OF all the bizarre and shocking things Ryan Garcia did before, during and after his fight against Devin Haney last month, perhaps the least bizarre and shocking was the meetup he arranged with former American President Donald Trump during his post-fight victory lap.

A natural meeting of minds, this union arrived before news broke that Garcia had failed a pre-fight performance-enhancing drug test for ostarine and was, on some level, supposed to highlight just how famous Garcia, the latest so-called face of boxing, had become. Little did we know, however, there were yet more twists in the Ryan Garcia story.

Now, a few weeks on, we look upon that Trump meeting as not only a uniting of egotists but also rather telling in terms of what the two men represent. Chronic tweeters, the pair of them, both have at various points utilised social media as a storytelling tool presumably in the hope their version of a particular story would stick and not be trumped by something as inconvenient, for them, as either facts, truth, or proof. For Trump, the embracing of a post-truth world was conducted on the biggest stage of all, whereas in the case of Garcia, someone similarly inclined, his attempt to control a narrative has been on a much smaller scale yet has been no less concerning and fascinating to witness.

It all started with the old conspiracy approach. Meaning: Garcia, an impressionable, cocooned 25-year-old, rounded up numerous likeminded individuals with a predilection for distrusting authority, an urge to stick it to the man, and a tendency to say, at every turn, “Makes you think, doesn’t it?” By aligning with this agreeable motley crew, Garcia managed to cultivate a ready-made army of online followers, disciples, people who would stay with him through thick and thin and challenge the powers that be should the powers that be ever try to mess with him or undermine his achievements.

When this then inevitably happened following the Haney fight, Garcia, as planned, had his army ready to defend his right to a fair trial. More than just that, Garcia, due to how open he had been on social media, and how open he continues to be on social media, was already primed to fight his own corner, shout louder than anyone else, and proclaim his innocence in his inimitable and somewhat jarring style.

He was aided, too, by the constant desire of those reporting his failed tests – one on April 19, and the other on April 20 – to update people on social media and therefore engage with both Garcia’s supporters and, on occasion, Garcia himself. This, in truth, does nobody any good, particularly when a process is involved. Nor did it benefit anyone to speculate that Garcia had, in addition to being flagged for ostarine, also been found with traces of 19-norandrosterone, a banned steroid, in one of his tests, for which further testing was required. After all, when, on May 8, it was then reported that there was in fact no presence of this second drug, 19-norandrosterone, inevitably the story was rewritten as a “victory” for Garcia, with Garcia himself happy to embrace this development and spin it as The Story. Like any boxer in trouble, the Californian had been ready to jump on an error or technicality like a housewife on a stain. Therefore, when given one, he was quick to inform all his followers that he had been “cleared” of any wrongdoing.

Ryan Garcia (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Empire State Realty Trust)

That, of course, was not strictly true. It was true, yes, that he had been reportedly cleared of using that particular drug, 19-norandrosterone, but that still doesn’t account for the presence of ostarine in Garcia’s system (at 6 ng/ml some 60 times over the New York State Athletic Commission’s allowable limit), nor do anything to remove the sizeable cloud still currently hanging over him.

Ideally, this would have all been handled better, both by testers and the media, and we would have been spared the blow-by-blow, tweet-by-tweet account of proceedings. But alas, this is where we find ourselves in 2024, with everything open to interpretation and someone always trying to spin a yarn or simply bend the narrative to suit their own point of view. In the context of PEDs in boxing, we have recently seen a prevalence of this kind of behaviour, most notably with Conor Benn and Alycia Baumgardner, both of whom used social media to try to convince either themselves or others of their innocence, often with no real basis whatsoever. Scared, it seemed, of silence, or of the belief that going quiet was a sign of guilt, both Benn and Baumgardner got active, more active than ever, and thought it was enough to tell you they were innocent rather than wait for official processes to play out.

For some, this was indeed enough. If you liked the boxer, for example, or needed them to fight, a declaration of innocence, combined with a poorly written statement and a base motivational quote, was sufficient for cheeks to be turned and nothing more to be said. Yet, by giving boxers this degree of power, one can’t help but wonder what the future holds when it comes to PEDs in the sport.

If you ask me, the B sample is to blame. Not Ryan Garcia’s B sample (which today confirmed what we already knew). Not Conor Benn’s B sample. Not even the B sample of any boxer in particular. I just mean the B sample as a concept; the B sample as an open door and a talking point and an opportunity for these matters to be sensationalised and dragged out by busy journalists and others who profit from boxing being in the news.

For the B sample, in the end, is just a MacGuffin. It sounds important but ultimately means very little. It is but a distraction, a diversion, a nuisance. It offers boxers, the ones caught, the opportunity to buy time, gather support, distort the narrative, and claim something underhand, and in turn it makes a complete mockery of strict liability. Moreover, the B sample culture, a soap opera now played out in public, has made boxers “innocent” unless it is proven beyond doubt that they knowingly took a performance-enhancing drug or, in what would be a world first, they actually hold up their hands and confess to their misdemeanour.

That, for a sport already too unruly, ambiguous and dangerous, can never be a good thing.


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