Sunday, December 7, 2008

BALCO and EPO Sour ‘Sugar’ Shane’s Sweet Image

Shane Mosley has come under fire in recent days for his involvement in the BALCO steroids scandal.

‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley is boxer that has won championships in three weight divisions and is a likely first ballot hall of fame inductee. During the course of the past decade he has faced and beaten a virtual who’s who of the boxing world.

By all accounts, Mr. Mosley is a devoted family-man, lives honestly and works hard. He is quick to smile, gives his time and money to the less fortunate, is a charming individual and he is as unpretentious a prizefighter as you will meet.

But Shane Mosley, according to his own recently unsealed Grand Jury testimony in the Bay Area Laboratories Co-Operative (BALCO) steroids scandal, utilized a potent concoction of designer drugs and the oxygen-booster Erythropoietin (EPO) prior to his September 2003 world title bout against Oscar De La Hoya. It was a bout that Mr. Mosley was deemed to have won, although the decision rendered by the official judges was close and controversial.

For those that know him, casually or otherwise, Mr. Mosley’s testimony is a shocking piece of news. The information is contrary to the image and persona he is known for.

Like U.S. Women’s Sprinter Marion Jones and the home run king of baseball, Barry Bonds, who have also been caught up in Victor Conte’s BALCO scandal, Mr. Mosley, despite representations to the contrary, is now viewed as another in the long list of tainted, world-class athletes that are judged to have a win at all costs mindset.

For the likeable Mr. Mosley, who has built his reputation as that of a tireless worker in the gym and a dutiful student to the nuances of his chosen profession, it is not yet clear what effect his unsealed testimony will have on his career and reputation. Some have already quietly called for Mr. Mosley’s “victory” in the aforementioned 2003 De La Hoya match to be changed to a “no-decision” result.

It was for this bout against Oscar De La Hoya in September 2003 that Mosley admits to using EPO from Victor Conte's BALCO.

But the larger question for those that follow the sport of boxing and those that count themselves as fans of Mr. Mosley, is whether this was the first and only time he was a user of illegal drugs. They wonder whether it is a long term pattern of behavior and whether all that he has been able to accomplish over the years is real - or manufactured.

An examination of his success within the sport of boxing and with his adherence to the disciplined principles that make athletes and businessman successful, is a look at a boxer that was once lowly regarded, lived with his parents and worked at a local K-Mart when he first turned professional in 1993. However, in the ensuing 15 years, Mr. Mosley, by any measure, has had a stunning reversal of fortune.

Mr. Mosley has always been viewed as a marvelous physical specimen. His skills are awe-inspiring and when he is in the ring he is capable of brilliant performances. He has a potent blend of quickness, speed and athleticism that any athlete would covet. And specific to boxing, Mr. Mosley has the ability to both absorb and mete out punishment in equal parts. His bouts are usually crowd-pleasing affairs contested in Las Vegas casinos or similar high-profile venues. Over the years he has won world championships at 135, 147 and 154 pounds.

Mr. Mosley is known as a physical fitness fanatic that often trains at high altitude in the mountainous area where he owns property in Big Bear, California. He has never appeared in anything except outstanding physical condition and has never tested positive for drugs.

As he has aged and even with the gradual weight gain as he moved up through weight divisions, Mr. Mosley has never displayed a scintilla of body-fat, nor did he appear to lose quickness or speed.

Mosley is an outstanding fighter with a great attitude who has always had a love for the sport of boxing.

Over the years, Mr. Mosley, a native of Pomona, California along with his father, Jack, as his trainer, became one of boxing’s most well-known personalities. Both father and son basked in adulation as one championship after another was won and the senior Mosley was recognized as “trainer of the year” and Shane as “fighter of the year”.

Mr. Mosley’s bouts are still televised exclusively on the Home Box Office network (HBO) and since the year 2000 he has graduated to an income level that has seen him be paid at least a million dollars for most, if not all of his bouts.

On September 27th he stopped former world champion Ricardo Mayorga with one second left in the twelfth and final round of their match. On January 24th Mr. Mosley will face welterweight champion Antonio Margarito, in a greatly anticipated bout, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Despite his in the ring rivalry with Mr. De La Hoya, one that emanated from a childhood spent in the California amateur boxing circuit and a victory in their first fight in 2000, Mr. Mosley has become an equity partner in Mr. De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Together, the pair, along with other high-profile boxers and former banker, Richard Schaefer, promote some of the most lucrative boxing events in the world.

In 2003, as the BALCO scandal enveloped one high-profile athlete after another, Mr. Mosley managed to stay above the fray. He repeatedly declared that he would never use drugs or cheat in order to win. His defense over the past five years has been that he thought he was taking vitamins or other nutritional supplements. He sharply attacked stories in the press that pointed to his use of the steroids or EPO and even filed a defamation suit against Mr. Conte, which is a case that continues to meander its way through the legal process.

Shane and his father Jack, pictured when they were a strong father and son team.

Even after the grand jury testimony was unsealed last week, Mr. Mosley still maintained that he was an unknowing participant in what turned out to be the one of the largest steroid sports scandals to date.

Mr. Mosley said last year his use of Mr. Conte’s designer steroids, known as ‘The Clear’ which was judged to be ten times more potent than other steroids with similar chemistry, and ‘The Cream’ (testosterone) were not knowingly taken by him in an effort to avoid detection or gain an unfair advantage.

“I'm disappointed that this is coming out again, four years after I’ve been to the Grand Jury and gave my truthful testimony,” Mr. Mosley said in a 2007 press release. “I even took a lie detector test back then to let everyone know that I wasn't trying to be an unfair fighter.”

And to Mr. Mosley’s credit, it was a polygraph that he was estimated to have passed.

However, doping calendars kept by BALCO that were seized in a raid of Mr. Conte’s headquarters detail a myriad of dates, times, drugs, vitamins, blood tests and exchanges of money for the drugs by Mr. Mosley.

Five years after the fact, Mr. Conte, 58, holds steadfast to his argument that Mr. Mosley knew full well the drugs that he was purchasing and using. Mr. Mosley, however, has said he believed he was using “flaxseed oil.”

The boxer, however, has acknowledged that he did inject himself in the abdomen and that he did purchase BALCO products. Mr. Conte claims the bill for his consultative input and the designer steroids was in the vicinity of $2,500 and his crude record keeping is also part of the evidence in the case.

Victor Conte pictured with some of his product developed for sale through his BALCO organization.

Mr. Conte questions why any person would pay that much money for what Mr. Mosley at one time claimed were vitamins. Mr. Conte maintains that his calendars show Mr. Mosley received EPO and several doses of both ‘The Clear’ and ‘The Cream’ leading up to his bout with Mr. De La Hoya.

While Mr. Mosley’s reputation has taken an undeniable hit with the news of his testimony, it is clear that in his high stakes game to prove victorious over Mr. De La Hoya, that he was also gambling with his life.

According to Mark Jenkins of Rice University, the reason EPO is dangerous is because it can cause increased blood viscosity. In other words, it can cause a person’s blood to become thicker than it should otherwise be. If blood becomes too thick, it can result in a heart attack or stroke. Over the years, this very event has befallen numerous athletes from various sports who have used EPO.

Mr. Jenkins says that the use of EPO, for numerous medical reasons, is especially dangerous to athletes who exercise over prolonged periods of time and he says that “it is a short trip” to what he terms the critical “sludge zone”- and death. An additional danger of EPO includes sudden death during sleep, which has been the culprit in numerous deaths of world-class cyclists.

For Mr. Mosley, however, life goes on. Now 37, he will fight in less than seven weeks in Los Angeles. It has been reported that he will receive in excess of $2 million to face Antonio Margarito, currently rated as one of the top professional boxers in the world.

The bout was to have taken place at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, but the site was suddenly switched to the Staples Center in Los Angeles not long after Mr. Mosley’s Grand Jury testimony was revealed.

Mr. Conte pictured at his former office in San Francisco. He worked with many of the most well known athletes in the world.

It has been rumored that Mr. Mosley would have had to endure a rigorous question and answer hearing with members that make up the Nevada State Athletic Commission in order for his boxing license to be re-issued in that state.

Some have said that the thinking on behalf of the promoters of Mr. Margarito and Mr. Mosley, is rather than endure what could become an embarrassing and painful process in Nevada, it would simply be easier to hold the bout elsewhere. However, Bob Arum, the Chairman of Top Rank, Inc. and the promoter of Mr. Margarito says the reasons for the relocation of the bout were purely monetary.

In the years since Mr. Mosley and Mr. Conte teamed up, their lives have taken drastically different paths. Mr. Conte was sentenced to four months in prison for conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids and money laundering in connection to his role in the BALCO scandal. He has become a much-maligned figure.

On the other hand, Mr. Mosley has gone on to maintain his innocence and keep his otherwise good name. He recently fired his father as his trainer and since 2003 he has engaged in many high-profile bouts and raked in millions of dollars in a life that has mostly been business as usual for him.

In an e-mail to the New York Daily News, Mr. Conte has held to his stance that Mr. Mosley was a willing participant in their mutual arrangement :

“Mosley asked me about the positive effects of using EPO and how he would benefit from using it as a boxer,” Mr. Conte wrote. “He certainly knew that it was EPO and there are three witnesses that were there that day when he was told about it and did his first EPO injection in front of us. I also told him that 'the clear' and 'the cream' were undetectable steroids that would not create a positive test. Shane Mosley has been lying publicly about his use of performance enhancing drugs and there is plenty of evidence to prove that fact. It is despicable that he continues to abuse the judicial system for his own financial gain by telling lies.”

November 2009

1 comment:

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