Highlight 3 | Issue | News | Premium | Nov 11 2019

The Clenbuterol Controversy: WBC and VADA have their say

Matt Christie talks to Mauricio Sulaiman and VADA after two leading boxers escape punishment following positive drug tests
Gavin McDonnnell vs Rey Vargas
Action Images/Ed Sykes

THE World Boxing Council (WBC) last week revealed that two Mexican boxers, Rey Vargas and Julio Cesar Martinez, tested positive for clenbuterol but they would be forgiven due to new rulings from the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA).

It seemed like a strange move on the surface, particularly from the Mexico-based organisation who have made significant progress with their Clean Boxing Program – which demands their champions and highest ranked fighters are subject to random testing from the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). It was VADA, a combat sports testing agency but not a regulatory body, who carried out the tests on Vargas and Martinez.

Due to widespread use of clenbuterol in Mexican livestock, new legal clenbuterol thresholds were introduced in June by WADA (who oversee the testing for all Olympic sports but professional boxing is not officially under their signatory). Therefore, the ruling goes, low levels of clenbuterol found in athletes will be recorded and monitored but not immediately deemed a crime. Instead, it will be presumed the steroid was accidentally ingested while further tests are recommended. Innocent until proven guilty, if you will.

The case of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is perhaps the most infamous example of an athlete claiming contaminated meat was the reason for failing a drug test. Alvarez was suspended from the sport for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after flunking two tests in February 2018. If these new rules had been in place back then, Canelo would have faced no action.

Canelo Alvarez
Canelo remains boxing’s most famous clenbuterol case (Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports)


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