BILLY JOE SAUNDERS is no longer the WBO middleweight champion. After an adverse finding in a VADA (the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) administered test he was denied a licence to box by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission (MSAC). That ruled him out of boxing Demetrius Andrade on October 20 and the WBO have announced that Saunders has now vacated his title.
WBO President Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcárcel said, “B. J. Saunders has voluntarily vacated the WBO middleweight title, and publicly apologised for his violation of the Massachusetts Athletic Commission’s anti-doping regulations.
“Therefore, the clash between Demetrius Andrade and [replacement opponent] Walter Kautondonkwa scheduled for October 20 will now be for the vacant world crown.
“Also, I will recommend to the WBO Executive Committee that Saunders receives a six month suspension for his transgression.”
However promoter Frank Warren is poised to make a vigorous defence of his fighter. “Billy Joe Saunders underwent testing by both WADA and VADA. WADA, as mandated by the British Boxing Board of Control and, voluntarily, VADA at the request of the Promoter, not the MSAC. All four tests carried out by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD – WADA’s UK Affiliate) and subsequent tests performed by VADA on Mr Saunders contained no trace of any prohibited substance,” he said in a statement.
“To be clear on this, the MSAC governance on doping regulations expressly adhere to the prohibited list set down by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The WADA list distinguishes between substances prohibited “at all times” and substances prohibited “in competition”. The low level of the chemical detected in the test supplied by Billy-Joe – ingested via a nasal spray – is not a prohibited substance when ingested ‘out of competition’ . The VADA test was conducted ‘out of competition’ and so was not prohibited for the purpose of the application of the WADA list and therefore the application of the MSAC rules to Billy Joe.
“I have read comments that MSAC had no choice as a failed test is a failed test however these comments are, with respect, misleading and ignorant of the fact the MSAC apply the WADA code. To put it as simply as possible the timing of the test being out of competition and the substance detected only being prohibited in competition under the WADA list means it was not a failed test. All that VADA do is conduct a test and report the results. It was for MSAC to then apply the WADA code to those results which they failed to do properly.”
This will be taken further. “The MSAC is a State appointed governing body and therefore the decision will be appealed and challenged in the Superior Court at the earliest opportunity,” Warren continued. “Cases such as these can take a considerable time to be heard and adjudicated on and, given the damaging effect these accusations of wrongdoing have had on the mental wellbeing of Billy Joe, he is in no position to continue in his profession until such a time as his name has been cleared.
“Boxing is a dangerous sport and the 100 per cent health – both physical and mental – is paramount at all times.
“Because of the mental anguish brought about by this case and out of respect for the WBO, Billy Joe will with a heavy heart relinquish his world title, whilst this issue is in the process of being resolved.”