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  • Writer's pictureRichard Jimenez

Whiplash: Ryan Garcia Tests Positive for Banned Substance Amidst Victory Tour

Ostarine and the Messy Haney-Garcia Epilogue

Thirteen days into Ryan “KingRy” Garcia’s unexpected victory tour, the festivities have come to a screeching halt. Ryan Garcia has tested positive for ostarine, according to the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA.

Back on April 20, Garcia shocked the boxing world and handed Devin “The Dream” Haney his first professional loss in a definitive performance against the WBC 140-pound champion. The fight was the culmination of one of the stranger build-ups to a major boxing event, with many observers wondering whether Garcia was fit to fight at all. Doubts grew after Garcia weighed in 3.2 pounds over the 140-pound limit for the fight, signaling a lack of discipline and care. 

This breach would have canceled many fights, though Team Haney decided to move forward with it in exchange for a stipulated monetary penalty. Haney would eventually run into Garcia’s thunderous left hook, which Haney’s father and trainer Bill Haney dubbed Garcia’s  “Goodnight, Irene” throughout the calamitous promotion. That “Goodnight, Irene” would dash Haney’s dreams, leading to three knockdowns en route to a majority decision for the 6-to-1 underdog.

Ryan Garcia defeats devim Haney
Golden Boy / Cris Esqueda

That victory would send the boxing world into a frenzy. The deafening reaction to Garcia’s first knockdown in the seventh round at the Barclays Center would portend the celebrations that followed. Since then, Garcia has embarked on a whirlwind tour. He’s visited Deion Sanders and his University of Colorado football team, has joined rapper YG on stage mid-performance, and has shadowboxed for former president Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. (but didn’t YG make that one song…)

As tarnished as a victory by an overweight fighter may be, Haney’s decision to move forward with the fight was reason enough for many to give Garcia his flowers. Conversation shifted into compelling future matchups for Garcia, excited talk of his boxing potential, his increased earning potential, and his rising crossover popularity. Speculation persisted regarding how things would have turned out had Garcia clocked in at 140 pounds, though this would do nothing to slow the jubilant momentum. Whether they support Garcia or not, fans would have to watch the dizzying turnaround in reception of a fighter once expected to lose soundly. 

And now, this. Reports have come in that Garcia’s final pre-fight Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) drug test resulted in a positive for ostarine, or enobosarm. According to ESPN’s Mike Coppinger, ostarine is known to encourage muscle growth, build muscle mass, enhance their rate of fat loss, and increase stamina. While Garcia had not tested positive in previous tests heading into the Haney fight, one positive would be enough to taint the victory. The use of performance enhancing drugs is condemned in virtually all sports, though its use in combat sports like boxing is seen as especially pernicious, given the violence of the sport. Not only is Ryan Garcia at risk of losing a win from his official record, he may very well lose people’s respect as one of boxing’s best talents.

This news may have ended Garcia’s celebration, but will hardly be the final development in the Haney-Garcia fight epilogue. For one, VADA will have to defend its findings. Team Garcia will have the right to request a test of the b-sample, though they could likely move forward and still reject any findings affirming the positive results. The New York State Athletic Commission will have to weigh in on their position given their oversight of the fight. Devin Haney has already issued a stern statement about this test, and Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn has condemned it as well. Though Ryan Garcia has already issued a denial of the allegations, his promoter, Golden Boy, has been more measured in its defense, deferring to patience in awaiting the facts to be released. 

This is yet another chapter in boxing’s sordid history with performance enhancing drugs and how the industry handles such outcomes. In just the last few years, we saw an adverse result for Oscar Valdez be minimized in favor of an upcoming fight moving forward. Conor Benn has returned to fighting action despite not receiving full clearance from his home country’s commission after testing positive before his fight with Chris Eubank Jr. And Alycia Baumgardner has campaigned against the adverse findings through independent investigation, the results of which the World Boxing Council accepted in her favor. It is an ongoing saga of contradiction between officials responsible for the safety and stewardship of the sport, as well as of fighters and promoters that insist on the importance of removing these substances from the sport, unless it is one of their own that popped hot.

As for how the story of the Haney-Garcia fight has played out, Twitter user @thaaqibR summed it up well: “I can’t handle this much whiplash, I need a break”

Me too. Unfortunately, I don’t think we will get one anytime soon.


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