Ryan Garcia’s brilliance in Devin Haney fight means nothing if he took PED | Opinion

Devin Haney had good reason to be indignant.

The 140-pound titleholder suffered an embarrassing, three-knockdown loss to an overweight Ryan Garcia – the first setback of his career – only to find out that Garcia had failed two tests for performance enhancing drugs conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.

Haney agreed to face an opponent who came in three-plus pounds above the limit. He didn’t agree to fight a big puncher who had juiced, if a follow-up investigation proves that.

“We put our lives on the line to entertain people for a living. You don’t play boxing,” Haney said in a statement sent to ESPN.

That’s what makes the news of Garcia’s failed tests for the banned substance Ostarine so disturbing, as it does anytime a boxer uses banned drugs.

The use of performance-enhancing drugs in non-combat sports is abhorrent because it’s a form of cheating, but it generally doesn’t threaten the physical brain health of participants.

Boxers take a calculated risk every time they do battle, as Haney said. A fighter who takes drugs to gain an artificial edge increases the chances his opponent will suffer a career-ending brain injury or worse, which he has no right to do.

I always wondered how people would react if a boxer were killed in the ring and we later learned that his opponent was on steroids. I imagine there would be a worldwide outcry the likes of which the sport has never seen, with justification.

This is the main reason the powers that be in boxing must find ways to become even more vigorous in their battle to weed out drug cheats.

News of Garcia’s failed drug tests also spoiled a remarkable fight on April 20 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 20: Ryan Garcia (white trunks) punches Devin Haney (gray trunks) during their WBC Super Lightweight title bout at Barclays Center on April 20, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Many feared for Garcia’s well being given his bizarre behavior in the lead-up to the fight and Haney’s pound-for-pound ability. However, Garcia, in a breathtaking performance, stunned the champion and the boxing world by scoring three knockdowns and winning a decision.

The memorable evening might as well be erased now in light of the failed tests. Garcia’s performance means nothing if he did, in fact, takes PEDs.

As Haney said, “This puts the fight in a completely different light.”

The damage to Haney’s reputation and career can’t be entirely erased even if the New York State Athletic Commission ultimately confirms the failed tests and restores his perfect record, either by declaring the fight a no-contest or awarding him a victory by disqualification.

We can’t erase what we saw, a gifted, rising star unable to cope with Garcia’s unquestioned power. We can point out that Garcia came in overweight and later tested positive for PEDs, which certainly are mitigating factors. Still, Haney will never be perceived in quite the same way.

And only God knows what, if any long-term damage physical damage Haney suffered in the brutal fight. He took some huge shots from a huge puncher, which could come back to haunt him one day.

To me, it always comes back to the well-being of fighters. And Garcia, if it’s confirmed he took PEDs, demonstrated that Haney’s well-being meant nothing to him.

Garcia has the right to have his “B” samples tested if he believes that might play a role in exonerating him. And he deserves to be heard at a hearing, which the NYSAC presumably will schedule soon.

If, once again, it’s determined that he had the banned substance – and possibility a second PED – in his system, authorities in New York must make a strong statement that would serve as a deterrent to other world-be drug cheats.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Canelo Alvarez for six months after he tested positive for Clenbuterol before a scheduled fight with rival Gennadiy Golovkin in 2018, meaning he missed one fight. I always thought that punishment was too lenient.

Amir Khan was suspended for two years by U.K. authorities after Ostarine – the same drug Garcia is accused of ingesting – following his loss to Kell Brook in 2022, which was more appropriate.

We’ll see how serious officials in New York are about preventing PED use if it confirms that Garcia broke the rules.

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie