It's the ongoing saga that has rocked the heavyweight division, as it's emerged that World title challenger Jarrell Miller has failed three drug tests ahead of his clash with unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
MIller initially denied the allegations but later admitted his wrong doing via social media. The fallout has seen many in the sport to call for a lifetime ban for Miller, however this does seem unlikely as many other high profile fighters have tested positive for a number of different banned substances in recent times.
How boxing handles the subject of drug cheats in the ring begs the question, in a sport as dangerous as boxing is there really room for unfair advantages?
The main problem in outing, and ultimately punishing offenders, is that there is no governing body taking responsibility for anti-doping measures before a fight. Indeed in many cases it is the responsibility of the promoter to ensure the parties taking part are clean. This in itself can be counter productive.
It is a well known fact that Eddie Hearn has stated that Joshua is subject to many drug tests before competing in the ring, Joshua and his team are very open about this, they understand that Joshua's appeal as a role model could be affected if he was to fail any test and want to rule out any possibility that this can be suggested. It is a shame that all fighters and promoters do not take this approach to drug tests before stepping through the ropes. Unfortunately, unless one or all the governing bodies intervene, it will only get worse.
Despite the outrage surrounding Miller, and calls for him to be prevented from getting a boxing licence in the future, there will probably be little long term effect on his career. You only need to look at the heavyweight division lately for proof of this. Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin have both failed drug tests in the past, however have both fought for versions of the world title after serving their respective bans. Ortiz was even on the shortlist to replace Miller at Madison Square Garden on June 1st. He has since ruled himself out of the contest but for him to be considered at all in any other sport would be ludicrous, in boxing however it appears to be accepted. What is evident is the punishments are not enough of a deterrent to stop some fighters trying to openly cheat.
The mega deal that Canelo Alvarez signed with DAZN, worth a staggering $365 million over 5 years, highlights the problem. Alvarez is unquestionably one of the most gifted boxers of his generation and top of many peoples pound for pound list, but he himself failed a drugs test before his rematch with Gennady Golovkin. After serving a six month suspension, backdated to the date of the failed test, he was then free to return to the ring and sign what was then sports biggest ever deal.
The perspective of the opponent also needs to be considered as fighters will lose money on training camps and time promoting in the build up to the fight, only to be told that the match up is either canceled all together or a short notice replacement will be found, throwing any preparations into disarray.
What happens when a fighter is defeated by a drugs cheat will also need overhauling if transparency on the matter is to be achieved. Former British Heavyweight Champion David Price suffered back to back defeats to American Tony Thompson in 2013. After the rematch Thompson tested positive for a banned substance and was banned for 18 months by the British Boxing Board Of Control. Despite this, the loss still remains on Price’s record something the Liverpool man has expressed his disgust at. Surely ruling a no contest or disqualification provide a fairer outcome to the fighter who has put his all into his camp and entered the contest clean.
Although the prospect of any governing body being able to test every fighter before every fight is unlikely what must change is the penalties handed out to those caught. If a high profile fighter is banned for life after failing a drug test, it would send a message to all fighters trying to gain an edge that the consequences are not worth it. Performance enhancing drugs have no place in any sport; the sport is tough enough without having to fight someone who does not tire and potentially hits harder.
I hope that it does not take a tragedy in the ring for the sport to look at how we treat those fighters who are not brave enough to face their opponent without the help of illegal substances. They should have the courage to put it on the line and if they lose at least they know the level they are at. More so they should respect the person on the other side of the ring who has paid the price the right way.