By Keith Idec
Anthony Joshua and his promoter are confident the British Boxing Board of Control will catch performance-enhancing drug users before fights contested in the United Kingdom.
They have serious reservations that’ll happen prior to fights contested elsewhere.
Joshua (16-0, 16 KOs) and Eddie Hearn confirmed during a conference call Monday that UK Anti-Doping has randomly tested Joshua twice for PEDs during training camp for the first defense of his IBF heavyweight title against Dominic Breazeale (17-0, 15 KOs) on Saturday night at O2 Arena in London (Showtime; 5:15 p.m. ET/2:15 p.m. PT). Hearn added that UK Anti-Doping, which reports to the British Boxing Board of Control, also tested the 2012 Olympic gold medalist twice prior to his second-round knockout of Charles Martin (23-1-1, 21 KOs) on April 9 at O2 Arena.
Hearn is thankful for the thorough testing system in place in the UK. He hopes commissions worldwide follow the British Boxing Board of Control’s lead on preventing PED use.
“It’s funded by the British Boxing Board of Control,” said Hearn, group managing director for Matchroom Sport, Joshua’s promoter. “And it is the safest system. Random testing is the only way to eradicate cheating in this sport. I was at the English Institute of Sport [in Sheffield] the other day and they turned up to test Anthony at about 10 o’clock at night straight after [a training session]. And I have multiple fighters competing in championship fights who get woken up 5 in the morning, midnight. And these people do not leave until they’ve taken their sample [blood and urine].
“Testing after the fight, testing on the night of the fight is a complete waste of time. We still do it, as does every commission around the world. But it’s a complete waste of time because the cheating is now so far advanced that the only way to stop it is to have complete random testing throughout all fighters’ camps.”
The sport’s PED epidemic concerns Joshua, especially in the wake of the Alexander Povetkin controversy. Russia’s Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs) tested positive for meldonium last month, which forced the postponement of his May 21 title shot against WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) in Moscow.
“I think it’s scary,” Joshua said. “Just in the training alone, and the sheer size of us, it’s a dangerous sport as it is. … For anyone to add any performance-enhancing drugs into their body to do more damage on an opponent, I don’t agree with that at all. Some people claim they’re genuine mistakes, but you have to be diligent about what you’re doing because these things have a massive impact not only on the athlete’s career, but on the person that they could injure, their families. Kids are looking at the sport. We’re all ambassadors of this boxing thing. Like, may he rest in peace, Muhammad Ali, you could see the impact it has on people. When I’m making my decisions for this sport, I don’t do it for ego. I do it for genuine moral purposes.”
Joshua and Hearn agreed that testing positive for a PED should lead to a lifetime ban for a boxer.
“Cheating has become advanced and when there’s as much money at stake as there is in boxing, you’ll always find someone who’s a bad soul or who has bad morals that will try to cheat another man,” Hearn said. “But this isn’t a game of poker. This isn’t a game of cards, where you’re trying to look at another man’s hand or you’re trying to sneak another card on the table. This is a sport that can do serious harm without performance-enhancing drugs. And for a fighter to go in and deliberately enhance their performance, to try and do damage to another man, it should be a criminal offense and it should carry a lifetime ban. The UK Anti-Doping system, which is funded by the British Boxing Board of Control, is probably the only system worldwide where we have complete faith that all championship fighters over here will be randomly tested throughout camp.
“Anthony was tested twice in this camp, and I think twice for the Charles Martin camp. [It’s] any time during the camp, so you can’t cheat. You’re gonna get caught at some point. And there’s too much on the line. I think the problem with boxing in America is there is no universal commission. All the commissions have different policies. If you’re fighting in New Jersey, they have a different policy to Carolina or the California commission. The British Boxing Board of Control, they control the UK Anti-Doping. Although it’s an independent agency, this system, where fighters are randomly tested, that needs to be, in my opinion, employed in the United States of America, as well universally among the commissions, to catch people. It seems like one of the big problems is coming from Eastern Europe. I don’t want to generalize, but there have been a number of fighters caught recently from that area. And I’m sure there’s fighters cheating all over the world. To me, it should be a criminal offense and it should carry a ban for life.”
Breazeale supported their strong stance against PEDs later during the conference call, but said he hadn’t been tested by UK Anti-Doping or any other testing organization during his training camp. The unbeaten contender from Alhambra, California, expects to be tested before and after he challenges Joshua on Saturday night.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.