Excuses, Excuses, Excuses – The list of big-name fighters who have tested positive yet barely receive sanction is lengthy… Boxing is howling out for a universal governing authority, the equivalent of an IAAF or Fifa, enforcing a universal drugs policy. As it is, an offence carrying a four-year ban in the UK might get a slap on the wrist in the United States.—Sean Ingle
“We need more guys…willing to voluntarily submit to the most rigorous drug-protocols. And those who don’t and those who don’t and get nailed need to find out it wasn’t worth the risk. I’m not sure boxing commissions have stepped up to that responsibility yet.”—Larry Merchant
Failing a drug test has become commonplace in boxing and in many other sports. However, failing twice or more suggests a dangerous pattern. If the cheaters plan to stay ahead of the tests, then perhaps the notion of permanent bans as an appropriate deterrent needs to be considered. Some have even suggested the radical idea of no bans at all thus shifting the focus of “Performance Enhancement” to a level playing field.
Increasingly, many high-profile boxers have been implicated in one way or another, including LAMONT PETERSON (who tested positive for synthetic testosterone, causing his rematch with Amir Khan to be canceled), ANDRE BERTO (who tested positive for a steroid, causing his rematch with Victor Ortiz to be canceled though it was later found that his positive test was the result of contamination), and ERIK MORALES who tested for a banned weight loss drug but was still able to get his rematch with Danny Garcia sanctioned by the NYSAC. Erik was promptly and brutally knocked out by a vicious Garcia hook.
Recently, a lower profile boxer in the UK by the name of Larry “The War Machine” Olubamiwo had his ban reduced from four years to just 12 months after giving evidence against another boxer for using PEDS. When Olubamiwo was handed a four year ban for admittedly using a mind-boggling 13 illegal substances he told an interesting story and did what appears to be a “Canseco,” quickly claiming that he was far from the only British boxer using PEDs to gain an advantage in the ring. In a show of uncommon hubris, candor, stupidity or some combination thereof, Larry said, “I got lax in my protocol otherwise I would not have been caught.”
Since The War Machine (11-19) has lost 18 of his last 19, it seems safe to assume he no longer is embracing chemicals. In the end, however, very few ever say “yeah you caught me I’m guilty.”
And so the beat goes on.
The Excuses; the Lame Excuses
“Mr [Lucas] Browne arrived in Chechnya a clean athlete” insists the Manchester-based promoters of LUCAS BROWNE.
“I’m clean. I haven’t taken anything or consumed anything, so I’ve got nothing to fear.”—ALEXANDER POVETKIN (This just in: In a formal statement released by Team Povetkin on May 31, it is claimed that the doping test performed on May 17, contrary to earlier reports, showed no traces of meldonium, thereby proving “that the positive sample gathered in April was a residual effect of Mildronat taken last year.” Concurrently, Povetkin’s promoter Andrey Ryabinsky threatened to sue everyone who called Povetkin a cheater, naming ESPN boxing analyst Dan Rafael as a potential target. This story is far from over.)
“I am surprised and sorry about this…I don’t understand what led to this positive result. I have always passed every anti-doping test that I was asked to take since I won a world title….I have never taken any illegal products. There will be an analysis of the B sample and I am sure that this result will be negative.”—LUCIEN BUTE
Saturday’s much-anticipated match between FRANCISCO VARGAS and Orlando Salido for the WBC World super featherweight title was put in jeopardy when Vargas tested positive for clenbuterol. Vargas’s promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, claims clenbuterol entered his system through contaminated meat. “Francisco has, is and always will be a clean fighter,” said a spokesman for Golden Boy. “That is why he insisted on this voluntary testing program.”
ERKAN TEPER failed a post-fight drug test after knocking out David Price and is currently under investigation for unlawful possession of doping substances such as clenbuterol, testosterone, growth hormone and methandrostenolone after the drugs were found during a raid.
In a display perhaps of the apple not falling far from the tree, middleweight SHANE MOSLEY, JR., the son of former multi-world champion Shane Mosley, knocked out Jason Kelly, but then tested positive for amphetamines, which are on the banned list. On twitter, the elder Mosely had this to say: “He isn’t on steroids. He is a clean kid. Just stupid…No1 is more disappointed then (sic) me. I am taking his ass in the ring and wearing him out. Grown man spanking. All he had 2do was write it down.”
British junior featherweight KID GALAHAD, who failed his drug test following his match with Adeilson Dos Santos, claimed that his brother Mageed (currently in prison for other offenses) spiked a protein drink with the banned substance (stonozolol) after the two had a disagreement. “What can I say, other than I am totally gutted,” he said. “This will stall my career dramatically. I’m absolutely devastated especially as I have not done anything wrong and have never taken a steroid in my life.”
“I have no idea how my urine sample tested positive because I didn’t take anything illegal…Either the test was contaminated, or mixed-up with another sample. We believe in the process and I will fully comply. Further analysis will prove I’m 100% innocent because I’ve done nothing wrong.” ANTONIO TARVER said after his fight with Steve Cunningham.
Tarver also failed a test when he drew with Lateef Kayode in 2012. Kayode would later be mugged and mangled by LUIS ORTIZ, but then the “Real King Kong” failed his test, though, to Ortiz’s credit, he fessed up to it with no excuses.
I just got news that J’LEON LOVE tested positive for (an) illegal substance. So not only did the judges cheat me but so did Love.” –Gabe Rosado
The forbidden stimulant, methyl synephrine, was found in the A-sample of SAM SOLIMAN after his 2013 bout with Felix Sturm. Soliman faulted an energy drink. The Sturm camp said, “We don’t believe that…..We are convinced that they used the substance to get an unfair advantage in the fight.” Sturm later got himself embroiled in some doping controversy against Fedor Chudinov.
TONY THOMPSON, a multiple offender, claimed to be unaware that hydrochlorothiazide was banned, but was given a separate 12-month ban by the Austrian Boxing Federation for the presence of the same substance when fighting Kubrat Pulev in August 2013. Thompson failed a drug test following his July 2013 rematch with British heavyweight David Price. Thompson argued that the banned substance entered his body through medication taken for high blood pressure and not to control his weight or hide other substances.
MICKEY BEY was found to have high levels of testosterone in his system following his knockout of Robert Rodriguez. Bey’s testosterone to epitestosterone ratio was marked at 30-1, much greater than the 6-1 allowed by Nevada. Among many other things, Bey said, “I was sick for like a month or two, but I have a history of being sick. Everybody knows that. That’s why I didn’t get a gold medal. I caught pneumonia and couldn’t compete in the Olympics. But like I said, the doctor made a bad error. I don’t go to doctors. That’s what everybody knows. I’ve got a history of having a broken hand and never got a surgery or none of that, for the specific reason that I didn’t want them putting all that oxycodone, vicodin and all that medication in me because I don’t believe in that.”
When BRANDON RIOS tested positive after the Pacquiao fight, the excuse was that he accidentally took some dietary supplement that happened to have a banned substance in it. Bob Arum blamed Alex Ariza, Rios’ strength and conditioning coach, for the failed test.
Serial offender FRANS BOTHA reportedly tested positive for phentermine, a banned stimulant, as well as benzodiazepine, aka valium, which is also banned. This was after his curious fight in Australia with Sonny Boy Williams.
ANTHONY “BOOM BOOM” FERRANTE’s nasty and scary KO over Issa Akberbayev in a big upset was overturned when Ferrante was disqualified after a doping test showed positive. “I was walking around at 225 and had to get down to 196 and drop 16 or so pounds. Why the hell would I take weight gaining steroids, when I needed to cut weight, it was a joke, and it made no sense at all,” said Ferrante.
Gabriel F. Cordero of Fight News reported that, in a show of shameless hubris, the very scary Panamanian GUILLERMO “EL JEFE” JONES tested positive for furosemide. Thus, the much-anticipated rematch between WBA cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev and Jones was cancelled. Jones said “I’m not understanding what it is they’re accusing me of and I will always be clean….The Russians were afraid and that’s why they didn’t want to fight. They were sure I was going to win and by knockout. We don’t know what the Russians are inventing or are doing, but they’re dishonest. I took the tests but copies of the results weren’t given to us.” Indeed.
Amazingly, furosemide also was found in the then 41-year-old Jones’ system before his legendary brawl with Denis Lebedev in May of 2013. Jones KOed Lebedev and left the game Russian’s right eye and face a grotesque mess of purple gore. The manner in which Jones (40-3-2) pummeled the champion raised eyebrows of suspicion.
Denis Lebedev vs. Guillermo Jones showcased boxing’s dark side — the side when the worst thing can happen.
ENZO MACCARINELLI tested positive for a banned substance known as methylhexaneamine following his fight in March with Shane McPhilbin. Said Maccarinelli: “I purchased a product called dexaprine that contained this banned substance from a combat magazine. The advert stated that it was an approved substance and I checked the ingredients which had no reference to any banned substance that I was aware of. In fact, it also stated that it was suitable for athletes.”
Big Polish heavyweight MARIUSZ WACH admitted that he used anabolic steroids before his 2012 fight with Wladimir Klitschko in Germany. At first it appeared to be a refreshingly rare admission of guilt, but then, in an interview with a Polish website, Wach placed the blame elsewhere, suggesting that the culprit may have been one of his trainers or another specialist that helped him prepare for the bout.
Receiving a two-year ban after also testing positive for methylhexaneamine following his win over Sandor Balogh in 2012, DILLIAN WHYTE said: “I have nothing to hide. It is a genuine mistake and I urge all boxers to double-check all ingredients in all pre-workout drinks they take. I would hate to see another boxer make the same mistake I have.”
In his post-fight drug test after his fight against Joan Guzman, South African ALI FUNEKA tested positive for a diuretic banned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Funeka’s manager said the diuretic was given by a doctor who told them that it was not a banned substance. Nevertheless, the NSAC gave Funeka a 9-month suspension and fined him $35,000.
JOAN GUZMAN also had tested positive for the same diuretic, furosemide, in his fight against Jason Davis.
SHANNON BRIGGS tested positive for a banned substance following his first- round knockout of Marcus McGee. Ivaylo Gotzev, Briggs’ manager, had this to offer: “Shannon is on enough medication to kill a horse because of his asthma. All the medications he takes, other people couldn’t even get out of bed. But he’s out there running and training and fighting. He’s not a steroid user or a drug user. He’s using medication. We’re consulting with his physicians and seeing how we can make the proper adjustments so this doesn’t happen again. “
In November 2009, JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ JR. tested positive for furosemide, a diuretic typically used to help cut weight or used as a masking agent for steroids. Junior then tested positive for marijuana after his September 15, 2012 fight against Sergio Martinez.
Former “Contender” contestant JOEY GILBERT, a Reno attorney, was suspended temporarily by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after testing positive for numerous banned substances after his Sept. 21 fight in Reno against Charles Howe. “If Mr. Gilbert truly requires some of these medications to lead a normal healthy life, then the harsh reality might be that he should no longer box,” said Dr. Margaret Goodman.
A second sample confirmed that MARIANO CARRERA tested positive for the anabolic steroid clenbuterol following his WBA junior middleweight title victory over Javier Castillejo in Berlin in 2007. Three days later, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended ORLANDO SALIDO, who had outpointed Robert Guerrero to win the IBF featherweight belt when his post-fight urinalysis revealed the presence of another steroid, nandrolone. (Both Carrera and Salido were stripped of their titles)
OMAR NINO ROMERO, reportedly the first boxer in Nevada history to test positive for methamphetamine was suspended for nine months and fined $18,750 by the regulators. “I’m very, very sad at the decision, at what I went through, “said Romero. “We’re shocked that something like that occurred,” said Todd DuBoef of Top Rank, Romero’s co-promoter. “I talked to (co-promoter Fernando) Beltran, who said the kid insists he never took anything.”
“When I managed JAMES TONEY, he was a fit middleweight who needed nothing but his two fists and his amazing speed and defensive skills. Ten years later, after supposedly beating WBA champ John Ruiz; he came up dirty in a drug test. When nandrolene was discovered in his sample, it resulted in the belt being returned to Ruiz… Of course Toney claimed the drugs were taken to control inflammation following tricep/bicep surgery. All athletes come up with what they hope is a plausible explanation for the positive testing.”—Jackie Kallen
Toney failed still another test in 2007 against DANNY BATCHELDER (who also tested positive). Toney denied he knowingly ingested any banned substance,
SHANE MOSLEY testified under oath to a grand jury investigating the Victor Conte BALCO scandal that he had taken undetectable steroids “the clear” and “the cream” and injected himself with EPO sold to him by Conte during training camp for his 2003 rematch with Oscar De La Hoya. Mosley won a controversial decision to win the world junior middleweight title.
FERNANDO VARGAS was suspended for nine months and fined $100,000 for testing positive for the steroid stanozolol following his defeat by Oscar De La Hoya in September 2002. Vargas naturally claimed the steroids were given to him without his knowledge, but unlike most he accepted full responsibility.
Former WBC light middleweight champion RICARDO MAYORGA tested positive for a banned substance after losing his title to Oscar de la Hoya. And then ROSENDO ALVAREZ, who like Mayorga hails from Managua, Nicaragua, and is a former stablemate of Mayorga, failed a drug test after his losing fight to Jorge Arce.
Both ROY JONES JR. and RICHARD HALL tested positive for the testosterone precursor androstenedione after Jones defeated Hall to retain his undisputed world light heavyweight championship in Indianapolis in 2000. Jones insisted his test was the result of ingesting the over-the-counter supplement Ripped Fuel.
PERNELL WHITAKER received a six-month suspension after testing positive for a banned substance before his fight against Andrey Pestryaev. Whitaker called results of the pre-fight urine test “a joke.” The joke, however, was on Whitaker as the fight was changed to a NC.
When the aforementioned Frans Botha of South Africa turned up positive for steroids after his fight against Axel Schulz for the IBF heavyweight title in 1995, he was immediately stripped of the belt. His camp claimed they had been prescribed for treatment of an arm injury.
ERBITO SALAVARRIA, the Filipino WBC flyweight champion from Manila, fought Betulio Gonzalez to a draw in Venezuela. Following the decision, Salavarria’s water bottle was confiscated by Venezuelan authorities and handed over to WBC officials, who sent a sample of the water to be tested by an independent laboratory. Although Salavarria’s people claimed that the bottle was filled with a honey and water mix, the lab results showed the liquid in question was laced with amphetamines. To this day, Salavarria and his team maintain their innocence, claiming that Venezuelan authorities laced his water bottle with the illegal substance in a bid to keep the world title in Venezuela
The Salavarria case appeared to be the first time the detection of a banned substance played a role in a high profile prizefight.
Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and holds several records. He enjoys writing about boxing.