IN handing former Commonwealth middleweight champion Liam Cameron a four-year ban for traces (25 nanograms) of benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) have achieved their goal of making an example of him.
That would be their line anyway, the so-called hard line, though it’s hard to see how making an example of a boxer like Cameron will cause so much as a ripple in sewer water teeming with drug cheats, rich but morally bankrupt men in suits and backstreet doctors who specialise in guiding boxers on a dirty path to enhanced performance. Regardless, four years is the punishment, confirmed once and for all last Monday (January 6), and Cameron has now decided to cut his losses and retire.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” Cameron, 29, told Boxing News. “I’m just being strong at the minute because that’s all I can do. I can’t let it get me down. I did that a year ago and I was in bed for four days. I was drinking all the time. I was depressed. I can’t let that happen again. I have to be strong this time. I’m going to have to get a job and my plan is to get a gym. But first I’ll have to save some money up to get some equipment.”
Cameron’s last fight was a Commonwealth title victory against Nicky Jenman on April 27, 2018. It was shortly after this defence he received a letter from UKAD informing him of an adverse finding in one of the drug tests Cameron’s promoter had paid for with a thousand pounds of Cameron’s £2,700 purse.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” Cameron said. “I couldn’t fathom how it happened. I knew there was going to be a drug test because I was informed eight weeks before the fight. So why would I then take something stupid like cocaine to humiliate myself and my family?
“I have to go to pubs and clubs to get ticket money for my fight, because if I don’t sell tickets, I don’t get paid, and this means I have to be around drunk people sometimes. UKAD said was I should have worn rubber gloves. It’s crazy.
“Even the professor at UKAD said the amount was that little it wouldn’t have had an affect on my boxing. That’s why I’ve still got that (Jenman) win and it’s still classed as a defence. What they’re saying, though, is if they let me off, everyone else has to be let off. But that’s not the case.”
If Liam Cameron went by a different name, the ending to this story might be different. If, for instance, his name meant something to promoters and to sanctioning bodies and to television networks, the ban would perhaps be shorter and he would, in the two years that have passed since his last fight, probably have appeared in the ring a handful of times by now.
But just as he can’t clear his name, Liam Cameron can’t change his name. Nor can he shake the suspicion that the reason he is no longer a boxer is because his absence from the sport affects nobody except Liam Cameron. Without him, money will still be made, pay-per-view events will still take place, and the schedules of television networks will remain unaffected, leaving Liam Cameron the ideal scapegoat to first punish and then forget.
“You’ve got (Saul) Canelo Alvarez, a mega star, boxing again months after failing a test (for clenbuterol),” Cameron, 21-5 (9), said. “He shouldn’t be having clenbuterol in his system. He shouldn’t be eating cows over there (in Mexico) if he knows the meat is contaminated. I’ve been made an example of over here. I’ve been told I should have worn latex gloves whenever I go to a pub or club. But shouldn’t they say something similar to him? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make an example of Canelo, someone who is a huge name in the sport?
“You’ve got people out there doing drugs and not receiving any real ban at all. Look at Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller. He got done for three different drugs (GW1516, human growth hormone and erythropoietin) and got only six months. It’s crazy. ”
An admission of guilt would have seen Cameron’s ban reduced, yet he chose instead to fight to clear his name. He spent two years trying only to discover on Monday that his four-year ban had been upheld.
“I’m a grown man and I would admit it to you if I had done it,” he said. “But why would I risk 20 years of hard work? I’ve won a Commonwealth title and got myself to an 11 ranking with the IBF. Why would I risk it all over a stupid bit of white powder?
“Two years ago, UKAD offered me a 16 months deal to plead guilty. But I still wouldn’t admit it now. No way. What do they want me to do, lie and said I’ve taken it when I know for a fact I haven’t? I’ve served my time.”
In two years, Cameron will be free to box again, having served his four-year ban and cleared the obstacles currently preventing him from doing so. But that’s not to say he will want to.
“I hope I don’t get the urge (to return) because I’m going to be an old man in boxing, at 32,” he said. “I’ll be 34 by the time I box for another title. How can I get back into boxing after four years away? I was just at the start, just starting to take it seriously. I had got a dietician to help boil me down to make middleweight.
“I’m sick to death of the sport now anyway. This has crushed me. I had dreams of doing things in boxing, but I haven’t made anything from this sport. No money at all. I was getting peanuts. For my last Commonwealth title fight I got £2,700. That just shows you what a bulls**t sport it is.”
As ever, the real villain of the piece appears to be UKAD, an organisation never quite as inconspicuous as they would like to be whose reluctance to explain their decisions leaves them wide open to criticism and, worse, growing scepticism.
“They’ve been absolute a**eholes,” Cameron said. “They gave me a lawyer at first who was a free lawyer of their choosing. The lawyer was part of their setup and worked for them. How was I ever going to win my case?
“It cost £15,000 on my side, which I luckily had paid for me, and £15,000 on UKAD’s side. We could have done a deal; we didn’t have to go to court. They could have just given me the original 16 months. But they didn’t. They pushed and pushed. They wanted to make a big example of me. It took months and months for them to respond to me and give me a court date. This could have all happened six months ago. They took the absolute p*ss.
“I can never forgive UKAD for what they have done. They haven’t thought about what this has done to me. I have a child now and have to get a job. I’ve gone back to being a seventeen-year-old boy. Boxing was my GCSEs. I’m starting again from scratch now.
“If I win the lottery, I am suing them. I’m buying a lottery ticket – and I don’t even know when the lottery is on these days.”
Cameron laughed about that, still able to somehow see its funny side, but became noticeably more serious, sombre even, when adding: “This will be the final time I do an interview as a fighter so it’s an emotional time for me.”
It’s at that point you remember power in boxing has little to do with a boxer’s fists and is something far greater than that.
In this case, a lack of it has meant Liam Cameron has had to retire and ensured his last interview with a magazine he has read since the age of eight is tinged with regrettable frustration and bitterness. And, frankly, the only thing sadder than that is the reality that an abundance of drug cheats, those with a lot more power than Liam Cameron, will continue this year to have their stories told, their fights covered, and their transgressions ignored.