Billy Joe Saunders has been denied a boxing license by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission (MSAC) following his positive VADA test for the banned stimulant oxilofrine.
The decision was made on Tuesday evening, with Saunders now removed from his WBO World middleweight title defence against Demetrius Andrade, scheduled for October 20th in Boston, with Andrade now set to face Walter Kautondokwa for the ‘Interim’ title – and Saunders likely to be stripped of his World title.
Following his VADA violation for oxilofrine – which Saunders and promoter Frank Warren blamed on an over-the-counter nasal spray – some had expected Saunders to escape punishment due to the substance only appearing on UKAD and WADA’s ‘in-competition’ list.
However, due to signing up with VADA – the voluntary agency considered to be the ‘gold standard’ of doping control in sport – it would appear that the MSAC have forgone their usual allegiance to WADA (in which they also fail to recognise oxilofrine as a banned substance ‘out of competition’) and denied Saunders a licence to box.
Promoter Eddie Hearn, who had enticed Saunders to face his fighter Andrade in a rumoured-career-high-payday, told ESPN:
“I felt like it was 50-50 that he’d be licensed. Billy had his case but unfortunately he failed a VADA test which he signed up for, which the commission ruled on.”
“We have to move on. Our focus is on Demetrius Andrade becoming middleweight champion of the world and mixing with Canelo, Gennady Golovkin and Danny Jacobs, all of those guys. It’s disappointing but the focus is on Andrade becoming a champion on Oct. 20.”
WBO president Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel revealed that while Saunders was in violation of his contract – in which the VADA regulations were clearly outlined – the organisation would indeed give the 29-year-old the opportunity to appeal the decision.
“Once you sign a contract to fight you have to comply with the contract. He didn’t comply with the rules and regulations and so he wasn’t licensed.” Valcarcel told ESPN.
“It’s something he created, something he did. It wasn’t because of something that happened. But we have to give him due process.”
While Saunders will be afforded the chance to respond to the decision, it is believed that the WBO will seek to strip him of his World title – leaving Andrade and Kautondokwa to face off for the full version of the strap on October 20th.
The decision comes at the end of a tumultuous spell for the Hatfield-man, who after a career-best performance in dominating Canada’s David Lemieux in December 2017, has seen a succession of bouts cancelled due to injury.
Only last month, Saunders was hit with a hefty £100,000 fine by the BBBofC after a video emerged online of him cajoling a drug-addled woman into assaulting a passer-by.
With the middleweight scene at its most interesting period in recent years following the toppling of former divisional kingpin Gennady Golovkin, the news comes as a hammer blow to both Saunders and promoter Frank Warren. While it is too early to speculate as to the former Olympian’s next move, the events of the past month will prove difficult for fans of the sport to forget.