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Victor Conte slams professional boxing's drug testing

Victor Conte
Conte now works with boxers Andre Ward and Eddie Chambers

Victor Conte, the man who provided disgraced sprinter Dwain Chambers with illegal drugs, has branded boxing's attempts to catch cheats as "inept".

Currently working with professional boxers, Conte claims drug use in the sport is rife due to lax regulation.

"The testing that is being utilised in boxing is virtually worthless," Conte told BBC Radio 5 live.

Conte's view is backed up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) which branded boxing's testing as "pathetic".

Professional boxing is one the few sports that is not regulated by a single governing body.

In the United States, each commission has different rules when it comes to drug testing, with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), for example, responsible for all fights taking place in Las Vegas.

That being the case, the NSAC would have been charged with regulating the ill-fated Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight, which fell through earlier this month because of a row over testing.

That hotch-potch approach is unlike the amateur, game which is under the Wada umbrella.

"Professional boxing is not in compliance and has made no effort to comply," said head of Wada David Howman.

"They give the boxer every opportunity to hide what they may have taken previously and that is not the way the world operates these days."

The concern is that boxers could be resorting to taking human growth hormone drugs (HGH) to aid their move up and down the weight divisions.

"I don't believe they want to know how rampant the use of drugs really is.," said Conte. "Testing in boxing is completely and totally inept."

Conte, the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, also fears testosterone is being used to aid the intensity of training and improve speed and power, as well as Erythropoietin (EPO) to increase oxygen intake and the ability to recover more quickly after training.

Boxing is still reeling from the cancellation of the biggest payday in its history because of a drug-testing dispute.

Unbeaten American Mayweather's proposed fight with Filipino superstar Pacquiao had been set for 13 March.


But the fight was called off after Mayweather's management wanted both men - regarded as the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world - to submit to blood-testing 14 days prior to the bout.

Pacquiao, however, refused, saying that he had difficulty with taking blood, and after days of negotiating the pair failed to resolve their dispute.

The key to Wada's supervisory regime is its ability to test randomly.

Britain's Olympic gold medallist James DeGale has yet to have a drugs test - other than the one given at a yearly medical check - since turning professional after the Beijing Games in 2008.

"As a top amateur, you were tested regularly," DeGale told BBC Sport.

"It was random - they can turn up day and night. Leading up to the Olympics, I was tested twice randomly and when I won gold I had a blood and urine test.

"It's pretty strict, you don't know when you are going to get tested."

With such sporadic testing, Conte believes it is far too easy to avoid detection.

"They test you before a fight and after a fight- one for performance-enhancing drugs and one for recreational drugs," said Conte.

"But these athletes have advisors who understand that all you have to do is taper off the different species of drugs.

James DeGale
I haven't had a drugs test (in my first year as a professional), apart from my medical that you have to have once a year

Boxer James DeGale

"Until those who control the majority of the financial gain from boxing develop a true and genuine interest in reducing the use of performance-enhancing drugs, it will continue to be rampant."

Conte, who provided drugs for five-time Olympic gold medallist Marion Jones, developed the banned steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) with the help of bodybuilding chemist Patrick Arnold.

Caught in 2003, Conte was later sentenced to four months in prison.

He has since helped Wada go about catching drugs cheats, and under his new company Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning provides legal supplements for current athletes.

His clients include boxers Andre Ward, who is part of the Super Six series that includes Britain's Carl Froch, and Eddie Chambers, who is set to fight Wladimir Klitschko in March.

Howman is hoping the Mayweather-Pacquiao furore will provide a wake-up call for boxing.

He added: "Wada's view is quite simple, what professional boxing has in place is well short of the mark.

"The difficulty with professional boxing is that they regard themselves as private entities and outside of our jurisdiction. Largely because they reside in the United States where there is no government control and no Olympic committee control."

In the past, the professional game has taken a softly-softly approach to punishing boxers.

In 2000, a post-fight drug test showed that the then IBF, WBC and WBA light-heavyweight world champion Roy Jones Jr and his opponent Richard Hall both tested positive for androstenedione, which was banned by the IBF. Jones was able to keep his titles and was not fined or suspended for the positive test by the IBF.

In 2005, American James Toney defeated John Ruiz to win the WBA heavyweight title but later tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol. Toney only received a 90-day ban.

The commissioner of Indiana Boxing, Jacob Hall, insisted that Indiana did not have a law on drug testing and that an agreement was made with Jones to send his next two pre-fight drug tests to the Indiana commission.

However, German promoter Chris Meyer, who manages former heavyweight world champion Nikolay Valuev, believes improving drug testing is vital to boxing's survival.

Meyer operates a "zero-tolerance policy" towards doping - a stance that earlier in the month cost Spanish boxer Pablo Navascus the chance to face Sebastian Sylvester for the IBF middleweight title after the Spaniard failed a test during training.

"No insurance covers that and it's a big problem," said Meyer. "But we are prepared to take this risk."

He added: "If you are an amateur athlete there is no discussion about this. We have to demonstrate to the public that we do not cheat - we play with open cards. It's important for the survival of the sport.

"Perhaps in the long run the Mayweather-Pacquiao situation will be good for boxing."

Interviews by BBC Radio 5 live boxing correspondent Mike Costello. Writing by broadcast journalist Nabil Hassan

see also
Mayweather-Pacquiao bout 'is off'
23 Dec 09 |  Boxing
Mayweather Jr-Pacquiao talks fail
07 Jan 10 |  Boxing
Conte explains doping loopholes
13 Dec 07 |  Sport Homepage
How to beat the drugs cheats
15 Nov 07 |  Sport Homepage
Chambers admits positive test
22 Oct 03 |  Athletics

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