Former boxing champion Barry Michael has warned against judging Australia’s new world heavyweight champ Lucas Browne too quickly after news of his positive drug test.
Browne knocked out Russian Ruslan Chagaev in Chechnya earlier this month, becoming the first Australian to hold a portion of the world heavyweight title.
But the victory was soured on Tuesday, with news that Browne’s urine sample had tested positive for the steroid clenbuterol.
The drug can be used alone or in conjunction with other substances to promote muscle growth and reduce body fat.
Michael believes Browne can take heart from the experience of fellow Australian Sam Soliman, who also returned a positive test after a fight in Europe.
“The way I look at it is you’re innocent until proven guilty,” Michael told The New Daily.
“If you recall about three years ago, Sam Soliman tested positive in Germany (after a win against Felix Sturm) and the B sample finally came up negative in America, so it was a rort.
“Sam was eventually cleared, it took over a year, they messed him around dramatically.
“I’ve seen what Lucas has said on Twitter, he’s said it’s a lot of bulls**t, and I really hope it is.
“They have done this before over there.”
Soliman urged Browne not to lose faith, but cautioned that he faced a long road.
“I had to do a bit of work – it wasn’t a walk in the park,” Soliman told The New Daily.
“It’s difficult for me to comment as my case is before the German courts in Kiel currently awaiting the judge’s ruling.
“However my B sample was tested in the US and did not breach any of the IBF rules.”
Browne’s win was a feel-good story, the likes of which a sport like boxing frequently promises but rarely delivers: the former Sydney bouncer, who climbed off the floor – literally and figuratively – to become heavyweight champion of the world.
Browne’s KO of Chagaev instantly catapulted the 36-year-old into the wider consciousness – for a week his win, and therefore boxing, was a national hit.
So his positive test was a hammer blow.
Browne said on Twitter he’d be seeking legal advice.
Browne’s test was carried out by Las Vegas-based body Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA).
The body is headed by physician Dr Margaret Goodman, a well-respected figure in boxing and a fixture of big fights throughout the past 20 years.
The New Daily has contacted VADA with questions on how the testing was carried out on site in Chechnya and is awaiting a response.
But, in general, boxing’s attitude to drug testing is notoriously lax, especially given the stakes should one man be gaining an unfair advantage over another.
Death and irreversible brain damage are very real possibilities.
Among the big-name fighters to test positive for steroids are Roy Jones Jr, Fernando Vargas, Andre Berto, Antonio Tarver, James Toney and Erik Morales.
None has been punished with any degree of severity.
Vargas, for instance, tested positive for stanozolol following his 2002 loss to Oscar De La Hoya. He was fined $100,000 (a small fraction of what he was paid for the fight) and suspended for nine months – about the time he’d normally take off following a knockout defeat.
Former heavyweight champion John Ruiz once said he could never understand boxing’s laissez-faire attitude to doping.
“The only sport in which steroids can kill someone other than the person using them is boxing,” Ruiz said.
“If a baseball player uses steroids, he hits more home runs. So what?
“You’re stronger when you use steroids. You’re quicker and faster.
“When a fighter is juiced, it’s dangerous.”