The charismatic heavyweight boxer Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller made the news again when word dropped on June 27th that he'd tested positive for a banned substance, ahead of a planned comeback fight, slated for July 9th in Las Vegas.
Jaws did drop within the fight game sphere when people heard Miller got “busted” again, but maybe they should not have. The sport struggles to deal with the issue of PED usage by participants, and has had less success, arguably, than many other sports in coming up with a cohesive plan to speak to the matter.
When the latest PED positive registered, Top Rank boss Bob Arum said Miller was off the card. Top Rank, who came aboard as Millers' lead promoter at the start of the year, would go along with the Nevada commission as to how to handle the transgression, Arum said.
And the wheels of justice, such as they are in this red light district of sports, appear to be grinding. A source informs NY Fights that Miller (below) has indeed been conversing with Nevada commission officials.
Nevada commission officials are in possession of a test report, we are told, which indicates a urine specimen got collected from Miller on June 16. The sample got processed at a Utah facility, with VADA in charge of the process. The sample got processed, it looks like, on June 18. “GW1516 detected” the report stated.
A source told NY Fights that Miller could well receive a one-year ban, or maybe two years, max, from the Nevada oversight team.
If indeed that plays out to be the case, and, frankly, the length could change on a whim, because a state agency like a combat sports commission answers to several bosses. That includes, usually, a Governor of the state, but a commission likely has to factor in public opinion.
A one year ban, I can state as a certainty, not a theoretical prediction, will be poorly received by most fight fans. That would send a message that it's business as usual in boxing, and that means lax oversight and short sighted decision making is still the norm.
MILLER HAS BEEN DOWN THIS ROAD BEFORE
The Brooklyn-bred boxer slid up the rankings methodically, and was slated for a lotto ticket scrap against Anthony Joshua on June 1, 2019. But that title challenge went up in smoke, or down the toilet pipes, when samples showed the presence of three different banned chemicals in his system. Miller admitted he messed up, but blamed a contaminated supplement, and a tainted stem cell shot for his elbow.
Regarding the chemical that the sample red-flagged; GW1516 become more well known within the fight game community because it was one of the three banned substances Miller, who turns 32 on July 15, tested positive for in April 2019.
Outside looking in, one can perhaps understand the allure of taking chemicals to gain an edge in competition, because this is a life and death endeavor, and human nature is what it is. But that didn't stop from many of masses hammering Miller. His “explanation” for the 2019 positives didn't pass muster with logicians and his response to the latest PED positive also wasn't universally embraced. Journalist Jeremy Herriges conducted a video interview with Miller, and grilled the boxer in a style that Mike Wallace might have approved of.
On June 30, Miller admitted he had tested PED positive. “This is something that was ingested, we don't know if it was contaminated,” he told Herriges. “All I can do is apologize to Bob Arum (the promoter) and J Prince (his advisor), but at the same time, I did do my homework, I did put my best foot forward, I did let VADA know circumstances, I did my part, I did my part as a human being, as a fighter,” he said, promising he'd be getting the best legal advice” to work on dealing with the matter from here. “When the information comes out, everyone will understand that. And if they don't understand that, it is what it is, man, this is all facts.”
And did he get it that fans are baffled, and angry? “Nobody could be more outraged than me,” the fighter stated to Herriges. “I'm the one that lost millions of dollars. I'm the one that has his career on the line.”
Bottom line, has he ever knowingly ever taken PEDs? “No, I have never, ever willingly taken a steroid for purpose enhancement purposes, no,” Miller said. “Did I take something for healing properties, injuries? Yes, I have. But before a fight, to win a fight, no I have never done that.”
Miller sought to convince doubters, and by now, that is most everyone, that he's not a cheater. Again and again, he mentioned his legal advisors, but he admitted, “I messed up again, with the world watching. I know it sounds crazy, but why the hell would you think I would go back, and do something repeatedly…with the hardships I'm dealing with in my life? I want the general public to think about that. After the facts and everything come out the right way, we'll deal with it, the right way.”
The fighter said he told testers that he had ingested something that he and his team thought VADA should know about, and “this item was listed, it was listed through my lawyer…they (VADA) do know about this product that was ingested, so it was beforehand, of the fight was even scheduled.”
NOTE: I messaged Dr. Margaret Goodman, head of VADA, to gain some clarity from the VADA side, and will insert a response when furnished.
Herriges put forth that Miller could have been doing 365 testing with VADA. The heavyweight said that no one compelled him to, and he blamed a pattern of “miscommunication” between fighters and VADA. He then seemed to be almost arguing that some banned substances, like a GW1516, shouldn't be deemed “performance enhancers.” Herriges countered, and said yes, this flagged chemical does indeed give a user a shortcut to perform better.
After the April 2019 deal, Miller latched on to a rebel persona, and that should have given a hint that MAYBE he wasn't seeing the lost opportunity for a massive payday against Joshua, in Madison Square Garden, as a teaching moment.
THE BEST BAN– ONE, TWO YEARS? OR FOREVER? DEBATE CONTINUES
Miller said yes, he has considered he might be banned from boxing for life. “Yes, I think it's definitely crossed my mind,” he said, but he believes he should NOT be banned. He will accept a suspension, and do testing for the duration of that time period. “But to be banned for life, you're outta your mind.”
Indeed, opinion is mixed within the sport. Promoter Lou DiBella said last week that he does NOT think Miller should be banned for life from the sport. And why not, given that this is the third time that he's publicly named as having tested positive for verboten performance agents? Because, DiBella said, Miller needs counseling.
The heavyweight last time around was defended in public by Sarah Fina, who at the time worked for Greg Cohen Promotions. Before the planned Joshua fight, Cohen shared promotional duties with Salita Promotions. Top Rank took over at the start of the year.
Fina defended Miller and blasted back at critics after the April 2019 mess up. She declared that people were sniping at Miller largely because of his skin color, and said that he got hammered harder than, say, Canelo. But not so this time; in a video interview with Xavier Porter, Fina said that she's no longer involved in Miller's career.
“I can't really say I'm surprised,” she told Porter, when asked about the latest “Big Baby” diaper blast. Users of PEDs come to rely on those chemicals, in her view.
“I think it becomes a mental health issue…I got love for him as a person, but now you are disrespecting the sport,” Fina said. “You are being like, flagrantly, fuck this sport, fuck who I'm fighting. That's not cool. This is a sport you lose your life in.”
Another good point; Jerry Forrest spoke up weeks before his battle with Miller, and made clear he wouldn't be surprised if Miller didn't learn a lesson from the AJ fight fiasco.
In testing positive yet again, Fina said to Porter, Miller's behavior is akin to someone who is addicted to a substance. And that is a fine and fair point.
There's no shortage of people demanding that the commission tag Miller with a lifetime ban, because, many say, he needs to be made an example of. The validity of that reasoning is strong–if anyone should be banned from the sport, Miller, on his third strike, is a strong candidate. Showing zero contrition, basically, and not furnishing logical explanations for his PED positives…let's just say a parole board would not be inclined to show “Big Baby” mercy if he were asking to be released from an incarceration stint.
You might ask yourself, what if Miller goes the Lance Armstrong route, and gets it all off his chest? But then you remember human nature is what it is, and Armstrong only did the Oprah play after his world crumbled around him, and irrefutable reports came out which only a severely deluded being would try and push back on.
Promoter DiBella wasn't wrong, boxing failed Miller, because he was left to his own devices, and the lack of structure gave him too much rope.
Yes, now and again we do see attempts at remedying the doping problem in the sport. The WBC has succeeded to a point with the Clean Boxing Program. Their head man, Mauricio Sulaiman, said that the ‘BC kicked Miller out of their rankings, because he didn't adhere to their testing protocol.
The man himself, though, has to be held responsible.
We on the outside ask ourselves questions, like why in the hell weren't power players inclined to get on the same page, and demand that Miller be tested 24-7-365, if he wanted to be re-licensed anywhere? But no, I am not particularly optimistic that the sport will come out of this having learned lessons.
More questions–why didn't the Nevada commission, headed up day to day by ex FBI man Bob Bennett, demand Miller do testing for a lengthy stint before receiving the OK to fight in Nevada? That would be a no brainer, one would think. NOTE: I've sent emails to Bennett, to discuss the matter and will insert his reply if and when I hear back.
The issue is complex, and more nuanced than boxing as a whole is able or inclined to handle. There is a leadership void that is all the more glaring when something like this happens, with fingers pointed here and there…and with nobody taking a stand in principle, and saying, “This is on me.”