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Notable Boxers testing positive for PEDs

Image: Notable Boxers testing positive for PEDs

By Alex Fesl: With the ongoing fiasco with Conor Benn’s failed drug test still unresolved, I reflected on some other notable boxers caught using performance enhancing drugs. It is quite interesting that this seems to happen quite often to some of boxing’s biggest superstars. It makes you wonder how many world class boxers are using these substances and not getting caught.

Growing up, we all remember hearing how unethical it is to cheat in sports. Today, cheating seems to be much more acceptable and commonplace. Sadly this trend does not seem to be letting up anytime soon.

Recent notable cases:

Canelo Álvarez: In March 2018, Canelo tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol ahead of his rematch with Gennady Golovkin. Álvarez was later given a six month suspension and afterwards still went on to fight and defeated Golovkin, elevating his status as the king of the middleweight division. Canelo would go on to claim that his positive test for clenbuterol was due to eating tainted meat, although these claims were never verified.

Tyson Fury: In April of 2016, Fury was announced to take on Wladimir Klitschko in a rematch for the lineal heavyweight championship. Several months later, in June 2016, it was revealed that Fury had returned samples with elevated levels of nandrolone metabolites. After several subsequent legal hearings, Fury was ultimately suspended for two years. Later, Fury would claim that his elevated levels of nandrolone were from ingesting uncastrated boar meat; these claims were never verified. Fury would later go on to defeat Deontay Wilder and reclaim his lineal heavyweight championship status in 2020.

Lucas Browne: In 2016, after his sensational knockout of former heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev, Lucas Browne failed multiple drug tests. Browne tests initially reproduced positive A and B samples for the banned substance clenbuterol. Afterwards it was revealed that Browne had also produced positive results, this time for the banned substance ostarine. Browne would ultimately be suspended for six months and resume his career in 2017.

Luis Nery: In 2017, Nery took on Shinsuke Yamanaka for the WBC bantamweight title. In an exciting back and forth fight, Nery ended up stopping Yamanaka in the fourth round. Afterwards it was revealed that Nery had tested positive for zilpaterol, a banned substance. Subsequent samples afterwards did not show a positive for Nery. Nery would claim that the positive result was due to contaminated meat. The WBC ultimately accepted Nery’s claims, and Nery was able to resume his career afterwards without any issues.

Luis Ortiz: In 2017, the WBC revealed that Luis Ortiz had tested positive for the substances chlorothaizide and hydrochlorothiazide. Ortiz would claim that these substances were prescribed to treat high blood pressure. While the substances are known to be used to treat high blood pressure, it is also commonly used to mask other performance enhancing drugs. Ultimately the WBA would suspend Ortiz for one year and remove Ortiz from their rankings as Ortiz had also tested positive for steroids back in 2014 after his fight with Lateef Kayode. The WBC inexplicably did not suspend Ortiz, and Ortiz would take on Wilder in 2018 for the WBC heavyweight belt.

Jarrell Miller: Once a promising heavyweight prospect, Miller’s career has completely derailed after several positive drug tests. First, Miller was set to take on popular heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua in 2019. Prior to the fight, Miller tested positive for GW501516, HGH, and EPO. Miller would then be suspended for a six month period, missing out on a title shot vs. Joshua. Afterwards, Miller would attempt to reignite his career with a fight against contender Jerry Forrest. Miller again tested positive for GW501516 before the fight and was suspended again. Also to note, Miller had also tested positive for methylhexaneamine before a Glory kickboxing event and was suspended by that organization for nine months.

Oscar Valdez: In late 2021, Valdez was set to take on 2016 Olympic Gold medalist Robson Conceicão as a stay busy fight ahead of a clash with fellow junior lightweight champ Shakur Stevenson. Before the fight with Robson, it was revealed that Valdez had tested positive for phentermine. Vadez would later go on to fail the follow up B sample test for the same substance. Due to a strange technicality of WADA guidelines, which only prohibit stimulants in-competition, Valdez would still go on to fight Conceicão and win by a controversial decision. Valdez would never be suspended for his failed PED test.

Notable all time greats:

The following boxers are a short list of notable all time great boxers that have been caught using performance enhancing drugs. It’s interesting to note these incidents are rarely brought up when discussing these fighters’ legacies, respectively.

Shane Mosley: In 2002, it was revealed that Mosley was a client of the BALCO laboratory. Mosley would later go to testify before a grand jury that he injected himself with EPO and that he used undetectable steroids known as “the cream” and “the clear.”

James Toney: In 2005, after Toney defeated John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight belt, Toney tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol. This failed drug test led to the New York Athletic Commission changing the bout’s official outcome to a no-contest.

Roy Jones Jr.: In May 2000 in Indianapolis, Jones tested positive for testosterone precursor androstenedione after a light heavyweight title fight against Richard Hall. Quite interestingly, Hall also tested positive for performance enhancing drugs afterwards as well.

Erik Morales: Ahead of his rematch with Danny Garcia in 2012, Morales tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol. The fight would go on despite the failed drug test, and Morales would retire after losing to Garcia in the rematch.

Closing thoughts

With that said, what are your thoughts on so many boxing stars caught using performance enhancing drugs? It seems like the media is usually in a hurry to move on from these incidents and push them under the rug, so to speak.

How do you view boxers caught using performance-enhancing drugs? Do you feel like this tarnishes the legacies of all time great boxers in retrospect? Let me know in the comments what you think.

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