By Riath Al-Samarrai for MailOnline
Boxing was plunged into chaos on Wednesday after Sportsmail‘s explosive revelation that Conor Benn failed a drugs test ahead of Saturday’s fight with Chris Eubank Jr – but remarkably and farcically the bout could still go ahead.
In a story that rocked the boxing world, MailOnline revealed that Benn had returned an adverse finding for the banned substance clomifene, which is typically used to treat infertility in women but can increase testosterone in men.
The British Boxing Board of Control has since stepped in to declare they will no longer sanction the highly-anticipated showdown at the O2.
But, in an extraordinary and controversial move, Benn’s promoter Eddie Hearn has not formally cancelled the fight yet, saying the matter is being discussed among lawyers for both parties — with both Eubank Jnr and Benn still keen for a fight that will earn both of them a seven-figure fee.
As revealed by Sportsmail, Benn’s positive was discovered in testing last month by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association and multiple sources have indicated to us that a notification was made to all parties as far back as September 23.
Quite why it took so long for the board to act — they finally announced they were against the fight as ‘it is not in the interests of boxing’ more than two hours after we published — was one of many questions thrown up on a day of disarray.
Chris Eubank Jr’s (left) fight with Conor Benn (right) has been postponed by boxing authorities
Benn, due to fight Eubank on Saturday, has failed a drugs test for banned substance clomifene
Sportsmail’s Riath Al-Samarrai broke the exclusive of Benn’s positive drugs test this morning
Benn and his boxer father Nigel (left) are pictured ahead of the 26-year-old fight this weekend
Clomifene is a powerful female fertility medicine which doubles as a performance enhancer.
It stimulates egg production in women, giving those struggling to conceive the best chance of getting pregnant.
Yet, studies suggest that when given to men as a daily pill, clomiphene triggers the production of testosterone.
Testosterone has a key role in tissue healing, carrying oxygen and nutrients to the injury site, aiding repair.
However, it also makes it easier to put on muscle and offers a physical boost, hence why it is a banned substance in the world of athletics.
Hearn’s efforts to keep the fight on track are focused on the Board of Control’s relationship with different testing agencies. Specifically, he has pointed to the Board being ‘governed’ by UK Anti-Doping Agency, and not VADA, who are typically contracted by the boxers and promoters for a five-figure fee prior to a fight.
With Benn having never tested positive in a UKAD test, Hearn therefore argues that the Board have no right to suspend him – a stance that has been met with incredulity within the sport, but which appears to have been central to lengthy discussions this week with the Board’s general secretary Robert Smith.
Smith could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts and the Board has been silent beyond a brief statement that disclosed they made their decision against the fight on Tuesday evening.
Irrespective of that position, Hearn is pushing on with his plans, highlighting that Benn has not been charged with a violation. It is not yet clear if he has requested for his B sample to be tested.
Hearn said: ‘It has been going on behind the scenes. We saw the Daily Mail article this morning and we have just seen the Board’s statement. It is with the lawyers going backwards and forwards right now.
‘Both guys signed up to a multitude of testing for this fight. The UKAD testing, which is the testing agency the Board use and are governed by, have all been clear and negative. There was an adverse finding on a VADA test previously.
‘There has not been an official doping violation. There is a process to go through. Conor Benn is not suspended by the Board of Control – ultimately he can’t be because he has passed all the tests from UKAD. But clearly the Board will take a position on it and we will deal with the lawyers.
Saturday’s fight was due to fall almost 30 years after the second of two iconic fights between their fathers, Nigel Benn (right) and Chris Eubank (left)
‘Both camps were made aware prior to the article and both are prepared to progress, but ultimately we have to talk with the lawyers, the teams and the Board of Control.’
Hearn, whose legal avenues could extend to attempts for an injunction against the board, added: ‘Best-case scenario, everybody is happy with the situation and the fight proceeds on Saturday. Worst-case scenario is a postponement and we select a new date this year. We will still see this fight 100 per cent. It’s bigger than ever, but we would like to see it on Saturday.’
One source said the board has been ‘flooded’ amid the legal wranglings over this saga.
Hearn’s intention to keep the fight on has been met with amazement by many around the sport. Earlier in the day, Frank Warren told Sportsmail: ‘Why sign up to VADA if you will not recognise their findings?’
Benn did not break his silence until late afternoon, by which point Hearn’s Matchroom company and Eubank Jnr’s promoters Wasserman had confirmed his adverse finding.
He said at an open workout: ‘You guys have read what the Daily Mail published today and I want you to hear it personally from me rather than read it in a statement.
Benn is pictured in the fight’s build-up, which is due to see him move up two weight classes
‘I’ve not committed any violations, I’ve not been suspended so as far as I’m concerned the fight’s still going ahead.
‘I’ve spoken to Chris personally and we both want the fight to go ahead. We’ve both taken medical and legal advice and we both want the fight to happen for the fans.
‘I’ve signed up to every voluntary anti-doping testing there is under the sun, throughout my whole career all my UK tests have come back negative. I’ve never had any issues before. Even in the lead-up to this fight my tests have come back negative.
‘So my team will find out why there’s been an initial adverse finding in my test but as far as I’m concerned, the fight’s still going ahead. I’m a clean athlete and we’ll get to the bottom of this. I’ll see you all on Saturday.’
Eubank Jr later rubbished Benn’s claim that the pair had spoken, saying ‘there was no phone call’.
Benn has been considered an underdog for the fight against Eubank Jr, which follows almost 30 years after their fathers clashed for the second time in one of British sport’s greatest rivalries.
Wasserman Boxing and Matchroom issued a joint statement after Sportsmail’s exclusive
With Benn a natural welterweight, he was due to step up two divisions to fight at a catchweight of 157 pounds against Eubank, a middleweight who has challenged for world titles as a super-middleweight.
In January, Benn was briefly removed from the WBC world rankings for failing to enrol in their clean athlete programme. His ranking was reinstated when he signed up to VADA testing.
The board’s statement read: ‘On October 4, the board resolved that the contest is prohibited as it is not in the interests of boxing. That was communicated to the boxers and promoters on the morning of October 5.’
While lawyers are challenging that position, it has been noted that the fight between Derek Chisora and David Haye in 2012 was sanctioned by the Luxembourg Boxing Federation after the board refused to licence the bout.
Theoretically, such an option remains on the table, albeit unlikely in the timeframe and would be seen as outrageous, even for boxing.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group
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