Word came out last week that Brandon Rios tested positive for a banned substance following his Nov. 23 loss to Manny Pacquiao in Macau. Team Rios responded with protests, and strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza, who oversaw elements of Rios' diet and supplement intake in the leadup to the bout, said he doubts the veracity of the tests.
In several interviews, Ariza said that the protocol for the post-fight test was substandard, in his view. He said that Rios gave a urine sample into a "regular drinking glass" in a Fighthype piece, and then that liquid was poured into another cup. I followed up with Ariza on Sunday night about the positive test, after asking him about some accusations of misdeeds that were bouncing around Twitter on Sunday. He reiterated that his statement about the "drinking glass" stands, and that he saw this action with his own eyes. "There were about ten of us in the room," he told me. He said that the testing crew didn't have containers with them, and one tester went into the bathroom in the dressing room, and came back with a glass, and asked Rios to pee into that glass.
I reached out to Dr. Margaret Goodman, who runs the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association; VADA was contracted by all involved parties to handle testing for the Pacquiao-Rios fight. I asked her to respond to Ariza's assertions, that the testing protocol wasn't top grade.
Goodman told me that in her view the testing was done in professional fashion. "The urine specimen was collected by a highly reputable collection organization and experienced collection officers who routinely collect samples for the Olympic movement," Goodman said. "The specimen was collected, as per protocol, in a sterile vessel that was in factory-sealed packaging prior to the collection. The athlete chose among several sterile vessels in individually sealed packaging. At no time was the specimen in a drinking glass, as has been reported. The athlete signed the paperwork at the collection site, specifically confirming that the sample had been collected according to protocol. Neither the athlete nor any members of his team reported anything unusual at the collection, after the collection, nor after the test results were reported to the athlete, promoter, commission, and ABC on December 2nd. The athlete was given seven days to request the B sample analysis, but he did not respond."
Ariza told me he had no knowledge of the "B" sample status, for the record.
Goodman said that at the time of the collection, Team Rios didn't pipe up and complain about the manner of collection. "Neither the athlete nor his trainers made any claims of abnormalities of any kind until the recent media reports," she said.
Rios was suspended, until April 24, by the China Professional Boxing Organization.
Ariza told me that he still doesn't know how the banned substance Rios' sample contained, methylhexaneamine, also known as dimethylpentylamine or DMAA, and used by some as a weigh loss aid, would have made its way into Rios' system. He had said when the news of the Rios positive came out that he was under the impression that the substance can be found in energy drinks, but told me he now understands that the FDA banned the chemical DMAA.
He implied, heavily, that the timing of the test was dubious, and intended to be disruptive, as it occured the day before another Ariza-Robert Garcia client, Marcos Maidana, was to fight Adrien Broner.
It is a severe understatement to say Ariza has had an interesting month. He karate kicked Freddie Roach during a fracas days for the Macau faceoff. Nobody involved in that spat came off well, with slurs and nasty mocking coming from several parties. I asked Ariza if he'd do anything differently if the same event occured today. "What I did is not something I'm proud about, but I didn't attack (like Roach did)," he said. If Roach had merely entered the gym and asked Garcia politely to exit, no beef would have occured, he said. He implied that Roach was jealous of the attention and acclaim Garcia has received, and acted up because of envy.
I did convey that I found the mocking of Roach's Parkinson's symptoms distasteful and ironic, as any fighter who has taken punishment might well be susceptible to the same symptoms down the line. "I get it," Ariza replied. "It was the heat of the moment though. I've known Freddie for six years, his tirades I've seen before." He said that he believes Roach to be capable of inflicting damage, and said the trainer isn't so affected by his condition that he couldn't be able to muster a strong attack. "If you catch mitts for Manny Pacquiao, you can't be that bad," he said.
I offered a hypothetical which made Ariza chuckle. Mano a mano, Ariza vs. Roach, who'd win? He laughed, paused, and said, "I can't answer that."
It's evident that the air between the two hasn't cleared, however. "I've never really lashed out at Freddie the way he's lashed out at me," Ariza said. "Freddie is the past, and Robert (Garcia) is my future."
He said he's still working with Maidana, Rios and Mikey Garcia. So, nobody has dumped you? He chuckled. "No, not yet," Ariza said.