It seems boxing fans and media have collectively developed post-traumatic stress disorder from reading about Floyd Mayweather, IV fluids, USADA and the possible fallout of the latest revelations which came to light just before Mayweather’s fight with Andre Berto. My apologies for dragging it out even more. I know how aggravating it can be when one person becomes the subject of a ton of media chatter in boxing. But …
Much of the discussion surrounding the whole Thomas Hauser, Mayweather, USADA, IV thing has been slightly off the point. Not all have wandered, but many have. It is important to keep two things in mind while reading, or re-reading, Hauser’s article for SB Nation. The first is that Hauser is an HBO employee, and the second is the person who much of the information in the article seems to have come from, Victor Conte, isn’t particularly trustworthy for a variety of reasons.
Not trusting Conte speaks to my own bias, but it’s not a big leap from the consensus. Beyond his past with BALCO and his association with athletes who have tested positive for banned substances (the latter of which is significant but has been largely overlooked by the more mainstream boxing media), Conte has no formal medical or scientific training. If his current “goodness” is to be judged by VADA’s success rate in catching dirty athletes (though he claims to have no association at all with VADA), it should also be considered that Conte says he tested Alex Rodriguez for performance enhancing drugs during their secret meeting and declared him clean beyond a shadow of a doubt. As we all know, it would later be revealed that A-Rod was indeed “dirty” the entire time. Relying upon Conte as an expert source is shaky for these reasons and many more.
That said, the main reveal in Hauser’s article was that Floyd Mayweather had IV fluids administered after the Manny Pacquiao weigh-in, and if true, that in itself has little or nothing to do with any biases or associations. It’s a serious thing. Lost in the talk of “Therapeutic Use Exemptions” (which seem like they’re getting abused, though that is a different branch of this PED testing argument) and whether or not USADA adhered to WADA code, is why the IV fluid admin method would be prohibited in the first place.
It is not only normal for fighters to re-hydrate following weigh-ins, but strongly advised for obvious medical reasons. But IV fluids would not be necessary to re-hydrate unless the dehydration were severe. A boxer could just drink Pedialyte, Gatorade or even water, as most do. Since Floyd regularly weighs in under the limit, it seems unlikely that he saps himself making weight to the point where he’d need IV fluids. Now, Floyd regularly weighing in under the limit, in and of itself, isn’t proof positive that something weird was going on. But Floyd staying in terrific shape year round, rarely appearing drawn or dry at weigh-ins … These things certainly don’t help the, “Hey, I was just really dehydrated!” argument.
Medically, an IV catheter would be placed in three circumstances. The first and most obvious is any medical emergency, so as to have direct and continuous access to a vein; next would be an anesthetic procedure; last, to administer IV medication and/or fluids over time (infusion).
The amount of fluids Hauser contends that Mayweather was administered, something like 750 ml, is potentially troubling as well. A pint is a bit under 500 ml. In other words, while IV administration might be more effective and fast-acting under emergency circumstances, Floyd could have drank one-and-a-half small bottles of water from Costco (or filled with Pedialyte) and have gotten the same amount of fluid that way, without having to poke a hole in his vein. If the situation were not an emergency, the vast majority of human beings would likely prefer the method that doesn’t involve a needle.
Perhaps coincidentally, the average capacity of a human bladder is somewhere in the realm of 600 ml. Therein lies the concern: that Mayweather was essentially using the 750 ml of fluids (not enough for an emergency bolus for a person his size/weight) to flush his bladder and basically dilute whatever urine sample he may have to give, which would alter the results of a urinalysis. At worst, giving a diluted urine sample would be grounds for retesting. As a testing entity, USADA would have certainly been aware of this, and therefore their handling of the information that Mayweather received IV fluids makes it appear as though possibly they were indifferent to a potential violation of WADA code, or may have even acted favorably toward Mayweather for financial or notoriety reasons.
With that said, if someone were dehydrating to the point of actually requiring IV fluids to re-hydrate safely, that boxer probably should not be cleared to fight, considering they would be guaranteed to put their body through more dehydration the following day.
With this medical information plus the fact that Floyd has never been known to have extreme difficulty making weight above 135 pounds in mind, it’s not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that something wonky may have been going on. The potentially failed tests by (or at least, prior Therapeutic Use Exemptions granted to) Mayweather is information that was passed around a few years ago, as Hauser noted. Though it might appear to legitimize the claim that Floyd cheated in some way, the older accusation is simply speculation without hard evidence, at least for now.
As for USADA, while their handling of the Erik Morales situation was awful, even now the legal issues regarding disclosure and the flow of information about PED testing results is murky. The majority of PED testing progress in boxing has been made since that Morales situation a few years ago, even if the sum progress hasn’t been much (the more broad point of Hauser’s article). That doesn’t excuse the poor handling, but the situation does not define USADA forever. What it does do, is call for greater transparency and a highly reasonable second look at their methods.
Lastly, the larger point that was somewhat minor compared to the “bombshells” dropped throughout the piece: PED testing in boxing is ineffective. There is no method by which the testing organizations can actually punish fighters, so they must work with state commissions and/or sanctioning bodies, entities known to not work particularly well with others. There is no uniformity to the testing; few fighters undergo actual random, year-round testing; there is no uniformity to the punishment, and many of the relationships between these entities are rife with bias and conflicting interests. For instance, positive tests could cancel fights that have had expensive promotional blitzes and campaigns.
Hauser has before argued that boxing is in need of a federal commission in the U.S., or at least some other type of oversight with more clear limits of power and ability to govern. I agree with him. And on the issue of PED testing, there may be no other way to compel all parties to operate by the same rules and standards. — Patrick Connor