We all know that professional athletes use steroids, it’s no different for boxing.  Steroid use is prevelant among all professional athletes.  In boxing, moreso then any other sport, steroids are used for aggression and stamina – which are both a factor in a possible 12 round fight!   Halotestin, cheque drops and equipoise are the steroids of choice.  Halotestin is used for aggression, same with cheque drops, equipoise is used for stamina.


Steroids in Boxing

The notion of a professional athlete using drugs to enhance their performance is a throroughly shameful one; some sport fans would prefer to think that their idols would never consciously perpetrate such a contemptible act of dishonesty, and in most cases believe the hastily issued statements blaming general neglectfulness or unwitting participation. Others are a little more open to the minute but ever-present evils that lurk in the background of professional sports. It’s easy to see the reasons behind employing these deceitful tactics but difficult to comprehend the relaxation of all principles and complete disregard of integrity.

One of the biggest sufferers in the everlasting steroid scandal is the sport of cycling, which has been hit by allegations of drug abuse against some of it’s most prominent competitors, and hit hard. Floyd Landis, the 2006 Tour de France winner, was found to have unusually high levels of testosterone in a urine sample taken after the event and may have his title stripped this year. Jan Ullrich, a past winner and a huge presence within the sport, was forced to retire after suffering similar allegations.

Athletics, and in particular sprinting, has been damaged by adverse publicity since Canadian Ben Johnson was found guilty of cheating in 1988 after an other-wordly 9.79 second sprint in Seoul’s 100m final. Since then Tim Montgomery, Britain’s own Dwain Chambers and the legendary Linford Christie, plus countless others have been linked to the shady world of athletic doping. And this is without even dipping a toe into the recent history of the crown jewel of sport in the USA, Baseball.

Boxing has not quite fallen under the broad shadow that darkens the image of other athletic professions, but for this reason the impression is given that it basks in the light of sporting integrity (I am obviously only speaking in terms of steroid abuse, not the fight game in general.) A lack of high-profile cases seems to reinforce that notion, but it also makes you wonder whether they are the tip of a substantial but well-concealed iceberg? Considering some of the more sinister and questionably regulated aspects of the sport, I find it difficult to believe that boxing’s involvement in the world of steroids is minimal as it seems, but as there is only a small amount of damning evidence things certainly point in that direction. Although a number of huge names being linked with allegations of drug abuse in the past couple of years, few boxers have actually tested positive for a banned substance and punished accordingly.

Fernando “Ferocious” Vargas, the youngest ever champion in his weight class and one of the better sub-middleweight fighters of the past decade, tested positive following his grudge match against Oscar De La Hoya in 2002. When the news emerged that Vargas’ sample had contained a performance-enhancing steroid, the notion seemed believable in retrospect: Vargas had entered the bout with an incredibly sculpted and an unprecedentedly (for him) toned physique- the man was a bona fide monster. Considering the tension that had led up to the fight between the two Latin superstars and in particular Vargas’ aggression, it seemed entirely likely that De La Hoya would be eaten up considering the strength and sheer muscular mass of his challenger.

Of course, De La Hoya ultimately prevailed with a superb performance, which also throws up the question of whether Anabolic Steroids actually enhance a fighter’s performance or hinder it. The drugs are known to increase muscle mass, protein synthesis, strength and also bone growth, all seemingly physiological advantages that a user would have over an opponent, but a change in size could also reduce a fighter’s speed and reflexes. When asked a few years ago whether he believed the drug would make a difference to his performance, young prospect Yuri Foreman said, “Technically, I think steroids wouldn’t help much in boxing. You might have more strength, but it’s not going to help your reflexes and make your chin stronger.”

That is the view of one of the fighters, but the benefits of steroids don’t just apply to a boxer’s performance in the ring. They can also boost a fighter’s endurance and recovery time, according to Dr. Margaret Goodman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission: “People tend to think of steroids as something that will benefit the big, heavy-weighted fighter,” said Dr. Goodman, “but that’s not the case. This benefits athletes who want to train harder and recover quickly. If a fighter wants to have heavy sparring sessions all week, he’s going to benefit by steroids, because, by the next day his body won’t be feeling sore or tired. It enables them to work on their skills longer.”

James Toney is the other name of note who provided a positive test, coming after his world title “win” over 2-Time WBA Champion, John Ruiz, in 2005. Toney (briefly, it was eventually returned to the former champion) captured the WBA Belt from the sluggish John Ruiz in a superb display of defensive aptitude and counter-punching, triumphing with something to spare on the scorecards, but the result was nullified when traces of Nandrolone were discovered in his sample. In comparison to Vargas, Toney’s transgression is nowhere near as clear in retrospect in a visual sense, with “Lights Out” coming into the ring against Ruiz with his trademark heavyweight waistline and flabby frame, but with further benefits of steroids being those explained above, a reason for use of the drug can be fathomed in this case.

Toney’s promoter Dan Goosen claimed that the positive test was a result of an oversight: “Toney received medical treatment for recovery from his biceps and triceps surgery last year. His doctor has stated that the combination of medications used to control the inflammation and tissue growth caused the positive test result,“ said Goosen. ”This is further supported, since the body, in combination with the medications, naturally create the form of substance (“Nandrolone”) reflected in the test results … It would be unjust for the sport to reprimand a fighter who was under a doctor’s care and direction many months before in healing a career threatening injury.”

The generic reason/excuse issued by those that test positive almost always seeks to pin the blame on the ineptitude of their doctor, or nutritionist, or at least someone who they work with in that capacity. Toney and Goosen may be telling the truth in this case, but hearing that line of defense got tired some time ago. Are the doctors/nutritionists/whatever in each case really that neglectful? They are all aware of the stature of these athletes and the implications that comes in working with and treating them that such a high number of cases of genuine professional negligence stretches the realms of plausibility.

Although these are the only two high-profile occurrences of proven steroid abuse in boxing in recent times, fighters such as Shane Mosley and Evander Holyfield have all been the subject of rumors involving drug abuse but have never actually tested positive. Both men were linked with companies who were investigated for supplying steroids to athletes- and both have vehemently denied any wrongdoing. After Roy Jones, JR. defeated Richard Hall in 2000, both he and Hall tested positive for the androstenedione, a substance banned by the IBF. Jones admitted taking a produce named “Ripped Fuel” which contained androstenedione, a natural hormone which was available over the counter until 2004 when it was made illegal by the FDA. The IBF took a lenient stance to Jones’ positive test, declining to fine or ban him and letting him keep his title.

A consistency becomes apparent when considering these fighters: Mosley, Jones and Toney have fought in a number of weight classes in their professional careers, and the need to put weight in terms of muscle then becomes an important factor (or weight of a different kind, in Toney’s case.) Holyfield originally campaigned in the cruiserweight division before becoming champion at heavyweight. The use of steroids would certainly appear beneficial to someone who needs to increase their strength and muscle mass. Vargas’ possible motive may lie behind his hatred of De La Hoya and an intense desire to win at all costs, a move that backfired after he was on the receiving end of an eleventh round knockout.

Something which makes it difficult for testers are the use of diuretics, which have been known to be used as masking agents but can also be used to lose weight. It is the duty of state Boxing commissions, the BBBC and other regulatory bodies around the world to ensure that their testing policies and procedures are stringent, widespread and as up to date as possible.

That said, positive tests are still a rarity in the sport, so the statistics do indicate that this form of cheating is not a prevalent problem. The pressure on sportsman to succeed has always been astronomical, and those who choose to use steroids probably believe that it is worth it, despite the possibility of being caught and suffering the consequences. Even with the burden of pressure which weighs on athletes, cheating by use of performance-enhancing products is still an inexcusable act which deserves the heaviest of punishments; the onus is on the athlete to employ trustworthy staff, who are fully aware of the treatments and supplements that they are supplying. I am convinced that the majority of fighter’s do adhere to a regimented code of conduct in their conditioning and the subtances which they ingest, which backs up the lean statistics in terms of those guilty of offences. We are lucky that our sport has not been crippled by use of the drug, and long may the relatively clean bill of health continue.