FRANK WARREN’S COLUMN – 18.5.16
The Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin is the latest of a string of top boxers who have been juicing up on illegal substances and unfortunately his positive test for compatriot Maria Sharapova’s tipple of choice, meldonium, has resulted in the cancellation of his challenge for WBC world heavyweight title in Moscow this weekend.
It is a terrible shame for the defending champion, Deontay Wilder, who has been training in Sheffield for what would have been a very intriguing fight.
He’s worked his balls off, incurred all sorts of costs and is surely entitled to some sort of compensation. It is utterly wrong and unfair.
But the Bronze Bomber is not the only loser here. It is very galling because BoxNation have lost a major fight, one we had spent a lot of money on obtaining for our viewers. I am really sorry for the fans but, in these circumstances, nothing can be done.
According to the WBC, the fight has been cancelled, not simply postponed though Povetkin’s people say they will challenge this.
There is a lot of money at stake. Based on promoter Andrey Ryabinsky’s winning purse bid of US $7.15 million, Wilder was due $4,504,500 to Povetkin’s $1,930,500 with the remaining 10 percent – $715,000 – going to the winner. With no fight, the purses won’t be paid and a lawsuit is likely to ensue; Wilder’s purse is sitting in escrow in a United States bank, according to his camp.
The most plausible scenario should see Povetkin out of the sport for some time which could, in turn, jeopardise his career at the age of 36.
I feel very strongly about drugs cheats in sport. You’ve got to sling them out and that goes for Povetkin and anyone in boxing who is guilty of knowingly taking a substance which can significantly enhance their performance.
Sport seems to be hit with at least one drugs sensation a week now, mostly emanating from Russia. I think this is an ugly hangover from the days of the old Soviet bloc, when they were at it all the time, not least with dishing out puberty-delaying drugs to young gymnasts like Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci; which was quite awful.
Povetkin and Sharapova have quite a lot in common. Both are blonde big hitters – powerful Povetkin with his fists and shapely Sharapova with her tennis racket.
Both are Olympic medalists – Povetkin winning super-heavyweight gold in Athens in 2004 and Sharapova singles silver at London 2012.
And both have been popping various quantities of meldonium, Russian sport’s latest drug of choice, along with goodness knows how many other compatriots.
Rumour is that a whole football team is currently under investigation for allegedly being on the same juice.
Russia’s continuing doping scandals are rather like those traditional wooden dolls tourists bring back home after visiting that country. Open up one and another is revealed. And so on.
The sorry saga continues ad infinitum, something which seems to be becoming a national pastime.
Recent media exposures about mass doping in Russian athletics have resulted in their participation in the Rio Olympics being put in jeopardy.
Meldonium was added to the proscribed list by the World Anti-Doping Agency in September, and the ban went into effect on January 1. Meldonium is used to increase blood flow and carry more oxygen to muscles, thereby enhancing stamina, ostensibly something boxers would welcome in a long fight.
Povetkin, beaten only once in his 31-fight pro career, by Wladimir Klitschko, was due to meet unbeaten wilder at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow on Saturday night, , but in a urine test conducted on April 27 in his home town of Chekhov, Russia, he tested positive for meldonium
Povetkin’s indulgence in the substance has caused the first-ever cancellation of a world heavyweight championship because of a failed drugs test, but the use of illegal performance-enhancing products is now reaching an alarming state in boxing.
The WBA recently suspended Lucas Browne for six months for what the Aussie heavyweight insisted was an act of sabotage when he tested positive for clenbuterol in Chechnya when he surprisngkly stopped local, favourite Ruslan Chagaev.
And German ring icon Felix Sturm faces being stripped of his WBA super-middleweight belt after failing a drug test following his split decision victory over Russian holder Russian Fedor Chudinov in February. Sturm tested positive for the steroid stanozolol, famously favoured by sprinter Ben Johnson.
Two prominent international heavyweights, American Tony Thompson and German Erkan Teper, then European champion, both failed tests after thumping Britain’s David Price.
At least the would-be cheats are now starting to be found out. All boxing’s governing bodies need to get their heads together and sort out the growing menace of drugs. For me, the only way you are going to eradicate this is not, say, three strikes and you’re out, but one strike and you’re out. For good.