By Thomas Lyons
Sometimes the greatest moments in sport are overshadowed by the naive and reckless actions of a minority. This is no different in boxing. When drug cheats are brought to the jurisdiction of sanctioning bodies, the dark reality of performance-enhancing substances is brought to the centre of attention.
One of the biggest sports stars globally and undoubtedly one of the pound-for-pound best in Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has tainted his reputation to some degree by testing positive to traces of Clenbuterol in his system, which has sparked intense debate about whether he has covered the story up by reverting to a ‘meat contamination’ excuse. Unfortunately for the Mexican, there have been incidences where sports teams and individuals have been placed in the same predicament, having no knowledge of what was in their diet.
Golden Boy and the WBC were dismissive of the failed drug test and this looked suspicious to the outside world and appeared that they were covering the truth behind what had happened, refusing to address the situation in detail. What struck most of the hardcore boxing audience was why couldn’t Canelo import his meats from a neighbouring country such as Argentina, knowing that there were dodgy meats floating around? With more than enough money, generated from all of his fights, this could have been invested in his training camp and the situation easily avoided.
With his highly anticipated rematch with Gennady Golovkin in jeopardy, after a highly controversial first encounter that ended in a majority draw, Canelo has been temporarily suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for this case of drug misuse. He now awaits a hearing with the committee in April, who will decide if the rematch takes place, scheduled for the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on May 5.
On the same night, Tony Bellew, who has been very vocal in this area of concern for boxing moving forward, insisting that boxers who are caught under the influence of drugs should be banned for life and not given the sympathy or lenience seen in the past with some fighters, gets his rematch with David Haye to settle the feud from the first fight and repeat his heroics at the O2 Arena to put the final nail in the coffin on Haye’s career.
Unfortunately, Canelo is not the first and certainly won’t be the last athlete to be found taking PEDs or similar banned substances, with Luis Ortiz failing several tests and being allowed to fight Deontay Wilder for the WBC Heavyweight title earlier this month. The lightheartedness of some incidences puts a burden on the sport, brutal enough as is it with the tragedies of boxers who have passed away such as Scott Westgarth recently. Therefore, why should a fighter be allowed to take something over the counter that would enhance their performance and increase the chances of someone being seriously hurt, as a result of sustaining punches to the head with punishing force?
Sky pundit Johnny Nelson eluded to the fact banned substances may make you aesthetically bigger or more ripped but not a better fighter after beating opponents who had failed drug tests in the past, which to some extent I have to agree with, but putting this into context, if a boxer has an unfair advantage going into a fight, regardless of making them a better boxer or more muscular, this should be treated as a criminal case surely?
Whether you are one of the biggest attractions in world boxing or a journeyman, there is no place for drug cheats in the sport and the matter needs to be addressed more seriously. Documented all over his social media, the current unified heavyweight champion of the world, Anthony Joshua is regularly visited in his own home by the UK Anti-Doping Agency, even in the early hours of the morning, to ensure they’re cutting no corners in camp and keeping their training and lifestyle clean. This just shows the gravity of the situation arising across the globe and the measures taken by British bodies such as the Board of Control and UKAD with the boxers compared to that of the US. If the same procedure was taken across the pond, where fighters are tested 365 days a year, then the number of positive tests would be much lower. Ultimately, the careers of fighters are on the line and no amount of money for an imposed fine is going to justify or override the paramount health of any fighter.