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ESPN reluctant to say ‘testosterone’ during the Lamont Peterson fight

By Zach Arnold | February 22, 2013

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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.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 21 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

21 Responses to “ESPN reluctant to say ‘testosterone’ during the Lamont Peterson fight”

  1. MMA Genius says:

    Here’s my solution:

    Let people regulate their own bodies and take whatever they decide will make them better athletes.

    • RST says:

      “and take whatever they decide will make them better athletes.”

      As long as there are separate belts for the fair fighting champion,
      and the “what ever they decide it takes” champion

      • MMA Genius says:

        Whatever you think makes you better. Everyone will be taking some form of testorene. I don’t believe in fairness. I believe in freedom.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Yes, but freedom only works when somebody else doesn’t infringe on your your own.

          And allowing somebody to increase their testosterone levels certainly infringes on clean fighters.

      • MMA Genius says:

        Not if everyone is allowed to. That’s freedom of choice, you are allowed to regulate your own body. If testorene gives you an edge then take it, if you don’t want to take it, then don’t take it. Testorene isn’t some boogeyman.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Not when those drugs have dangerous side effects.

          You cannot expect people to be forced to take drugs that will give potentially huge side effects and then call it “freedom”. That is just dumb.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      By your logic, no one should punish anyone who is drunk and hits another person with their car (a DUI) because, hey, people should be able to regulate their own bodies.

      • MMA Genius says:

        No, because that directly impedes on the freedom of others to drive safely. Comparing someone driving drunk to an athlete taking PEDs is borderline absurd. If the road were a demolition derby without roll bars and helmets, then you might have a point about just letting people drive drunk. Just where are these Ivan Dragos at?

        People should be allowed to drink, do drugs, whatever, so long as they don’t interfere with the freedom of others. 45 Huddle’s counter doesn’t meet the smell test for me, because again, no one is being forced to take testorene. You can say, “well there’s not much of a choice when other guys are doing it, I’m forced to take it to remain competitive.” All things being equal that is probably true, but in a multifaceted sport like mixed fighting rarely are all things equal. I also believe there is such a thing as responsible and beneificial PED usage. The fighters that abuse it will pay the price for it.

        You could make a case that road work is, long term, highly damaging to the knees. But because other fighters are doing it and maintain conditioning throughout a fight, and thus I am forced to do road work to remain competitive, my knees will be ruined, and my quality of life will be greatly diminished.

        In the Godfather Part II, Hyman Roth had a great line against Michael Corleone when Michael was questioning Roth’s methods, and Roth told him, “This is the business you’ve chosen!” Some people chose to be gangsters, others chose to be prizefighters. It’s the business they chose.

  2. RST says:

    Hendo seems to be playing any side of the game that suits him

    He admitted as much as “do I have to make a scene to get booked”?!

    Not so long ago

    Before he did that,
    I would have never imagined Hendo to be a cheater

    But then he did!
    And was cavalier about it!

    Maybe it was just to justify a friend?

    But if thats all it takes,
    then that is what Hendo’s word is worth

    • RST says:

      Lol @ “Joe Tessitore”


      I sure wish we could make a point without reffering to the mess that is boxing

      That only seems to argue that we can be better then worse if we try hard enough

  3. Robert Poole says:

    MMA Genius’ concept is perfect. Let someone juice themselves beyond belief and then the day when someone kills someone else from hitting harder than was humanly possible for them before or roid rages in the ring or out of it on someone else… sounds awesome. And irresponsible as hell. Good to know you don’t give a damn about the fighter’s safety.

    Also, Zach, they did say “Synthetic Testosterone” initially during the broadcast and mentioned Peterson had “low testosterone” but they totally helped Peterson cover for the fact that he had low testosterone as if it were just a normal medical condition for someone of his age. From my understanding it is common, if you’ve been using steroids or HGH previously and now you need to use it just to stay level again. They made it into some dire medical condition and tried to pretend the commission was somehow heartless in their suspension over it even though the dolt didn’t tell them about the treatment (because he knew he was cheating).

    • MMA Genius says:

      Looks like we’ve got a angel here.

      Guess what, you don’t support fighter safety either. Why? Because you watch and support them getting hit in the head repeatedly for your entertainment. Yes, you’re a great humanitarian that loves these fighters. I’m sure Michael Vick took his pitbulls to the vet occasionally too to show how much he cared about them.

      Yes, again I’m sure steroids will lead to many Ivan Drago killing Apollo Creed moments in the octagon, or whatever fantasy movies you watch.

      I am for athletes using the latest in technology and science to make themselves a better athlete. What a crazy concept! And not having a bunch of bureaucrats try to nanny them. That nonsense the RST guy spewing about fairness up there is ridiculous. The world is inherently unfair. Stephan Bonnar doesn’t have a fraction of Anderson Silva’s talent. Jon Fitch didn’t have Georges St. Pierre’s ability. Michael Bisiping can’t hit hard like Henderson or Belfort. These things aren’t fair!

      Mr. Poole, do you support steroid usage in other, non combat sports? It seems like your main objection is that a killing spree is going to break out, so would you be okay with, say, the world of cycling deciding that it will no longer test? Surely Lance Armstrong wouldn’t kill anyone pedaling his bicycle… though you never know. In his superhuman steroid form he could probably turn his man-powered bike into a veritable crotch rocket and hit a spectator on the side of the road.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    Ian McCall has said his testosterone levels are low. It blames it on prior drug abuse. I don’t think it is from steroids. I think it is from other recreational drugs. Either way, he has said despite is lost Testosterone levels, he refuses to get TRT. I think that is fantastic. It does show 2 things:

    1) Not all fighters will abuse it when given the chance.

    2) Prior drug use is probably the number 1 reason why fighters need to take it. Hence why it should be illegal.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    Jon Fitch is signing with the WSOF… I have a few theories on the UFC’s current roster cuts…

    First, I believe the UFC tried to get as many fighters as possible under contract while Bellator was on MTV2. In fact, they purposely bloated their roster. This way when they did release a bunch of fighters, they all would have the “UFC Reject” branded on them and make it very hard for Bellator to touch any of them.

    Second, White has gone on record and said he has a good relationship with Sefo. I do think some of this dumping of fighters is to help build up the WSOF to be a competitor to Bellator. And it makes perfect sense. Bellator now has to compete with 2 companies for better talent. Makes it that much harder to build up prospects.

    Third… The UK market has been a bust. It is still good for one or two shows a year, but it is certainly second tier compared to Canada or Brazil. This is why a lot of their pet projects like Terry Etim and Paul Sass got canned. The UK fighters are no longer going to get special treatment.

    Fourth…. they have added two new divisions rather recently. Both Flyweight & Female Bantamweight are going to have about 15 fighters total. If they want to grow them in the future, they will need to either increase the number of shows or decrease the number of fighters. Since more shows don’t look like they are on the horizon, it becomes simple math.

    Looking at todays card, I can see 5 to 7 fighters being canned. And looking through their roster, I saw about 50 fighters who should easily be cut following their next loss. Not sure how they are going to get to 100…. But the next 50 shouldn’t be a big deal.

    Personally, I love the idea of fewer fighters in each division. Give me the 30 to 50 best guys in each division. Anything else is just a waste. Having 80 guys at both Welter and Light is beyond bloated….

  6. Black Dog says:

    My guess is Joe and Ted were told to shut up about it. ESPN had a lot riding on the fight, and if there were no fight, there goes the money. I read the Rafael column, and I think he was fair and to the point about the matter.

    My feeling is if Peterson has cleaned up his act, and he doesn’t fail this test, then all well and good. He lost a seven-figure purse; he’s not dumb enough to pull that again…or is he?

    I do not agree with allowing fighters to take whatever they want, and I do not understand how anyone can take that stance. Usually it’s people who don’t actually fight/play sports who live vicariously through their heroes. Would you allow your son/daughter to do that? If you do, you are one sick f–k.

    Gee, lose all your testosterone because you were juicing, and you want to keep fighting? Sorry, you made your bed, lie in it.

    I think we need a national standard across the board for what can be used and what cannot. State boards should be overseen by the feds, sorry if you don’t like that.

    Add to it: they need to take MMA and pro wrestling back in hand and do the same there. Let WWE/TNA and the rest throw a fit, they’ve got away from fees and taxes for years, they can start paying back.

    • MMA Genius says:

      Why don’t you stop trying to be everyone’s daddy?

      I would discourage my children from competing in any sport that involves head contact, but the decision is ultimately their’s. you raise them the best you can and hope they make the right choices in life. We know that’s not how you think, you want control over everyone. I’m guessing that if you care about your kids you’d keep them far away from a sport that kills their brain cells. I keep forgetting, testorene is bad and kicking another person into unconsciousness is cool. My bad, I’m trying to learn.

      As for me not being a competitor, not that it is any of your business or germane to this discussion at all, but I was a collegiate tennis player. Which I know isn’t some manly sport or involve anyone getting bludgeoned, but I was a good enough athlete to receive a scholarship in high school and college, and I was competitor

      Let’s get to the real issue at hand here. You disagree with people using testorene. That’s great, what else don’t you want people to do? I mean, is okay to eat brussel sprouts? Why should your opinion about what other’s do with their own body matter?

      My point here is people should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies. If the UFC wants to ban it, fine. That’s a private company regulating its employees with its money. But I do not believe in corrupt athletic commissions and their red herring chases, wasting tax dollars on an issue that is ZERO business of government.

      When you say that you want this to become a federal issue, you expose yourself for what you are. Please show me in the U.S. constitution where authority is given to the federal government over a silly sporting issue. Please do. Oh wait, it’s not there. You just want your totalitarian opinion to be enforced upon people through violence and coercion.

      You can’t love watching people hit each other in the head repeatedly and try to claim that you care about their safety. Really? Explain that to me.

      And thanks to 45 Huddle for being civil. I threw an idea out there for discussion and receive a couple of half-baked, insult-ridden responses.

      • Chuck says:

        What does the Constitution have to do with anything? There’s nothing about environmental issues in the Constitution, but the EPA still exists to enforce laws and regulations. Technically, the only crime mentioned in the Constitution is treason, so should we be able to steal, harm others, sexually assault others, run around in the nude, etc.? NO!! I think my point is taken here…

        And yes, state athletic commissions should get a better handle on the testosterone issue. And if a fighter needs testosterone because of past steroid use, then too bad! You reap what you sow, you made your own bed, you lie down with dogs, etc etc.

        • MMA Genius says:

          Your point is taken. That being that you have no knowledge to apply here. Yet you tried anyway.

          I brought up the constitution because the person I replied to suggested this was a federal issue. If you’re going to try to make some case against my position, at least please follow the course of dialogue and not jump in the middle of it spouting off.

          You’re right about the EPA, and there are millions of other cases that the federal government has illegally intervened in. Guess what? I don’t agree with those either! I’m taking a libertarian position here, okay.

          The constitution explicitly concedes all matters not delegated to the United States to the individual states. It’s called the Tenth Amendment. So no, there won’t be rapes and murders and theft because it’s not covered in the constitution. This nation fought a terrible civil war over the matter of states’ rights over the union. You’d be wise to read up on it and learn your history.

        • Chuck says:

          Right, he brought up that it should be a federal case (I’m not going there, and it probably shouldn’t be) and I mentioned the Constitution should have nothing to do with it because not all federal laws have anything to do with the Constitution. So, yeah, I am following the course of dialogue. You just disagree with me just because you don’t agree with me or anyone else here. And yes, I am familiar with the Bill Of Rights and the rest of the Constitution (learned it in high school, college being a criminal justice student some years ago, etc.), don’t patronize me. If you read what I said, I said nothing about if drug use in sports should be a federal issue (mentioned earlier in this post that it probably shouldn’t be) only that I attacked you in your rant about the Constitution.

          And you even agreed with me on the EPA, so where is this lack of knowledge on my part here? Again, you just merely disagree with me, and clearly you don’t like it. And how is the EPA or any government owned agency illegal? Do you have anything to back up such claims? Is NASA illegal? Is the IRS illegal? FBI? CIA? NSA?

  7. Chuck says:

    It seems like in the past year or so Teddy Atlas hasn’t been as critical on athletic commissions and sanctioning bodies as he used to be. I think only about once last year did I hear Teddy get on the sanctioning bodies’ case. I honestly think the higher ups at ESPN have talked in his ear. Hell, there have been times when Teddy admitted on the air about fights RIGHT ON ESPN2 that weren’t of good quality (on paper anyway). Even main events. No as of late. And now that Larry Merchant has retired I fear that HBO will follow suit. But Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman are good for their criticisms of the boxing world. No way would HBO shit can those two. They tried with Larry Merchant a few years back and it backfired on them.


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