Round 12: Doping in Sports

10/12/2022 - No comments

By Mauricio Sulaiman – Son of Jose Sulaiman & President of the WBC

I have researched in several places for the definition of “sport”, and in all those sources I found words and concepts such as: “physical activity, rules and regulations; game or competition, training, entertainment, hobby or amusement and health.”

Sports have existed since the beginning of humanity, and new modalities are constantly being created or invented, some of them unimaginable and even some filed with ingenuity.

We have all practiced some type of sports, whether for physical activity and health, or for recreation and entertainment, and also some practice it professionally.

We also follow sports with pleasure and passion, and most likely everyone who reads this column is passionately fond of one or more of them: Football, soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball, boxing, wrestling, fishing, hunting, chess, gymnastics, etc.

The original Olympic Games were born in Greece as a way to find the best, and likewise, the modern ones are, without a doubt, one of the most important sporting events in the world. Winning a medal means achieving glory, and in many cases, it forever changes the future of the athlete, its family and even of a country.

The sacrifice, dedication and practice of years are tested, and pressure is on you. It is win or win, there is no other option.

Sports is one of the most important and lucrative industries that exists. The Olympic Games, the World Cups, the Super Bowl, the baseball World Series, the national and international tournaments and of course, the big boxing fights … sports has its economic side that has a great influence on millions of people.

Betting / gambling is also a multimillion-dollar industry, which moves millions of people and generates great pressure among the athletes that compete.

Taking all these factors into consideration, we can conclude that athletes are in constant demand for obtaining results on a personal and external level. Competitiveness is increasingly complex and a difficult battle; there are thousands who want to have what the champion or leader has, fractions of seconds determine the result: power, strength, speed, everything influences performance and the ultimate result.

Unfortunately, with the growth of sports and its consequences evil came, it showed up to influence the purity and honorability of athletes. Someone discovered at a certain moment that some substance or procedure offered a competitive advantage over the opponents, and thus doping was born.

There are many substances that are currently prohibited, since consuming them produce an effect that provides advantages over those who do not consume them. Doping is very diverse and has become an industry of colossal proportions. Cheating processes have been discovered that even involve governments and countries! What can we expect from an individual or a group?

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It was in the Olympic Games, where doping gained relevance and worldwide attention. Eventually, governing bodies, sports leagues, teams and clubs, and even athletes and their groups understood that doping is a reality and that it must be addressed.

The World Boxing Council was the first organization to institute the rule of mandatory anti-doping tests after all world championship fights, this since 1973, a rule that is still carried out to this day.

The seriousness of doping in boxing is a matter of great relevance and concern. Boxing is not a game, “You Don’t Play Boxing”! Those who dope will not win by seconds on their competition, they will not score more goals, homeruns or touchdowns, they will not run or swim faster, nor will they score more baskets. Those who use illegal substances or procedures in boxing will be punching their opponent, and in this way, putting the physical integrity and even their life at risk.

For a long time, my father, José Sulaimán, led the WBC in efforts to address the issue of doping, since it is not enough to do tests after fights. Actually, discovering that someone had doped for a fight does not prevent unfair action inside the ring, as the actions have taken place already. Important studies on this subject were financed, work was done hand-in-hand with experts on the subject, and a series of considerations to be taken to address this problem by the WBC.

Eventually, we managed to work hand-in-hand with the VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency), with Dr. Margaret Goodman, who is one of the most important people in the world of anti-doping. She is passionately dedicated to trying to make boxing safer for fighters. VADA is simply the best doping control system out there.

In 2015, the Clean Boxing Program “CBP” was created with the aim of taking a step forward and addressing this sensitive issue. The regulation and protocol were implemented and launched globally. All the WBC champions and the top 15 contenders in the rankings have to be enrolled and registered in the program. The fighter who does not register is taken out of the ranking lists and cannot compete for any WBC championship.

It’s basically an out-of-competition program. VADA is in charge of all the administration of the CBP. VADA randomly selects each month a number of fighters who will have an unannounced test; they coordinate with the agency that will come to collect the tests, and from there, it is taken to the laboratory. All the members of this process have WADA certification, which is the World Anti-Doping Agency.

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The WBC receives the test results and there is a protocol to follow when there is an adverse result. There is a procedure, which includes the investigation of everything relevant to the case and the athlete’s opportunity to request the opening of the “B” Sample.

Doping is a very complex issue and also incredibly legal. The intervention of legal processes is fundamental, and that is why the execution of the CBP program must be impeccable. The WBC fully trusts VADA and proudly continues to grow its activity year after year.

There is another modality of the CBP or VADA. Promoters hire the program to randomly test boxers who have scheduled fights. Those fighters are subjected to various random, unannounced tests towards a fight.

I wish to acknowledge the promotional companies that believe in clean boxing, and that invest significant amounts of money in maintaining its honor, such as: Premier Boxing Champions and TGB, Top Rank, Matchroom Boxing and some others, contract this service continuously for the important fights and even for random tests to fighters who have a contract with their company.

The World Boxing Council has financed this program for seven years already, investing a significant amount of money, resources, administration and dedication from various people around the world.

Some important considerations about the WBC and the Clean Boxing Program are:

· We believe in the innocence of the athlete until the result of the protocol proves otherwise.

· Each case is completely independent of any other case, each one has specifics and cannot be compared to another situation.

· Each substance is different from any other, it cannot be compared all cases as one, since the specific considerations of each substance and its effects are different.

· There is nothing more important than the safety and protection of the athlete.

· There is a large group of experts who participate in the analysis processes of each case separately.

This past weekend, a fight in England had to be canceled due to a positive from a boxer, an event of great interest that had sold out the stadium with more than 20,000 fans.

It’s a real shame that something like this has to happen for the boxing industry and the media to pay attention to the subject of doping. It is never considered how much has been done to improve and it only goes viral when there is a scandal like this, but as my dad used to say: “We are not in a popularity contest, we are here to make boxing safer for fighters.”

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Did you know…?

Clenbuterol is a prohibited substance when it is above the levels allowed by WADA, that is, there is the possibility that an athlete will test positive without being considered doping if the levels are below the prohibited range.

Mexico has a health problem since there is a lot of meat contaminated with this substance, which led WADA to raise the threshhold and have an special administration dedicated to these cases due to the scandals that have occurred over the years, as a youth soccer World Cup in 2011 in which more than 100 soccer players tested positive during a tournament, or also that scandal when Canelo Alvarez tested positive before his second fight with GGG. Eventually it was found that there had been no fault committed by the Mexican fighter.

Today´s Anecdote

For my dad, it was always a dream to represent his beloved Mexico in an international competition. He was a great athlete.

He was selected as a baseball player for the first Pan American Games, but unfortunately my grandmother’s cancer led him to make the decision to stay with her. He always wanted one of his children to represent our country, and my brother, Fernando, was very close to achieving it because he was a swimmer of great talent. Mr. Nelson Vargas himself commented to my dad that he had opportunities to contest in the Olympic Games.

Fery, as we affectionately call him, talked with my dad, who told him: “My son, I know how much swimming means to you; you have given me great satisfaction with so many medals you have obtained. I just want you to know that I will support you in the decision you make, whatever you choose to go for a sport life, with years of sacrifice, dedication, but without having anything guaranteed, or take the path of study and personal life. I ask you to pursue your dream, not mine.” And Fery decided to study and work, and today he works in what he always wanted since he was a child, on his ranch in Mérida, Yucatán.

I appreciate the feedback from him at contact@wbcboxing.com.