Originally written on Boxing Watchers  |  Last updated 9/27/14

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 27: Rock Allen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania lands a punch in his light welterweight (141lbs) match against Lamont Peterson of Washington, D.C. during the 2004 Olympic Box-Offs at the Cleveland Convocation Center February 27, 2004 in Cleveland, Ohio. With the victory, Allen qualifies for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Coming on the heels of Lamont Peterson testing positive for synthetic testosterone, scrapping his rematch with Amir Khan and generally sending everyone who cares about the great sport of boxing into a tizzy, the last thing we needed was someone else doing something similar. The sweet science has an image problem as it is.

Sadly, today we got the cross to go with Peterson's jab in the form of Andre Berto and his positive test for steroids. Berto also had a highly anticipated rematch coming up next month (against Victor Ortiz), but that, too, is probably going to get scuttled. This is, to put it bluntly, officially a mess.

I'm preaching to the choir if you're reading this, a boxing blog, but these developments come at the worst possible time for fans of the sport in the U.S. At a time when we should be celebrating the success of the Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto fight - both financially and aesthetically - we're now stuck defending boxing in the court of public opinion. Other sports have been able to weather the storms brought on by PEDs, but only because there was a sense that the leagues took measures to combat them or (in the case of the NFL) that said sports had built up so much goodwill with the American public that most people simply didn't care that much.

Boxing doesn't have either of those things going for it. Its non-centralized nature and the confusing manner in which it's governed by the state commissions gives the impression that no one is really running the ship. On top of that, it's a fringe sport with the mainstream U.S. sports fan, truly making waves only when Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao fight.

The Berto story is obviously still playing out, so a rush to judgment would be dangerous. It's possible, though unlikely, that there's been some kind of mix-up or mistake, that he may be innocent. But he's built like a tank, and Victor Conte has been helping his camp, so fans have a right to suspect that he's guilty.

If it turns out that Berto was knowingly taking something he shouldn't, it's going to come off looking extremely foolish given all the attention Peterson's situation has just received. The media heat has been turned up in a big way, and boxers are all of a sudden under the magnifying glass in a way they weren't just a few weeks ago.

Many people have been writing obituaries for boxing in the U.S. since the time I first fell in love with the sport in the late 90s. So far they've all been wrong, but if there's a sense that the sport is dirty - not just a feeling, but something proven by the kind of hard evidence that drug tests bring - that could easily change. The sky might really be falling this time.

I don't blame Berto (or Peterson, for that matter) for not thinking about the health of the sport as a whole. It's an individual enterprise after all, and boxers have to do what's best for them.

It's just that using PEDs and getting caught isn't good for them or boxing. And if the latter goes down, the former go with it. I'd rather not be writing about any of that, so it looks like it's finger-crossing time, waiting to see if there's something other than a sad ending coming out of all of this.

 

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