Former heavyweight world titleholder Bermane Stiverne failed a random drug test for a banned substance ahead of his vacant interim title fight against Alexander Povetkin but will still be allowed to fight, the WBC announced Monday.
With titleholder Deontay Wilder out of action following hand and biceps surgery, Povetkin and Stiverne were ordered to fight for the interim belt, with Wilder obligated to face the winner.
Stiverne, born in Haiti and based in Las Vegas, and Russia's Povetkin are scheduled to fight Dec. 17 in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Povetkin promoter Andrey Ryabinsky of World of Boxing won promotional rights to the fight at a purse bid last month with an offer of $3.165 million to easily defeat the second-place bid of $2.1 million made by Don King, Stiverne's promoter.
On Monday, the WBC disclosed that Stiverne had failed a drug test as part of its mandatory Clean Boxing Program, which is administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.
The WBC said Stiverne provided the sample Nov. 4 and was informed of the failed test for the banned substance methylhexaneamine, a stimulant also known as dimethyamylamine or DMAA, on Nov. 11. DMAA has been on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited substances list since 2010 and has been linked to life-threatening side effects.
"Throughout the investigative process, Stiverne has been extremely cooperative and 100 percent forthcoming," the WBC said. "Stiverne informed the WBC that on the day of the test, in order to facilitate urination, he took a dietary supplement called Superharm in front of the sample collector. He reported the ingestion of that supplement in the declaration of medication use section of the doping control form he filled in connection with the test.
"Stiverne also reported that he ingested the supplement twice the same day and that he took it because the supplement staff at EOS Gym in Henderson, Nevada, recommended it to him. He was looking for a product that would help him with post-workout fatigue. Stiverne is fully aware of the gravity of the mistake he made by taking an off-the-shelf supplement without investigating its ingredients in detail. Stiverne also realizes that he is ultimately responsible for anything that he ingests. In short, he now realizes that he was very naïve by following a store's recommendation of an off-the-shelf supplement while being ignorant of its contents."
The WBC said in its report that it will still sanction the bout for the interim title because Stiverne has never had a positive test in the past and "there is no evidence that Stiverne intentionally or even knowingly ingested a banned substance with the purpose of enhancing his performance in any fashion. Stiverne's ingestion of DMAA was purely accidental."
In its ruling, the WBC said it would fine Stiverne $75,000 but it "will not withdraw its sanction of the bout at this point in light of the fact that there is sufficient time to put in place preventative and remedial measures to protect the health and safety of the bout's participants."
VADA will design a specific testing protocol for Stiverne at his expense, and it will begin as soon as possible and continue for six months after the fight.
If Stiverne has another failed test, the WBC said he would be suspended from participating in WBC-sanctioned fights indefinitely and would be stripped of the title if he beats Povetkin, a former titleholder. The WBC said it will also ask Stiverne to perform 40 hours of community service to help educate young athletes about the dangers of doping.
"He ingested an energy drink," King told ESPN. "I've had him for 15 years and never he's never had any kind of drug dispute or banned substance issues. The day he was tested, he drank it. You got to be able to deal with it. It could have been great jeopardy for him. VADA does a terrific job. I have nothing but the highest respect for [VADA president] Dr. Margaret Goodman.
"I'm very happy he still has the opportunity for this fight. He knows not to take it. I told him don't take nothin' from nobody. Everything is good."
Povetkin has his own history of drug issues. He was supposed to fight Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs), who won the belt by lopsided decision from Stiverne in January 2015, in a mandatory bout May 21 in Moscow. The fight was canceled nine days beforehand, when Povetkin failed a VADA test for the banned substance meldonium, which he claimed he ingested before the drug was added to the WADA banned list in January.
The WBC ultimately elected to not punish Povetkin because the amount of the substance in his system was far below the threshold accepted by WADA in an updated notice on the drug published in June. There remain questions, however, about how Povetkin could have tested negative in random VADA doping tests conducted April 7, 8 and 11 while his April 27 sample -- the A and the B -- was positive for meldonium.
Based on Ryabinsky's winning purse bid, Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs), 37, and Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KOs), 38, are each entitled to $1,424,250 apiece, with the remaining 10 percent of the winning bid, $316,500, going to the winner of the fight as a bonus.