HAS Canelo Alvarez been vindicated? He tested positive for traces of clenbuterol in February. That did oblige him to pull out of his May 5 rematch and saw the Nevada State Athletic Commission handed a Alvarez only a six month suspension, dated from when he failed the test.
The Mexican star maintained the finding was due to eating contaminated meat in Mexico. As he sought to prove himself a clean athlete, through the Nevada Commission, he had hair samples tested. Traces of clenbuterol remain detectable in hair for a longer period. If an athlete had been using clenbuterol for a period of time, i.e. deliberately ingesting the substance as part of a doping programme, this can return a positive test in hair follicles. Canelo’s test came back negative, which would therefore be consistent with a single incident, like eating contaminated meat.
Naturally Eric Gomez, Golden Boy president, Alvarez’s promoter, was satisfied with the finding. He told ESPN, “From the beginning, Canelo has insisted that he accidentally ingested clenbuterol from eating tainted meat… The fact this NSAC-required hair follicle test came back entirely negative for any traces of clenbuterol should lay to rest any suspicion that he was intentionally taking a banned substance.”
The result certainly doesn’t contradict Canelo’s version of events. But nor does it entirely confirm it. Hair tests for clenbuterol are unreliable, as Iain Kidd writes on Bloody Elbow, and the results can be affected by variables like the colour of the hair, to differing degrees.
Victor Conte, an expert in these matters, does however affirm the result’s significance. “Hair colour does matter. Many factors matter. Yes the hair specimen collection method is very important as is chain of custody. Most fail to understand that many of WADA’s test procedures contain significant variations and limitations,” he said. “It is significant that they did not detect clenbuterol in the hair of Canelo. This is important evidence in favour of Canelo’s defence.”
Alvarez however remains strictly liable for the substances found in his body. (Remember Dillian Whyte getting a two year ban for inadvertently taking a drink that contained a banned substance, with no intention to cheat.) A six month ban is little imposition on Alvarez. He won’t even miss out on a major payday. He’ll be ready to box in September, quite possibly against Gennady Golovkin himself.