The rematch between unified junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson and former titleholder Amir Khan was canceled on Wednesday night after it was revealed earlier in the week that Peterson failed a random urine test.
Peterson and Khan were due to meet in a major HBO "World Championship Boxing" main event on May 19 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, six months after their epic first encounter, in which Peterson won a controversial split decision in his hometown of Washington, D.C., to take a pair of world title belts from England's Khan.
"The fight is off! Sorry everyone. The only person to blame is Lamont Peterson," Khan tweeted.
A urine sample Peterson supplied during a random test administered on March 19, when the fighters were at a promotional news conference in Los Angeles, tested positive for synthetic testosterone, a banned substance.
At Peterson's request, Khan had agreed to random blood and urine testing in the buildup to the rematch. It was overseen by the Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, whose president is Dr. Margaret Goodman, a former Nevada State Athletic Commission chief ringside physician.
The NSAC, which received a packet of Peterson's medical information to review on Wednesday from his attorney, Jeff Fried, would have been unable to hold a licensing hearing until Tuesday, which would be during the week of the fight. There was the likelihood that Peterson would not have been licensed anyway because of his admission about taking the banned substance, which he claims was for medical reasons.
"We were willing to have the hearing if Peterson requested it in writing," NSAC executive director Keith Kizer said. "But just because there is a hearing doesn't mean he would have gotten a license. Golden Boy felt it was too close to the fight."
On Thursday morning, Peterson's camp issued a statement regarding the canceled fight.
"Team Peterson is very disappointed and distraught by the decision to cancel the May 19 rematch against Amir Khan," the statement said. "This is an extremely difficult decision to accept. We have always taken the position of providing factual information rather than responding emotionally to rumors and innuendoes. We did everything that was asked of us in efforts to comply.
" ... We will vigorously pursue the truth with regards to this matter and continue to fight to protect this young man's character, credibility and all he has accomplished. Once all the facts have been reviewed we have no doubt that he will be vindicated."
Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, promoter of the event, told ESPN.com on Wednesday that he is working on lining up a new opponent and date for Khan, as well as one for junior lightweight titlist Adrien Broner, who was due to defend his belt against Gary Sykes in the televised co-feature.
"We are now in discussions with HBO and looking at July 7 or July 14, one of those two dates," Schaefer said. "I am waiting to hear back from HBO, but I will sit down with Amir on Thursday and we'll talk about opponents."
Schaefer was very upset about the situation.
"I am extremely disappointed. There is no room in this sport or any other to use testosterone," Schaefer said. "I just don't think there is any place for that."
Schaefer, however, was more upset about what he called a lack of transparency from the Peterson camp and VADA.
"The lack of transparency from Peterson not disclosing the positive test is shocking, but what is further shocking is that VADA did not inform us," said Schaefer, who estimated Golden Boy would lose "hundreds of thousands of dollars" on the cancellation of the card.
"If we would have been informed at the time when the first test came back positive (on April 12), we would have been in position to save the event,"
Schaefer said. "And now, because of this, we have to cancel an event which has significant financial repercussions for the hotel, HBO, Golden Boy, the sponsors, Khan and especially the fans, who had booked flights and made reservations. The unprofessionalism by VADA and Team Peterson is shocking."
According to Schaefer, thousands of Khan's fans from England had made travel plans and bought tickets for the fight. Ticketholders can receive a refund from their point of purchase.
Goodman said VADA did not notify Golden Boy because it was under no obligation to do so.
"VADA notified Lamont Peterson and his attorney, Jeff Fried, immediately after Mr. Peterson's 'A' sample tested positive," Goodman said in a statement. "VADA felt that it would be inappropriate for it to notify third parties of the positive test result. ... It appears as though Mr. Peterson and Mr. Fried also chose not to notify third parties at that time in the hope that Mr. Peterson's 'B' sample would test negative."
After the "B" sample tested positive, VADA notified the NSAC on Monday.
Schaefer disagreed with Goodman's assessment.
"Our contract with them states, and it's very clear language, where it states they will have to disclose to us if the 'A' sample comes back positive. They didn't do that. We have emails," he said.
Schaefer said their contract stipulated that after a positive "A" sample, the parties would be notified so both could be present for the testing of the "B" sample.
"We also have an email as well from Jeff Fried saying that it's OK to tell Khan and Golden Boy if there is a positive test," Schaefer said. "That was before he tested positive. It is from when we were putting the contract together."
Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs) initially denied he had taken synthetic testosterone when his "A" sample tested positive April 12. After the "B" sample also tested positive May 3, Peterson said he had taken testosterone pellets under a doctor's supervision -- at a clinic in Las Vegas -- because he suffered from fatigue and had difficulty concentrating.
According to letters from doctors that Fried submitted to the NSAC, and obtained by ESPN.com., Peterson was diagnosed with abnormally low testosterone levels.
Taking the substance is a violation in Nevada, according to Kizer. Taking a substance for medical reasons and not disclosing it is also a violation under Nevada rules.
"There's no question about it that Peterson was injected or inserted with testosterone pellets," Schaefer said. "They don't deny it, but it raised a lot of questions. He trains in Washington, D.C., so why would he go to Las Vegas to a little clinic which the Nevada commission never even heard of and get tested because you feel you're tired? Aren't there better places in Washington, D.C., which has a lot of great hospitals, to do that?"
Fried did not return phone messages or emails seeking comment.
Peterson's admission that he took the substance in October 2011 also was a point of contention for the Khan side because that was during his preparation for the first fight with Khan (26-2, 18 KOs).
"You train hard, you work hard, you're ready, and then an event is canceled," Schaefer said. "That is disappointing, and then you top it off by finding out your opponent took these pellets in October, and we're told he took them in Las Vegas and then fought Amir in December? All sorts of light bulbs go off. Besides being angry and disappointed, Amir looks back to see what happened in the first fight. This is not something that will be swept under the rug."
Schaefer said because Peterson took a banned substance before the first fight with Khan, he will attempt to have the decision overturned to a no contest. If successful, Khan would get back the titles, which may be stripped from Peterson regardless of whether the decision is changed.
"The guy is on the record saying he took these things," Schaefer said. "Do we feel it should be changed to a no contest? Absolutely. If the first fight would have taken place in Nevada, it would be grounds to overturn it to a no contest.
"Of everything I have seen in boxing, this is the most shocking thing I have seen, and I have seen quite a bit. But this one really tops it off, the lack of disclosure, the way it's been dealt with, Peterson traveling across the country to get a checkup and then getting testosterone implemented? All of these things, it's unreal."