Former opponent of Andrew Selby is free to fight after positive drug test

Former opponent of Andrew Selby is free to fight after positive drug test

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

By Dewi Powell: Andrew Selby (13-1, 7KO) has experienced more than most in his boxing career but an illogical subplot following his first professional defeat must have left the Barry man scratching his head.

Seven months after Julio Cesar Martinez (14-1, 11KO) over Selby in a WBC eliminator, the Mexican power-puncher tested positive for a Clenbuterol, a performance-enhancing drug [PED]. Clenbuterol reduces blood pressure to enable more oxygen to be carried in the blood. It also enhances muscle growth and increases weight loss. The latter is particularly important in a sport where participants have to make weight limits – the eight stone flyweight category in this case.

The steroid-like chemical was originally developed to treat asthma in horses but there is a more concerning agricultural use in Mexico, where farmers exploit it to increase the size of livestock. For that reason, Martinez escaped without any sanctions when trace elements of the banned substance were detected in a doping test conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association [VADA] on behalf of the WBC.

The highest profile case of Clenbuterol happened in 2017 when multiweight world champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez tested positive. Boxing’s biggest superstar served a six-month ban imposed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The leniency of the decision was criticised at the time and Canelo returned to Nevada for a multi-million-dollar rematch with then-world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin months later.

Many critics weren’t convinced the authorities seriously scrutinized and punished the ‘contaminated meat’ excuse. Eyebrows were raised further in May when the World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA] took the decision to amend Article 7.4 of their code. It allowed WADA-accredited laboratories to report Atypical Findings [ATFs] of Clenbuterol and it meant that the threshold of allowable Clenbuterol in an athlete’s body had been increased. WADA issued a Stakeholder Notice with the news and it was criticised by many recipients. The obligation to avoid detection of trace amounts of Clenbuterol was theoretically removed for Mexican athletes, who had a ready-made reason for positive tests. WADA insisted the change to their rules was necessary.

The WBC, now headed by Mauricio Sulaiman, welcomed the decision with open arms. In a statement to endorse the change of rules, the WBC said: “The WBC has received an additional report from VADA in which two Mexican fighters showed atypical findings of Clenbuterol, which are well below the new WADA standard and all fighters will receive proper nutrition education from the WBC Clean Boxing Program and Weight Management Program. WBC champion Rey Vargas and WBC challenger Julio Cesar Martinez are at no fault with regards to their VADA atypical finding.

“Effective on June 1, 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) established a new threshold in relation to the detection of Clenbuterol. WADA’s new standard intends to ensure that results management entities address and resolve positive anti-doping tests emanating from the consumption of contaminated meat products in a fair manner for the athlete. That will prevent athletes from being penalized for an anti-doping rule violation as a result of consuming contaminated meat.

“WADA’s List of Prohibited List includes Clenbuterol because it promotes muscle growth through anabolic properties. However, scientific studies have shown to WADA’s satisfaction that athletes can test positive for low levels of Clenbuterol after consuming contaminated meat. That finding has led to WADA reviewing their recommended results management rules governing adverse findings for Clenbuterol.”

Decisions of this nature can have serious implications for sport in general. They can open loopholes and doping scientists can take advantage by tailoring their programs. It’s a complex and sensitive situation, especially in an age when users of PEDS are often a step, or years, ahead of testing organisations.

Martinez stopped Selby with a body shot in the fifth round when they met in central Mexico. Fighting at more than 2,600 feet above sea level and arriving just five days before the fight wasn’t ideal preparation for Selby. However, the possibility of facing a chemically enhanced opponent – whether intentional or accidentally consumed through contaminated meat – was a challenge no boxer should encounter. The risk to health and life is already high enough.

The snakes and ladders nature of the business of professional boxing meant Selby was sidelined whilst Martinez prepared to challenge for the vacant WBC title in December. It was especially difficult for Selby to accept when the other corner would contain Cristofer Rosales (29-4, 20KO), a Nicaraguan trying to become world champion for the second time since losing to Selby in 2017.

The fight with Rosales would be Martinez’s second shot at the crown. In August, Martinez thought he’d won the WBC belt when he left England’s champion Charlie Edwards in a heap on the canvas. However, video replays showed Martinez landing a huge body shot when Edwards was on all fours and the knockout was swiftly turned to a no decision. The Englishman wisely opted to vacate his belt in the aftermath and head north to super-flyweight, avoiding a rematch.

Boxing is rarely wise, nor boring.

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

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