By Zach Arnold | February 22, 2013
The issue of testosterone proliferation in combat sports is very real and very nasty. The usage of testosterone amongst Mixed Martial Arts fighters and their enablers (state athletic commissions & promoters) is completely shameless and now out in the open. In boxing, most of the players in the industry are behind the curve in terms of recognizing how serious of an issue it really is.
For example, Dan Henderson is in the semi-main event of the UFC show this weekend at the Anaheim Pond. When Henderson fought Mauricio Shogun at San Jose Arena, he was using testosterone. A doctor for the California State Athletic Commission was testing his levels for that fight. For the Machida fight, it is believed that the same process is happening here as well.
The problem, of course, is that the California State Athletic Commission doesn’t have any rules or regulations on the books regarding testosterone usage amongst fighters. The fact that we are seeing Sacramento picking and choosing which fighters can use testosterone without any rules on the books is not a good thing for combat sports. It also makes the Chael Sonnen circus from a few years ago all the more detestable. We now have a system where athletic commissions are giving out hall passes to fighters to use testosterone while getting on their moral high horse and going after fighters (like Mickey Bey Jr) for elevated levels of testosterone.
“You’re too stupid to ask for your testosterone hall pass, so here’s your nine month suspension.”
Henderson wasn’t public about his usage of testosterone until it leaked out in the media. However, now that it’s a public story, Dan doesn’t shy away from questions about his usage.
The same cannot be said, in our opinion, about one Lamont Peterson.
Peterson, who got caught microdosing his testosterone usage via pellets before a big payday fight with Amir Khan, returned to action after a 14-month hiatus. He fought Kendall Holt on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights from the D.C. Armory. ESPN spent several weeks promoting the fight on television and had their studio crew at the venue. Todd Grisham, writer Dan Rafael, Bernardo Osuna, Teddy Atlas, and Joe Tessitore. Gary Shaw’s name was on the ring but it was Head Bangers (Lamont Peterson’s camp) promoting the fight on home turf.
In the weeks leading up to the fight, ESPN did not delve into why Peterson had been absent from boxing or why he was stripped of a title belt. The word testosterone was not, to my recollection, used. For a show like Friday Night Fights, which prides itself on talking about real issues in the world of boxing, it seemed unusual that they wouldn’t spend at least some of the time promoting Peterson’s return by talking about the drama outside the ring with the testosterone usage being exposed.
Peterson ended up beating Holt rather easily by TKO in Round 8. He knocked Holt down twice, slowed down for a couple of rounds, and then poured on the pressure to get the stoppage from referee Tony Weeks.
During the fight, Teddy Atlas stuck to focusing on the action & strategy in the ring. Tessitore repeatedly mentioned that Lamont Peterson was stripped of a belt and that a fight was cancelled. Peterson’s camp and ESPN both used the word “redemption” on the air and Tessitore talked about Peterson getting a contract “with a big promoter” after the win.
(Dan Rafael, for his ESPN column, elaborated that “the big promoter” was Golden Boy — but GB’s name was not uttered during the telecast, if memory serves me right. Dan also mentioned the testosterone issue in his article and on an accurate level, something which is different than the TV broadcast portrayal.)
Repeatedly throughout the fight, everything was discussed in-depth and repeatedly about Peterson’s stumbles except… testosterone.
Not once was the T word magically mentioned for any sort of context in regards to VADA or microdosing. Read Robert Poole’s comment for further elaboration.
Was it self-imposed censorship by Joe Tessitore & Teddy Atlas? Did a network suit tell them not to say the word? Did the TV contract prohibit them from saying the T word? Whatever the reason was behind-the-scenes, it was very clear during the telecast that uttering the word testosterone was a taboo and something to be avoided. Crystal clear.
The fans who watch ESPN’s Friday Night Fights have been accustomed to listening to Teddy Atlas and Joe Tessitore rant & rave about athletic commissions who appoint crappy officials who can’t judge or score a bout. There’s an expectation that the ESPN crew will address matters that other platforms won’t touch. And, yet, during their glorified Lamont Peterson infomercial on Friday night, not one person uttered the word testosterone in the context of truthful candor. I have personal respect for Tessitore, Atlas, and Dan Rafael. You won’t find me saying bad things about them. However, on a professional level, they blew it on Friday night’s telecast. By self-censoring themselves from telling their audience about why Peterson was stripped of his belt, they were avoiding using the T word that is an absolute plague on combat sports right now. I’m sure the counter-argument here will be that, hey, ESPN didn’t lie or anything here.
In the process of avoiding the utterance of one T word, they managed to avoid giving their audience a full dosage of another T word — the truth.