Time to sort out the menace of boxing’s rope-a-dopes

Time to sort out the menace of boxing’s rope-a-dopes


There is little doubt in my mind that the use of illegal substances is a greater menace to the credibility and well-being of sport than the financial scandal that has ripped Fifa apart.

For doping is becoming endemic across the entire spectrum of sport, a problem now as noxious as the so-called performance-enhancing drugs themselves.

Athletics is certainly in an unseemly mess, yet it is by no means alone in having a drugs problem, massive as it is.

Almost every week UK Anti-Doping, the Government-backed body in this country responsible for testing, send out bulletins detailing positive findings which have included activities from, would you believe, darts and motor rallying, to ice hockey and bobsleigh, via rowing, football, cycling, both codes of rugby and, sadly, boxing.

This is not to suggest the sport is suffering from a massive overdose of the Lance Armstrongs but there is no doubt it has had a serious drugs problem in the United States for some time – and it has now here in the UK. UK Anti-Doping reported that in 2012 nine British professional boxers had been guilty of drug violations in the past year, more than in any other sport at that time.

Currently there are six boxers serving sanctions on the UK list – a number exceeded only by rugby – including two amateurs and the American Tony Thompson.

Although the use of prohibited substances has been prevalent in US rings for a while, the sudden onset of pill-popping among British fighters is giving the Board of Control cause for concern, especially as the drugs seminars they arrange are so poorly attended

The British boxers Kid Galahad (a month after being voted Best Young Boxer of the Year), Enzo Maccarinelli, Dillian Whyte, Craig Windsor and Larry Olubamiwo are high-profile fighters who have failed drug tests.

In Maccarinelli’s case he received a six months ban in 2012 after admitting he “naively” used a product containing prohibited methylhexaneamine as a dietary supplement in an energy drink. He knows now he should have read the label.

American and continental European boxing has also had several high-profile doping cases, the latest being the German Erkan Teper who it was revealed last week, failed a drugs test after his European heavyweight title win over Britain’s David Price.

It was the second time Price has suffered at the hands of a cheat after Tony Thompson also gave a positive sample following his second 2013 victory over the big Liverpudlian in 2013.

It not the first time a British fighter has been victim of a drugged-up opponent. Lamont Peterson tested positive for synthetic testosterone after controversially defeating Amir Khan m in December 2011.

Some big fistic fish have been caught in the international drugs net.

Mike Tyson

Among those who have been banned or admitted using illegal substances are former world champions Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr, Roy Jones Jnr, Shane Moseley, Antonio Tarver, Pernell Whitaker, Lamont Peterson and Erik Morales (who beat Manny Pacquiao).

It is a little-known fact that the former WBC world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko missed the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta after testing positive for steroids. Brother Wladimir stepped in to take his place – and won the gold medal.

Now boxing needs to act to sort out this pernicious problem, not least because taking drugs in boxing is different and more far dangerous than in any other sport.

It’s one thing taking performance enhancing substances in a race but when you’re punching an opponent on the head wth chemically-infused power, it is potentially lethal.

Of course cheating is wrong in any sport, but lives are on the line in boxing. It is totally unacceptable.

One problem is that young boxers can be infuenced by those from other sports who may use the same gymnasium, such as weightlifters and body builders who might suggest the use of amphetemines, steroids or other proscribed performance-enhancers that can add that extra edge.

These can be used either to add weight to move to a higher division or in the case of dangerous diuretics, to lose weight more quickly.

Everyone is looking for an advantage in sport, but by using drugs in boxing it can have a serious impact on the fighter himself and his opponent.

Drug testing is a very expensive process and I think the British Boxing Board of Control has made the UK the best at catching the cheats.

In every world title fight there is drug testing, both random and on fight night, conducted by UK Anti-Doping.

But globally the problem is we have so many governing bodies and national associations that it is hard to keep tabs on everyone.

In Britain we have the overworked UK Anti-Doping who carry out the tests but internationally there are the WBO, IBF, WBA and WBC and the various state commissions in the US who may-or may not – do so.

When it comes to drug testing we do need one body. There can’t be any gaps in the net for the cheats to slip through.

If sports like athletics under the IAAF banner can’t get it together – though new president Lord Coe promises to do so – we have to work out how boxing can do better.

Of course there are those who think drugs-taking should be a free-for-all in sport, like Tyson Fury.

Tyson Fury

He admits boxing now has got a big drugs problem but says: “Why don’t they just make drugs totally legal in sports, then everybody would be taking them and it would be fully fair, wouldn’t it?

“It doesn’t bother me because at the end of the day it’s determination over drugs any time. If a man wants to pump himself full of drugs, it’s only shortening his life, isn’t it?”

Fury claims his natural “jelly” body proves that he does not take substances, and I believe him, but I happen to think one or two other notable names in British boxing are, or have been, on the juice but so far have avoided detection.

Tyson’s is a facile argument, not least because of the physical harm this would do, but because not everyone would desire to use drugs.

Then you would need to create a situation as in athletics when the letters ‘wa’ come after a runner who has broken a record in a wind-assisted race, ‘da’ would have to be appended if a result is achieved with the use of drugs.

Far better surely to deploy some of the cash pocketed by the various global governing bodies as sanction fees to subsidise stricter control, especially by random testing, in order to give boxing a clean break from doping and banish the chemists from the corner.

Tomorrow: Hubbard’s Cupboard on the third Sugar Ray.

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