By Declan Taylor
Unbeaten super-bantamweight Kid Galahad (real name Barry Awad) is now free to pursue his sporting dream having been cleared to fight again by UK doping agency UKAD.
The Sheffield man tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid, following an in-competition test in September 2014 after a bout against former WBO super bantamweight champion Adeilson Dos Santos.
Awad was initially handed a two-year ban by UKAD (United Kingdom Anti-Doping) which meant he would not have been able to fight again until September this year, but after an appeal by his legal team his punishment has been reduced by six months, meaning he is free to fight again with immediate effect.
Awad, 26, has consistently expressed his innocence and is now determined to regain his status as one of the rising stars in world boxing. Awad said: "I can't wait to get back in the ring. I'm absolutely thrilled.
"I heard some comments recently by Carl Frampton saying all drug cheats should be banned for life, but I have never been a drug cheat. Thankfully, the people running the sport are UKAD and not Carl Frampton.
"I have been through some tough times but I have been touched by the support of my coaching staff, legal team, fans and fellow boxers. My coach Dominic Ingle has stood by me through thick and thin and I will be forever grateful.
"Now the hard work begins and I can already hear the words I have always dreamed of, 'And the new world champion, from Sheffield, Kid Galahad.' That is how I am going to repay all those people who have stood by me."
Coach Dominic Ingle said: "Barry will bring some excitement back to the division.
"UKAD have to do their job and that is to keep the sport clean. They make the decisions about the length of punishments, not Carl Frampton. We had to stand by UKAD's decision even though it was tough to take.
"From day one I said to Barry there are two ways out: You either pack up, or train hard and show your true colours. He has never missed a week out of the gym since he was banned and was sparring with Jazza Dickens only last week, which shows his level of commitment."
Qatar-born Galahad amassed a flawless 18-0 record before the ban and had captured the British, commonwealth and European super bantamweight titles, with notable wins over the likes of Dickens, Josh Wale and Jason Booth.
Kid Galahad's barrister Dan Foster, of Bank House chambers, Sheffield, said: "We're very grateful to UKAD for the extremely professional and helpful way they've dealt with Mr Awad. He feels as though his life has been on hold and his reputation destroyed so this news is quite literally life changing for him.
"Unfortunately the technical details of this matter must remain confidential but what I can say is that Mr Awad has never deliberately took any performance enhancing substance.
"A UKAD official has told me that Mr Awad is the only athlete in UK history to receive a reduced ban without admitting any doping offences, or reporting other doping athletes.
"The UKAD panel found that they couldn't be sure how the substance entered Mr Awad's system but they quite properly came to the view that however it entered his system, it was his responsibility to ensure that he did not ingest any banned substance.
"The panel told Mr Awad he should have taken greater steps to protect his food and drink from anyone that may wish to interfere with them. So, legally speaking, UKAD were absolutely proper in their initial decision, although naturally Mr Awad was devastated by the suspension and the natural questioning of his integrity that he knows accompanies any UKAD action against athletes.
"The concentration of the substance found in Mr Awad's sample was so low that it couldn't even be properly measured. The results certainly weren't consistent with a deliberate doping programme and there was no other evidence to suggest doping was taking place. Quite the opposite as Mr Awad has to work very hard to reduce his weight to box at super bantam so taking a steroid used by body builders to increase muscle mass would be entirely self-defeating.
"This fantastic news means Mr Awad can now return to the sport he loves and pursue his dream of becoming a world champion."
Kid Galahad has received numerous messages of support from across the world of boxing, including Tyson Fury, Kell Brook and Johnny Nelson.
World heavyweight champion Tyson Fury said: "Barry is like a brother to me and I have absolutely no doubts in my mind he is a future world champion. In fact, put him in a ring with Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg and he would be the last man standing.
"There is no way in a million years Barry would take any drugs. I don't believe it and neither does anyone who knows him. He lives and breathes boxing and would never jeopardise his career.
"Barry is an inspiration for the way he has taken his punishment and got down to hard work in the gym. He keeps getting knocked over but he never stays down and that is the sign of a true champion."
World welterweight champion Brook said: "If anything Barry has worked even harder since the ban. He has always stayed focused and is the type of person who has got time for everybody.
"It has been very tough on him but he has never felt sorry for himself and that's because he is surrounded by such positive people."
Former world cruiserweight champion and Sky Sports Television commentator Johnny Nelson said: "I've told Barry, people can't ignore a winner and now that he is back he has to keep on winning as what has happened in the past will then remain in the past.
"Like everybody, when I hear of doping in sport I always tended to tar the individual with the same brush, but not anymore. Knowing Barry as I do, I'm 100 per cent convinced of his innocence and I would go so far to say I would put my house on him being innocent.
"I've seen the work Barry does in the gym. He is the first one in and the last one to leave and that, allied with his talent, means he will very quickly get back in the mix at world level. He will rise to the very top."