Heading into what is being promoted as the last boxing match of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s career, attention has suddenly shifted to a potential rules violation in the days prior to his last fight, against Manny Pacquiao, this past May. According to a report by SB Nation’s Thomas Hauser, following the Mayweather-Pacquiao weigh in on May 1, the United States Doping Agency discovered that Mayweather had just used two banned IVs, when they visited his Las Vegas home for a random drug test. Rather than make an announcement at the time and cause the fight to be called off, the USDA instead issued Mayweather a retroactive Therapeutic Use Exemption, a full 20 days after the fight had already taken place. (Update: Mayweather denies the allegations)
This is an embarrassing revelation for Mayweather, who has long made loud public pronouncements about his desire to spearhead stringent, “Olympic-style” drug testing in the sport. But beyond that, it is a potentially crippling blow to the integrity of the USDA. As Hauser details in his extensive report, this is not the first time the USDA has behaved in a shady manner when major stars have stumbled around testing.
As for Mayweather’s own legacy, it’s too early to determine what the lasting impact might be. He has long been a polarizing figure. For the fans who love him, he can do no wrong. For those who hate him, he can never do right. In general, the boxing public has always had a much more forgiving attitude towards PEDs than the fans in a sport like baseball. There are fighters in the Hall of Fame who failed PED tests. And it’s important to note that Mayweather did not test positive for any PEDs. Using an IV of the volume Mayweather was using is one common way to dilute and mask a potentially tainted sample. But it’s also a way to rehydrate after a weight cut. It raises suspicion but proves nothing, so, again, fans will read what they want to into this.
For my own opinion, I have a somewhat resigned view to doping and PED allegations for professional sports in general. I am no longer surprised to learn that any professional athlete has been busted for a hot test. While I am no expert, I know enough about PEDs and related supplements to understand that the people who are experts tend to be able to get around tests, one way or another. I know that the athletes who do get caught represent a small fraction of those who are actually using.
As a boxing writer, it is my policy to mention failed tests where they are a matter of public record. I don’t moralize over it and I don’t ever state my own opinions about whether or not a fighter is clean if he’s never failed a test, even though there are certain fighters I suspect.
I also know that PEDs do little when they are not accompanied by tremendous hard work. Mayweather is a remarkable boxing talent. I’m not thrilled that he’s fighting Andre Berto this week and I have reservations about his moral character. But his commitment to “hard work and dedication” is obvious, based on the track record he has established in the ring over nearly two decades.