British cruiserweight contender, and soon to be world title challenger Tony Bellew (with Bellew set to face Junior Makabu for the vacant WBC 200-pound belt soon) has spoken out about what he says is a “major problem with drugs in boxing.” Speaking on BBC radio, Bellew said that fighters caught “should be made an example of,” and the Liverpudlian suggested an appropriate punishment would be “a lifetime ban.”
The sport has been rocked in recent times by top name fighters failing drugs tests – with Antonio Tarver, Andre Berto, Lamont Peterson and, much more recently, Lucas Browne failing drugs tests (with pleas of innocence swiftly following the breaking news) – and most fans will probably agree with where Bellew is coming from with his lifetime ban suggestion. But have fighters like Browne – who insists he is innocent of knowingly taking any drug and that he will prove as much – possibly been “spiked,” and if so, is it possible an innocent fighter could be punished unfairly if all fighters who fail a drugs test are banned for life?
Remember when Tyson Fury said after his massive win over Wladimir Klitschko in Germany that he was afraid to touch anything anyone tired to hand to him in the dressing room after the fight, so concerned was he that the water or food was laced with a drug that would ensure he failed the post-fight drugs test. Neither Klitschko nor any member of his team was proven to have done anything wrong, let’s get that clear, but the scenario Fury insisted he was savvy enough to have avoided falling into could happen, couldn’t it?
How does anyone prove a fighter, or any athlete for that matter, knowingly took a steroid on purpose? How does any fighter or athlete prove that they did not knowingly take a steroid? It’s fine punishing a fighter caught using illegal stimulants, but what about the, admittedly small, chance they were indeed spiked?
Bellew, though, says he does not want to see a fighter die in the ring before something is done about the growing problem.
“I’m not condoning runners taking drugs, but there are not lives at risk in a 100-meter race. There are in a boxing ring and that’s why it is so alarming,” Bellew said. “Steroids allow people to train much harder and recover much quicker. If someone is taking them in the couple of months lead-up to a fight they have such an advantage. I suggest nothing less than a lifetime ban. It shouldn’t take someone dying in the ring at the hands of a steroid user for this to happen.”
Bellew later Tweeted how he is “probably tested anywhere between 10 to 20 times a year.” Bellew has never failed any of these tests and he is a proven clean fighter. But how many active fighters out there are currently cheating knowingly? And what can be done about it? No sport needs this headache.