Canelo Alvarez was cleared of any intentional wrongdoing last week after a hair follicle test came back negative for the banned substance clenbuterol. However, Alvarez may still have trouble winning back some of the general public.
Alvarez tested positive for trace amounts of clenbuterol in random urine tests conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20. As a result, he was suspended six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
But that was not the only casualty, as Canelo's highly-anticipated rematch with unified middleweight world titleholder Gennady Golovkin, initially set for Cinco De Mayo (May 5) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, was canceled.
The results of the hair follicle test is excellent news for Alvarez because clenbuterol can be detected in hair for several months, unlike urine, which can only be found in urine for less than a week. Canelo had repeatedly denied knowingly taking the prohibited substance. He blamed the positive tests on contaminated beef, which has been an ongoing issue in Mexico for several years.
While there is no evidence (yet) that Canelo consumed contaminated beef, it appears likely to be the case. According to the Sports Medicine Research & Testing Laboratory, a WADA-accredited lab in Salt Lake City, Utah, Alvarez had roughly 0.6-0.8 ng/mL of clenbuterol in his system, which is consistent with meat contamination.
Ranchers have been known to use Clenbuterol in their feed, even though it is also banned. In 2016, Mexican authorities inspected 200 slaughterhouses and found Clenbuterol in livestock at 58 of them (29 percent). The World Anti-Doping Agency also issued a warning for athletes in 2011 to "exercise extreme caution" when consuming meat in China or Mexico.
While Canelo is not guilty of intentionally ingesting clenbuterol, he is guilty of negligence. The dangers and risks were well-documented, but an unnecessary risk was taken, and it lead to the cancellation of boxing's biggest fight of the year.
As can be expected with these sort of incidents, a lot of fans have been relentlessly attacking Canelo since the news broke on March 20.
Just take a look at Twitter and the replies to some of our stories as well as other outlets around the world, it is hard to find many positive comments regarding Canelo.
Alvarez knows that many in the boxing world are never going to believe him and he has to accept that. Some were even accusing him of using illegal substances before the scandal broke out, and this certainly did not help fade out those hecklers. Unfortunately, it led to many people making baseless accusations without a shred of evidence.
The best Canelo can do going forward is to be more careful and continue to focus on fighting as he always has.
Chepo Reynoso, Alvarez's trainer, is a former butcher in Mexico, and should also strictly regulate what his fighter eats to avoid any other concerns moving forward.
In the days leading up to his eventual withdrawal from the Golovkin rematch in April, Alvarez was still sparring as if he still expected to fight, a sign that his failed drug tests were the furthest thing from his mind.
If Canelo fails another drug test in the future, the implications from that will be much worse. With that being said, Chepo Reynoso, Alvarez's trainer, should also closely regulate what his fighter eats. After all, he is a former butcher in Mexico, and should know which meats to avoid.
Canelo is also not currently not enrolled in a VADA testing program, which led to some criticism, but Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya recently stated that he will soon begin a random testing program, but the specifics were not disclosed.
Alvarez will fight again on September 15 for Mexican Independence Day weekend, presumably in Las Vegas. His suspension is retroactive to the date of his first failed test, meaning he is eligible to box again after August 17.
This means Alvarez will be off for a full year. His last bout took place on September 2017, a controversial split draw to Golovkin.
It seems unlikely that Golden Boy, Alvarez's promoter, will allow their fighter to face the hard-hitting Kazakh in his first fight back after a long layoff.
On the other hand, we have seen crazier things happen in this sport of ours.