News broke on Wednesday morning that an ‘adverse finding’ had arose in a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) test involving Conor Benn during the build-up for his upcoming fight with Chris Eubank Jr.
The Daily Mail first broke the news, stating a ‘trace amount’ of the banned substance clomifene had been found to be in Benn’s system. The drug is primarily used to increase fertility in women but has also been found to increase testosterone production in men.
Matchroom and Wasserman Boxing, who are co-promoters of the event, released a joint statement shortly after the article was published. They stated that the fight is still scheduled to go ahead and that “no rule violation has been confirmed” due to the fact that “the B sample has not yet been tested”. The statement also declared that Benn “has not been charged with any rule violation” and that “he remains free to fight.”
The B sample refers to one of two samples taken when any anti-doping test is carried out. The first, known as the A sample, will initially be tested in a lab for traces of any banned substances. If this comes back as clear, then no further action is required. However, if like in Benn’s case an adverse finding arises, the second, or the B sample, will then be tested to see if it consistent with the contents of the first (A) sample.
Emphasis was also placed on the fact that Benn “has since passed a doping control test conducted by the UK Anti-Doping Agency” (UKAD), a body whose rules incorporate those laid down in the World Anti-Doping Code (2021). The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) use and are governed by UKAD as the agency to ensure boxers “understand and follow the rules” regarding anti-doping procedure.
The aforementioned BBBofC followed up with a statement of their own, declaring that they had reached the decision that the fight was “prohibited” from going ahead this weekend “as it is not in the interests of boxing.” The Board also confirmed that this had been communicated to the promoters on Wednesday morning, therefore before the statement had been made by Wasserman and Matchroom where they declared the fight would still take place regardless.
Eddie Hearn then spoke to DAZN‘s Chris Lloyd and Darren Barker at the scene of the public workout for this weekend’s card, stating that “lawyers are going backwards and forwards right now” with the BBBofC. “The UKAD testing, which is obviously the testing agency that the British Boxing Board of Control use and are governed by, have all been clear and negative, and then there was an adverse finding on a VADA test previously,” stated Hearn.
Hearn then went on to echo the initial statement put out earlier in the day that no doping violation had occurred and that Benn is not suspended by the BBBofC because “he’s passed all the tests from UKAD.” Essentially, while the Board clearly were not comfortable to allow the bout to take place, they could not officially suspend Benn because he had not failed a test under their jurisdiction (of which VADA falls outside of).
Kalle Sauerland, who promotes Eubank Jr, told iFLTV in the afternoon that Eubank Jr is still willing to enter the ring versus Benn at the weekend. “We’ve had that [the adverse finding] looked at by two leading experts in that area, both in the UK and abroad, that’s the first thing we did to check if it is something that can give an advantage in the ring. Junior’s turning up for the public workout in a minute, he’s on board for Saturday.”
ESPN‘s Mike Coppinger then reported that a court injunction was being sought by Hearn to allow the fight to proceed as planned, despite the pushback from the BBBofC earlier in the day. A situation was now unfolding where a sanctioning body would potentially not have the final say on whether a bout should be sanctioned. Only in boxing.
Benn himself arrived at the public workout later in the afternoon and was determined to send out a message in front of the cameras to reiterate no foul play had taken place. “I’ve not committed any violations, I’ve not been suspended, so as far as I’m concerned the fight’s still going ahead”, Benn told Lloyd and Barker.
“I’ve signed up to every voluntary anti-doping testing there is. I’ve never had any issues before. So my team will find out why there’s been an initial adverse finding in my test. I’m a clean athlete and we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
The BBC then announced that it would no longer be showing the ‘Born Rivals’ documentary which centred around the fight on Wednesday evening as planned following everything that was unfolding in the capital.
More time passed before Eubank Jr arrived on the scene, emphasising his determination to get in the ring and fight on Saturday regardless. “I’m ready, I’m clean, I’m 60%… Of course there’s concerns, but I’ve cut the weight, I’m ready to go”, insisted the thirty-two-year-old.
Due to the multitude of loopholes which exist across the sport when it comes to the sanctioning of contests by a commission, speculation began to arise as to whether an alternative body could be used if the BBBofC refused to budge on their stance. A 2012 clash between David Haye and Dereck Chisora saw the pair face-off at West Ham’s Upton Park under a Luxembourg Boxing Federation license. This was due to a refusal to sanction the bout from the BBBofC.
According to an article published by the aforementioned Coppinger, the very same commission was being considered to be brought into proceedings for Saturday’s bout if the BBBofC continues to prohibit it from taking place.
Hearn also told Behind The Gloves that the Board had been aware of the situation “for the last week” and questioned why they only made the move to prevent the fight from happening now. This alone raised questions of the motivations of the BBBofC for their decision and whether they are merely trying to save face in a scandal unfolding in front of not only the boxing fraternity but wider media circles too.
It is safe to say that more twists and turns are inevitable as this continues to play out during the rest of fight week. One thing that is certain is that this is not a good look for the sport, particularly given the high-profile of the fight, and that the stringent rules and procedures required are not in place to deal with issues such as these.
The fragmented nature of boxing constantly leaves the door open for controversies on a multitude of issues and it is difficult to see how matters will improve if there is not greater coordination and communication across the sport as a whole.