There has been a misconception in the boxing world, that if one does not test positive for PEDs they cannot be proven guilty. This could not be further from the truth. One of the most recent mainstream star athletes convicted of using PEDs was Alex Rodriguez. The MLB commission suspended Rodriguez for the entire 2014 season despite never testing positive for PEDs. During the investigation they found enough circumstantial evidence to realize Rodriguez was indeed guilty of cheating the sport. The MLB culture has drastically evolved into assuring every player who steps on the field are clean by creating more strenuous testing and investigations.
Boxing has also made significant progress into cleaning the sport, but still has much room for improvement. When someone brings suspicion of a fighter using PEDs, they are sometimes threatened with a lawsuit, defamation of character to be more exact. This causes many people in the boxing world to become hesitant in voicing their opinions. If a fighter is unjustly accused of PEDs then a lawsuit becomes credible, but if people have reasonable evidence to have suspicion of a fighter committing illegal activities then a lawsuit may not be able to follow through.
To clarify this matter, defamation of character essentially needs four requirements. It must be:
published = written, spoken, or gestured and heard by a third party
false = the statements are not true
injurious = damage a reputation
unprivileged = one cannot sue someone when the statement is privileged, a statement tends to be privileged when a witness is testifying in court.
A fighter will find it difficult to successfully win a lawsuit against someone who voices his or her opinion based off an overwhelming amount of reasonable circumstantial evidence.
If Jimmy goes on a radio talk show and states: “ I am suspicious of fighter X being on PEDs because when this fighter was not being randomly drug tested he showed a dramatic increase in power, but when he finally did get randomly drug tested his power suddenly dropped off. Also this new found power began when fighter X hired a trainer who has been involved with PEDs scandals in the past.”
In this example, Jimmy stated his opinion on his suspicion of fighter X being on PEDs. He did not say fighter X was absolutely on PEDs. Also Jimmy based his suspicion off of a reasonable amount of evidence, and merely just stated facts. He did not make any outlandish remarks based off false evidence. It will be very difficult to sue him for defamation of character in this particular case.
An example where someone will be vulnerable for a lawsuit case is:
Jimmy goes on a radio talk show and says, “Fighter X is on steroids because there’s no way one can be that strong in such a short manner of time. The country he resides in is also known for making undetected PEDs, and I know that’s where he gets it from.”
In this case Jimmy blatantly said fighter “X” is on steroids without any reasonable circumstantial evidence that will support his claim. These outlandish comments would make him extremely liable for a lawsuit.
It’s also important to know even when people have a strong case for accusing someone of PEDs and receive a lawsuit they still tend to aim for a settlement. The reason being is to avoid legal fees, the time consuming court room procedures, and a lot of headaches. Settlement cases do not necessarily signify the innocence or guilt of a person. Some lawsuits are also never meant to go through, and just used as a scare tactic to try and relinquish one’s name. If the lawsuit does take place, and they are in fact proven of taking PEDs, or have enough circumstantial evidence to support the suspicion, then that fighter’s reputation goes down the drain.
The moral of the story is if one has a reasonable amount of evidence to be suspicious of a fighter being on PEDs, it is not a crime to state it. Also do not be convinced a fighter is clean or has been clean because they never failed a drug test. If a commission mandates an investigation and can convene enough circumstantial evidence, they can convict a fighter of taking PEDs without a positive test. It will be up to the sport of boxing to follow the steps of other mainstream sports to convict any fighter who has cheated or is currently cheating the sport.
As a final note: Tony Bosch the man who supplied Alex Rodriguez with PEDs told 60 Minutes, “To tailor a doping program for Rodriguez I needed to know how long various drugs stayed in Rodriguez’s body. Doses and timing were critical so Rodriguez would not test positive after a game.”