- Saudi Arabia’s “sportswashing” in the Andy Ruiz Jr. vs. Anthony Joshua fight isn’t the event’s only controversy.
- The fight is also littered with athletes who have used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in the past.
- The Clash on the Dunes takes place on Saturday, December 7 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, and four of the athletes competing have a history of testing positive for PEDs.
- Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn told Business Insider last week that it is a widespread problem in the heavyweight division.
- Hearn acknowledged he might have a responsibility as a promoter to ensure the safety of competitors.
- However, there is hardly anyone around to actually enforce any rules.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua’s rematch is an event littered with athletes who have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in the past, and the promoter says it’s a widespread heavyweight problem.
Saturday’s showdown is hardly bereft of controversy. Business Insider previously reported that the $US100 million Ruiz Jr. and Joshua fight “is masking a darker truth” in Saudi Arabia, and that boxing is burying its head in the sand by failing to use its platform to speak about the various human rights abuses in the country.
Amnesty International even called the event “sportswashing,” or “an effort to ‘reposition’ the very damaged Saudi brand though the reflected glamour, excitement, and prestige of top-tier sport.”
But “sportswashing” is not the only problem with the show.
There are seven scheduled fights to take place at the Clash on the Dunes event in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday, December 7. Five of those fights are heavyweight bouts. Of the 10 heavyweights competing on the card, four have a history of testing positive for PEDs.
Here they are:
- Mariusz Wach tested positive for an anabolic steroid in 2012 and stanozolol in 2015.
- Alexander Povetkin tested positive for meldonium, which improves exercise capacity, in 2016.
- Eric Molina tested positive for dexamethasone, a steroid, in 2018.
- Dillian Whyte tested positive for methylhexaneamine in 2012 and for “one or more banned substances” in 2019.
There have also been multiple ring deaths in boxing this year. The most recent, Patrick Day in October, made the boxing promoter Eddie Hearn cry during an interview with the YouTube channel iFL TV.
When Business Insider met Hearn last week to talk about his upcoming show in Saudi Arabia amongst other issues in the sport of boxing, we asked him if, in light of Day’s death, he has a responsibility as a promoter to ensure the health and safety of competitors, and whether recruiting fighters with a proven history of PED abuse jeopardizes that.
He paused for thought.
“Possibly … is the answer,” Hearn said.
Hearn said he risks ridicule if he refuses to work with certain athletes
He then went through Saturday’s four-man list of athletes with a history of failing drugs tests in sport, and downplayed three for alternative reasons.
“Povetkin failed [for] tiny levels of meldonium,” Hearn told us. “Now VADA [Voluntary Anti-Doping Association] is saying they have changed the levels just like they have done for clenbuterol because Mexican fighters were found with the tiniest traces of clenbuterol on the WBC programme.
“WBC and VADA have got together and said we need to raise those levels because you can eat meat, and you saw this with the [Saul] Canelo [Alvarez] thing. It may sound dodgy, but they’re saying, I’m telling you now, if you have a steak in Argentina there’s a good chance you’ll get a trace level of clenbuterol, so they have upped those levels as well.”
On Molina, who lost in the third round to Joshua in 2016 then failed a drugs test, Hearn said he was suspended from fighting in the UK for a two-year period.
The UKAD suspension, issued in May 2018, retroactively began almost a year before, in October 2017, and ran to October 2019, but during this period Molina fought twice in the US. The suspension was toothless. It did not prevent Molina from participating in sport globally.
On Whyte, Hearn said: “Dillian is cleared [to fight] and again, still more to come on that, but let’s see how that one plays out because I believe he’s totally innocent.”
And finally on Wach, he said: “Funnily enough, I didn’t even know about Mariusz Wach.”
In regards to Day, ring deaths, and his duty as a boxing promoter to protect the health and safety of combatants competing on his shows, he said: “Should I as a promoter, say, ‘No, I’m not putting on a guy who has previously served a drugs test yet has served a ban and is cleared to fight? Maybe. Maybe … being honest. I think there’s an argument for that.
“But in a lot of situations, they’re unavoidable. Not Mariusz Wach. He’s not unavoidable. But when Alexander Povetkin boxed Anthony Joshua, he was the mandatory for the WBA title.
“If AJ would have not fought him, we would have lost the title. There’s nothing I could do in that instance. And there are a number of instances where … Tyson Fury failed a drugs test. Should I say we’re not fighting him? I’d get ridiculed,especially by the public. Imagine Fury vs. Joshua came up and I say, ‘No! Sorry! Not doing it.'”
Hearn could work with PEDs user Jarrell Miller again
Joshua’s first opponent of 2019 was supposed to be Miller.
The brash Brooklyn bruiser talked a good game, shoved Joshua at a press conference at the start of the year, and began to build interest in a bout between himself and Joshua, then the unified champion, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
But then Miller failed three drug tests for human growth hormone (HGH), EPO, and GW1516.
The cocktail of PEDs in Miller’s system meant Hearn had no choice but to call the bout off, instead recruiting Andy Ruiz Jr. as a late replacement, who went on to beat Joshua in the upset of the year.
Regardless, Hearn remains close to Miller.
“I could have signed him so easily,” he told Business Insider. “He’s been on the phone to me saying, ‘I don’t want to sign with anyone else. I just want to sign with you.’ And I really like him. We were quite close.
“And I said, ‘Jarrell I can’t do it. I get so much stick as it is. Imagine if I now sign you? Not only did you fail three times. You failed against my client and my friend Anthony Joshua and then to make f—— matters the f—— geezer comes in who replaces you and wins! It’s all your fault! Joshua would have knocked you out, you fat f—— slob.’
“So, but, could I honestly sit here with you now and say I’d never ever work with Jarrell Miller again … I can’t tell you that categorically. I’ve refused him. It was six months ago nearly since that happened and, as of now, I’ve continuously refused to work with him again.
“I definitely couldn’t work with him in the near future. Definitely not but … again, being totally honest with you, Jarrell Miller is going to be in some big fights next year.”
Joshua vs. Miller would be a ‘huge fight’
Joshua vs. Miller would be a “huge fight,” Hearn said.
“We sit down here and say that it’s a huge fight … you’re right in your questions. It’s a really difficult one. But you need opponents in the heavyweight division and half of them have failed drugs tests.
“Fury, [Luis] Ortiz, Whyte, Povetkin, Miller, I’m sure there’s others … half the heavyweights [in the boxing record keeper Boxrec’s list of top ten heavyweights] have tested positive at some stage. It’s not ideal.
“The only way around it is to form a testing agency, a voluntary testing agency, that applies the ban. VADA are great but all they do is tell you he’s failed. Alright, what you going to do about it. ‘Nothing we can do, just letting you know.’ Oh, f—— great.
“No one does anything about it. Then it’s irrelevent. But the fact that Jarrell Miller can box and could have boxed, forget the WBA six months ban … he could have boxed anywhere. And, by the way, every promoter is trying to sign him.
“I wasn’t very happy with [rival fight firm] Top Rank, they were on him in July or August. He only f—— failed in May, do you know what I mean?
“It’s difficult but there’s definite substance to your question. It’s just … finding an opponent. You’re going to get situations where big fights involve people that have failed drugs tests.
“I don’t want to pass the buck, but if the networks are ok with the fights, if the governing bodies are ok, the commissions are ok … it comes down to you.
“And, again, when you go to AJ, doesn’t even have to be AJ … Deontay Wilder, ‘You know Tyson Fury failed a drugs test? I’m not comfortable with this.’
“He’ll go to me, ‘F— off,’ or ‘I don’t want to work with you again.'”