Taking a drug test with Nonito Donaire

Exclusive look at each step of Donaire's random drug test

Taking a drug test with Nonito Donaire
April 5, 2013, 11:45 am
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Nonito Donaire (right) is in the last week of preparation for his April 13 showdown in New York with Guillermo Rigondeaux. (AP)

Anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

While that axiom might usually describe a boxer’s approach toward his opponents, in this instance, it exemplifies junior featherweight world champion Nonito Donaire’s random drug testing program.

Last July, Donaire announced on Chronicle Live that he would avail himself to the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association’s doping agents year-round.  In other words, they could show up at his doorstep with a needle and a cup in the middle of the night—and he wouldn’t be able to turn them away.

“I have to let VADA know my whereabouts at all times, even if I leave the country,” Donaire tells CSNBayArea.com. “But I look at it as the reason why I’m doing this to prove to my fans that I’m a clean fighter.”

Such was the case on Tuesday, when VADA agent Jennifer Hunter and chaperone Tuasivi Scanlan made an impromptu appearance at the Undisputed Gym in San Carlos at the end of a grueling 12-round sparring session to procure blood and urine from the 122-pound king.

Donaire is in the last week of preparation for his April 13 showdown in New York City with dangerous southpaw Guillermo Rigondeaux, and the East Bay star has now undergone testing four times in this camp alone.  (Rigondeaux has also agreed to VADA testing, but only leading up to the fight.)

“Basically we just gave a blood sample for mostly HGH (human growth hormone) testing, which is what the blood is for,” Hunter says.  “And then he’ll follow that with a urine sample, which is for EPO (erythropoietin) and diuretics, street drugs, pretty much anything that you can test for an athlete to make sure he’s legitimate.”

The routine starts with a syringe, which draws enough blood from Donaire’s right arm to fill two tubes that Hunter estimates at four milliliters apiece.  Having done the deed so many times over the past nine months, the process is so old hat for Donaire that he simultaneously puts on a mask attached to a hypoxic machine to simulate a high-altitude environment.

The fighter then inserts each of the tubes into clear containers, which he subsequently fastens and labels with a serial number sticker. Donaire places the tubes inside a transparent plastic bag and hands it to Hunter, who then prepares the equipment necessary to administer the second half of the procedure—the urine test.

In order to produce enough liquid to fill the cup provided, Donaire grabs a water bottle and starts chugging like a frat boy.  

“I’m so dehydrated right now,” laments Donaire as he leans back on the apron and takes a deep breath.  “This is going to be awhile.”

He’s not kidding, as a half-hour elapses before he rises to his feet and walks into a nearby bathroom with Scanlan.  A couple minutes later, a smiling Donaire emerges with an amber-colored cup as Scanlan trails behind.

“No [Juan Manuel] Marquezes here,” Donaire jokes, referring to the Mexican star with the infamous proclivity to drink his own urine before abandoning the practice in recent years.

Donaire returns to the ring apron where two empty glass containers distinguished by different colors await him.  Hunter measures the urine’s density to ensure it will be reliable for testing.  Then, without missing a drop, Donaire pours an even amount of urine into the containers, which will eventually be individually sealed and serve as his “A” and “B” samples for testing.  

Now all that’s left is the requisite paperwork, which includes a section where he declares to Hunter any other supplements or medication he’s taking, right down to something as simple as ibuprofen.  

Normally, Donaire would consult nutritionist Victor Conte on such matters.  However, two weeks ago, Conte abruptly quit his post, leaving the boxing world speculating on the reason behind the move.

“We all have our own paths.  Victor’s got his own path, I’ve got mine, and I wish him all the best,” Donaire says, refraining from going into specifics on their split.

Donaire signs off on the completed documents and the VADA team packs everything up.  Ultimately, the samples are sent to a lab at UCLA for carbon isotope ratio (CIR) testing, where the fighter expects to ace his latest exam for everything from anabolic steroids to synthetic testosterone.

The dangers of abusing PEDs in professional sports are especially magnified in boxing, where inflicting physical damage is an inherent part of a science that more often is brutal than sweet.

While Donaire remains the only pugilist bold enough with the initiative to enroll in VADA’s “365/24/7” program—a decision that largely helped him win consensus Fighter of the Year honors—he’s laying down the foundation for a cleaner future.

“I just hope people can do [random testing], but it’s the beginning of things, and it takes time for things to mature,” Donaire states.  “For me, I’m going to keep doing the things I do, and go from there.  I don’t have anything to hide, and this is who I am.  I work hard for it.  I win because I work hard for it.”  

NOTE: Our recurring series “Ghost Stories” has been moved to next week.