Andre Berto, the ex welterweight champion and current Florida resident, has tested positive for a banned substance, which means his June 23 rematch with Victor Ortiz will likely be cancelled. This is the second high profile PED case to hit boxing in ten days, right on the heels of Lamont Peterson's positive test for testosterone which cancelled his Saturday rematch with Amir Khan.
Berto, age 28, has a 28-1 record, with 22 KOs; that lone blemish came at the hands of Ortiz. They tangled in a thriller back in April 2011. Berto hit the deck in the first and sixth rounds, Ortiz hit the mat in the second and sixth, as well. The California boxer snagged a UD12 in the first scrap. They'd signed to meet on Feb. 11 but Berto had to postpone that re-do after he tore a bicep in training.
Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, the co-promoter of the rematch, told ESPN's Dan Rafael that he got word on Saturday that Berto's 'A' test was flagged, and then his 'B' test also came up dirty. He was told of that result on Friday.
The prohibited substance was norandrosterone, according to Victor Conte, the ex Balco chief who has been working as a consultant with the ex champ in the last year. He advised Berto on what supplements he should be taking, and on training and rest procedures. Conte has been quite vocal of late that the sport is full of PED users, and needs heavy-duty testing to clean up its act.
"Andre Berto's positive test for nandrolone has absolutely nothing to do with me or any supplements I provided," Conte Tweeted. "Likely trace contamination. Andre has admitted to taking supplements other than what I provided without my knowledge. Apparently, something was contaminated."
Conte wrote that he encouraged Berto to enroll in the testing process overseen by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), and that this proves VADA is a trustworthy entity.
Conte clearly believes that Berto used a shady supplement which was tainted with nandrolone. "Nandrolone is the longest lasting steroid known to man," he wrote. "No athlete would ever use it with intent to cheat." He also seemed to be distancing himself from the boxer, to an extent, in order to communicate that he is no longer dispensing illegal chemical to athletes to aid their performance. "Sometimes you can't protect people from themselves. I have advised boxers not to take different supplements, but they don't always listen."
There is more than a tinge of irony in the Berto positive, considering the boxer insinuated after his loss to Berto that Ortiz cheated. After the loss, he Tweeted: "Let me clear the air now!! Your right there is a reason why Ortiz had so much energy, a reason he could take my heavy shots and keep ticking. N there is a reason why he came into the ring 165 pounds. I know people close to him and his camp and I know exactly we he was taking. it wasn't Flintstone vitamins!! But it is what it is I should of beat him anyways but it wasn't me that night. Ortiz wasn't him either lol."
Berto did put out a statement, which I saw on Boxing Scene. It read: “At the present time, I cannot explain the positive drug test, which was provided as part of a voluntary anti-doping program in which I agreed to participate. I know that I have never used any steroids or other banned substances, and I am investigating all possible causes of the positive test with my attorney Howard Jacobs. I have never cheated, and all of my success has come from hard work and dedication.”
It feels to me like boxing is in its infant stage in this steroid/PED sphere. Of course, we should allow the case and the story to play out, and try not to rush to judgment. Peterson, for instance, maintains that a physician determined that his natural testosterone was low, as low as an 80 year old man, which is why, he said, he took supplmements. Why he didn't inform the pertinent authorities that he was doing so in advance is not clear to me, but anyway...In the future, would it not make sense for anyone using an out-of-the-mainstream supplement to in fact get it tested in a lab prior to ingestion, so as to eliminate a stray positive, such as what Conte says occured in this case? Stay tuned for the continuing saga.