ROBERT SMITH is calling for United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) to rethink its policies in the wake of Amir Khan being banned for two years on two doping violations (the presence and use of ostarine, a prohibited substance). Like many observers, the General Secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), was perplexed 14 months elapsed between Khan providing a post-fight urine sample after losing to Kell Brook and the results of that test being made public.

In the interim, Smith – in his position with the BBBofC – was forbidden to tell anyone due to UKAD’s confidentiality ruling. It meant that Ben Shalom, who promoted the Brook bout, was unaware of Khan’s failed test. The same Shalom who, in March last year, indicated that Khan was considering his options regarding a potential Brook rematch.

“I am furious about this,” Shalom told Boxing News. “It makes me look stupid and the sport look incompetent. I have always had great admiration for Amir Khan but I believe that anyone caught with prohibited substances in their system must get punished. But why does the process take so long? It’s right that he’s banned, but something has to change in regard to the current confidentiality rules and the length of time the cases take to get heard.”

As per UKAD policies, only the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the athlete, the athlete’s manager and the governing body were directly informed. So, with Khan being self-managed, it meant that from those directly involved in the contest, only Khan and Smith were told. A UKAD spokesperson confirmed to Boxing News that Shalom was not notified with the suggestion that the process of informing others – like the opponent or the promoter – is purely at Khan’s discretion.

If nobody knew about the suspension – which was provisionally imposed on April 6, 2022 – what would have stopped Khan from attempting to fight again in a different territory? In this case, it’s a moot point because on May 13, 2022, 36-year-old Khan officially retired, five weeks after he was told about the failed test.

“UKAD don’t make it public when the suspensions are enforced so we’re not allowed to say anything which is extremely frustrating,” Smith told BN. “But at that point, if we had known that Khan was boxing, we could have stopped it. I had a notification in April that he was suspended and that’s the first thing I knew.”

The case courted further controversy when Khan suggested on TalkSport last week the test he failed might have occurred during fight week. This, however, would seem to be a mix-up from Khan. According to the case notes, Khan was tested by UKAD on February 12 – one week before the contest – and again, after the fight, on February 19. Only the second test had the adverse finding. He was also twice tested while training out in America in January by United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Both of those tests were negative.

When asked why the positive test took 14 months to be made public, UKAD told BN there are legal processes which must be respected, particularly when the athlete insists, as Khan did via email on October 5, 2022, that the substance was not knowingly ingested. In essence, the athlete is granted time to compile evidence against the doping charges they face.

The case, which came to tribunal on January 24, centered on Khan’s ability to prove his innocence.

Khan’s legal team stated that: prior to February 19, 2022 he had never tested positive for a prohibited substance during an estimated 40 tests during his career and he passed three doping tests in the run-up to the bout with Brook; that it was Khan who insisted on extra testing; that because he had not been notified of the positive A sample until April 6, it prejudiced his ability to establish the source of ostarine, a substance he had never previously heard of; due to the small amount of ostarine in the sample the likeliest explanation was due to contamination of a supplement or incidental contact with another person; there was a failure of his nutritionist to maintain proper records of the supplements provided.

It was suggested during the trial that, though ‘8 or 10 substances’ had been listed on the doping control form for the February 19 test, he failed to mention three supplements he had been taking.

Professor Pascal Kintz, an expert in pharmacy and toxicology, stated that due to Khan’s February 12 test being clear, the ostarine must have entered Khan’s system at some point between that test being conducted and February 19. He suggested that ‘micro-dosing’ was feasible, but the amount of ostarine was so small “it did not correlate with an intention to use ostarine as a performance enhancement.”

Micro-dosing has long been reported as way that athletes can circumvent the testing system but Professor Cowan, of Kings College, was also of the view that, in this case, such a scenario was unlikely. “One would not micro dose ostarine deliberately, it makes no sense.”

The final ruling stated: ‘This is a rare case in which the athlete was fortunate to have been required to take a doping test seven days before the fight providing a clear marker that any subsequent sample could only have been ingested seven days or less before the bout, thus excluding any possible argument that the residual sample could have been derived from the ingestion of a pharmacologically effective dose administered before February 12 2022… Amir Khan has established that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional.’

However, the failed test definitively proved that ostarine was in his system, hence why he was banned for two years. If the tribunal had proved the ingestion was intentional, that ban would have been extended to four years.

Yet the length of time this process took is troublesome. So too that issue of confidentiality. Back in July 2019, when adverse findings were discovered in a test undertaken by Dillian Whyte, his opponent, Oscar Rivas, was not informed. That particular case, which ruled that Whyte was clear to fight, went in front of the same National Anti-Doping Panel barely hours before Whyte outpointed the oblivious Rivas over 12.

Though it’s understood that Khan did not have a contest scheduled, waiting 14 months for his ruling is simply not consistent. And when it comes to doping violations in British boxing, it’s imperative that consistency is glaringly apparent.

“I don’t see why it should take so long,” said Smith. “It puts a lot of other people, innocent parties, in a position that is untellable. I am very disappointed. I am meeting with UKAD in a couple of weeks to go through the policies because I am very frustrated. Of course, they will say it’s due process, everyone has a right to defend themselves, which is very true, but why does it take a year?”