Boxing Hall of Fame voters should follow the lead of baseball writers

Wednesday October 29th, 2014

The baseball writers have spoken and the collective message to reputed steroid users is this: The Hall of Fame isn’t in your future. That means no to Barry Bonds, MLB’s all time home runs leader. No to Roger Clemens, arguably the greatest pitcher of his generation. No to Mark McGwire, who snapped Roger Maris’s longstanding single season home run record. No to Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmiero and Jose Canseco.

The baseball writers have drawn a clear line in the sand. So why won’t boxing writers do the same?

The annual Hall of Fame ballot hits writers' mailboxes this month (disclaimer: I am a voter) and there is a high-profile, steroid-connected name on the ballot: Fernando Vargas, the hard-hitting former junior middleweight champion who tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2002. To be fair, Vargas’s career may not be Hall of Fame-worthy. He won his first world title at 20 and owns wins over Winky Wright and Ike Quartey. But he lost showdowns with Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya and the prime of his career was short. Yet few -- if any -- voters are expected to exclude him solely based on the positive test.

It’s puzzling, really. If any sport needs to punish steroid users it’s boxing, where the object is literally to batter the man in front of you. Fighters die (Duk-Koo Kim, Leavander Johnson), are seriously injured (Magomed Abdusalamov) and suffer debilitating long term effects (Muhammad Ali, Freddie Roach) at an alarming rate. Far too often a fighter gets popped for PED’s -- just last week it was revealed that heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz tested positive for an elevated level of nandrolone after his first round knockout win over Lateef Kayode -- and the reaction is a resounding indifference.

They can do what the fighters should have: Just say no. 

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