The Nevada State Athletic Commission temporarily suspended Canelo Alvarez on Friday due to his two positive tests for the banned substance clenbuterol, commission executive director Bob Bennett told ESPN.
The situation puts Alvarez's scheduled rematch with unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin on May 5 (HBO PPV, 8 p.m. ET) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in serious jeopardy.
Alvarez will be required to appear at a commission hearing -- either in person or via telephone -- on the issue April 10, less than a month before he is to challenge Golovkin in a heavily anticipated rematch of their controversial draw at the same venue in September. The commission will decide at the hearing whether the fight will go ahead as scheduled.
The commission issued the suspension per its regulations in the midst of an investigation after Alvarez twice tested positive for clenbuterol in random urine tests conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20.
Alvarez said the positive tests were from eating contaminated beef, which has been an ongoing problem for athletes from Mexico, where farmers include the substance, which is prohibited in the United States, in cattle feed because it helps reduce fat and increase lean muscle mass.
"Mr. Alvarez is temporarily suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his adverse analytical findings, that being clenbuterol, on Feb. 17 and 20," Bennett said in a statement. "A commission hearing is scheduled for April 10, 2018, to hear from Mr. Alvarez."
The commission has already required Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs), who is now training in San Diego, to undergo more rigorous testing, but at the hearing he will face questioning from the commission about the positive tests.
Bennett, a former FBI agent, already interviewed Alvarez in Las Vegas last week as part of the investigation and told ESPN that he has been cooperative, but the commission will have the final say. If Alvarez, the highest-profile boxer ever to test positive for a performance-enhancing drug, can't convince the majority of the five-person panel that his positive tests were because of contaminated meat, he could be suspended for a time between six months and two years.
"We respect the Nevada State Athletic Commission's process and will vigorously present Canelo's case throughout," Golden Boy Promotions spokesman Stefan Friedman said in a statement to ESPN. "Over his career, Canelo has tested clean more than 90 times and would never intentionally take a banned substance."
Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez and Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler both met with Bennett and commission chairman Anthony Marnell III on Friday in Las Vegas for a status update on the investigation. Bennett told them later Friday about the suspension.
During a session with boxing media members Tuesday at his training camp in Big Bear Lake, California, Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) expressed frustration about Alvarez's positive tests but said he still wanted to fight him, though he also accused Alvarez of purposefully cheating and of having used PEDs for their first fight. Alvarez never failed a test related to that bout.
"Again with Mexican meat? Come on," Golovkin said Tuesday. "I told you, it's not Mexican meat. This is Canelo. This is his team. This is his promotion. Canelo is cheating. They're using these drugs, and everybody is just trying to pretend it's not happening.
"This guy, he knows. This is not his first day in boxing. He proves he gets benefits from everyone and he can get away with it. Check him on a lie detector, and then we can find out everything."
Speaking by phone to ESPN later Tuesday, Golovkin added, "I think it is silly to blame the meat because an athlete at this level should not be caught on the meat. I eat Mexican food all the time, and I've never had that problem."
If the Nevada commission suspends Alvarez further on April 10, Loeffler said Golovkin still will fight on May 5 at T-Mobile Arena.
"GGG is in full training-camp mode right now, and he wants to fight May 5 regardless of what happens," Loeffler told ESPN on Friday night. "The commission did issue the temporary suspension for Canelo, but everything is subject to what happens April 10 at their hearing. On the GGG side, he's fired up. He's on edge for this fight. This fight was really getting red-hot and nearing being sold out after this week. On the GGG side, whenever he can get Canelo in the rematch, he'll fight him. Gennady felt he was wronged [by the decision] the first time. That's where some of those comments came out in the heat of the training camp this week. As soon as he can get him back in the ring, whether it's on May 5 or on a future date, he'll do his best to knock out Canelo. The respect he had for him in the first fight is out the window after this. All the pleasantries are out the window."
The cancellation of the fight would be a massive financial hit for all involved. The September fight sold around 1.3 million pay-per-view buys and generated the third-biggest gate in boxing history ($27,059,850), eight-figure paydays for both fighters, millions for the promoters and untold millions for the Las Vegas economy. Loeffler said he felt the commission had done a thorough job with the investigation and whatever it decides is fine by their side.
"We definitely respect the commission for their thorough investigation. I have to commend them for what they're doing," Loeffler said. "Canelo has cooperated with them from [what] they've said, and they've subjected him to numerous tests since the failed tests. Whatever the commission does, Gennady would still fight May 5 if Canelo is out.
"If for some reason it's not against Canelo, we'll figure out the best course of action at that time, but he is training to fight May 5. We'd look at [middleweight titlist] Billy Joe Saunders or anyone else who makes sense. Hopefully, it's Canelo. If not, we will weigh the options and meet with HBO and the people from the MGM [owner of T-Mobile Arena]."
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