October 15, 2015; Boxing Insider
The distinctive and exciting aspect of covering the nonprofit sector is that the presence and importance of nonprofit organizations is found in unusual places. For example, due to an in-depth review by investigative journalist Thomas Hauser of the role of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao boxing match, the NPQ Newswire recounted aspects of the controversy, focusing on the relationship of the USADA to the Mayweather camp. The USADA then responded to Hauser with a detailed series of statements, and the NPQ Newswire covered that. Hauser then produced another counter in BoxNation, on the heels of which NPQ received an email from a representative of the USADA offering to make someone available to us if we had further questions about the issues that Hauser raised.
As casual observers of professional boxing, no one at NPQ would suggest we have expertise in the medical issues at the heart of the Mayweather incident involving a pre-fight intravenous injection, much less the expertise and competence of the USADA regarding drug testing in general. However, as in other professional sports involving elements of sharp, violent contact (think: professional football and hockey), the health consequences of professional sports can be serious, putting a lot of pressure on sports regulatory authorities. For example, in the Washington, D.C. area in October, an up-and-coming Puerto Rican boxer named Prichard Colón, largely expected to best his opponent, fought on the undercard of a Lamont Peterson/Félix Díaz bout and ended up in a coma from bleeding on the brain. Maybe it was his opponent’s repeated rabbit punches, but it also might have been a preexisting medical condition that was undetected, overlooked, or simply ignored before the fight. Colón was no Mayweather or Pacquiao to be sure, but any boxer going into the ring, including champions like Mayweather and Pacquiao, needs the most thorough protection possible given the violent nature of the sport. When it comes to questions of doping, where nonprofit entities like the USADA in the U.S. and the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) play influential if not determinative roles in making some of the decisions around boxing and other sports, the probity of the nonprofits in question is a legitimate issue for journalistic inquiry by journalists such as Hauser.
Writing for Boxing Insider recently, Sean Crose dug through the contradictory Hauser and USADA positions to identify a handful of undisputed facts that emerged from their statements:
- Mayweather received an IV injection for still unknown reasons the day before his superfight with Pacquiao.
- USADA was aware that the IV injection was being given. What’s more, at least one of the agency’s agents witnessed the entire affair.
- It has yet to be proven what substance (or substances) the IV injection delivered to Mayweather’s bloodstream contained.
- It is unknown who gave the okay for Mayweather to receive the IV injection.
- It is unknown which company the paramedic who delivered the injection worked for.
- It is unknown if there is a record of the injection being delivered by a paramedic.
- USADA informed the Nevada State Athletic Commission of the incident 20 days after Mayweather emerged victorious over Pacquiao in Las Vegas.
Acknowledging that the USADA might well be “an innocent party” in this dynamic, Crose nonetheless suggested that these facts don’t look good on the USADA’s handling of the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight. On the other hand, Crose noted that Mayweather’s fights are on Showtime while Hauser has been or is employed by its competitor HBO, and Hauser relies for some of his analysis on disreputable types like former BALCO owner Victor Conte as sources.
While the facts that Crose culled from the Hauser and USADA versions of the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight are troubling to us as casual fight fans, the concerns about a nonprofit entity functioning as an instrumentality of regulation and oversight raise some additional questions about reliability and probity, given that the six-figure payment to the USADA for its services in the fight came from Mayweather’s camp, notably the controversial Mayweather “advisor” Al Haymon.
Is this all a hullaballoo not worth a whit of attention? Boxing has long been a sport on the downside, marginalized by the public, and perhaps, as a result, not significant enough to warrant concern about whether Mayweather’s intravenous saline injection might have been inappropriate or actually been used to mask the fighter’s potential use of performance enhancing drugs. Maybe, except that the sight of Prichard Colón in a post-fight coma tells us that health and drug issues are not inconsequential for fighters and for sports in general.
This year, Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) introduced legislation to designate the USADA to be in charge of monitoring doping in horse racing. “Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015,” H.R. 3084, would establish uniform standards overseen by an “independent horse-racing anti-doping authority” whose members would include the head of the USADA, five USADA board members, and five other ind