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Is Andre Berto’s steroid test a turning point or point of no return?

By Zach Arnold | May 18, 2012

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Yesterday, our friends at Fight Hub TV posted a curious interview clip with Andre Berto. In the clip, Berto repeatedly says that the fun has been drained out of boxing for him. He blamed the critics for taking the fun away from boxing and says that boxing is simply a business now. He complained about critics one day praising him and then trashing him the next day. Berto said that if you take this game personally, it will kill you… but that you have to take it personally to be the best.

“Sometimes you have no choice but to take this personally.”

He then cited Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, and Sugar Ray Leonard as boxers who have had their careers destroyed because they took the sport too personally.

Well, Andre won’t have to worry about this for too much longer. According to Dan Rafael of ESPN, Berto tested positive for (19-)Norandrosterone, which is commonly known as nandrolone (an anabolic steroid). The proposed fight between Berto and Victor Ortiz, scheduled for June 23rd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, is now reportedly off.

Adding a huge twist to the story is that Victor Conte, a major proponent of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency, had supplied Berto with supplements. VADA contracted with both Berto & Ortiz to do supplemental drug testing for their upcoming fight. Mr. Conte says that it’s highly possible that Berto tested positive due to tainted supplements but that the supplements didn’t come from him.

To be fair, we don’t know what the exact nandrolone levels were in terms of what the VADA drug test revealed. Knowing the exact number would provide some clarity here.

To Victor’s credit, nandrolone can be found in tainted supplements and meat.

To Victor’s detriment, nandrolone is a rather common steroid found by athletes doping in combat sports. None other than Royce Gracie tested positive in 2007 for excessive levels of nandrolone in the state of California when he fought Kazushi Sakuraba. As Cage Potato noted in their extensive list of drug test results, nandrolone seems to pop up in a lot of the drug test failures in MMA. Nate Marquardt, Carina Damm, Sean Sherk, Pawel Nastula, Dennis Hallman, Edwin DeWees, Ken Shamrock, and Josh Barnett.

For Dr. Margaret Goodman and VADA, it has been a very high-profile time period for the new drug testing organization. In addition to Andre Berto testing positive (both A & B samples), Lamont Peterson also tested positive for synthetic testosterone (both A & B samples). What makes the drug test failures incredible is that both men sought out a contract to work with VADA to promote a clean sport and the end result is that these two men got busted. For VADA, their high-profile test cases so far indicate that they are on top of their game right now in terms of drug testing.

Which is exactly why I think this is an incredibly difficult, double-edged sword for both VADA & advocates of better drug testing in combat sports.

We saw the public reaction from Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy to what happened with Lamont Peterson. We saw the petty, pathetic swipe Keith Kizer took towards Dr. Goodman about testing both A & B samples for Peterson before the drug testing results became public knowledge. We also know the track record of current California State Athletic Chairman John Frierson, Governor Jerry Brown’s four-decade political ally who has voted on numerous times to cut drug suspensions in half. Mr. We Want Business is just more transparent than other politicians on this front.

Fights getting canceled means athletic commissions, promoters, and fighters making less money. It also means an acknowledgement of just how dirty the combat sports scene is when it comes to doping. For two high-profile boxers to test positive after contracting for voluntary drug testing is going to sound alarm bells throughout combat sports. With so much money on the line, will fighters who had considered working with VADA pull back their support for the organization and go back to the standard, boilerplate state AC drug testing protocols? Keith Kizer admitted in an interview with Boxing Scene that a Nevada drug test would not have caught Lamont Peterson using testosterone because he was under a 4:1 & 6:1 T/E ratio.

Lamont Peterson failing a VADA test was bad enough to rattle cages in boxing. Andre Berto following up that failed drug test with a positive VADA test result is enough to spook the major power brokers in boxing (HBO, Showtime, Golden Boy, so on and so forth). Will boxing open itself up in order to help flush out high-profile cheaters by continuing to cooperate with VADA or will all the power brokers in boxing close ranks and marginalize VADA?

I’m afraid past & recent history indicates that the latter is about to happen.

Topics: Boxing, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 24 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

24 Responses to “Is Andre Berto’s steroid test a turning point or point of no return?”

  1. Jason Harris says:

    Even more shady behavior from Victor Conte. The guy has been a scumbag for years, and I’ve never understood why anyone was treating him like a trusted source on this stuff. Just in it to further his name and make a buck.

    The rest of this still reads like a paid advertisement for VADA, though.

    • Norm says:

      According to Zach, Conte was just the man to clean up the sport due to his intimate knowledge of all things related to roids.

      85% of the guys probably use, there won’t be much of a sport if they are all on suspension.

      I say just let them use and treat chemistry and physiology just like any other aspect of the sport.

      • Zach Arnold says:

        According to Zach, Conte was just the man to clean up the sport due to his intimate knowledge of all things related to roids.

        I never made that claim nor have I ever made that statement.

        You have three options — produce the evidence that I made such a claim, retract your statement, or else no longer be welcomed as a commenter on the site.

        • Jason Harris says:

          “Victor Conte, whose word on issues relating to PED usage in sports is always valuable to listen to, has done a couple of great interviews in the past that have largely gone under the radar. His interview with Eddie Goldman was outstanding. Victor advanced the debate about what athletic commissions should be looking for in regards to basic blood testing analysis. Remember his discussion about hematocrit levels?”


          “The article by Victor Conte isn’t anything that you haven’t already read on this site. However, for a short opinion piece, it was about as perfect in laying out the Rampage testosterone controversy as one could imagine. Coming from the modern Godfather of doping, it is an extra-hard low blow to Zuffa’s political efforts.”

          “It is from this launching point of discussion that we focus on a recent interview Victor Conte did with Eddie Goldman that I would highly recommend you listen to. It’s terrific and you should go out of your way to check it out.

          Since his release from prison, Victor Conte has been working with athletes again (such as Kyle Kingsbury, Marlon Byrd, Nonito Donaire, Zab Judah) under the SNAC banner. Victor has also been aggressive in publicly calling for better drug testing in sports, especially the combat sports world. Eddie asked Victor to justify why people should listen to his opinions on drug usage in sports and the issue of increased drug testing given that the Feds went after him for BALCO.”

          Basically, you don’t come right out and say Victor Conte is good…you just repost everything he says without editorializing, usually with just a brief blurb about how notable and well known in this field he is, then his comments posted as though they are the definitive opinion on the matter. Every reference to Victor Conte on this site is framed as though he is a trusted source that should be listened to, and never in the “Let’s take this with a grain of salt as this man is a convicted criminal and known liar in this field”

          Ed. — 1) Post the direct links to each quote. 2) Not one statement I made, fact or opinion, is anything I would back down from. Much like world Governments hire computer hackers to combat hacking, there’s no surprise that people formerly involved in doping would be utilized to try to prevent future doping outbreaks. That is not a blanket statement of calling Victor Conte ‘the man to clean up the sport.’ Nothing you produced is any indication of me endorsing him or his past behavior. Additionally, the arguments he has raised about CIR, hematocrits, are all valid arguments. You may fully distrust the source of who is bringing them up, but the arguments he has presented can be and have been verfieid independently by people with better reputations.

        • Jason Harris says:

          It’s pretty much all from the first two pages here, I don’t really want to go and individually dig them all up again:

          I realize you link to the original post, but again assert that it’s typically framed that this is a reliable, trustworthy source. There is certainly never any indication given to the contrary. It probably doesn’t hurt that his viewpoints fit the agenda on PEDs that has taken over this site in the past few months, and so his comments are always included in the mass amount of articles on that topic lately.

        • Norm says:

          Ok, Zach, I’ll play by your rules here and admit that I “misremembered”. You never in those certain terms said Conte “was the man to clean up the sport.”

          You have however in dozens of PED related articles reverently mentioned Conte and his crusade to utilize his own criminal expertise to come to the rescue of our beloved sport.

          Now what I’d really like to know is what is Conte’s stake/relationship with VADA/Goodman? He seems to pump them up awfully high at nearly every chance he gets.

          As part of Conte’s “legit” supplement business/consultation he routinely blood tests his clients. Did he really not see this coming or did one of his athletes screw up a cycle?

    • edub says:

      It reads like exactly what has happened. The VADA caught two fighters doping in a 2 month time span, that have been competing is every other commission ran state their whole careers. Should the facts of the situation not be presented because it turns you into a 2 year old?

  2. liger05 says:

    Berto alleged Ortiz was on the juice after the first fight lol.

    It blows that 2 potential very good fights could result in cancellations but rather the sport is cleaned up.

  3. ken says:

    Do you watch boxing regularly Zach? If so it’d be great to hear your take on some of the fights.

  4. Fluyid says:

    I don’t have a real reason for this but I am not surprised at this test result.

    In fact, I don’t think I can be surprised at this point. If Royce Gracie can give in and take PEDs, then I suppose just about anyone can.

  5. Darkmader says:

    Khan/Peterson, now Berto. You’ve been doing the whole TRT and steroids stories all the time, but yet when Dana blasted Meltzer you didn’t make a post on that which is odd.

    You’ve been on Alverez’s ( show a few times and you were great on there, but I find it strange that you wouldn’t make a post about Dana vs Meltzer. Once you know what went down it’s pretty crazy, but BE pretty much covered it with 3 articles on it, but I figured you would talk about it before the main MMA sites analyzed it before you did.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      Well, I did actually…

      If you’re alluding to the news that Dana called Dave before the Youtube video was posted, yeah I didn’t say much about that because it beats the hell out of me what the point of that tactic was.

      • Darkmader says:

        I’m sorry, I was gone for a few days and didn’t see the post. Yeah, the main thing was when I listened to the audio of him talking about it with Brian was that Meltzer said that Dana called him up beforehand and told him that he liked him and no hard feelings but I’m basically going to bash you.

        Meltzer could give 2 shits that he got canned from yahoo as he has too much stuff going on anyways, but it’s curious of why he got the axe and Kevin still writes there. Politics or something? I don’t think we will ever know the story of why he got let go.

  6. edub says:

    Conte is making some really good points about Nandrolone being about the dumbest drug any athlete can use on twitter because of the long lasting drug testing effects. Also posted about Berto not just taking separate supplements out of his control, but Andre admitting to it.

    Conte’s activities and supplements should definitely be investigated, but if what he says holds true no blame should go against him (no matter what his background is).

    If it doesn’t than all his activities over the past couples years should be in question.

  7. d says:

    Just a heads up on a typo towards the end, though “Golden Goy” is pretty funny

  8. David M says:

    I find it at least superficially illogical that Peterson and Berto would both be intentionally juicing, if, as this article states, they both sought out VADA. Call me naive, but perhaps this speaks to another issue, that being how widespread tainted supplements are. One would hope/think that if you called for a higher level of testing, that you yourself would take that into consideration in your cycle or lack thereof.

  9. Weezy02 says:

    “Fights getting canceled means athletic commissions, promoters, and fighters making less money.”

    Actually, it means they lose LOTS of money. Per my sources, Golden Boy has had to eat millions of dollars between the cancellations of the Peterson-Khan and Ortiz-Berto matchups. To say they are outraged would be an understatement. I spoke to someone in the boxing industry yesterday and there quote was: “This was, literally, the worst possible scenario for Margaret and VADA. Their strong tie to Conte was a strike against them from the beginning but now popping a fighter that is receiving advisement and supplements from Conte? Devastating for VADA.”

    • Tomer says:

      Why? Wouldn’t a positive test by a fighter receiving advice and supplements from Conte support that the tests are free from internal control overrides by Conte?

      • Weezy02 says:

        Right or wrong, there is a perceived very strong connection between Conte and Goodman. Imaginations, as one can imagine, will run wild as to possible motivations that Victor (or even Goodman) might have had here in this scenario. I’m not saying I believe there is anything to it, I’m just telling you what some of the cynics will be thinking. Don’t be surprised if several prominent figures in the industry embrace organizations like USADA or WADA before working with VADA again.

        • Tomer says:

          That’s still a set up from “Not doing any testing” which, honestly, is what most promoters are probably thinking to themselves given the cost of a positive test to them.

        • Tomer says:

          I should note that I mean supplemental testing beyond any commission requirements.

        • Weezy says:

          Yeah, I don’t think that the door is shut on secondary levels of testing (which I agree would be a nice thing and would support). But it would almost certainly involve organizations other than VADA.

  10. Weezy02 says:

    Victor Conte’s opinions on the problem of performance enhancing drugs in sports (track and field, football, swimming, etc…) is comparable to Bernie Madoff’s opinions on cheating people financially. Could he make logical, coherent arguments that are correct? Absolutely he could. Does his credibility resulting from his past behavior render his opinion bogus in the viewpoint of the layperson? Absolutely. If I were going to build a case for anything I’d steer clear of quotes from either of them. The closer you get to them the less credibilty you have in the eyes of most.

  11. I have always believed that boxing should have stricter drug testing policies. Maybe this will help to establish those. Great article.


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