Injecting Drama: Floyd Mayweather Jr, Lidocaine, Xylocaine, his hands and supposed doping

It’s no secret that Floyd Mayweather Jr and talk of P.E.D use in boxing often go hand in hand.


Mayweather and those around him pretty much introduced the term “Olympic style testing” into the boxing jargon during the messy negotiations between him and Manny Pacquiao for their much delayed and still uncertain superfight. Some associated with Mayweather accused Pacquiao of abusing P.E.D’s, Mayweather demanded more stringent testing than the athletic commissions require and for whatever reason (and it wasn’t entirely clear what it was) Pacquiao turned it down. The entire thing was somewhat of a farce and none of the parties come out of it smelling of roses.

But as well as accusing others of P.E.D abuse, there have been a number of rumours about Mayweather and his own conduct. Thomas Hauser, one of the few journalists to really put any effort into looking at P.E.D abuse in boxing, has written about the whispers that Mayweather Jr himself failed three tests that were hushed up. But that’s not the rumour I want to focus on.

The one I wish to focus on has been around for a while, at least since Mayweather faced Castillo for the first time. In the build up to that bout the commentators mention how Mayweather had suffered from hand issues and had injected himself to deal with them. From there the rumour has grown, passed on through message boards and badly sourced articles to reach a current form that essentially goes like this:

Floyd Mayweather injects his hands with a dubious substance during training and for bouts. This substance is banned in most states and the reason Mayweather only boxes in Nevada is that it is the only state to allow it/he has a special deal with them which means he ignores it. Mayweather is thus is essence a drug cheat.

Let’s see if there’s any truth to this rumour…

The substance in question is Lidocaine (the generic name)/Xylocaine (the brand name). Lidocaine isn’t on the prohibited list of drugs by WADA but it supposedly is banned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. This was important in the buildup to Mayweather vs Hatton. Hatton’s camp argued that as it wasn’t part of the WADA list the standard testing by a WADA facility wouldn’t test for it or acknowledge it if it showed up and as such additional testing should be done specifically for it.

What makes it strange is that I can find nothing on the NSAC website which bans Lidocaine/Xylocaine other than the catch all:

“Drug or injection that has not been approved by the Commission, including, but not limited to, the drugs or injections listed in subsection 2, in any part of the body, either before or during a contest or exhibition, to or by any unarmed combatant, is prohibited.

There are some precedents for lidocaine being banned; it was mentioned in 2004 as a banned substance:

“It was revealed prior to his failed middleweight title bid against Bernard Hopkins in 2004 that de la Hoya took Lidocaine, a pain killer deemed illegal by Nevada State Athletic Commission standards, to speed up the healing process for a cut suffered on his hand.”

And there are old articles about Loyd Honeygham testing positive for it and facing a ban (but eventually being fined).

“Nevada boxing officials said yesterday they would fine and probably suspend Lloyd Honeyghan. They said the British fighter tested positive for the painkilling drug lidocaine after losing his World Boxing Council welterweight title to Marlon Starling on Feb. 4.

”We’re going to be tough with this one and we’re going to make sure it’s not done again in this state,” said Dr. Elias Ghanem, chairman of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Ghanem said Honeyghan and his handlers were specifically warned before the fight that they must clear any medications they planned to use with the commission. He said they still went ahead and secretly injected lidocaine into the boxer.

Ghanem said lidocaine is similar to Novocain and is commonly used in injections for relief of tennis elbow or bursitis. Ghanem said he had talked to Honeyghan’s manager, Mickey Duff, and Duff told him he did not know when or where Honeyghan got the injection.(AP)”

The picture was further muddled when Kieth Kizer intervened. He said that Lidocaine wasn’t banned, although its use wasn’t allowed within a week of a bout (and certainly not on fight night. To quote from two articles:

1) “As Kizer explained it, fighters must, under penalty of perjury, sign a statement at the fight weigh ins discloosing what, if any, pain or other serious medication they have used or plan to use anytime between the weigh in and fight time.

“Mayweather has never disclosed any such information so, as far as we are concerned, this is not any kind of issue. I know the ardent Pacquiao fans talk a lot about but to us it’s the same as the speculation about Pacquiao using any sort of drugs which comes from the Mayweather fans out there. Both of them have always tested clean in Nevada.”

Kizer said he could name other boxers who have asked permission to use aspirin, Lidocaine, cortisone and other “pain therapeutic” medications.

“To us, it’s just a safety issue and we have to know about it but none of those things are barred either by us or by the world and United States anti doping agencies,” Kizer said. “We need to know the reason they’re using something, what exactly they’re using or want to use and we need to know if they plan to take two pills or 20. If the fighter has something from a doctor concerning this, then our doctors check I out and give us guidance.”

And 2) (apologies for the source; the original article is behind a paywall on the Times)

“Kizer confirmed yesterday that lidocaine is banned for use by boxers within a week of a bout. “If lidocaine is injected,” he said, “the pain receptors in the boxer may not work and he may not know if he is hurt.” He also confirmed that lidocaine would be tested for after the bout, at the Quest Diagnostics laboratory in the city.

So as far as I can see the situation is this:

1) Lidocaine isn’t a banned substance on the WADA or USDA lists and isn’t specifically banned by NSAC.
2) Despite that, NSAC do not allow its use on fight night or in the immediate buildup to a fight.
3) While Floyd and his camp have tacitly admitted to using Lidocaine, this has only been during the training for bouts rather than during for bouts themselves. This is in contrast to Honeyghan and Oscar who appeared to use it during the bouts themselves.
4) Lidocaine has been tested for in Nevada, at least after Mayweather/Hatton, and Mayweather came back clean.

Now the story that goes round the internet is that Mayweather is using this mysterious lidocaine substance and that Nevada has some special rules that allow him to do so while every other state doesn’t and views it as illegal. The simple issue here is that there’s no evidence of this (and the articles that say that are incredibly… and I suggest deliberately… vague about it). I can see no evidence that any… let alone a majority… of other states ban the use of Lidocaine in all circumstances and there’s remarkably little evidence that they even ban it in the week leading up to a bout like Nevada do; if anything, Nevada appears to be one of the harsher states when it comes to the regulation of lidocaine.

So the end result?

It’s basically a non-story. If Mayweather does use it, he uses a substance which is not prohibited by WADA, USDA or the regulatory bodies while training for bouts but then stops using it for the bouts themselves. The situation appears to be little different then say alcohol; if a boxer has some drinks during a training camp then the regulators aren’t going to make an issue out of it; if he shows up drunk on fight night he is.

I think the entire “Mayweather uses illegal injections!” hysteria is simply an example of people who don’t like Mayweather trying to smear him and his achievements.


4 thoughts on “Injecting Drama: Floyd Mayweather Jr, Lidocaine, Xylocaine, his hands and supposed doping

  1. Thank you for the truth.being a mayweather fan since 1998, I had a hard time believing he was anti drug cheat but then cheat himself. Why risk the rep, the money, the legacy.

  2. I find it hard to beleive mayweather needs any help from drugs to keep his hands from hurting during a fight. He doesnt punch hard enough to hurt his hands. Hes not a knockout puncher.

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