Fighters at the top of world boxing should take more responsibility in paying to “save the sport they are in” from the threat of doping, according to the BBC Radio 5 Live boxing team.
The issue of drug use in the sport has again arisen after British heavyweight Dillian Whyte failed a test in the lead up to his win over Oscar Rivas on 20 July.
It has led to question marks around his future, the procedures that allowed the fight to go ahead and how boxing can rid itself of drug use in the sport.
In a year in which American heavyweight Jarrell Miller tested positive to ultimately miss out on facing Anthony Joshua, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Mike Costello and Steve Bunce believe the time has come to pay for “a global police” to tackle the issue in boxing.
Vada, cash and saving boxing
Whyte failed his test with UK Anti-Doping but had also been part of Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (Vada) testing during his training camp and the substance for which he failed his test has not yet been confirmed.
Fighters typically pay for Vada – which works in boxing and Mixed Martial Arts – to test for their fight and the fee for Whyte v Rivas is understood to have been around £20,000.
Vada believe some localised agencies test in a way which is “not comprehensive, rarely unannounced and not a deterrent” and consequently carry out their own testing and use their own extensive list of prohibited substances.
The organisation has flagged positive tests for high-profile names such as Miller and Mexico’s Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in recent years, strengthening its reputation to a point where fans typically react positively to it being involved with a bout.
Costello said: “I think it’s time to push the whole sport to push for Vada to become the global police force for anti-doping in boxing. We have to get to the stage where Vada is feared across the sport.
“Not everybody can be tested, it simply isn’t affordable. You have to pay for doping control officer, the transport and safeguard of the sample, the analyst, a laboratory and the admin. Each test is costing something like $500, in some cases even more.
“So the funding maybe has to come from a slice of television revenue – a tiny slice. Let’s hand all the funding over to Vada. I know it may be unrealistic but we have to make some kind of step in that direction.
“There is a culture of selfishness around boxing there’s no doubt about that. In a sense this will be seen as taxation with the rich catering for the poor as the biggest purses would generate the most money for Vada. That will take some education. Some may ask when they’ve worked so hard to get to the top, why they should then subsidise the rest of the sport.”
Bunce added: “It could so easily be funded from inside boxing, there are large funds sloshing around. There are men making $90m a year for two fights. We can grab some of that money somewhere and widen Vada’s potential grip otherwise in 10 years we will be having more and more cases like this.
“The last people to be sentenced for fixing fights went to Alcatraz and I think it closed in the 1960s yet we are still struggling to get clear of that cloud. We can’t have 10 more years or of drug problems as we wouldn’t survive it. That’s why the guys at the top need to pay to save the sport they are in and also to possibly save it for the future.”
What next for Whyte?
Whyte has tweeted of “rubbish” being spoken about him since news of his failed test broke and the Brixton fighter has lawyers working on his case.
Ukad have made no comment, while the British Boxing Board of Control have reiterated their procedure of putting all their anti-doping practice in the hands of Ukad.
The failed test was communicated to Whyte three days before the London bout and he appeared before an anti-doping panel on the morning of the fight.
Costello added: “The substance and the amount of it could be key to the whole outcome.
“Whyte can decide when the B sample is tested. He is allowed to bring a representative to watch that process happening as Ukad want transparency. The next important step is for Whyte to decide when he wants that B sample tested.”
If Whyte is punished any ban is likely to be lengthy given he served a two-year suspension from 2012 to 2014 for unknowingly taking an illegal supplement.
He has already been provisionally stripped of his status as mandatory challenger to WBC world champion Deontay Wilder but will have the chance to present his case to the WBC.
Is boxing damaged or riding onwards?
The fact Rivas’ team were not informed of the testing issue has drawn scrutiny.
British promoter Frank Warren said a “duty of care has not been upheld”, while American promoters Bob Arum and Lou DiBella said they had apprehensions about sending fighters to compete in the UK as a result.
Whyte’s promoter Eddie Hearn has maintained the fight went ahead because when his fighter was “cleared” by the anti-doping panel, he still had a contractual right to take part.
Bunce said: “I don’t think we are looking very good – and by we I mean British boxing – from around the world. I don’t just mean one or two promoters with an interest in knocking British promoters, I mean in general. I don’t think we have come out of this very well.”