Lucian Bute PED Scandal – Lucien Bute called a press conference on Friday, May 27th to address the recent news that a positive result for a banned substance has come back in the testing around his April 30th fight with Badou Jack for the WBC World super middleweight belt.
As is usually the case in these types of situations, Bute has emphatically denied any use of PED’s, not only for this fight but throughout his 20-plus year career as an amateur and professional boxer. In addressing the media at his Montreal gym Bute asked rhetorically “Why take something now?”
Hmmm. Why would an athlete in his late thirties whose late career resurgence has led to a few last chances at re-capturing past glory do steroids? The rhetoric around his recent acclaimed performances against James DeGale and Badou Jack in failed title bids were that he fought great, but that his championship window is closing. The talk was full of reminders that he had already been deemed past his prime as far back as 2012 when he lost the IBF World title he held for five years to Carl Froch. There are plenty of reasons to pick up the needle late in life is the answer that Bute would hear.
The entire situation has a “groundhogs day” feel to it. In his press conference, Bute emphatically claimed innocence. He elaborated saying that he was not accusing anybody on his team, or the commission, or anyone for that matter of wrong-doing, but that something was indeed wrong because he has never taken a banned substance.
Echoes of the recent defense by Australian heavyweight Lucas Browne, who tested positive after his March of 2016 bout with Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. Browne too denied any and all use of a PED, and he went further than Bute, claiming he tested negative prior to leaving Australia for Russia and that somewhere while he was in Grozny, the substance was introduced to his blood or urine. In Browne’s case, a second test also came back positive and the now former WBA world heavyweight champion is reported to have hired lawyers to further advance his defense. What court is going to hear a case on this matter?
Nevertheless, Bute should pay close attention to the Browne case, because the same thing is going to happen. The fact is that the standard defense here by the fighters is to deny usage, and in the 21st century that has grown to include casting doubts on the commissions, on the testers and the testing process and on the laboratories. The WBA stripped Browne, and in Bute’s case the likely result will be that the boxing commission will issue him a fine and a ban. The WBC will work with the commission and had Bute won the title, they would have stripped him the way the WBA did Browne.
Yes, the fighters may all be guilty, but that has not and cannot be established at this current time because there is no entity that can truly look into the allegations they are making in defense.
VADA The Answer?
The Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, VADA for short, is considered state of the art, top of the line in the modern era of PED testing. Now VADA testing is expensive, and they are a private (non-profit) entity that asks fighters to “apply” for their process. Not everyone uses them, but once in use there is the assumption that the samples are subject to the most modern and rigorous testing available.
VADA’s President and board chairman is Dr. Margaret Goodman. The agency’s web site lists nine other board members, primarily medical and legal experts. All is well so far, as the credentials of the people listed are strong and their mission is clear.
But this does not answer the theory set forth by Lucas Browne. The same concept was potentially hinted at by Bute. “We don’t know who or how, but somehere in the process the sample got tainted.” So what is said process?
That banning steroids is seen as a western concept by other areas of the world is very clear. Many countries, especially Eastern European or former Soviet-axis countries, view the whole concept of steroid use differently. To them it is tantamount to banning any fastball over 100 miles an hour in baseball. It is a limitation to the competition. That VADA is U.S.-based and manned by an almost entirely western staff has an effect. VADA is likely greeted in most places with a reaction like “here come the Americans with their rules again.”
It is in that type of environment that VADA must hire consultants to handle the samples.
Now, hiring outsiders to arrive at a fighter’s home or gym has proven complicated. Remember, by signing up for VADA the fighters disclose their schedule and whereabouts at all times, and VADA people can show up just about anywhere asking for a test.
MMA experienced a case with one of their champions, 145 lb Brazilian featherweight titlist Jose Aldo. Aldo was training in his gym and a person showed up to request a VADA test sample. Aldo and his camp contacted the local commission in Rio de Janiero, and the commission showed up and claimed jurisdiction and took the sample.
As a consequence, the VADA contact is likely someone from the local boxing commissions or from the local medical community who has the right contacts to gather the sample. If not, at the very least, those entities are made aware that VADA is on the way. All along this trail, persons are likely working for a fee, and truthfully the process becomes even more risky with volunteers. In general, the possibility exists that VADA is forced to work at a local level in some places with the very people they need to be watchful for.
But how does this affect Lucien Bute, who fought in the good ole U.S. of A. under the watchful eye of the Washington D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission?
The D.C. Commission is hot right now in the boxing world. The D.C. Armory has played host to several major televised fights this year and there are more booked. Big fights mean a budget, so the commission likely has a handful of full-time employees including commission chairman Adam Weers.
Now, I did not attend the Bute-Jack fight, but for the bigger shows most if not all of the commission attends to properly oversee the event. It is also customary to bring in a group of “assistant” commissioners to help fill in all the positions, many of whom may be volunteers. With people stationed in all the locker room areas, the commission monitors each fighter throughout fight day. Samples are brought to a central location to be labelled and sealed for transfer.
The fights were on a Saturday. Where was the sample Sunday, and the whole way to the lab? Bute appeared to hint this may be his defense when he prefaced a mention of the commission and his own team by saying “I’m not blaming anybody.”
Whatever the final results will be, Bute’s test is already perceived as a black eye to the sport of boxing. Browne’s case has not received the international media attention it deserves and his defense will likely go nowhere. The WBC will also have to rule on the recent case of heavyweight title challenger Alexander Povetkin, who tested positive prior to his fight against Deontay Wilder, leading to the fight being cancelled. That case may turn out to be an exception to the rule. You can expect the promoters and Povetkin to speak for the hosts and NOT the Russian Boxing commission, and Povetkin and his backer, Andrey Ryabinsky, have the deepest pockets of all. Without the commission to hide behind, the WBC may go ahead and try to re-schedule that one.
As we progress into the 21st century, the specter of steroids and PED use will continue to rear it’s ugly head. Bute is the latest fighter to be implicated but sadly he will not be the last. There’s no end in sight.