BOXXER promoter Ben Shalom believes Conor Benn should not have been allowed to return to the ring last weekend.
Benn failed two VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) drugs tests in the lead up to his grudge match with Chris Eubank Jr last year, causing the bout to be cancelled.
Benn, the son of former world champion Nigel, has fought to prove his innocence since, and was cleared to fight in July after his provisional suspension was lifted by an independent National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP).
His team have insisted the ruling was not jurisdictional, but this is at odds with Mail Sport sources who have claimed Benn’s case was heavily focused on UKAD’s (UK Anti-Doping) inability to rule on samples collected by VADA.
The British Boxing Board of Control and UKAD have both lodged an appeal to contest the NADP’s decision, but Benn still returned to the ring after a 17-month absence in Florida on Saturday night.
Conor Benn (right) returned to the ring with a win over Mexico’s Rodolfo Orozco last weekend
Ben Shalom (pictured) believes Benn should not have been allowed to return to the ring while an appeal process is ongoing after he failed two drugs tests last year
Shalom was dismayed at seeing Benn back in action while the appeal process is ongoing, and believes it was the wrong decision to allow him to fight.
‘I have nothing against Conor Benn. I think he’s a great talent and a great personality, but how a fighter can get in the ring when it’s still subject to an enquiry about multiple failings of drugs tests is beyond me,’ Shalom told Mail Sport.
‘I think, ultimately, until there’s an explanation for the drugs tests, it makes a mockery out of all the testing and it makes a mockery out of the sport. It’s unwanted attention and unwanted publicity on what is an amazing sport, and a sport that creates amazing opportunities where most fighters are clean and take their craft very seriously.
‘It is concerning to see that can be done, and this is why there needs to be a solution. This is why there needs to be a uniform body where there is a uniform punishment because it was a difficult week for everybody involved in the sport to see that and there’s no way that should be happening.
‘It’s not a jurisdiction issue. This is an issue to explain why the fighter has failed drugs tests. That should be the only focus right now, and that’s the only way to protect the sport.’
Benn returned with a points win against Mexico’s Rodolfo Orozco, and his promoter Eddie Hearn wants to reschedule his fight with Eubank Jr for December.
Hearn accused Shalom of hypocrisy over his stance on Benn last week by claiming BOXXER had made ‘illicit approaches’ to his fighter to stage the domestic showdown on Sky Sports.
Shalom strenuously denied Hearn’s claim, putting the comments down to Hearn wanting to take the heat off himself after facing scrutiny over Benn’s comeback.
Responding to Hearn’s remarks, Shalom said: ‘It’s completely untrue and baseless. The timing of it was there for all to see.
Eddie Hearn has claimed Shalom is interested in staging Benn’s proposed fight with Chris Eubank Jr on Sky
Shalom has denied any interest in staging the domestic showdown, labelling Hearn’s claim ‘completely untrue’
‘It’s clearly just an attempt to divert from controversy. I want the sport to be in the best place possible, but to try and bring everyone else down with this, whether it’s the board or other promoters or murky the waters, it’s difficult to stand back and watch.
‘But no, there’s never any truth in that at all. And it’s just another diversion tactic from what was going on last week.’
Benn is not the only high-profile fighter to fail a drugs test in recent months, with heavyweight contenders Dillian Whyte and Robert Helenius, plus women’s undisputed super-featherweight champion Alycia Baumgardner all returning adverse analytical findings.
All three boxers have denied intentional use of the banned substances, but their cases have thrown the subject of drug use in boxing firmly into the spotlight.
Shalom concedes it is not a good look for the sport he loves, and believes action must be taken for boxing to clean up its act.
‘It’s an absolute major concern in boxing,’ Shalom said when asked about PED use.
Dillian Whyte is one high-profile boxer to return an adverse analytical finding in recent months
‘I think everyone agrees that there isn’t enough testing in the sport. You’ve got an under-funded board that doesn’t have the resources to test in the way the sport should be tested. This is now a major sport. We’re committed to making the sport cleaner in every single aspect.
‘For me the solution has to be investing more in the board, investing more in UKAD, ensuring people can be tested more often, but under a jurisdiction where there can be action, where they (fighters) can be banned. I think what we’ve seen is different testing agencies, and that, for me, leads to more chaos, more promoter influence.
‘And, for me, the key has to be the board having more resources to make sure boxers are tested more often, and the sport needs a very, very strong independent body. We need to make sure UKAD and the board have the resources to test, especially at the top level, as often as possible.’
One of BOXXER’s brightest stars, Caroline Dubois, recently urged promoters and governing bodies to come together and put more money into drugs testing to protect fighters.
Shalom agrees with the 22-year-old prospect ahead of her first world title fight this weekend, and revealed conversations have already taken place about combating the problem.
He is adamant that he as a promoter should not be in charge of governing drugs testing, though, as he feels this could create a conflict of interest.
Ben Shalom admits he is concerned by the use of performance-enhancing drugs in boxing
Caroline Dubois (left) has called for more investment into drugs testing, and Shalom agrees this must be part of the solution to solve the sport’s issue with PEDs
‘We are in constant contact with the board. We’re willing to invest in more UKAD testing that the board can afford, particularly for our fights, any televised fight,’ Shalom added.
‘That’s where the resource and the focus needs to go. For me, it would be wrong to start taking out our own personal drug testing. The key is to clean up. That has to come from the governing body, that has to come from more resource with the governing body. And I agree with Caroline, it’s time for everyone to put their hand in their pockets.
‘The key is UKAD have to test more. It shouldn’t be my responsibility as a promoter, I do not govern the sport. How can someone that makes money out of the sport also govern the sport? If someone fails a test, it should be automatically in the hands of UKAD, automatically in the hands of the board to follow their process.
‘To try and argue that it’s outside of jurisdiction or to try and argue that they can’t rule on certain things, that’s where the problem lies. It should not be in a promoter’s hands, it should not be in a boxer’s hands. It should be firmly in the board and UKAD’s hands in this country. That’s who it should be left to.’