By Keith Idec
Victor Conte has been suspicious of Billy Joe Saunders since before Saunders defeated Willie Monroe Jr.
The 68-year-old Conte, imprisoned for his role in the BALCO scandal, worked with Monroe, who lost a one-sided unanimous decision to Saunders a year ago in London. Conte currently works with Demetrius Andrade, who’s preparing for his fight against Saunders at Conte’s Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning (SNAC) training facility in San Carlos, California.
The Saunders-Andrade fight, scheduled for October 20 at TD Garden in Boston, is in jeopardy because Saunders tested positive for oxilofrine, a banned stimulant, in an exam administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association on August 30. The Massachusetts State Athletic Commission has scheduled a hearing for October 8 in Boston, where it’ll determine whether to license Saunders for his WBO middleweight title defense versus Andrade.
The outspoken Conte condemned England’s Saunders, who was very critical of Canelo Alvarez amid the Mexican superstar’s clenbuterol ordeal, during a video interview with Ringtv.com’s Cynthia Conte.
“This is a very powerful substance, ten-fold more powerful than clenbuterol,” Conte said regarding oxilofrine. “So Billy Joe Saunders saying that Canelo was taking [clenbuterol], it’s like that’s baby food and [oxilofrine] is the steak. OK? So what he was taking opens up the air passageways. It was an inhaler that he was using. It’s a central nervous system stimulant. It gives you tremendous energy, increases speed, increases power, cuts weight. This is a boxer’s dream drug. So he was using something very potent. On fight night, this is a prohibited substance. But in between competition, the UKAD, anti-doping in the UK, does not test for this. VADA does test for this, so when he signed this enrollment form with VADA, the prohibited substance list is there and given to him. This substance is on there. It’s on the list for the NFL, Major League Baseball, NCAA, everybody, year-round, not out-of-competition testing, with a weak list, like they do with WADA.
“So apparently, he and his trainer realized that this was a loophole that you could drive a Mack truck through and they decided, ‘Here’s a way to drop 25, 30 pounds in a short period of time, give you all kinds of energy and enhancement in training.’ And they tested him – the sample was collected on August the 30th. There is another sample, we believe, and we believe that’s also gonna come back positive as well. This substance clears the body in 24 hours, so we believe that he’s been using this for a long time. And he has been tested, but they don’t test for this substance, so he’s been driving a Mack truck through this loophole.”
UK Anti-Doping, which subjects all boxers from the United Kingdom to testing 365 days per year, only tests for oxilofrine on fight nights. It is not a banned substance other than on fights nights in accordance with UKAD and World Anti-Doping Association regulations.
Thus Saunders, 29, isn’t expected to be punished by UKAD or the British Boxing Board of Control because the failed test overseen by VADA was an out-of-competition exam. Oxilofrine is on VADA’s list of banned substances, however, which could lead the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission to deny Saunders’ application for a license for his fight against Andrade.
If Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) cannot get a Massachusetts boxing license and is stripped of his title, Eddie Hearn, whose company promotes Andrade, has said the top-ranked Andrade will meet Namibia’s Walter Kautondokwa (17-0, 16 KOs) for the vacant WBO middleweight championship October 20. Kautondokwa is the WBO’s No. 2 contender for its middleweight title, one spot below Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs), Saunders’ mandatory challenger.
Whatever happens, Conte is relieved that Andrade’s team insisted on VADA testing for this fight.
“Well, let me say I had strong suspicions watching his last two fights before this fight with ‘Boo Boo’ [Andrade],” Conte said. “Willie Monroe Jr., who I worked with, there was supposed to be testing. And there was no testing until [Saunders] got to the UK on a Sunday, and they tested him on Tuesday, and they fought on a Saturday. So if you look at the pictures, he probably weighed 185, 190, and 30 days later he’s weighing 160. So that seemed highly suspicious to me. And then the same thing with his next fight with David Lemieux in Canada. And, you know, he claimed that he had been doing testing and so on. But once again, we see the chubby guy who turns into the skinny guy in 30 days. Seemed highly suspicious.
“So once the contract was negotiated, there was a clause [in] the Demetrius Andrade versus B.J. Saunders bout [agreement], had a clause in it that if Matchroom requested VADA testing that there would be VADA testing, but only if they requested. Now obviously, money is an issue. It costs $16,000-20,000 to have a testing pool for a couple months for both fighters, before the fight. And so, to make sure that this happened, I agreed to sponsor this testing. So they both enrolled in VADA testing.
“And let me say that WADA testing, the World Anti-Doping Association testing, is considered the gold standard. But it is not. And the reason, what people have to understand is, that it’s not very effective because they have two types of testing – out-of-competition testing and in-testing. So in between fights and on fight night. And what people don’t realize is that the list of performance-enhancing substances that they test for in between fights is very limited.”
Despite what Conte considers a blatant violation of VADA’s rules, he wouldn’t be opposed to Saunders being allowed to move forward with his fight against Andrade.
“The bottom line is this – he signed an agreement to abide by the VADA rules,” Conte said. “He knew and the list was there, and it was on it. And he was taking it, and he continued to take it, and he got busted. OK? So he violated that agreement. That much we know. What’s gonna happen, and are they gonna fine him or what’s gonna happen, that’s yet to be determined. There’s a negotiation going on now. I think the fight should possibly go on, if he agrees not to take that substance and honor that agreement from now until fight night. You know, ultimately this is why we implemented the testing, because he was highly suspect.
“Let me also say that this particular substance can cause mild psychosis. His behavior is such that he’s doing such crazy stuff, you know, all of the above point to this guy’s got some serious problems. And I believe he’s not taking this at a prescribed dosage, but in a super-physiological dose that’s causing him to drop 30 pounds in a month. So I think there’s abuse going on, I think there needs to be a further investigation. I think ‘Boo Boo’ maybe needs to get some money out of the deal, too, for tolerating all this violation of the contract. But we’ll have to see what they negotiate.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.