Ever since the Mayweather-Pacquiao stalemate over random blood testing for their proposed March 13 megafight, the Internet has been abuzz with speculation, innuendo and downright lies about performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), human growth hormones (HGHs) and erythropoietin (EPOs), and the effectiveness of urine and blood testing on these banned substances.
Despite considerable research, I still don't know all the facts, but what I do know is that Manny Pacquiaoneeds to soften his stance -- not only to allow the potentially biggest fight in boxing history to go ahead, but more importantly, to stop the bleeding; to put an end to the senseless beating on his good name and legacy.
Like it or not, all this talk about drug testing is having a devastating impact on Pacquiao's image. The majority of public opinion has now swayed against Pacquiao. They've fallen right into the hands of Floyd Mayweather's advisers (who are the ones insisting on the random testing, not Mayweather himself) and the spin doctors at Golden Boy Promotions.
For instance, the claim that Pacquiao is "afraid of needles" but his body is covered in tattoos. Or pointing out that the amount of blood taken for a blood test will not physically affect a fighter for more than a couple of hours.
Or that Pacquiao is refusing to give blood 30 days out when he gave blood 14 days from the Ricky Hatton fight (as captured on HBO's 24/7).
Or that Pacquiao's impressive body and physical growth could only be the result of steroid abuse. Or that Mayweather was being cooperative when he agreed to the $10 million per pound penalty and eight-ounce gloves.
Or that Pacquiao is essentially "throwing away" $40 million if he doesn't agree to the tests. And the biggest, most irrefutable killer of all -- if Pacquiao has nothing to hide, then why not agree to Mayweather's demands?
I can think of plenty of arguments to refute all of the above, and good reasons why Pacquiao should refuse to give in. For starters, he has never tested positive for a drug test. Ever. Why should he be presumed guilty?
Secondly, he has never had to be blood tested for a fight before. In fact, no other fighter in the State of Nevada has either.
Thirdly, it's not as though he's refusing to give blood outright -- as he's said numerous times that he's willing to give blood, just not randomly a day or two out from the fight which could happen under the rigid, unchangeable rules of the USADA proposed by Mayweather. He believes it weakens him -- even if this is not scientifically accurate -- and that random testing could disrupt his schedule and training regime.
However, none of this matters anymore. The boat has sailed, so to speak.
Let me just go on the record and say that I do not think Pacquiao has ever doped and I don't think he should, as a matter of logic and fairness, give in to Mayweather's demands. But right now, he no longer has a choice -- Pacquiao has to accept some form of tightly scheduled or random blood testing for the fight.
It is a shame that we live in a society where successful sportspeople are looked upon with suspicion and must go out of their way to prove their innocence. Several unfortunate incidents of high-profile champions eluding the authorities have made the world a more cynical place for everyone else.
Pacquiao and his promoter Bob Arum need to realize that this is just the way things are these days, and that if the fight does not get made from here, all fingers will point to them. No one will care that it was really Mayweather's demand -- which is unprecedented in boxing history -- that put the fight in jeopardy.
All they will see is that Pacquiao refused to be tested for drugs and, because of that, the fight that everyone wants to see is off. The backlash will be irreparable.
So it's time for Pacquiao to suck up the pride, put away the ego, and back up a little to salvage his image. Threatening to sue for defamation won't make things better. Threatening to walk away and fight Paulie Malignaggi will just make things worse.
Even if Mayweather succumbs to the threats and backtracks on the blood-testing demands, it just makes Mayweather seem sympathetic and makes Pacquiao the bully. What Pacquiao and Arum will need to do is come up with a new proposal that would put to sleep any lingering doubts about Pacquiao's cleanliness, while limiting the impact it would have on his training and preparations for the fight.
For example, I understand the reason why random blood testing is sought by Mayweather is because current methods for detecting HGHs in blood samples are only effective for about 48 hours after injection, and after that reliability falls sharply.
Further, urine testing has limitations when detecting HGHs and EPOs. Accordingly, I would recommend Pacquiao accede to random blood testing, but put certain parameters around it. For instance, Pacquiao could propose:
Testing to be done by an independent drug agency with flexible rules (which would rule out the USADA);
Unlimited urine tests;
The three scheduled blood tests currently proposed (i.e. kick-off press conference, 30 days out, and immediately after the fight);
A limit of two or three random blood tests from the kick-off press conference up to 72 hours before the fight;
Random tests to be conducted on certain days of the week (e.g. odd or even days); and
Random tests to be conducted during certain hours of the day (e.g. between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.).
This is just an example, but what something like this does is ensure that Pacquiao eliminates all reasonable suspicion of doping to put Mayweather's (and the public's) mind at ease -- all while minimizing the disruptions to his training.
It doesn't matter if there are elements of predictability in the testing system as long as there is an element of randomness which would make it too risky for anyone to try to dope.
I am still confident that the fight will go ahead, but time is running out for Pacquiao to save his reputation. No one should understand this better than Bob Arum and Pacquiao himself.