go on mentality.” But if that is the prevailing mindset from all parties involved, and to that end, a positive test for a PED couldn’t possibly result in the cancellation of an event, then what sort of teeth, so to speak, does the testing process really possess? If language is going to exist which would conceivably nullify any positive test, and allow an offending substance to be rendered acceptable through an exemption, shouldn’t that construct be made public? Don’t all parties involved, the fighters, the organizers, the fans, deserve that, at minumum? We need more transparency, more uniformity, if the testing procedures and post-positive protocol can be agreed upon and applied uniformly.
Wording is important, and phrases like retroactive therapeutic use exemption don’t do well in passing the smell test, if you’re not a lawyer, whose reason for vocational being maybe rests on such wordsmithery and loopholery. That fight was a let-down, beyond monies being made by a select few; what say some greater good comes from it, and better PED testing policies, free from iffy such language, are the norm when the next “super fight” comes around.