In 2002, Fernando Vargas became the first boxer in Nevada to test positive for an anabolic steroid when his postfight urinalysis showed stanozolol in his system for his bout with Oscar De La Hoya.
Vargas said he hadn't knowingly taken steroids and laid the blame on a member of his training camp who gave him the stanozolol without his knowledge.
The Nevada Athletic Commission was sympathetic, but adopted the "captain of the ship" stance and suspended him for nine months as well as levying a $100,000 fine.
The "captain of the ship" issue is likely to arise again should Lamont Peterson, who tested positive last month for synthetic testosterone that forced cancellation of his May 19 fight in Las Vegas with Amir Khan, apply for a license in Nevada.
The commission, in its effort to rid the sport of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, has made it incumbent upon the fighters to know what they put into their bodies. Ignorance is not an excuse.
What could be an excuse, though, would be if Peterson could prove he not only didn't know, but that he expressly told his doctor he did not want to use anything that could cause him to fail a drug test. Peterson had requested that he and Khan submit to random blood and urine testing prior to their planned fight. They hired the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) to conduct the testing.
Neither Peterson nor trainer/manager Barry Hunter responded to messages left by Yahoo! Sports. However, Peterson told RingTV.com that he did not cheat.
"Well, he was showing me that it was not a steroid, and that it wasn't a performance-enhancement drug or anything like that," Peterson told RingTV.com's Lem Satterfield. "He said that it's not going to make me feel like Superman or anything like that. It's not going to make me feel like a super hero. He said it's just going to bring my levels up and that's all, and that my overall health would be better. He told me all of this before he went through with the procedure.
"I even went online to watch videos of them doing the procedure, because I was kind of cautious about it. So I went online, did the research, found out that it was considered an all-natural substance and supplement. It's a soy-based product, and I watched them actually do the procedure on several people who had the same problem that I have, and so I said, 'You know what? We're going to go through with it,' and that's what we did."
Dr. Johnny Benjamin, an orthopedic surgeon from Vero Beach, Fla., who has been a friend of Peterson's for several years, suggested that Peterson was duped by Dr. John A. Thompson, who gave Peterson the testosterone pellets.
Benjamin pointed out that Peterson was the one who demanded the random tests in the first place.
"If you're trying to cheat or gain an unfair advantage, why are you the one demanding VADA Olympic-style drug testing?" Benjamin said. "It makes no sense. You're basically saying, 'Please, please catch me.' "
Benjamin said he spoke at length with Peterson and Hunter about how he wound up with synthetic testosterone in his system. Thompson injected the pellets into Peterson's hip in November after Peterson complained of sluggishness, fatigue and an inability to focus. Peterson complained he couldn't train as hard as he normally did.
After a blood test, the doctor injected Peterson with the testosterone pellets, Benjamin said. According to Benjamin, though, he didn't do that until Peterson and his team questioned Thompson about it.
"Lamont's people, recognizing that he was going to do VADA testing, asked him, 'Is this a banned substance? Is this legal?'–" Benjamin said. "They were told, 'No, there's nothing to worry about. It's 100 percent legal. It's not synthetic. It's an organic-based compound derived from soy. You're perfectly fine taking this.' "
Thompson couldn't be reached to comment on the accuracy of Benjamin's claims. Benjamin said that Peterson wanted and tried his best to comply with the rules and was taken advantage of. In essence, what he's saying is that it would be no different than if four big men held Peterson down and forced him to ingest a steroids tablet as he was kicking and screaming.
Will the commission buy that argument? Well, it certainly won't let him fight until all of the synthetic testosterone clears the system. But it's also likely that the commission will conclude that Peterson didn't do enough to make certain he wasn't going to take something that would get him banned.
Whose fault was it that Peterson did not go to an endocrinologist? Ultimately, any commission that hears Peterson's request for a license will conclude that it was incumbent upon Peterson to seek the proper treatment from the appropriate physician.
He may not have knowingly or cheated. But as Vargas painfully learned 10 years ago, the fighter is the captain of the ship. That dictum is what likely will sink Peterson.