While the fight between heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder and mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin hangs in the balance after Povetkin's positive test for the banned substance meldonium, the assertion from Povetkin's promoter that it was in his system only because he took it late last year -- before it was banned -- appears untrue.
After ESPN first reported on Friday that Povetkin tested positive for meldonium in an April 27 urine test conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association in Chekhov, Russia, promoter Andrey Ryabinsky of World of Boxing told the Russian TASS news agency that "traces of extremely low concentration of meldonium have been found in his blood. He consumed it in September last year. He has not taken it since Jan. 1. The situation is ambiguous. The blood sample was taken in April this year. We have been in contact with the World Boxing Council, which is to decide if Povetkin's boxing bout against Deontay Wilder will take place or not."
However, ESPN.com has obtained two separate written reports sent by VADA's president, Dr. Margaret Goodman, to both camps as well as the WBC, whose title Wilder holds, notifying them that Povetkin was negative for any banned substances in VADA-conducted tests on April 7, April 8 and April 11. So Povetkin, who has yet to ask for his B sample to be tested, apparently used meldonium between April 11 and his positive test on April 27.
The letter Goodman sent disclosing the negative results on April 7 and April 8 was sent on April 21. The letter confirming the negative results on April 11 was sent on April 30.
"The information you have obtained is accurate," promoter Lou DiBella, who represents Wilder, told ESPN.com on Saturday. "It also contradicts the public statements made by Mr. Ryabinsky attempting to excuse Povetkin's positive result. If there was a trace amount from 2015 in his system, it would have shown up in the other three tests in April that preceded the positive result.
"This is a very serious PED because it wasn't on the (World Anti-Doping Agency) banned list until Jan. 1. This is the type of PED that results in extremely elevated stamina and a fighter performing like the Energizer bunny."
Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Russia's Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs), are scheduled to meet May 21 at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow in a highly anticipated fight. Whether it will take place is unclear. It would be Wilder's fourth title defense.
Wilder, 30, has been in Sheffield, England, for the past couple of weeks training while also trying to get used to the time change. He is scheduled to fly with his team to Moscow on Sunday. However, whether he will make the trip remains to be seen while he awaits a ruling from the WBC on what it plans to do about the fight; many involved believe it will be canceled.
"There should be a ruling from the WBC, which we expect shortly," DiBella said.
Ryabinsky could not be reached for comment.
Meldonium is the same drug tennis star Maria Sharapova and several others recently tested positive for. WADA announced in September the addition of meldonium to the banned substance list, but the ban went into effect on Jan. 1. Meldonium is used because it is said to increase blood flow and carry more oxygen to muscles and, therefore, enhance stamina, a trait boxers would want in a long fight.
Based on Ryabinsky's winning purse bid of $7.15 million, Wilder is due $4,504,500 to Povetkin's $1,930,500, while the remaining 10 percent -- $715,000 -- would go the winner. Purses generally are not paid if the fight does not happen, but if Wilder-Povetkin is canceled there likely will be lawsuits.