JUST when it seems British boxing has accumulated all the black eyes its face can handle, it somehow finds room for another, with news this morning (April 4) of Amir Khan’s two-year ban for failing a performance enhancing drug test on February 19, 2022 coming as both a shock and a crushing disappointment.
We should know better by now than to trust these athletes, but still, given both Khan’s performance against Kell Brook that February night (a lacklustre showing which resulted in a sixth-round stoppage defeat) and his subsequent retirement, to hear of him falling foul of the drug testers is most unexpected.
That is precisely what Khan did, however. According to UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), a urine sample collected from the Bolton fighter on February 19, 2022 returned an adverse analytical finding for ostarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM). This substance, ostarine, is listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) 2022 Prohibited List as an anabolic agent and is prohibited in sport at all times.
When the adverse finding was returned, Khan was then notified about it on April 6, 2022, at which point he was issued with a provisional suspension from all Code-compliant sport.
On 20 July, 2022, meanwhile, UKAD charged Khan with the commission of two Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs): under ADR Article 2.1 (Presence of a Prohibited Substance); and ADR Article 2.2 (Use of a Prohibited Substance).
According to a UKAD statement, Khan accepted these charges but maintained that his ingestion of ostarine was not “intentional” (a term with a specific meaning set out at ADR Article 10.2.3). As a consequence, his case was referred to the National Anti-Doping Panel to be considered by an independent tribunal.
This case was eventually heard by the independent tribunal on 24 January, 2023 and in its written decision, dated 21 February, 2023, the panel imposed a two-year ban on Khan, 34-6 (21). The panel also disqualified his result (TKO 6) from the bout against Brook.
In terms of the ban, Khan’s two-year suspension is deemed to have commenced on 6 April, 2022 (the date his Provisional Suspension was imposed) and will expire on 5 April, 2024, though the fighter himself announced his retirement in the aftermath of that loss to Brook.
Speaking on the case, UKAD Chief Executive Jane Rumble said: “This case serves as a reminder that UKAD will diligently pursue Anti-Doping Rule Violations in order to protect clean sport.
“Strict liability means athletes are ultimately responsible for what they ingest and for the presence of any prohibited substances in a sample. It is important that all athletes and their support personnel, whatever level they are competing at, take their anti-doping responsibilities seriously. Not doing so risks damaging not only an athlete’s career, but also undermining public confidence in clean sport.”
It’s hard to say which of those two ideas is the more fanciful: the idea of the public ever having confidence in the purity of professional boxers, or the idea that what we are watching these days is a clean sport.