MANILA, Philippines - Three-time world boxing champion Nonito Donaire, Jr. was subjected yesterday to Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) tests by phlebotomist Jennifer Hunter who flew in from Newport Beach, California, to administer the extraction of urine and blood in an unannounced, random visit.
Donaire, 31, is one of only two professional boxers to engage VADA in 24/7/365 random testing. The other is Dominican Republic supermiddleweight contender Edwin (La Bomba) Rodriguez.
“To my knowledge, Nonito and Edwin are the only professional boxers who submit themselves to random testing all year round,” said Hunter, a 33-year-old California State at Fullerton graduate employed by the Danish company Clearidium that is contracted by VADA to do anti-doping tests. “Others are tested on a fight-to-fight basis. Before Manny Pacquiao fought Brandon Rios, I did tests on Rios in California. My first visit to the Philippines was when I tested Amir Khan at his training camp in Baguio a few years ago. I’ve extracted blood from athletes in cycling, gymnastics, equestrian, mixed martial arts and motocross. Clearidium is contracted to do tests for athletes who are required to undergo examination, meaning athletes outside of the VADA program.”
VADA was established by Dr. Margaret Goodman as a vehicle to clean up boxing and mixed martial arts. Dr. Goodman was formerly the chief ringside physician and head of the Medical Advisory Board of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Donaire, on his own, came out to support voluntary anti-doping tests in the wake of widespread suspicions that certain fighters were taking performance-enhancing-drugs. He has become a leading symbol of clean boxing and is entering his third year under the 24/7/365 program.
“VADA has tested Nonito anywhere between 10 to 15 times over the last two years,” said Hunter. “Athletes who undergo testing are very professional about it and extremely cooperative. I’ve never had problems extracting. I’m the only VADA testing agent in the US so I’ve been exposed to a lot of athletes. I’ve actually watched Nonito fight only once, against (Guillermo) Rigondeaux who also submitted to VADA testing.”
Donaire said it took a while to pin down Rigondeaux for testing. “He’s not on the 24/7/365 program,” said Donaire. “When Rigondeaux signed that he would be tested, he didn’t give his whereabouts. So it took a few weeks before he was finally tested. I hope that wasn’t because he needed time to clean up his system. Under VADA rules, you give them your training schedule, location and timetable. You give your contact numbers. You don’t know when they’ll show up to extract blood and urine. They come unannounced.”
In Hunter’s case, she arrived in Manila late Monday night. She went to Cebu because in Donaire’s initial itinerary, there was a two-week stop in the South, but after spending a night, returned to Manila. At 5:50 a.m. yesterday, Hunter was at the security outpost of the Alabang village where Donaire lives.
“We track down the ones we’re supposed to test without telling them when we’re coming,” said Hunter. “In Nonito’s case, I had to go at the crack of dawn because my flight out was scheduled at noon. Most of our testing staff is based in Europe so many have been to the Olympics. I’ve done testing at the World Gymnastics Championships. Since we track down our subjects, we’re more like snipists than detectives. When I got to the security outpost in Alabang, I called Nonito’s phone about 17 times. I realize it was quite early and everybody was still asleep.”
Hunter drew two 10 milliliter vials of blood from Donaire and closed each container with a ratchet sealing system. “The blood is tested within 36 hours of extraction at the UCLA lab in Los Angeles,” said Hunter. “So I’ve got to deliver the sample right after I land. Results should be out immediately after submitting the sample. The sealing system is tamper-proof. I hand-carry all the vials and if I’m stopped by airport security, I show the VADA documents to certify the legitimacy and authenticity of my work.”
Donaire said the VADA program is a constant reminder for athletes to be “always aware” of their responsibility to participate in clean sports. “Unless we’re sponsored, we actually pay for VADA testing on a yearly basis,” he said. “But it’s something I do as my contribution to preserve the integrity of boxing.”
Donaire said he now weighs 132 pounds and reducing to 126 for his fight against WBA featherweight champion Simpiwe Vetyeka of South Africa in Macau on May 31 won’t be a problem. He’s scheduled to wind up sparring at Bebot Elorde’s gym in St. Rita Village, Sucat, at noon today. Donaire said he may spar anywhere between eight to 12 rounds with former two-time world title challenger Silvester Lopez.