THERE are two camps in the sporting world: those sports which acknowledge they have a doping problem and try to address it, and those which choose to pretend there is no problem.
Those in the first category – road cycling, athletics and the like – may not have cracked how to keep their sport clean just yet, but there is at least an acceptance that there’s a problem.
Those in the second category – the serial deniers that doping has infiltrated their system and affecting results – are far more problematic.
Boxing is, most certainly, in the latter category, with the latest example coming to light last week.
On Friday, in Arizona, Oscar Valdez is due to fight Robson Conceicao, with Valdez’s WBC junior lightweight belt on the line.
However, in the past few days, it has emerged that Valdez failed a doping test, testing positive for phentermine last month.
This would, one would expect, lead to the call-off of the fight but no, the contest has been confirmed and will go ahead as planned.
In a world in which doping is seen as one of the worst crimes an athlete can commit, this is astonishing.
Phentermine aids weight loss, as well as helping to improve speed endurance but despite the WBC enrolling in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency programme, the fight regulator of this bout only adheres to WADA’s rules, which just bans the substance in competition, leaving Valdez free to box.
And so, yet again, the debate has been ignited as to whether boxing takes anti-doping seriously.
High-profile boxing promoter and Hall of Fame member Lou DiBella called the decision to allow the fight to go ahead a “disgrace” before adding: “PED’s [performance-enhancing drugs] and cheating are rampant in boxing. We need to stop pretending we are a clean sport.”
It’s a ferocious attack on the sport he has spent much of his life in and it’s hard to disagree.
Boxing has a history of engaging in a pretence of being a clean sport, despite persuasive evidence to the contrary.
The lightness of touch in which positive tests are often dealt with is overshadowed by the vast holes in the testing system.
Everyone knows the vast majority, if not all athletes who dope, do it out of competition. In modern sport, positive tests at major events are rare because athletes know the benefits from doping are gleaned in the months and weeks leading up to the event, not on the day itself.
Despite this however, boxing has no out-of competition testing programme to speak of. Its absence leaves a gaping hole for the cheats to walk right through, an option which more than a few are likely to have taken.
Mike Mazzulli, the president of the Association of Boxing Commissions, has cited the expense of a robust anti-doping testing programme as the major barrier to setting up all-year-round testing but that is a poor excuse.
Granted, most boxers do not earn the millions the top fighters do but there is enough money within the sport that if there was any inclination to clamp down on doping, a better effort could be made.
The ease with which boxers can cheat is not only an embarrassment, it is reckless and dangerous.
In the week yet another boxer lost her life, we need no reminder of the potential consequences of a fight.
To allow fighters who have potentially enhanced their performance artificially to set foot in a ring is an abomination.
AND ANOTHER THING
Rarely has there been so much talk within the sporting world about how long it takes to go to the toilet.
Andy Murray, apparently, has never taken longer than seven minutes.
We know this because of the in-depth analysis about the length of the toilet break taken by Murray’s first-round opponent at the US Open, Stefanos Tsitsipas, at the start of their deciding set, which the Greek went on to win.
Murray called his opponent’s extended toilet break “cheating” and certainly, it is hard not to conclude that Tsitsipas’ break wasn’t, at least in part, a tactical move aimed at disrupting the match.
The commentary around his lengthy break has been comprehensive and many have suggested toilet breaks should be outlawed entirely.
This seems unreasonable, but for tennis to have no regulations regarding the length of off-court breaks is incredible.
Has no one considered that at least some of the players may try to use the breaks for nefarious reasons?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, athletes can, in many cases, not be trusted to “do the right thing” when it comes to sportsmanship.
There are, of course, some, lots even, who will act with integrity when it comes to the rules of the sport, but there will also be some who push every boundary possible, particularly when they believe it will give them a competitive advantage.
An extended toilet break may seem like an insignificant event in the course of a four-hour, five-set match, but when the margins are so fine, it can easily tip the balance, as Tsitsipas proved.
It is, quite clearly, time for tennis to set in stone that comfort breaks over five minutes are not permitted.