The California State Athletic Commission said Friday that it would issue junior lightweight world titleholder Francisco Vargas a temporary boxing license, even though he tested positive for trace amounts of the banned steroid clenbuterol in a random test leading up to his first defense against Orlando Salido.
Vargas and Salido, a former titlist, are scheduled to fight June 4 in an HBO-televised main event at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. The fight will go on, as long as Vargas' future tests leading up to the fight are clean, Andy Foster, executive officer of the California commission, told ESPN.com.
Vargas tested positive for clenbuterol, which is typically used to assist in weight loss. The test was conducted April 21 by the Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, the testing agency Vargas requested handle the bout.
That made a difference in the commission's thinking, Foster said. He added that the temporary license would be issued Monday.
"I think you have to put stock in the fact that he asked for VADA," Foster said. "That's not all we looked at, though."
Foster said Vargas would be subject, at his cost, to even more rigorous, random blood and urine testing than he had undergone in the typical VADA program.
Vargas, who is from Mexico, said he believed he tested positive because he ingested contaminated meat in Mexico, where clenbuterol is commonly used illegally by ranchers in livestock feed. That has been a problem in Mexico, where the Associated Press reported this week that coaches of the national teams are paying close attention to the meat their athletes eat to make sure they don't ingest clenbuterol before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
"Mr. Vargas tested negative in California six days before he tested positive in Mexico," Foster said. "I was told it was a very, very low amount, but it was flagged. There have been a lot of athletes from Mexico that have had problems with that substance, so what we're going to do is give him the benefit of the doubt one time.
"During this time leading up to the fight, we will look at all his tests and determine if he is fit to be licensed in California. If we have any problems, then obviously, the fight won't move forward and his temporary license will be revoked. We've asked VADA to continue to test him."
Eric Gomez, vice president of Golden Boy Promotions, Vargas' promoter, said Vargas began to train in Los Angeles and tested clean, but when he returned to Mexico for the remainder of his training camp, his mother prepared beef stew for dinner one night.
"That night [VADA collection agents] showed up to test him," Gomez said. "He believes it was from what he ate that night."
Salido said he wanted the fight to go on and would leave it to the commission to make sure Vargas is clean.
"It's Francisco Vargas' problem to deal with, and if there was some kind of negligence by his team, then it's on him," Salido said. "I am not going to be distracted by this issue. I will continue to prepare myself as best that I can for this fight and will be ready on June 4 to take home the WBC belt.
"There is a commission to address this type of thing, and I will leave it to them to decide what to do with this result. I know they will do the right thing, and if they determined that the fight can go on, I will be more than ready to get in the ring and give the fans a fight they will remember for a long time."
Said Sean Gibbons, Salido's manager: "I want to thank California commissioner Andy Foster for his quick resolution to this issue and for doing all he can in order to save the Salido versus Vargas fight. Boxing needs more [commission executive officers] like Andy Foster, who in 24 hours of the news of the positive steroid test had all the parties on a conference call and came up with a proper plan to save the event."
The matter was discussed Friday on a teleconference, which included Foster, the commission's Dr. Paul Wallace, Gomez, Salido, Gibbons, VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman and others.
"Everybody agreed to the plan, that they would administer many more tests and, assuming he passes them, give him a license to fight," Gomez said. "And if he fails anything, then they'll immediately revoke his license, and he won't be able to fight. Everybody understood, and everyone was willing to cooperate. Dr. Wallace was on the line, and he agreed. He said they've had this situation before."
Gomez said Vargas will leave Mexico and finish his training in Los Angeles.
"We have enough time until the fight to take steps to salvage this fight and make sure Mr. Vargas is clean," Foster said. "I think everybody understood on the call and was agreeable to our plan. Both camps want the fight to move forward under the conditions we set."
Vargas (23-0-1, 17 KOs), 31, a 2008 Mexican Olympian, won his 130-pound world title in dramatic comeback fashion in November. He rallied from a knockdown and a badly swollen eye to stop Japan's Takashi Miura in the ninth round on the Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto undercard in Las Vegas. Vargas-Miura was named the 2015 fight of the year by multiple outlets, including ESPN.com.
Salido (43-13-3, 30 KOs), 35, also has a drug testing history. In 2006, he challenged then-featherweight titleholder Robert Guerrero in Las Vegas and won a unanimous decision. However, Salido tested positive for a steroid after the fight. The result was changed to a no-decision, and Salido was fined and suspended. That positive test a decade ago is why Salido thinks Vargas asked to have VADA handle testing for the bout.
"I had an issue 10 year ago, and I know that is why Vargas team insisted on the VADA testing for this fight," said Salido, who welcomed the testing. "I have proven to be a clean boxer over the last 10 years, and I have never received the benefit of the doubt like Vargas is getting now, but that's OK. As long we fight on June 4, I will find my justice in the ring."