MOSCOW, Russia – Alexander Povetkin’s WBC heavyweight title fight with champion Deontay Wilder has been put into doubt after the Russian boxer tested positive for meldonium, local media reported on Friday, May 13 (Saturday Manila time).
Their bout was scheduled for May 21 in Moscow.
“Sasha (Povetkin) used meldonium until September last year when it was not banned,” promoter Andrei Ryabinsky told R-Sport agency.
“Only the leftover traces of meldonium at a very low concentration can still remain in his body.
“We’re currently in talks with WBC, who will decide whether to cancel the bout or not. We expect a kind of individual decision upon the case.”
Testing for narcotics and performance enhancing-drugs (PEDs) is typically conducted after a fight, but both participants were mandated to additional pre-fight testing through the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) by the WBC Clean Boxing Program.
Wilder, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the super heavyweight division, had previously accused the 2004 Olympic gold medalist Povetkin of using steroids in an interview with USA Today in 2015.
“I think he’s juicing. He’s looking too big,” Wilder said after Povetkin knocked out veteran Mike Perez in one round.
Meanwhile, Wilder’s promoter Lou DiBella admitted he was unsure how the situation would be dealt with.
“We’ve been made aware of the drug tests and are having in-depth conversations as how to proceed,” he said.
“It’s a terrible situation to be in but there’s a lot to take into consideration… There’s not really much else to say right now.”
(READ: What is Meldonium, the drug Sharapova tested positive for?)
DiBella told ESPN that “while I am angry, I am certainly not shocked,” adding “we haven’t had enough time to digest this.”
Experienced fighter Povetkin, 36, has a record of 30 wins and only one defeat to his name, while unbeaten American Wilder has finished 35 of his 36 bouts with KO’s.
Meldonium has been propelled into the spotlight since Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova tested positive for the drug at the Australian Open in January.
Since then, a string of Russian athletes, including Olympic swimmer Yulia Efimova, have admitted to testing positive for the drug.
Russia replaced its entire U-18 world ice hockey championship team to “minimize” the risk of testing positive for meldonium, the country’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko said last month.
But the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has said some athletes could escape a ban for taking meldonium because it does not know for sure how long it takes the substance to leave the body. – with additional reports from Ryan Songalia/Rappler.com
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