*This article is the subject of a legal complaint from Dillian Whyte

SO commonplace are failed drug tests in boxing these days it is no longer surprising or even disappointing when a fresh one emerges.

That said, in the case of Dillian Whyte, reported to have failed a UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) test on July 17, it’s not so much the test failure that bothers but the fact Whyte was then “cleared” to box Oscar Rivas at London’s O2 Arena just three days later.

In terms of what we know at this stage, a vital Thomas Hauser piece on BoxingScene.com last Thursday (July 25) alleged Whyte returned a positive test for traces of epimethandienone and hydroxymethandienone, two metabolites of the banned drug dianabol, under UKAD rules.

This failed test, per Hauser’s report, came to light on July 17, three days before Whyte’s WBC interim heavyweight title fight with Rivas on July 20, and led to a hearing, after which Whyte was “cleared to fight”.

However, because UKAD rules state an athlete is deemed innocent of drug use until the initial result is confirmed by a positive B sample, cleared to fight and innocent are two very different things. Indeed, it’s this difference – the possibility “cleared to fight” doesn’t necessarily mean innocent – that makes the Dillian Whyte situation such an unusual one.

“I am so disappointed with the rubbish that has been said about me over the last few days,” Whyte, 26-1 (18), said in a brief statement on Friday. “I have lawyers dealing with it and I have been told that I can’t talk about it for good legal reasons. I was cleared to fight, and I won that fight fair and square.”

On the subject of fairness, Eddie Hearn, Whyte’s promoter, felt there was no need for Rivas to be made aware of Whyte’s drug test result and the subsequent hearing because the situation was swiftly resolved. He said Rivas’ involvement in the drama would only have confused matters and that the Colombian wouldn’t have appreciated the stress of being caught in limbo. (The WBC, who sanctioned the bout, said it received no notification of the positive test, either.)

Others, though, feel Rivas deserved to be kept abreast of what was going on. They rightly point out that if UKAD offered Whyte the chance to explain himself following an irregular test result brought to his attention, Rivas, the one whose life was on the line against Whyte, should at least have been offered equal transparency. “Nobody from our team was aware of the situation before the fight or after the fight,” Rivas’ promoter, Yvon Michel, confirmed not long after the news broke.

Of course, had he been told Whyte was given the all-clear, Rivas, 26-1 (18), may well have followed through with the fight anyway. It was a fight for which he was being well paid. It came with the promise of a world heavyweight title shot. It was just days away from happening. What’s more, because Whyte was cleared by all the relevant parties, there would presumably be no reason to believe he wasn’t clean and innocent.

But instead, because Rivas was never so much as informed, and because his safety was essentially discussed in the dark, without his knowledge, it’s hard to consider the case anything but badly handled.

“The fact the BBBoC saw fit to hold a hearing on this positive test makes you if not legally then certainly morally obligated to notify the opposing camp,” Russ Anber, Rivas’ cornerman, told WorldBoxingNews.com. “I don’t see how anybody cannot perceive that as being wrong. Not only wrong but ultimately dangerous. Thank God nothing happened in the ring that night.

“The BBBoC is supposed to be there for the protection and safety of the fighters and to be fair to both sides. That’s their mandate, their role. They are not there just to protect Dillian. It’s their obligation to warn opposing fighters.

“I’m sure Dillian and his camp would want to be warned if an opponent of Dillian’s had tested positive and they didn’t tell them. Imagine how he would have felt.”

Dillian Whyte
Whyte edged a close battle with Rivas on July 20 (Action Images/Andrew Couldridge)

Quick to relay his side of the story to iFL TV, Hearn said Hauser’s damning report contained information both true and untrue and stressed Whyte had been rigorously tested by VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency) during training camp.

“An independent panel cleared this man to fight for a reason, based on the evidence provided,” Hearn told iFL TV in a later video. “I wasn’t in the hearing, but ask yourself why? There must be grounds. Let that play out and see where it goes.

“He’s got to take this very seriously and he’s got to go through this whole process and clear his name, not just with UKAD or the Board (BBBofC), but with the public. If he’s 100 per cent innocent, which time will tell, it’s f***ing brutal what has happened to him. It’s going to be difficult.

“We have a code to follow, legally, and it was followed. It’s been a nightmare and a disaster for us, let alone Dillian Whyte. But we’ll see how it plays out.”

Admittedly, the thought of letting something so important “play out” once the fight has already happened is a troubling one. By then, the punches have been thrown and the damage done. Yet, as far as Hearn is concerned, he was tasked with promoting a boxing match and, once both contracted boxers were “cleared to fight”, that’s precisely what he did.

“It’s just disgusting that (Rivas’) team didn’t know (about the alleged failed test),” said Deontay Wilder, owner of the WBC heavyweight title Whyte had been chasing.

“I think it’s the worst time for this information to come out because we’ve had two deaths in boxing (that week). This is a reality check. I always say we risk our lives for people’s entertainment.

“If you look at a six-month ban, that’s just regular protocol. Most fighters fight every three to six months, so, in banning someone for six months, there’s no justice. You’ve got to give them a stiffer ban.”

Deontay Wilder
Wilder isn’t happy with the way the Whyte situation was handled (Action Images/Andrew Couldridge)

Dianabol, the drug Whyte is accused of taking, is the market name of methandienone (or methandrostenolone), which belongs to the C17 steroids’ family. Typically used in pill form, it is an androgenic and anabolic steroid capable of increasing an athlete’s free testosterone and the production of red blood cells, as well as upgrading their metabolic capacity, enhancing the synthesis of protein, allowing for quicker recovery after training, and helping to burnt fat. In short, it’s a serious drug with clear performance-enhancing benefits.

Worse for Whyte is the fact this isn’t the first of his drug tests to produce adverse findings. In 2012, he served a two-year ban for testing positive for methylhexaneamine, a mishap he attributed to not seeking professional advice when using the over-the-counter supplement Jack3D.

“You’ve got to remember this is his second offence,” Wilder continued. “What’s he going to blame it on this time? An energy drink? I can’t wait to hear the excuse. Right now, they’re just trying to build an excuse.

“I know certain people have control over certain governing bodies. I know certain things are done behind closed doors. They try to cover it up. When that B sample comes back, it’s going to get ugly before it gets better.

“I believe in second chances. But if you get a second chance and do it again, that’s it. You should be banned for life.”

Not just that, a boxer should be cleared to fight only if they are innocent – which is to say, tested and clean – and not because the result of a failed test needs to be confirmed, double-checked or discussed at a later date. They should be clean to fight, not simply cleared to fight, and even the smallest sign, whether a legitimate cause for concern or something easily explained, must be considered a red flag and a more than valid reason to postpone an event.

In a sport quick to stress that the health and safety of participants is paramount, there should be no grey areas, much less scenarios where adverse drug test results are dealt with by hearings held three days before a fight. Whatever the dialogue at that stage, benefit of the doubt cannot be given because doubt, in boxing more than any other sport, is much too costly. A lost fight can be rescheduled for a later date. A lost life, on the other hand, will never be afforded the same luxury.