IT is being claimed that Canelo Alvarez could have eaten contaminated meat the night he dined with former US President Bill Clinton and Mexican businessman Carlos Slim at the Sonora Grill in February.
This weekend, Alvarez rematches Gennady Golovkin one year after their first bout ended in a controversial draw and just seven months after illegal substance clenbuterol was found in his system. Following the failed test and subsequent hearing, headed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission with assistance from the World Boxing Council, Canelo was suspended for six months.
His guilt has since been debated all over the boxing world. Canelo signed up for year-round testing. A hair sample came back negative. And during a conversation with Boxing News in Las Vegas, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman added a new twist to the tale.
According to Sulaiman, eight restaurants were investigated after they were put forward by Alvarez as the establishments he frequented during a vacation in Mexico. He twice ate at the Sonora Grill during the week in question, eating steak on both occasions. The first time he was photographed in the restaurant alongside Clinton and Slim [below], two new faces in this long and winding saga. They had all been to a baseball game in Guadalajara beforehand.
“We had a list of eight places where he ate,” Sulaiman said, taking up the story. “We can accuse him of being careless and irresponsible but not of being a cheat. I believe that the six-month suspension is absolutely fine. We have been consistent. We address every single case independently and we do extensive research.”
That research process, Sulaiman claimed, stems from many years of trying to combat doping in boxing. In 2016, the WBC controversially cleared Mexico’s Francisco Vargas to fight Orlando Salido after clenbuterol was found in his system. It was the investigation into the Vargas case that created the ‘protocol’ for Canelo to this year effectively be cleared of cheating.
“Francisco Vargas had this problem two years ago so we were confident we could do the right research [with Canelo],” Sulaiman [below] said. “It was absolutely determined that it had to be poisoning from food. We did that in two days. In the Vargas case we spoke to the California commission and immediately addressed the situation. We investigated where he ate and we did the same with Canelo. We created a protocol for that fight – Vargas versus Orlando Salido – and the same process was followed here, the restaurants, the whole process.
“We have the Clean Boxing Program and we have led the anti-doping campaign above any other body or anyone in boxing. We have plenty of knowledge about clenbuterol. We have had research from past examples [of clenbuterol use] in other sports, in boxing, from labs, from medical experts, from pharmacists. It is clear there is an issue in Mexico where cattle is fed with clenbuterol. They grow and the fat becomes muscle.
“So we knew from day one that Canelo ‘doping’ was from meat ingestion and it was not a doping violation.”
But, Boxing News argued, it is still a case of conjecture if the exact eatery and offending meat could not be identified.
“One of the restaurants that Canelo reported is backed up by a picture of that dinner where Bill Clinton, the former President of the USA, and Carlos Slim are with him in Sonora Grill restaurant,” Sulaiman responded. “We have the real receipt of that dinner. Canelo ate that night there, and he ate there another night before he went to training camp. It [Sonora Grill] was researched and our findings were that Canelo was just careless and irresponsible with what he ate. We knew then it was not doping.
“If you go to a restaurant and eat a steak are you to blame? It’s hard to simply blame the person. [But] a high-end athlete like Canelo should be more careful. You should have a nutritionist and be more careful. Unfortunately there is a conflict, a thin line, between what is proper and what isn’t.”
A thin line, indeed.