by Eddie Goldman
As of Thursday morning, July 25, in the U.S., here is what we know and don't know about boxing's latest doping scandal involving Dillian Whyte, who defeated Oscar Rivas on Saturday, July 20, at London's O2 Arena by unanimous decision.
On Wednesday, July 24, a report by Thomas Hauser was posted on the Boxing Scene web site entitled "Dillian Whyte Tests Positive For Banned Substance" at https://www.boxingscene.com/dillian-whyte-tests-positive-banned-substance--141178.
The report stated that Whyte tested positive for a banned substance which is not identified in it. The "positive test result is believed to have come back on July 17" -- three days before the fight.
The Whyte-Rivas fight was for the WBC's so-called interim heavyweight belt, and thus both fighters were subject to drug testing by VADA, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, which conducts the testing for the WBC and its Clean Boxing Program. VADA is the most respected drug testing organization in the world, but because this fight was in the U.K., the fighters were also subject to testing by UKAD, U.K. Anti-Doping.
Here is where it gets dicey. Whyte's reported positive test came from one conducted by UKAD. Thus far only the results of Whyte's A sample are known, with the B sample results not yet publicly reported, assuming UKAD even got around to testing that sample.
It is also certainly possible that there will be more test results revealed, either by UKAD and/or VADA.
When a fighter tests positive in a VADA test, all parties concerned are immediately informed. That does not mean that this information is made public, although it often quickly is leaked out, like a lot of stories in boxing are.
UKAD, however, according to this article, did not report Whyte's positive test result either to the Rivas camp, or the WBC, whose interim belt was at stake. While dubious titles like an interim championship are usually rightly derided, the WBC was not given the chance to withdraw its sanctioning because of the positive test, which would have severely affected the prestige and impact of this fight, and even possibly led to its cancellation.
Rivas's promoter, Yvon Michel of GYM, tweeted about the report of Whyte's positive drug test on Thursday: "Up to this moment nobody on the concerned parties have confirmed or denied to us this information." (https://twitter.com/yvonmichelGYM/status/1154364098790006784) What they would have done had they known of Whyte's positive test is unknown, but one possibility is that they might have pulled Rivas from the fight. It is likely we will be hearing a lot more from their side about this scandal.
The UKAD test result was reported to the governing body for this fight, the British Boxing Board of Control, and the BBBofC allowed the fight to proceed. The reasoning was that, according to this article, the B sample must be tested and also found to come out positive before any action is taken against the doping fighter by the BBBofC.
While this sounds formally good in assuming someone is innocent until proven guilty, allowing fighters who test positive on their A samples to fight usually means allowing a fighter who used PEDs to fight since experience has shown that almost all B samples come out the same as the A sample. The BBBofC could have temporarily withdrawn sanctioning for this fight pending the results of the B sample, but chose not to do so.
In response to this report, Whyte's promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, tweeted: "Further to reports I can confirm that both Dillian Whyte and Oscar Rivas were subject to extensive VADA and UKAD testing for their bout. Both fighters were cleared to fight by both bodies and the BBBofC"(https://twitter.com/EddieHearn/status/1154173378175143936).
This can only be partially true, since no fighters are ever "cleared" by VADA, which only conducts the drug testing and never does any adjudication, or even has the authority to do. VADA collects the samples, has them analyzed, and sends the results to everyone involved. But again, a positive test is indeed reported to all sides by VADA.
Hearn's tweet also is notable in that it does not deny or refute that Whyte did test positive for something which was banned. But it also does not specify just what that was.
We now await the results of Whyte's B sample. In the past, such as in the Tyson and Hughie Fury doping cases starting in 2015, UKAD took years to adjudicate them.
All this has already tarnished the reputations of both UKAD and the BBBofC. The camp of heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. is currently in negotiations with the camp of former champ Anthony Joshua for their contractually mandated rematch, after Ruiz knocked out Joshua and captured his titles on June 1. A key reported issue is whether the rematch will take place in the U.K., Joshua's home country, or back in New York, where their first fight took place.
Following the report of Whyte being allowed to fight in the U.K. even with this positive test, Ruiz tweeted on Wednesday night: "I'm not going to the UK for the rematch".(https://twitter.com/Andy_destroyer1/status/1154179288054161408)
He (or whoever writes his tweets) later modified that stance in another tweet: "wether (sic) the fight happens in the UK or the USA it will be another epic fight."(https://twitter.com/Andy_destroyer1/status/1154274274993033216)
Wherever and whenever Ruiz-Joshua 2 ends up happening, this entire debacle around Whyte's positive test once more reveals the absurd, incompetent, and purposely ineffective anti-doping measures that exist in boxing. If those in charge of this alleged sport were serious about fighting doping, all governing bodies of every type would adopt mandatory, year-round, unannounced testing, at least for all top-level fighters, such as those conducted by VADA. Failure to comply would mean revocation or denial of licenses to box.
So here we have an example of a fighter, Dillian Whyte, who was known to have failed at least one test before this fight, and who had already been suspended two years for a failed doping test in 2012, being allowed to compete in a top-level heavyweight bout. Now he may face an even stiffer suspension.
What this also means is that fans both in the O2 Arena, and those watching on Sky Sports Box Office pay-per-view in the U.K. and the DAZN streaming service in many countries, paid to see a fight whose verdict may change due to Whyte's doping. They also paid to see a fight where one fighter, the victorious one at that, may have been cheating.
If the result of this fight is changed due to Whyte's doping test, will refunds be offered to those who paid to watch it? Or will the fans be played for suckers for the umpteenth time?
Is this the business model of a sport which actually wants to retain its fan base and even grow in today's increasingly crowded sports environment? Is that a way to get the fans to pay even more to see future fights? Or will this erode boxing's dwindling fan base even further?
We know promoters, networks, etc., don't care a hoot about fighter safety. Boxing's self-destructive tendencies of being segregated into separate quasi-leagues contracted to competing networks and streaming services have been discussed and exposed by many. But the lack of effective doping tests is yet another of these self-destructive tendencies.
And all this takes place during a week when two boxers, Maxim Dadashev and Hugo Santillan, have died of injuries resulting from this past weekend's fights.
Expect more details on this latest scandal to be revealed shortly, either by leaks or official announcements. But knowing boxing's lovely history, it may just get uglier and uglier.
(Ptoto of Dillian Whyte by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.)
[Note: After this article was posted, a followup report on Thursday, July 25, by Thomas Hauser on Boxing Scene identified the banned substances for which Whyte tested positive. They are "epimethandienone and hydroxymethandienone, two metabolites of the banned drug Dianabol," which is an anabolic steroid. https://www.boxingscene.com/dillian-whyte-tested-positive-two-dianabol-metabolites--141198]
[Friday update: On Friday, July 26, Dillian Whyte posted on Twitter a brief statement about his doping situation. Promoter Eddie Hearn had already stated that hours prior to his July 20 fight with Oscar Rivas, Whyte was cleared by a panel, whose members have not been named or their deliberations made public, to fight that night.
Here is the statement of Dillian Whyte:
I am so disappointed with the rubbish that has been said about me over the last few days.
I have lawyers dealing with it and I have been told that I can't talk about it for good legal reasons.
I was cleared to fight and I won that fight fair and square.
Thanks for the support
7:58 AM · Jul 26, 2019·Twitter for iPhone (https://twitter.com/DillianWhyte/status/1154722578952531969)
So instead of clarity and new information, we get a thinly veiled legal threat.
It has also been noted that the web site of UKAD is redacting the names of British boxers who have received sanctions, although these reports fail to mention that UKAD also redacts the names of sanctioned athletes from other sports -- which is actually a worse situation: https://www.ukad.org.uk/sanctions.
Instead of transparency, we are getting a doubling down on secrecy, innuendo, and doubletalk. All this only serves to fuel conspiracy theories, whether true or not, and further tarnish, if that can even be done, the reputation of boxing and its myriad governing bodies. And it only will give comfort to those who wish to cheat by using PEDs.]
[Tuesday, July 30 update: The WBC is provisionally suspending the WBC's recognition of Dillian Whyte as WBC Interim World Heavyweight Champion and Mandatory Challenger of the division. https://wbcboxing.com/en/status-of-dillian-whyte/]