In this week’s column I’ll be taking a look at PED’s and the effect they are having in boxing. But, more importantly I’ll be giving my thoughts on what the sport can do to stop the scourge and possibly become an example to the rest of the sporting world. Wishful thinking, but I’ll do my best.
Other sports have been ravaged by PED’s and their reputations have been left in tatters. Cycling is re-building after the Lance Armstrong debacle, whilst there seems to be a new case every single day in Athletics, where every special performance is immediately shrouded in doubt by critics. Just imagine if Usain Bolt tested positive. Athletics might as well pack up and go home.
Historically as well, steroid and stimulant abuse has been rife in the Eastern European and Soviet systems, but now it is picking up steam in boxing circles. Most recently we have seen Erkan Teper fail a test after he stopped David Price in two rounds last year, the second fighter after Tony Thompson who beat the Liverpool man to fail a test.
Yet, it took over a year for the Thompson news to filter through from the UKAD. Why? He was found to be a cheat, but it was still covered up. Don’t we want to get rid of incidents like this in boxing, not just sweep it under the rug like it never happened.
It also took nearly a year to find out that Sheffield’s Kid Galahad was also caught out by the testers, with the pathetic excuse of his drink being spiked after a family dispute. Cheaters should be named and shamed, not protected by the agency.
However, it isn’t restricted to the fighters who are striving to reach world title level. Some at the top have also been caught out. Shane Mosley was involved in the BALCO scandal, the great Roy Jones Jr was caught out after a fight with Richard Hall and former world heavyweight world champion was thrown off the Ukrainian team before the 1996 Atlanta Olympics after he failed a test.
Guillermo Jones and Antonio Tarver, both former world cruiserweight beltholder, have made plenty of headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past couple of years for their failed tests, whilst current light-heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara also tested for a banned substance early in his career.
It is difficult to know what is on the banned substance list or not, as it is constantly changing, but if you are going to take a stimulant whether prescribed or bought over the counter, surely you’d want to know what you’re putting in your body, so as not to put any unnecessary risk on your career.
For me, taking PED’s is the lowest form of cheating and is a two year ban enough? This isn’t a 100m race or a bike race on the road or the track. This is two men, sharing a ring and punching each other in the head. There is a huge risk every time fighters step in the ring, let alone if one of them is gaining an unfair advantage.
I’ve been at shows where fighters careers have been ended due to injury, in one case his life was nearly over. It’s a numbing experience. The crowds expect blood, brawls, knockouts and exciting fights, but it is hard to describe the feeling and switch in atmosphere when a fighter goes down and everyone in attendance knows it’s serious.
So what can be done about it? I’ve heard fighters talking about lifetime bans for fighters who have failed tests and I can’t help but agree. Boxing is dangerous, everybody knows that, so why not become an example and stamp the cheats out once and for all.
The most at fault though, apart from the fighters, or trainers, who make the decision to use PED’s, are the sanctioning bodies. They receive a hatful of money from promoters and sponsors to put their belts, of which there are far too many, but that’s for another day, out there in the public eye.
They all claim that a unification is more important than a mandatory, but surely in that case the sanctioning bodies must unify to overcome their mandatory situation and make boxing a clean sport. Boxing is famed for the discipline fighters show in camp, so it’s about time the sanctioning bodies showed the same discipline to stop the scourge.
Different bodies are linked to different doping agencies like USADA, VADA, WADA or anything else ending in ADA. Why don’t they come together and form their own agency, with the help of these other agencies, and become an example of a sport trying to solve a problem, not just hide it away like a dirty little secret.
The argument will be the amount of time and money needed to establish such a program. In that case, get promoters on board, broadcasters to push it and big fighters to sign up to it. Unless you sign up to this program, we’ll strip you of your title or you won’t fight for it in the first place.
Encourage fighters to go through year round testing. The ones that already do it, like Nonito Donaire should be put on a pedestal and used as someone to look up to for others, as there can be no doubt as to there legitimacy. He has to be available 365 days a year, 24/7 as he can be called upon at any time to do a test. More should follow his lead.
This is a pipe dream, I’ll admit that. But, surely there can be some wheels set in motion towards ridding boxing of the massive headache that are PED’s. Let’s see the sport stand up and at least try and stop it once and for all.
Matt Bevan is freelance journalist and contributes to several other leading publications on a weekly basis. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MBevs68.