Editorial: PED Testing for Female World Title Fights Now
By David A. Avila
Considering the tainted meat situation in Mexico and the various female world title fights taking place around the world, it’s time to address the lack of drug testing for women’s boxing.
Over the years women have only been tested for steroid use and not performance enhancement drugs such as HGH and other illegal design drugs. The reason women were not tested was simple: It is too expensive.
More than a few women do not pass the eye test.
When female fighters are ripped with muscles not commonly seen on most, it’s a warning sign that something is out of place. All women boxers run, exercise and use weights or lifting of various types to gain strength. But when a female prizefighter drops down in weight and suddenly sports ultra-defined six-pack abs or has bulging shoulder muscles not seen on most women fighters, it’s a warning signal. Not proof, but a warning signal.
Though the eye test is not proof of juicing, it can be proved with PED testing. But, no major sanctioning organizations such as the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO and IBO have implemented mandatory VADA-like testing for women. For men, yes, but not for women.
When Melinda Cooper fought Ada Velez in 2011 in Costa Rica for the IBF super bantamweight world title “there was no testing whatsoever,” said James Pena, trainer and manager for Cooper.
In 2015, when Celina Salazar fought Yazmin Rivas for the WBC bantamweight world title in Tijuana, Mexico there was zero testing.
These are both world title fights that I was directly involved.
Recent female world title fights have tested women for pregnancy but not PED testing as the men undergo. It’s a glaring oversight by all world boxing organizations.
Mauricio Sulaiman, president of World Boxing Council, said their organization recognizes the importance of testing for women.
“The WBC is the only boxing organization running a year-round announced random testing out of competition and also for many contracted fights. Our program is called the Clean Boxing Program and Elise administered by VADA,” Sulaiman said. “This program is very costly considering it is worldwide which makes the program complicated and expensive.”
Many consider VADA the best testing organization but it is truly expensive. With women making far less than men, when it comes to purses, the cost of testing for PEDs has been a stumbling block. Women make an average of $7,000 to $12,000 for world title fights. Men make a minimum average of $30,000 for title fights and easily exceed $1 million for pay-per-view fights.
Dr. Margaret Goodman, one of the founders of VADA in 2011 said testing for PEDs should be done while boxers are training, not after the scheduled fight.
“I agree that a great deal more attention needs to be given to women’s boxing regarding PED testing,” said Goodman, a former member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. “As are most things in boxing, cost is always an issue.”
Lives are at stake whenever prizefighters enter the ring and the danger increases “astronomically higher to the opponent and the challenger when PED use is involved” in sparring or fighting, states VADA on its web site.
With women entering the major stage around the world with incredible success, such as Mariana Juarez’s title win in 2017 when she attracted more than 400,000 fans in Mexico City. Or, Cecilia Braekhus fighting in front of 30,000 fans in Norway and breaking down historic barriers against the sport and opening the doors for boxing in that country for not only women but men.
It’s time women’s boxing emerges from the prehistoric age and now crosses into the drug free era.
Steps are being taken by some organizations.
“The WBC annual convention will take place in Kiev on October and one of the topics of the agenda is precisely incorporating women’s boxing to the clean boxing program,” said Sulaiman.
Television in the U.S. has entered the female boxing stage and with it comes more money. In Mexico, female boxing already stakes center stage and other countries like Argentina and Germany treat it similarly.
All sanctioning organizations and major boxing promoters should include PED testing from this point on for world title fights. You cannot afford not to.
Two upcoming fights are sure to be televised and that means the budget can include PED testing. In Mexico, Mariana Juarez will be facing Jackie Nava in October and two television networks are involved. That event should include PED testing. Another takes place in the USA when Claressa Shields faces Christina Hammer and will be televised. That fight should involve PED testing as well. Both promotions will be making enough money to include testing in Mexico and the U.S. and there is enough time.
These upcoming female world title clashes will be seen by the world. It’s time to treat the women’s side of boxing with equal care.
Women’s boxing cannot afford a death from one juiced fighter harming another due to illegal enhancement. The time to start is now.