Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin, who twice tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in an eight-month span in 2016 in the lead-up to WBC title bouts, was punished by the sanctioning organization in a ruling issued Thursday.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman announced that the organization has suspended Povetkin from participating in any WBC-sanctioned bouts indefinitely and fined him $250,000.
In addition, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, whose random tests caught Povetkin both times, will, in conjunction with the WBC's Clean Boxing Program, design a specific drug-testing protocol for Povetkin at his expense. It will begin "as soon as feasible after this ruling and will continue for one year thereafter," the ruling said.
Povetkin will be eligible to apply for reinstatement to the WBC rankings after one year.
"At that time, if the results of every anti-doping test he has taken pursuant to the testing protocol set forth are negative, the WBC will consider deferring the remaining of his suspension, during which time he would be placed in a probationary status and would continue to undergo testing," the WBC said in its ruling.
Russia's Povetkin, the mandatory challenger for the WBC heavyweight title, was due to challenge world titleholder Deontay Wilder on May 21 in Moscow. However, nine days beforehand, the fight was canceled after a VADA-conducted drug test found that Povetkin had the banned substance meldonium in his system. The cancellation of the fight cost Povetkin a purse of $1,930,500 and a chance to also claim the $715,000 bonus that would have gone to the winner.
Povetkin, 37, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2004, admitted that he used meldonium, but said he used it in the fall of 2015, not after Jan. 1, 2016, when it was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
On Aug. 17, the WBC ruled that it did not have sufficient evidence to make a definite finding about whether Povetkin had ingested meldonium after the substance was banned by WADA. In that same August ruling, the WBC said that if Povetkin failed another drug test during the one year after the ruling, the WBC would suspend him from participating in any WBC-sanctioned bouts.
The WBC later sanctioned a vacant interim title fight between Povetkin and former titleholder Bermane Stiverne while Wilder was recovering from surgery on his right hand and biceps. Povetkin and Stiverne were due to fight on Dec. 17 in Ekaterinburg, Russia, but, in a test result that came to light the day before the bout, Povetkin (31-1, 23 KOs) tested positive for the banned substance ostarine, which has been on the WADA banned list since 2008.
The WBC withdrew its sanction of the fight, Stiverne pulled out and Povetkin was allowed by Russian regulators to face last-minute substitute Johann Duhaupas, whom he brutally knocked out in the sixth round.
After the Wilder-Povetkin fight was canceled, Wilder and promoter Lou DiBella sued Povetkin and Russian promoter Andrey Ryabinsky of World of Boxing for breach of contract and at least $5 million in U.S. federal court in New York. Two weeks ago, Wilder and DiBella won the case when the jury found Povetkin had indeed taken meldonium after WADA banned it.
Povetkin could not be reached for comment.
Wilder, who has used VADA testing regularly for his fights, has been a staunch advocate for testing and punishment of those who cheat. Before his successful title defense against Gerald Washington last week in Birmingham, Alabama, Wilder said he wanted to see more punishment for guilty fighters.
"It is sad for the sport, and I just hope something even more can be done about this situation before it ruins the sport of boxing," Wilder said. "I want to see some punishment done. I want to see if you do this, if you put steroids or anything that has your body doing what it is not naturally supposed to do, I think you should not only get suspended but maybe indefinitely.
"They need to take their career away, because this is ridiculous. I am naturally strong without weights. Without training. With anything. I am God-given, Alabama country strong. I have always been that way. But just imagine if I used anything to enhance my body. Did you see my fight with [Artur] Szpilka? Just imagine if I had something in my body. That man would have been dead, because I thought he was dead. I hope it just gets cleaned up."