Some mistakes are more costly than others, tennis star Maria Sharapova admitted she had made a mistake by taking meldonium despite it being a banned PED. After calling her own press conference to own up to what she had done there was a huge amount of controversy and several of her blue chip sponsors ran to the hills as their lawyers tore up contracts.
There has been talk about whether she will ever be able to play again which considering meldonium was only banned in December and she offered a genuine reason for taking it seem’s harsh.
I have always looked at the issue of banned substances as this, all athletes are responsible for what they put in their body in the same way they are responsible for their performance in their given field. Sharapova’s reasons to take Meldonium, a lack of magnesium and a hereditary heart issue are no longer an excuse as she was warned multiple times to stop taking the substance in the lead up to the ban.
Sharapova may have gained a slight advantage over her opponent but in doing so she never put any woman who stepped on to the court in danger, this is in stark contrast with combat sport.
Barry ‘Kid Galahad’ Awad was a rising force in the super bantamweight division and was a fight or two away from a major title shot. With the world at his feet and an excellent trainer in his corner he decided to take a metabolite of stanozolol, an exogenous anabolic androgenic steroid.
His excuse was that his brother, who was in jail at the time of the announcement had spiked his drink over an on going dispute. Very few people believed him including UKAD the UK Anti Doping agency who gave him an immediate two year ban.
When he stepped in to the ring against Adeilson Dos Santos he had a drug in his body that had allowed him to cut weight easier than his opponent and put him at an unfair advantage. Unlike Sharapova or Olympic gold medalist Ben Johnson who was also caught taking stanozolol, Awad was actively placing his opponent in danger.
For me two years isn’t enough, It may seem harsh but if a boxer, a competitive wrestler or mixed martial art’s fighter is caught taking steroids they should be banned for life. It is more than gaining a better baseball swing or improving endurance on the track it’s a sport where people can be killed or brain damaged even when it is a ‘clean’ fight.
It was announced on Wednesday that Awad had his ban reduced by six month’s and is now allowed to fight again. What was disappointing was seeing the likes of Adam Booth and Frankie Gavin celebrate his return as though he had been out with an injury rather than a drugs ban.
Important thing to note is Awad has never apologized or even admitted taking the substance, quite what he has done to earn his shorter ban I’m not sure.
Booth a trainer of several world champions who has shared strong opinions on PED’s in the past tweeted,
“Welcome back Barry!! Great news!!”
Former British welterweight champion Gavin who has had issues getting to make weight but has never taken drugs to help him said,
“Buzzing for Kid Galahad, time to kick on now and fulfill his talent”
I don’t see why any fellow professionals deem it necessary to congratulate Awad for getting a ban reduced. Under the current rules he will be allowed to box again, possibly on terrestrial TV and if there is one thing boxing is good at it is sweeping bans like this under the carpet and out of sight.
A lot of sports have had to face up to endemic problems with PED use and most fans are very unforgiving. I hope to see a day when boxing takes this issue as seriously as non contact sport’s do but I won’t hold my breath.
Paul Webb is a weekly columnist at InstantBoxing.com as well as featuring as a regular panellist on the notorious Boxing Asylum NutHouse Podcast on Sunday evenings. Follow Paul on Twitter: @Paul_725.