Billy Joe Saunders to give up WBO title after being denied license to fight


Billy Joe Saunders is to give up his world middleweight title while he fights to clear his name following his failed drugs test.

He was already under threat of being stripped of his belt by the WBO sanctioning body after he was refused a license to defend it against Demetrius Andrade in Boston on Saturday week.

Now the 29-year-old from Hertfordshire has pre-empted the decision – with promoter Frank Warren declaring that he is in no mental state to train or fight following the stunning setback to his controversial career.

The Massachusetts State Athletic Commission (MSAC) decided on Tuesday to deny Saunders’ license application following a positive test in August for the stimulant Oxilofrine.

He insisted it had been contained in a nasal decongestant spray.

The tests was carried out by the Voluntary Anti Doping Association (VADA), to whose codes both fighters had signed up.

But Saunders expected that the authorities in Boston would accept that the substance is permitted “out of competition”  – meaning at all times except for the day of the fight – as stipulated by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), whose guidelines are usually followed in the US state.

The British Boxing Board of Control follow WADA codes and said there would be no sanction against Saunders in the UK.

But the decision in America has cost Saunders –  who is unbeaten in 26 fights – a £1.8 million pay-day and the opportunity to defend the belt he won in 2015 for a fourth time.


Warren is planning to launch an action against the decision – and for loss of earnings – in the Massachusetts supreme court.

It could pit him against rival British promoter Eddie Hearn in a US courtroom.

Hearn is the promoter of the show in Boston and has installed Namibian Walter Kautondokwa as a replacement opponent for Andrade, with the WBO expected now to declare that their meeting will be for the vacant middleweight title.

In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Warren said: “Cases such as these can take a considerable time to be heard and adjudicated upon and given the damaging effect of these accusations of wrong-doing have had on the mental well-being of Billy Joe he is in no position to continue in his profession until such a time as his name has been cleared.

“Boxing is a dangerous sport and  100 per cent health –  both physical and mental –  is paramount at all times.

Billy Joe Saunders pictured in May (Steven Paston/PA)

“Because of the mental anguish brought about by this case – and out of respect for the WB0, Billy Joe will with a heavy heart relinquish hs world title, whilst this isuee is in the process of being resolved. “

The statement added: “To be clear on this, the MSAC governance on doping regulations expressly adhere to the prohibited list set down by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The WADA list distinguishes between substances prohibited “at all times” and substances prohibited “in competition”. The chemical detected in the test supplied by Billy-Joe – ingested via a nasal spray – is on the list of substances prohibited “in competition”. Therefore, it is not a prohibited substance for the purpose of the WADA list and therefore the application of the MSAC rules at the time the offending test was carried out.

I have read comments that MSAC had no choice as a failed test is a failed test however these comments are, with respect, misleading and ignorant of the fact the MSAC apply the WADA code. To put it a simply as possible the timing of the test being out of competition and the substance detected only being prohibited in competition under the WADA list means it was not a failed test. All that VADA do is conduct a test and report the results. It was for MSAC to then apply the WADA code to those results which they failed to do properly.

This year Billy-Joe has had 4 tests carried out by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and a subsequent test performed by VADA has contained no traces of any prohibited stimulants.

This is not some technical legal argument. It is the simple facts and the truth. The MSAC, in their decision to deny a licence to Billy-Joe, have wilfully refused to properly apply the code of WADA to their ruling. Further the MSAC refused to properly consider submissions from Billy-Joe’s representative despite him being present at the hearing.

Unlike the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), the MSAC is a State appointed governing body and therefore the decision will be appealed and challenged in the Supreme Court at the earliest opportunity.”

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