Recently, in the Oprah Winfrey Show, Lance Armstrong, the incredible seven time winner of the Tour de France cycling tournament, the most grueling competition in the sports world – shocked millions by confessing publicly that he used an array of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in winning all seven events. Previously, he had repeatedly denied doping allegations.
What does Armstrong’s confession about his use of PEDs mean to the entire sports world?
Among other things, it confirms the effectiveness of PEDs in significantly pushing to extremes the capabilities of athletes. It also means that certain kinds of PEDs are undetectable with the current standard testing protocols. The number of athletes willing to use them is likely to increase because of the fabulous fortune, fame and other rewards that usually come with being top dog in major sports.
In 2005, a case involving the sale of PEDs to elite athletes by a small laboratory in Burlingame, California – made the headlines. Known as Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative or BALCO – it’s Chairman and founder Victor Conte – pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute steroids and other PEDs.
Conte referred to specific drugs as “the clear,” “THG” and “the cream” which were either taken orally, injected or rubbed into the skin. While these can be detected if specialized detailed testing is done, they are practically undetectable when usual standard testing procedures are done on athletes. Years later, Conte also revealed that there are certain ways to beat different testing systems for PEDs in sports events.
Some 30 elite athletes were listed as among the secret customers of BALCO which included the great Barry Bonds, holder of baseball’s all time home run record and seven time MVP; Marion Jones, dubbed the “fastest woman alive” and the biggest track and field star in the 2000 Olympics in Australia and former boxing champion Shane Mosley, winner of world titles in three divisions.
Bonds pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of obstruction of justice in connection with PEDs investigations but a dark cloud remains over his outstanding record denying him what would have been certain entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
In 2007, Jones admitted in court her use of PEDs and lying about it. She was sentenced to six months in prison, stripped of her five Olympic medals and lost all her endorsement deals.
As for Mosley, the World Boxing Council indicated that they would investigate his admitted drug use but probably lost interest as Mosley’s career had come to an end. However, his boxing record will forever be tainted by his drug use.
Users of PEDs display certain observable signs: a new physique with ripped bulked up muscles, markedly increased power and strength, speed and remarkable stamina.
It was not only these visual indicators that Juan Manuel Marquez showed in his last fight with Manny Pacquiao which caused many in the press box to suspect that he was using PEDs but also the presence in his corner of a shadowy figure named Angel Hernandez. Angel is officially designated as Marquez’ conditioning trainer.
Just before Marquez’ spectacular dead to the world knockout of Manny Pacquiao last December 8, 2012, while watching HBO’s reality show “24/7 Pacquiao – Marquez” on TV, convicted BALCO Chairman and PEDs supplier Victor Conte recognized Angel Hernandez and came out with the bombshell public revelation that “Hernandez” was an assumed name and that the man was formerly known as “Angel ‘Memo’ Heredia” – a user and supplier of PEDs to elite athletes.
In 2008, in the US government’s case against Olympics track coach Trevor Howard, in order to avoid prosecution, Angel agreed to testify for federal prosecutors. He revealed that he supplied PEDs to Marion Jones and other star athletes in various sports.
During the trial, a New York Times article profiled him:
“Mr. Heredia, a former Mexican national discus champion, is a secretive figure on the track circuit who describes himself as a chemist, scientist and nutritionist…He said he used family connections to pharmacies and labs in Mexico to help his business. For years, Mr. Heredia said, he helped clients flout the rules and easily avoided detection. Substances like the human growth hormone and the blood booster erythropoietin or EPO, are still virtually impossible to detect, and it’s still easy to use testosterone with fast acting creams, he said. ‘You combine all these things – boom! – you get amazing results.’ Mr. Heredia said.”
One report also indicated that he had created about 20 different PEDs which he claimed are undetectable.
A 2009 German documentary downloadable in YouTube shows Angel injecting himself with a PED and telling the viewers how easy it is to get these drugs in Mexico.
Even the famed Freddie Roach, iconic trainer of Manny Pacquiao, doubted that the new bulked up chiseled body the 39 year old Marquez brought to the ring – was the result of natural training. Roach’s comment: “I’ll kiss his ass if it is.” Marquez so far has kept his pants up.
In their three previous fights, Pacquiao took Marquez’ best punches and not once did Marquez knock him down. In this last fight, Marquez showed unusual power first knocking down Pacquiao in the third round with a powerful hard right on the face and then in the sixth, knocked Pacquiao cold with a frightful monster right on the jaw. The Pacman crushed to the canvas face down unconscious for a scary two to three minutes. A lesser conditioned fighter could very well have died from that Hulk punch.
Was Marquez fueled by PEDs in his last fight with Pacquiao?
Maybe yes. Maybe no. Visual indicators certainly point to that direction. Various articles in the electronic and printed media suggest that this may be the case especially with PEDs expert Angel in Marquez’ corner. According to TV boxing commentator Jim Lampley, after the Pacquiao-Marquez fight, Mexican boxing great Erik Morales tweeted the comment: “The Mexican pharmacy was better.” – and then deleted this, probably concerned about being criticized by his countrymen.
Or course, Marquez and his camp understandably deny these doping allegations. However, he and his trainer should welcome investigations to clear the air of these accusations of cheating.
Not only is it obvious cheating to use PEDs in any sport, but in boxing and other martial arts sports, it’s deadly dangerous and criminal to do so. It can result in death, brain damage, blindness or other serious injuries to boxers.
But PEDs testing in boxing is among the most lax in sporting events. Standard uniform testing for PEDs are not even required for major boxing events. Strict testing for PEDs has to be included in the contract between two fighters to make it happen. In the case of Pacquiao-Marquez 4, no pre-fight testing was even done for both fighters.
One would think that the gods of boxing such as the managers, trainers, promoters, state boxing commissioners, federal officials and the boxers themselves – ought to recognize that they bear a heavy moral responsibility in preventing death or permanent brain and other serious damages to boxers by establishing uniform stricter testing protocols for PEDs – but they don’t.
“As long as the money is very good, why rock the boat?” seems to be the attitude.
Bovine dung! Greed should not be the primary polestar and mantra of the movers and shakers in the sweet science world. They owe it to the fans, the boxers and the sport to at least have fair fights and reasonable protection of life and limb for the gladiators who are engaged in an already dangerous sport.
In the case of cycling, the situation was similar. Despite heightened suspicions of PEDs use by Armstrong and other cyclists, the governing International Cycling Union appeared not to be taking affirmative action to correct the situation. In fact they were party to constant general denials that PEDs were involved in their sport. Too much money was involved from sponsors, advertisers and other sources to risk changes.
It took the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to seriously investigate drug use by cyclists that helped lead to Armstrong’s shocking confession of his use of PEDs to win an unprecedented seven Tour de France titles.
In the case of the US boxing world, it is high time for state and federal officials to step in and seriously investigate the use of PEDs by boxers – starting with the last Pacquiao-Marquez fight. Preventing cheating as well as unnecessary deaths and serious injuries to athletes is a very legitimate moral concern for everyone.
The USADA should also be involved in urging uniform strict testing for PEDs in boxing. Even if this organization’s main mandate is control over the anti-doping programs for U.S. Olympics, Paralympics, Pan American and Parapan American sporting events, it can use its influence to change the doping landscape for the good of all.
Angel is also the conditioning coach for Jamaican track and field star Usain Bolt who broke speed records and won all kinds of medals in the last Olympics.
The phone number of USADA within the US is 800-233-0393. From outside the U.S., call 001-719-785 2020. Their email is: [email protected]
Please join the call to have a uniform strict drug testing protocol for the sport of boxing. It will prevent cheating, save lives and prevent brain damage and other serious injuries to boxers.
Email this article to the USADA or call urging them to investigate the Pacquiao-Marquez fight and for them to push for a uniform strict drug testing procedure for boxing events. Thank you for your concern.
Note: Atty. Ted Laguatan is a San Francisco Bay Area based human rights lawyer. The California State Bar also honors him as one of the top immigration lawyers in the country being one of only 29 lawyers officially certified continously as an Expert-Specialist in this field for almost 25 years now. Email [email protected] Tel 650 991-1154 Fax 650-991-1186 Address: 455 Hickey Blvd., Daly City, Ca 94015