Thursday’s conference call between RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward and Edwin Rodriguez grew contentious over the notion of random drug testing in advance of their Nov. 16 clash slated for Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
Rodriguez claims that he is undergoing drug testing for the figh through sponsorship from his nutrionist, Victor Conte, who is using the procedures of The Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). VADA’s founder is former ring physician Margaret Goodman.
During the call, Rodriguez said that he had been tested “twice,” adding, “I actually got tested yesterday again, and I got tested about four weeks ago.”
The friction on the call began in response to a question concerning why Rodriguez had appeared to wait until the formal press conference announcing the fight to bring up mutual drug testing rather than to negotiate the testing into the fighters’ contracts.
Although Rodriguez contended that Conte had contacted Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, about the prospect, Ward — whose promoter, Dan Goossen, was also on the call — said he was not made aware of it until Rodriguez mentioned it at the press conference.
Below is the conversation that took place, in part, between Ward and Rodriguez.
Rodriguez: “It wasn’t something that I was negotiating about. I had got a sponsor that was going to sponsor me and sponsor Mr. Ward. [Ward] came on and said that he was willing to do drug testing, but after this fight, so that makes no sense. Why not do it for a fight when it’s going to be paid for?
“That’s one thing. And then, he had the opportunity to say yes or no when I had Victor Conte contact him and his team to say yes or no. Then, it wouldn’t have become a publicity stunt. You could have easily said yes or no. Him and his team kept pushing it.
“Virgil Hunter kept saying, ‘I’ll talk to Ward on Friday, before the press conference’ and that never happened. So we never got a word from it. So I just asked to see, why not? If he had given me an answer, then it wouldn’t have become a publicity stunt.
“But the fact that he answered my question with a trick question by asking, ‘Is that a trick question?’ No, well that sure was a trick answer. So I’m not saying that Andre Ward isn’t a clean fighter. Not at all. I was just bringing it up because I had the chance to get it paid for, and it wasn’t going to come out of his pocket.
“And he’s a clean athlete, and he’s always shown that. Then why not take it? Why say that you’re going to do it for other fights, but you’re not going to do it for this fight? It doesn’t make sense. So, it wasn’t a publicity stunt in my case, he made it seem like it was. Why? I have no idea.”
As for the sponsor?
Rodriguez: “I work with Victor Conte, and I’ve been working with Victor for almost two years now, or a year and a half, about … He was sponsoring the test through VADA testing or USADA, whichever test Andre wanted, if he wanted it to get in. But I ended up doing it myself, all year round.”
Ward: “I don’t know if he answered the question about why wasn’t it brought up the way that it was supposed to be brought up — if you’re serious about getting drug tested — in the negotiations.”
Rodriguez: “Because it wasn’t a negotiation. I wasn’t saying, ‘if you don’t do this, then the fight’s not happening,’ and I’m still not saying that. The fight’s happening, regardless.
“So that side wasn’t something to negotiate about. So, you know, you’re a clean athlete, I’m a clean athlete, why not do it? Why is it such a big issue to make it a negotiation?”
Ward: “That’s what you do in a negotiation.”
Goossen: “Here’s what I’ll say. Whether it’s a negotiation or not a negotiation, usually, something like this (is) where two parties have to agree on something (and) put it into written form.
“So let’s hit the nail on the head right now by saying that you’re both clean athletes. So, I’m more concerned about the fight itself.”
Ward: [Jumping in.] “Lee me finish my point, Dan. I don’t mean to cut you off, Dan, but let me say this. In negotiations, this is simple. Just like in negotiations where there is money, and there’s something that you’re concerned about, and there’s something that you want to do, you don’t wait until you get in front of the media and pull some publicity stunt and make it look like I’m going to save boxing and be the clean guy.
“You bring it up and say, ‘Here’s what I want to do, is he willing to do it?’ But that wasn’t done and I don’t know how many months we were in negotiations, but everybody knows that it was a long, drawn-out negotiation. And then, furthermore, I was not privy to anything Victor said to Virgil or whatever and this, that.
“Do you understand that Virgil has other fighters in the Bay Area that work with Victor? I’m not one of them. That being said, I don’t need Victor to sponsor me. I mean, he’s on the other side, right now. I’m going against one of his fighters, so I don’t need Victor to sponsor me or to do me a favor or whatever.
“This has got to be done the right way, and if I have an opportunity to sit down with Margaret Goodman and talk to her and things get done the way that they’re supposed to be done, then I’ll do what I want to do when I want to do it. But you’re the challenger coming into this fight. You don’t make demands, especially the way that you made them, and expect them to get done. If you’re serious about it and professional about it, you bring it up the right way, and that’s how it’s done.”
Rodriguez: “It really wasn’t a demand. If it was a demand, it would have been on the contract and it would have been asked in the negotiations, but it wasn’t. Because, like you mentioned, I understand that I wasn’t in that position to be negotiating over that.
“So all I was saying is, ‘I got this, I’m doing it, will you be willing to do it?’ Obviously, you’re not, which is fine. But don’t try to act like it’s a publicity stunt. And if you and your team, you know, communicate, and Virgil…
Ward: [Jumping in] “I don’t know about any conversation that took place…”
Rodriguez: “It is what it is. You also got an e-mail about it. Victor sent you an e-mail, and you didn’t want it…”
Ward: “I’m not into conspiracy theories and all of this … I never saw an e-mail or none of that stuff. At the end of the day, what you’ve got to understand is that this fight ain’t about VADA, it’s not about Victor Conte, it’s about me and you.
“That’s what this fight is about. Anything else that is contrary and taking away from that is a distraction. We haven’t allowed this to distract us.”
Goossen: “Thank you. Operator, let’s go with the next question.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org