Boxing: Positive Test Nixes Alexander Povetkin-Deontay Wilder Showdown in Moscow

By Joseph Santoliquito May 15, 2016
The performance-enhancing drug Meldonium was introduced to the American lexicon of PEDs when it was reported that Alexander Povetkin had tested positive for the banned substance in April. The positive test has now resulted in the cancellation of Povetkin’s scheduled fight with WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder on May 21 in Moscow.

Though not known here in the United States, Meldonium seems to be quite popular among Russian athletes. Tennis star Maria Sharapova admitted in March that she tested positive for the drug, and a number of other Russian combat-sport athletes, like Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight Islam Makhachev, have tested positive for Meldonium.

The World Anti-Doping Agency placed Meldonium on the banned list in September and placed it on the prohibited list on Jan. 1, “because of evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance.”

Meldonium is defined as an anti-ischemic drug used to treat blood flow. It is not approved in the United States, though it is apparently very popular -- and available -- in Russian, Armenia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. The drug is designed to improve a patient’s exercise capacity.

Andrei Ryabinsky, Povetkin’s promoter was quoted admitting that Povetkin took Meldonium last year, but claimed he stopped before it was banned and that “leftover traces of meldonium at a very low concentration” were found in a blood sample given by the 36-year-old last month.

It was interesting that the topic of drugs and drug testing came up during Wilder’s conference call with boxing media on May 11. Testing was under the authority of Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association and its highly respected president, Dr. Margaret Goodman.

“Deontay has always said, a million times, he’s never been hesitant to get involved in testing,” said Lou DiBella, Wilder’s promoter, on the conference call. “We wanted testing to begin, frankly, before it did, but it began with what we believe is plenty of time to make sure that everything is on the up-and-up. There’s been already a number of random tests of both athletes that have turned out negative. “So we’re not concerned about that as an issue, and the testing is being done by VADA and they’ve been very buttoned-up and everything’s been handled appropriately,” he added. “In a perfect world, we might have liked it to start a little bit earlier, but that’s not an issue. It’s in the hands of VADA, and we’re very comfortable with it in the hands of VADA.”

It has always been a high priority for DiBella to protect the fighters he promotes. It is one of the key reasons why the New York-based promoter is viewed by many as a “fighter’s promoter.” However, even during the conference call, there seemed to be underlying “creepy” feeling of mistrust involving the Russian powers that put the fight together.

One point of contention was Ryabinsky’s insistence that drug testing be delayed. Testing did not begin until the WBC guaranteed that VADA would be paid for the testing. Instead of the testing beginning in late March, as it was scheduled, it did not begin until mid-April.

WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman issued a statement involving Povetkin’s positive test: “The WBC’s priority is and will always be safety, fair play and justice. In order to continue to strive for the absolute safety of the boxers and for a just and fair outcome for all parties involved, the WBC is conducting an in-depth investigation of this matter. The WBC will make a public announcement in the very near future concerning the results of its investigation and any appropriate steps that it will take.”

A week later, it appears, Povetkin indeed tested positive, resulting in the cancellation of the fight.

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