Opinion: Boxer Doping Accusations, Sans Proof, Are Just Cheap Shots

Call it lose and accuse.

Six weeks after a unanimous 12-round defeat to Víctor Ortiz, Andre Berto took to Twitter on Wednesday to answer what he called the “main question I get from fans and boxing people” surrounding his WBC welterweight title loss.

The question: Was Victor Ortiz tested for performance-enhancing drugs?

The short answer is yes. In accordance with the World Boxing Council’s Rule 4.9, “antidoping tests are mandatory for every world title or elimination bout.” This means both Berto and Ortiz submitted a urine sample immediately following the bout.

Instead of simply responding to this question in the affirmative, Berto opted to give a longer answer.

“Let me clear the air now,” Berto wrote over several tweets (posts have been cleaned up for grammar). “You’re right. There is a reason why Ortiz had so much energy, a reason he could take my heavy shots and keep ticking. And there is a reason why he came into the ring [at] 165 pounds.

"I know people close to him and his camp, and I know exactly [what] he was taking," the tweet continued. "It wasn't Flintstone vitamins! But it is what it is. I should [have] beat him anyway, but it wasn't me that night. Ortiz wasn't him either.”

His claims swept the Web, creating a backlash among almost unanimously unsympathetic Twitter users. Reactions varied from calling him a sore loser to allegations of defamation to the unprintable.

In an apparent attempt to do damage control, Berto followed up several hours later, posting:

“Wow, why does everyone’s mind go straight to PEDs? Calm down everyone. I was just talking about Ortiz eating his spinach like Popeye.”

Berto ended both series of tweets with “LOL,” the acronym for “laughing out loud.”

The allegations may seem laughable – and no evidence, credible or otherwise, was offered – but in an age where so many athletes have found themselves caught up in steroid scandals, PED implications are no joke.

The mere allusion of banned substance use can be incredibly hard for athletes to shake in a post-BALCO, post-Mitchell Report sports landscape.

In a monumental coincidence of timing, boxing’s other big headline on Wednesday centered around a settlement in Manny Pacquiao’s defamation lawsuit against Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. Pacquiao’s lawyers asserted the two men, along with Floyd Mayweather’s camp, had made false statements that were intended to convince the public that the Filipino boxer was using performance-enhancing drugs.

Pacquiao defeated De La Hoya by TKO after eight rounds in 2008. Earlier this year, a judge refused to dismiss the suit, filed in 2009. Details of the settlement between the parties were not released.

According to reports, the lawsuit against boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.; his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr.; and uncle and trainer, Roger Mayweather, will continue.

The existence of the suit alone should serve as a cautionary tale, since we now live in an era where implications and innuendo too often become blurred with facts, turning into the kind of unconfirmed footnotes that follow an athlete through his career.

Pacquiao’s lawsuit was well-noted in the media and Berto shares manager Al Haymon with the undefeated Mayweather, but clearly not everyone is getting the message. Whispers, accusations and rumors continue to fly like wild punches. (Creating an even more interesting web, Golden Boy is Ortiz’s promoter.)

The effectiveness of boxing’s drug-testing policies can be debated. Drug testing was a crux of the failed negotiations between Pacquiao and Mayweather, and some people within boxing feel the anti-doping regulations aren’t stringent enough.

However, there’s a big difference in questioning the testing methods and implying another athlete is using drugs to get an advantage. Clearly, there’s also a legal difference.

For his part, Ortiz took the controversy in stride. The WBC welterweight champion initially wrote that he’d have to hurt Berto again if he didn’t stop talking, and took a jab at those who have questioned his desire.

However, as the controversy made its way through the Twitterverse, Ortiz issued a more direct response.

“Bottom line, I'll take any blood tests necessary and body tissue test to silence anyone,” he wrote.

Unless Ortiz fails a drug test or legitimate evidence of misdoing is presented, he shouldn’t have to worry about silencing anyone. Berto was unable to defend his title in the ring, but at least it was a fair fight. To force Ortiz to defend his reputation outside of the ring is just taking a cheap shot.

Maria Burns Ortiz is a freelance sports journalist, chair of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Sports Task Force, and a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. Follow her on Twitter: @BurnsOrtiz

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