Q&A: Conor Benn’s career is in freefall as his drug scandal saga continues, but why has he given up his British boxing licence? What allegations of misconduct have been upheld? Can he prove his innocence after TWO failed tests? And can he still fight?
- Conor Benn failed a drugs test ahead of his October fight against Chris Eubank Jr
- The Destroyer has since revealed he failed a second drug test beforehand
- Benn has now ‘relinquished’ his licence with ‘allegations of misconduct’ upheld
- He can still fight, just not in a bout sanctioned by the British Board of Control
- Following the latest twist in this developing saga, a number of questions remain
- Sportsmail answers the key questions regarding Benn’s immediate future below
Just 23 days ago, Conor Benn was one of the hottest commodities in boxing. Twenty-one wins from as many fights, an almost unparalleled rate of progression, the charisma to match and a genuine legacy fight just days away.
How quickly things can change. His bout against Chris Eubank Jr – taking place 30 years after their legendary fathers went toe-to-toe – was axed, though not without a fight. His reputation, meanwhile, was dismantled quicker than a hapless Samuel Vargas was when an electric Benn blasted him out in a round last year.
The cause, as we all know, was MailOnline’s bombshell revelation that Benn had tested positive for banned substance clomifene, a women’s fertility drug which is classified under hormone and metabolic regulators and can increase testosterone in men.
Conor Benn’s career is in freefall after testing positive for banned substance clomifene
Sportsmail’s Riath Al-Samarrai broke the exclusive of Benn’s positive drugs test on October 5
Just over three weeks later, the latest twist in this ever-developing saga emerged, as the British Boxing Board of Control – who prohibited the fight from taking place – announced that Benn has ‘voluntarily’ relinquished his licence, also revealing ‘allegations of misconduct’ against him have been upheld.
And shortly after, Benn revealed he had failed another test prior to the one that forced the cancellation of his his bout against Eubank Jr, though still protesting his innocence.
Importantly, Benn’s positive tests were discovered in testing by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) – not UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), the official agency used by the Board. Benn passed all of his UKAD tests.
While Benn still insists he’s a clean fighter an array of questions remain – not least what will happen next. Sportsmail takes you through everything you need to know below.
We start with the latest development. Until October 27, it was just the one failed test the public had been made aware of.
That failed test, of course, was the VADA test, taken in September, which found banned substance clomifene in his system – a finding both the Benn and Eubank camp were aware of as early as September 23.
However, Benn on Thursday revealed a new development – though it’s important to note that this publication reported on October 11 that the Briton was being investigated over claims he had failed another drugs test.
This new failed test, which found the same substance in his system, was taken all the way back in July. ‘The Destroyer’ insists he would be have to be ‘stupid’ to willingly take the substance, though.
Benn is adamant that he will clear his name despite revealing he has failed two drugs tests
‘I was informed (of the first fail) and I thought, “It’s probably a faulty test’,” Benn told The Sun. ‘I thought, “We’ll get to the bottom of it”. We’re still trying to do that. We’re making progress. But the way it’s been blown up has affected me so much. My innocence will be proven, it has to be.
‘I passed all my UKAD tests, which people aren’t talking about. I’ve passed all my tests in and out of camp. I’ve been a professional for seven years and never failed a test. I signed up to VADA in February, so it doesn’t make any sense. Why would I take something then? Trace amounts were found. The tiniest of traces. The only thing I can think of is contamination.
‘I’ve not taken anything. I never have done, never would. It’s not what I stand for, it’s not what my team stands for. Why would I take the biggest fight of my life, sign up to VADA — voluntary anti-doping — and then take this substance? If you Google this substance, it stays in your system for months. Do I look like an idiot?’
Why did Benn relinquish his licence?
On October 17, Benn was instructed to attend a hearing ‘to deal with allegations of misconduct’ on October 21 – last Friday.
Benn, who didn’t actually attend the hearing, leaving that job for his legal representation, voluntarily relinquished his British boxing licence before the hearing had even taken place.
Then, at the hearing, the allegations of misconduct against Benn were upheld. This was announced by the British Boxing Board of Control in a statement on Wednesday.
Benn and his team have blasted the British Boxing Board of Control’s ‘unfair and biased procedure’ they have put in place
Benn’s team – in a statement released shortly after the Board’s on his social media platforms – insisted the allegation of misconduct is not in relation to his failed VADA drugs test. His promoter Eddie Hearn has echoed these sentiments.
They also explained his British boxing licence had already expired, with Benn simply opting not to renew it.
In accordance with the Board’s rules and regulations, licences remain valid from the date of issue and continuing annually, but only upon the payment of the required renewal fee – which Benn has clearly now chosen not to do.
That decision was made due to the ‘unfair and biased procedure’ team Benn insist the British Boxing Board of Control have put in place.
Benn insists the Board were happy to keep the fight on despite knowing about the findings, only to change their minds just two days beforehand – without officially banning him – and then handing him misconduct charges and a £50,000 fine.
Benn’s father, Nigel, also took issue with the British Boxing Board of Control during his fighting days
Benn’s father, Nigel, also had issues with the Board, and the 26-year-old now insists he won’t ever renew his licence with them again.
Benn said: ‘I won’t be boxing under the British board ever again. Now I know why my dad ripped up his licence on TV. I will not box for them ever again. The way they have gone about this. The way they knew about this.
‘They could have pulled the fight. I’ve given my licence back. I won’t be boxing for them ever again. As far as I’m concerned the board can do one. I’ve got nothing to hide but as far as I’m concerned they’ve got it in for me.’
So, what allegations have been upheld?
As stated, Benn’s team insist the ‘allegations of misconduct’ are not related to his failed VADA test. Sportsmail have reached out to the British Boxing Board of Control on numerous occasions for comment but are yet to receive a response.
What the Board have made publicly clear is that the allegations refer to Rule 25.1.1 of their official Rules and Regulations.
Benn’s team state the ‘allegations of misconduct’ are not related to his failed VADA test
This states: ‘For the purposes of this Regulation misconduct shall mean conduct detrimental to the interests of boxing or the public interest and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing shall include:
(a) any breach of these Rules and Regulations;
(b) any failure to comply with an order made by the Board or an Area Council;
(c) any failure to honour any contractual obligation;
(d) any attempt, directly or indirectly, to induce the breaking of any contractual obligation;
Benn and his team have repeatedly insisted that he is a clean athlete.
Again, it’s key to point out that the Board trusts UKAD as it’s official doping agency, not VADA. While Benn has failed a drugs test – and only his A sample to date – the Board have not officially suspended him as of yet. They do have the power to refuse to sanction his fights, however.
And what they have upheld is the claim that Benn has acted detrimentally to the interests of boxing or the public interest.
Didn’t Billy Joe Saunders fail a VADA test and remain free to fight?
Yes, and it’s a pertinent case to look at – particularly as it’s one Hearn has brought up on numerous occasions in recent weeks.
‘We went through this with Billy Joe when they didn’t suspend him and let him fight a few years back,’ Hearn is quoted as saying in The Independent. ‘There was correspondence from the board that said “we do not acknowledge VADA results”. They didn’t ban him because they don’t acknowledge VADA.’
The incident occurred in 2018, when Saunders tested positive for oxilofrine in the build-up to his mandatory defence against Demetrius Andrade.
He was consequently denied a Massachusetts state licence to defend his belt, and therefore vacated it, with the fight against Andrade off.
Briton Billy Joe Saunders defeated Charles Adamu shortly after failing a VADA drugs test
The middleweight vacated his WBO world title amid his plans to sue over the doping saga
Saunders was in November suspended by the WBO for six months, but before the year was up he was fighting on British soil, on the undercard of Josh Warrington’s stunning win over Carl Frampton, an event licenced by the British Boxing Board of Control.
So, what’s the difference? Well, it’s pretty clear: Saunders tested positive for oxilofrine, which is banned out of competition by VADA, but not by UKAD. Saunders, while seemingly unknowingly breaching VADA terms, had not breached any British Boxing Board of Control rules.
The Board’s General Secretary, Robert Smith, then came out in support of Saunders, while calling for more consistency between the doping agencies.
Benn, meanwhile, tested positive for clomiphene, which is banned both in and out of competition under UKAD – and that is why, where Saunders was allowed to fight, the Board prohibited Benn from doing so.
But can Benn still fight?
Again, yes. And again, this is another important factor to analyse in this rather complicated case.
As history has shown, not having a British licence doesn’t necessarily mean a boxer can’t fight – and on British soil. Just look at Heavyweights David Haye and Derek Chisora, who fought at Upton Park back in 2012 – despite neither fighter holding a British licence at the time.
The bout was officially given the green light after the Luxembourg Boxing Federation sanctioned it. They did so despite facing threats of expulsion from the European Boxing Union.
That kind of loophole could feasibly have been used to keep Benn vs Eubank Jr on, though Hearn then insisted it was not an option they explored.
Hearn now insists Benn must face a hearing into his failed drugs test before he can fight with Matchroom again – even if it means their contract is broken.
But Hearn also insists that Benn, if he chooses to do so, could look elsewhere to continue his boxing career which, for now, remains in limbo.
Chris Eubank Jr (left) and Benn could have obtained foreign boxing licences to keep their bout on, but promoter Eddie Hearn (right) insisted that was not something they would consider
Hearn insists Benn, if he chooses to do so, could look elsewhere to continue his boxing career
‘I could have put [Benn-Eubank] on November 5 in Abu Dhabi, but that would have looked terrible. He has to go through a process to be cleared to fight,’ Hearn said, as per Boxing Scene.
He continued: ‘If he comes to us now and says “I’m fine to fight in Abu Dhabi, I’m fine to fight in Florida, or Texas, or Germany, or Australia”, all those jurisdictions would clear him like that.
‘So, at that point, we have to decide if we stage the fight or if we are not prepared to stage the fight. I’m telling you now, that I am not prepared to stage the fight until he has gone through some kind of hearing.’
Benn has insisted he won’t fight anywhere until his name is cleared, however, stating: ‘I won’t fight until this is resolved, with a foreign licence or not.
‘Whether people believe it or not is not down to me. But there comes a stage where you harden and think, “Eff you, then”.’
Can Benn prove his innocence?
It’s going to be hard, but it’s not impossible. Benn has received backing from his father and coach, as you’d expect, as well as Chris Eubank Snr, while Hearn still insists the Briton is innocent.
But, as even Hearn admits, there is the public opinion to overturn. ‘I don’t think the public will be happy if he can’t nail a specific contamination issue or whatever it is,’ he said. ‘The feeling will be “he has got off it”. At the same time, I don’t think he should face a lengthy ban.’
That contamination point is key. Fellow Briton Dillian Whyte was cleared of any wrongdoing after failing a drugs test prior to his July 2019 win over Oscar Rivas – which saw him provisionally removed from the WBC rankings.
UKAD are investigating Benn’s positive drugs test and could hand the boxer a four-year ban
Dillian Whyte was cleared of any wrongdoing after testing positive for a banned substance in 2019
UKAD launched a thorough investigation and determined Whyte was not at fault for the ‘very low amounts of metabolites’ in his sample. They concluded the positive test was ‘consistent with an isolated contamination event’.
What’s important to note is that we still have never seen Whyte’s B-sample – a sample which can clear a fighter if it comes back negative. However, it’s also important to note that a B-sample almost always produces the same result.
While UKAD are to launch a probe into the findings, it seems Benn’s B-sample still hasn’t been tested. And if he’s found to be guilty, Benn could face a ban of up to four years.
But team Benn believe, like Whyte, contamination could be the reason for the failed test – and this, if proved, could be his saving grace.
The big question to those looking on, and one that has received no answer to date, is how on earth clomifene would have got in his system?
What comes next?
That’s the big question. Benn has now finally provided at least some form of explanation, insisting he believes the failed test is a result of contamination.
But what could actually clear his name? Of course, there is the extremely slim possibility that Benn’s B-sample could come back negative, but more likely is that UKAD’s probe – however long it takes – will provide us with a more meaningful answer.
But ultimately, and this will depend on the findings from the investigation, we’re waiting to find out whether Benn will receive a ban, and if so for how long.
For now, while Benn attempts to clear his name, the welterweight – who was just 23 days ago one of the hottest commodities in boxing – is now in total limbo.
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