Conor Benn is a man who doesn't have many friends.
And it appears he has backed himself into another corner.
The embattled welterweight contender has called for all drug cheats to be banned from boxing for life, but is redacting himself from that call to action because, well, he's refusing to accept the results of his two positive drug tests for the banned substance Clomifene, suggesting VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) made a mistake.
Four months ago, Benn suggested contamination was the root of the problem. He stated in an interview with The Times that he was eating “between 30 and 34 eggs a week” while training for his previously scheduled clash with Chris Eubank Jr. in October. His legal team, it looks like, may use a 2020 study from the World Anti-Doping Agency that looked into whether “poultry and eggs are a source of minute amounts of clomifene in doping control samples” as part of his defense.
The WBC recently reinstated Benn to their rankings after suggesting that the adverse finding may have been caused by a ‘highly elevated consumption of eggs.'
However, Conor Benn recently said the WBC did him a “disservice” after the governing body cleared him of intentional doping.
“In my defense to the WBC and the 270-page report provided to them, at no point did I indicate that I failed any VADA tests because of contaminated eggs,” Benn said to Piers Morgan. “I feel like the WBC statement did a disservice to my defence.
“As part of its lengthy investigation, the WBC instructed its own experts to review my supplements and my diet, and they concluded that egg contamination was the most likely cause.
“My sample appears to have come back clear the first three times it was tested. Without explanation it was retested again after nine days and only then did it show a positive result.”
Why did Benn and his legal team make an about-face on the possibility of egg contamination?
Clomifene can be used to boost the production of eggs by chickens, but it is not permitted for use on animals in the UK. Now, this doesn't mean that it's a complete impossibility. But if Benn and his team were willing to pursue that claim, they would also accuse the supplier of those eggs of breaking the law, which could open themselves up to further litigation if found to be erroneous in court.
So now we've moved from eggs to a lab mishap. Conor Benn believes there was never any Clomifene in his body in the first place due to several negative tests, including every UK Anti-Doping test.
“[Drug cheats] should be banned for life, especially in contact sports. There's no room for them. I know first-hand what happens when my dad [Nigel Benn] fought Gerald McClellan. And people think I'd do this?
“I don't accept it was in my body, not at all. Based on independent scientists looking at the reports, looking at my own scientists looking at the reports and what we found.
“People say you may have paid for the best legal team; damn right I did. Damn right I paid for the best scientists. My career, image and name is on the line. I can't be known for this.” (EDITOR NOTE: Oh, but you kinda can, bro.)
On the WBC's suggestion that eggs may have caused the adverse findings, Conor Benn added: “I don't think that. I don't accept that.
“Me and my team were on a Zoom call with the WBC; they came out and said one of their scientists is currently dealing with two cyclists who have tested positive for Clomifene in traces, and they can prove it's in the embryos in the eggs.
“But I'm not willing to accept it because the 270-page report that my legal team sent over to them had nothing to do with eggs. It had everything to do with my test testing negative three times and nine days later testing positive.”
Benn has claimed that Clomifene can stay in your system for months, which is untrue. According to The National Library of Medicine, the half-life for the drug is about five to six days. But traces of the substance have been found in the body after up to six weeks, which is just over a month.
In consequence, the timing of these tests can be a determining factor in whether one sample is positive or negative. In other words, if a fighter is close to the end of a cycle of a prohibited drug, one testing agency may find the substance in question while another does not.
NYFights did look into past cases involving cyclists and Clomifene. The first one we found involved Carl Grove, who, at the age of 90, tested positive for Epitrenbolone, resulting from an in-competition urine test conducted on July 11, 2018, after setting a world record at the Masters Track National Championships. During the investigation, it was also discovered that a supplement Grove was using was contaminated with Clomifene.
In 2005, Australian rider Rory Sutherland was banned for 15 months after testing positive for Clomifene during the Deutschland Tour (Tour of Germany). He was, though, cleared of intentional misconduct, which would suggest Sutherland unknowingly ingested the substance.
Furthermore, in 2007, Jared Bunde was suspended from cycling for two years after he tested positive for Clomifene at the Point Premium Root Beer International Cycling Classic. He accepted the penalty and returned in 2010 for competition before retiring.
So we have an example of actual contamination, carelessness, and someone who got flat-out busted and paid the price.
History would suggest, outside of the realm of boxing, that, ultimately, you are responsible for what you put in your body regardless of intent. For whatever reason, and only Benn can explain this, he and his team have opted not to go down the route of contamination but a false positive, publicly questioning the efficacy and accuracy of VADA's methods; hence this situation may not be over, despite the WBC's ruling.
Conor Benn believes the sanctioning body did him a disservice, but it was his legal team that initially supported the chicken egg argument at the beginning. Were they unaware of the law? That's alarming for a team described as “the best.”
If anything, the WBC did him a favor. He gets to fight. If the WBC followed historical precedent—whatever that means these days—they could have suspended him from competition for six months.
Dominican lightweight Michel Rivera tested positive for two banned diuretics around last December's loss to Frank Martin. Although Rivera was quick to throw his team under the bus, he was unable to avoid boxing's doghouse. The 24-year-old was suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and fined $15,000 of his $100,000 purse.
Nowadays, you get what you want if you kick and scream loud enough. That's dangerous from a drug testing standpoint. Conor Benn got what he wanted, and it's still not good enough. What's the point of having drug testing?
It's bad enough the WBC isn't serious about mandating fights the fans want to see, but once again, they found another way to be in the nucleus of an excremental affair. But mostly, this is on Benn–he could have accepted punishment and moved on. Instead, he's carrying on with a sub-par defense of his pride. It's embarrassing for him, and the sport.