ANTHONY JOSHUA today outlined the incredibly stringent drug testing programme he is signed up to, which requires him to inform UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) of his whereabouts at all times.
The IBF world heavyweight champion even had to bring a team of testers along on a post-workout trip to Nando’s, such was the randomness of their visits.
Joshua has so far been tested twice during his training camp in preparation for Saturday’s meeting with Dominic Breazeale, one of which resulted in the peculiar trip to the popular chicken restaurant.
“One [test] was at 6am and one was at 10pm. They come at 8pm but you have to wait two hours for them to take your blood, as I’d just finished training so the blood needed to settle in the body. They actually came to Nando’s with us,” Joshua said.
“We did it at quarter past 10. Normally they don’t let you eat or anything, but I explained that I needed to eat as I’d just trained, so they came to Nando’s.
“The testers follow you everywhere when they turn up, even when you [gestures urinating]. They jump in the car with me to Nando’s, I can’t drive on my own. It’s hard, to manage your whereabouts. It’s quite annoying.”
The 26-year-old is one of a select group of professional fighters in the UK who are signed up to UKAD’s Whereabouts system, an online schedule which Joshua needs to keep updated with where he will be at all times during his training camp.
While Joshua admits it can be frustrating to constantly ensure UKAD know his movements, he concedes that random drug testing is integral to the sport.
“On my phone I’ve got a reminder, it’s called Whereabouts, it’s run by UK Anti Doping, regulated by the British Boxing Board of Control, there’s a select number of athletes on it,” he said.
“Every three months you have to let them know in advance where you’re going to be sleeping, where you’re going to be training and what you’re going to be doing. You have a one hour slot each night or each morning for where you’re going to be so they can randomly turn up. So let’s say from 6 ‘til 7, if they turn up at 6.59 but if I’ve gone out, I’ve missed it. You’re allowed to change the schedule but you have to let them know. If I forget or I’m running late it’s on me and I think if you get two strikes or three strikes you get banned.
“It’s another job in itself, keeping on top of that.”
There have been numerous high-profile failed drug tests in boxing recently, with the likes of Lucian Bute, Felix Sturm and Alexander Povetkin all testing positive for banned substances. Povetkin’s failed test lead to the postponement – and potential cancellation – of his mandated fight against WBC heavyweight boss Deontay Wilder.
In the UK, the most recent high-profile failed test came from super-bantamweight Kid Galahad, whose ban was cut short. Former Joshua victim Dillian Whyte also served a lengthy suspension earlier in his career for testing positive. All those who have failed tests maintain they did not ingest the banned substances intentionally – though UKAD, whose rules are signed off by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), do not take that into account.
Joshua feels that the issue should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, though insists that if a fighter has taken a substance which would give them an obvious advantage in a fight, they should be banned indefinitely.
“I don’t think it’s so much of a problem in the UK. You have to be really careful. It is a problem though,” he mused.
“It’s a clean fight, when the ref touches your gloves he says he wants a clean fight and when the best man wins you want it to be because he’s trained hard, not because he’s taken something.
“I think it’s always interesting to find out what substance someone was taking and what it can do to you. I think you have to look at that because some people do make mistakes, you can’t put everyone in one box.
“If there’s anything that is giving you a genuine advantage over your opponent [in your system], 100 per cent you should be banned for life. 100 per cent.”
Joshua – by far the most marketable fighter in the UK – is once again headlining a pay-per-view show at the O2 Arena, a venue he is quickly turning into a personal stronghold.
With those lucrative nights comes serious pressure, even more so now that he holds a portion of the world heavyweight crown, and the Watford man likes to get in touch with his own spirituality to help keep his mind focused.
Before each fight he takes part in a prayer lead by his trainer Tony Sims, a routine he insists has been a big part of his success.
“From the neck downwards, we’re all good. It’s just about getting the head right. Experience is the best thing, I feel like I’m getting more experienced so I know how to deal with the process,” he said.
“I was listening to some things on YouTube [about] history, biblical books, the Israelites, the Roman Empire, stuff like that because with stuff like entertainment, reality TV it’s easy to get lost and be dull and get caught up in it so it’s nice to look back in history. Prayer is a method practiced from ancient days so it is very important for us to maintain a spiritual connection, like gladiators used to.”
Though he does not consign himself to a particular religion, he sees the value in faith.
“You have to know what you’re talking about, I’m not going to dig anyone for their beliefs or anything like that but I feel religion is a big part of life, whether you believe in it or not. Prayer, belief and so on is important to me,” he admitted.
“I don’t have a preferred religion, I’d have to do research, I was born a Christian but as I’ve grown older I don’t attach myself to any one religion, it’s more a spirituality. Prayer is a form of meditation. It’s laws of attraction, what you put out into the universe is what you’ll receive.
“I would definitely try it [meditation], you have to get in touch with yourself.”
Joshua was not so mellow when he went face to face with Breazeale at a press conference earlier today. The pair locked eyes for a good few minutes, during which time they traded verbals.
“He was very tense, so I asked him, ‘Dom why are you so tense?’ He said ‘cos’ brother, I’m getting myself into something I’m ready for.’ I told him to chill, he said ‘there’s a new lion in town’ and I said ‘you’re in my jungle now,'” Joshua claimed.
“I told him to chill out, to have and good time and enjoy it, that we both know what we’re in for but I did it in a very calming way, I didn’t flare up, I just subtly let him know that ‘I’m going to knock you the f*** out.’”
For exclusive interviews and an in-depth preview of Joshua’s fight with Breazeale, check out this week’s issue of Boxing News.