I’LL say what I’m about to say with the sincerity and sensitivity of a parent revealing to their child Santa doesn’t exist: all your favourite fighters are drug cheats. Okay, not all of them. But certainly some of them. That guy with the world title. That guy who moved through the weights. That guy who scored that highlight-reel knockout you watch again and again. That big guy. That small guy. That guy you loved when he was active and now refer to him as a ‘legend’ and a ‘hero’ and await his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Yeah, all those guys used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) at some point in their career.
To the hardened spectator, this is perhaps no great revelation, nor a big deal. Besides, time and time again we forgive those who have failed a drug test and served their sentence because they are still fighters and we still want fights; if they produce good ones, that’s seemingly all that matters, irrespective of past misdemeanours. But spare a thought for the boxers who have had to actually get in a ring and oppose drug cheats, many of them having entered the sport under the false impression they’d be competing on a level playing field and that the boxer who woke the earliest and ran the furthest and punched the hardest and abstained the longest and downed the most raw eggs would ultimately be victorious. Consider those guys for a moment. For them, the bombshell is all the more jarring; pain and defeat is one thing, occupational hazards no less, but their illusion shattered, albeit a naïve, fanciful one, means something else entirely.