Late on Monday night news outlets started reporting that Australia's Lucas Browne has tested positive for Clenbuterol, a banned substance. Browne captured the WBA World Heavyweight title with a tenth round knockout of champion Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia back on March 5th and the test puts that title victory in jeopardy. Browne had been basking in the glory of his win, returning to his home country as their first ever heavyweight champion. It does appear now, however, as if the party is over.
Browne has expressed shock in his statements, saying that he had never heard of Clenbuterol and that he was not a drug cheat. The agency that administered the testing, VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) sent notice that Browne had failed a post-fight urine test, and Browne was quick to point out that it was his party that requested the testing from VADA in the first place.
Browne is seeking further legal advice, and his next procedural step could be to accept the personal cost of requesting the testing of a “B” sample that was also taken. If the “B” sample is negative, the “A” test is thrown out and the result of the March 5th engagement with Chagaev would stand. Only on rare occasions has the “B” sample ever come back different than the “A” sample.
Here is where things get interesting. The BBC's piece on the situation quotes Browne saying “My team and I were well aware of the many risks involved in going to a place like Chechnya to fight a reigning champion and believed we had taken sufficient precautions.”
Browne is promoted in the United Kingdom by Ricky Hatton, and Hatton Promotions released a statement backing Browne and stating that they were inititiating their own investigation.
All of this comes in light of Russia's recent scandal involving PED use and drug testing that alleged wholesale cheating backed by the government. I have not read all of the details involving that scandal, but there were some incredibly serious allegations, including the replacement of laboratory personnel by agents of the FSB (the old KGB) duirng the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Russia is currently banned from the 2016 Olympic Games, however in the convoluted world of international cloak and dagger, there is a good chance that the Russian team will compete.
Browne is not the first fighter to express concerns about fighting in Russia. The German Boxing Association is said to have requested the test, but that group has it's own nefarious reputation when it comes to drug testing. Chagaev is based out of Germany.
Check out our live report from the fight “Browne Drops and Stops Chagaev in Grozny”.
Back in November, Tyson Fury was facing Wladimir Klitschko in Germany, and Fury and his team were very public about the “precautions” they took. This included very publicly not accepting any water or post-fight replenishment for fear that they may have been tampered with. Did Browne's plan include that level of detail? Would it have made a difference?
The fact of the matter is that the Deontay Wilder camp is probably going to have to pay attention to all of this. The WBC Champion has come to a verbal agreement to fight mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin in Russia. This came after Povetkin's promoters submitted a purse bid that assures Wilder more than $4 million to fight.
Wilder was against fighting in Russia throughout the build-up, but simple circumstances and economics made him re-think his stance.
The current situation dictates that Wilder re-think the fight in Russia yet again. Wilder is accused of using PEDs in some circles already because of his body type. He should be extra cautious heading east of the old “iron curtain.” Going into foreign territory appears to be more complicated and risky than originally thought.
The Lucas Browne scandal is bad for boxing, because the chances that he is exonerated are quite low statistically. If it plays out that Browne is stripped, the process will likely see Chagaev given the belt back. If the end result is that Deontay Wilder versus Alexander Povetkin falls apart and does not happen, then it will have been a disaster for the Heavyweight division.