PED Juicing Remains Rampant in Female Boxing World
By David A. Avila
Many female prizefighters are juicing.
Women boxers are loading up on a variety of performance enhancement drugs with little scrutiny or fear of repercussion. Nobody knows the exact numbers but a few do not even pass the eye test for normal physiques.
“Everybody seems to be doing it,” said Mia St. John a former champion now retired and former user of PEDs.
St. John admitted using during her career and still sees women prizefighters taking PEDs to gain an advantage.
Though female prizefighting has entered a new stage in its development with the emergence of super stars like Claressa Shields and others from the Olympic boxing world, the testing of women for PEDs has not matched strides. It lags far behind men’s boxing.
Shields welcomes testing all women.
“In the amateurs we were always tested,” said Shields who won Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016 for the USA. “Everybody should be tested.
If this were a mile race the testing of women would be several laps behind.
Every year men are caught with positive tests for PEDs. Recently, heavyweight Jarrell Miller was signed to fight heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua but a drug test revealed he tested positive for a banned substance. Miller was replaced by Andy Ruiz who fights Joshua this Saturday June 1.
On the same fight card Ireland’s Katie Taylor, a former 2012 Olympic gold medalist, will enter the boxing ring with her IBF, WBA and WBO lightweight world titles to face Belgium’s Delfine Persoon who has the WBC lightweight strap.
Will both females be tested like the men?
“Rules for all championships fights is that there is a mandatory testing after the fight,” said Mauricio Sulaiman, president of World Boxing Council.
Persoon has the WBC lightweight title and last defended against Brooklyn’s Melissa St. Vil who moved up in weight to contest for the world championship this past March. St. Vil was stopped in seventh round.
Several weeks after the Persoon-St. Vil fight that took place in Kortrijk, Belgium, the 35-year-old St. Vil complained of pain in her head after the fight. She was subsequently given a Magnetic Resonance Image test that revealed no abnormalities and cleared.
But after taking the MRI, the New York prizefighter realized that she had never been tested for PEDs and wondered if Persoon was tested?
It brought to light that women prizefighters are fighting for world titles all over the world and some are not subjected to any form of testing for PEDs.
Dangers of juicing
Money and fame are the gain for those taking PEDs in the world of prizefighting. And there are many ways to boost an athletes speed, power, reflexes and cut weight at a radical speed. Some call it juicing, others call it boosting and still some just call it cheating.
One expert who knows a lot about the subject calls juicing dangerous, especially in the female fight world.
“I’ve learned from my experience with track and field that the effects of PEDs are much greater on a female than a male,” said Victor Conte, an expert in the field of PEDs and testing. “It is an issue probably more dangerous for a woman than a man. The increase in power and speed is going to be greater for a female.”
Because females do not naturally have much testosterone, when using PEDs their heightened testosterone levels give the user a far greater advantage than when men use them. On a scale of 10, whereas a man might increase physical strength and speed from a four to a six; a female user goes from a zero to a 9.
Conte, who heads SNAC, a company that guides athletes toward clean tests and diet, said whenever a woman uses PEDs it creates a tremendous advantage for the user and puts the non-user at risk.
“There is a greater need for testing in women’s boxing than men’s boxing. This needs to be addressed,” said Conte adding that those worrying about the danger of three-minute rounds versus two-minute rounds do not fully understand that the need for PED testing far exceeds that. “Female opponents not on PEDs are in a greater disadvantage and could even be killed in a fight.”
So far, only one boxing organization demands PED testing for female world title fights.
WBC jumps in
Recently the WBC mandated that all female world title fights under its jurisdiction would be tested. Of the four major boxing sanctioning organizations, only the WBC has made this declaration publicly. The WBA, WBO and IBF have no similar decrees.
Sulaiman stated to various reporters on March 4, during a telephone press conference that the WBC would be testing all of its world title fights. Several days later on March 9, in Belgium, a WBC lightweight battle took place between the champion Persoon and St. Vil. Testing for both fighters was not done.
“It’s very awkward. During the rules meeting they (Belgium boxing promoters) said they (the title participants) were going to be tested. Randomly,” said Sulaiman via telephone. “Melissa St. Vil was not tested. We are addressing this with the female commission and with the local boxing authority. We are still doing the research.”
According to Sulaiman the Belgium authorities expressed to the WBC that testing would be done for both participants. St. Vil was not tested but Persoon supposedly was tested. Now, this Saturday, Persoon will be fighting Irish Katie Taylor in one of the biggest female fights of the year for the title of undisputed lightweight world champion.
Testing will be done.
“After the fight there is mandatory testing for anti-doping,” said Sulaiman.
VADA vs other testing
Another issue raised is the form of testing. In Europe they use various tests but those are not designed for boxing.
Conte said Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) testing is the only one that specifically addresses boxing and that drug tests such as United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) tests are not as specific to boxing and can result in positive tests for banned substances.
A recent example was Billy Joe Saunders who was cleared under UKAD and WADA testing but failed when subjected to VADA.
Testing under VADA can be expensive especially for female participants who make far less money in purses than men. The cost averages around $8,000 to $20,000 for VADA. Most of the cost involves travel and lodging for the inspectors hired to randomly test the fighters.
So far, only the WBC has mandated PED testing for female world title fights and made VADA the official testing group. The WBO, WBA and IBF have not made any similar declaration.
Meanwhile dozens of female world title fights are taking place worldwide with some champions un-tested and posing a danger to those that are not juiced. Many of the champions are visibly enhanced with abnormal musculature not seen on women. Others take PEDs for weight loss and stamina. It is creating an unfair advantage.
“You can see just by looking at them they are taking something,” said Seniesa Estrada who holds the WBC Silver light flyweight title and fights out of East Los Angeles. “Yeah, I believe there are so many women taking steroids. They really have nothing to lose so why not.”
St. Vil, who trains in Brooklyn, New York, said she works alongside a physical trainer who said he knows firsthand who is juicing in the New York area.
“You would be surprised how many women are taking stuff,” said St. Vil a former track star and now a contender in the lightweight division. “It’s not fair.”
St. John, who revealed last year that she had been taking PEDs for a number of years, said that testing of women was never an option. That on several occasions she asked for testing and was denied.
“The promoters didn’t want to pay for it,” said St. John who now heads a foundation to aid the mentally ill. “I’m surprised that women still aren’t tested.”
It’s a sad situation especially as female prizefighting is finally emerging on the American fight scene after decades of invisibility. With super stars like Shields, Taylor and others making headway in the boxing world, it would be a terrible blow if a woman boxer were seriously hurt or killed during a championship fight from a fighter illegally enhanced by PEDs.
Experts like Conte are concerned by the lack of testing for female prizefighters.
“People need to understand on what I’ve seen 15 years ago when I worked with elite sprinters Marion Jones, Christy Gaines. The effects are much greater for female athletes than males,” said Conte. “The effects on women who take PEDs is 10 times greater than with men. Boxing is a contact sport. That makes it even more dangerous.”
Female prizefighting has been rising to its greatest heights lately. It would be a tragedy for women’s boxing to take a fall because of a lack of foresight regarding PED testing.
Editors add: thePrizefighters.com recommends that a worldwide female boxing commission or a czar be established by interested promoters and that rules and regulations regarding PED testing be at the forefront.