The WBC heavyweight championship of the world was scheduled to be contested on May 21, 2016 in Russia. The Bout was Champion Deontay Wilder’s mandatory defense of his title against Mandatory Challenger Alexander Povetkin. The Bout was the result of a purse bid the WBC conducted and which promoter World of Boxing won.
On May 13, 2016 VADA reported to the WBC that Alexander Povetkin’s anti-doping test that had taken from his April 27, 2016 sample pursuant to the WBC Clean Boxing Program yielded an adverse finding for the banned substance Meldonium.
In light of Mr. Povetkin’s adverse finding, the WBC took the following steps:
A. In order to preserve the integrity of the CBP and on the name of safety, lifted the sanctioning of the Bout, which resulted in the Bout being suspended;
B. Afforded champion Wilder a voluntary defense of his title in order to keep him active;
C. Assembled and emergency review committee; and
D. As part of its internal investigation, held inquiry meetings with Champion Wilder’s and Mr. Povetkin’s camps to gather as much factual, medical and scientific information as possible.
The WBC’s idea all along has been to ultimately achieve an official ruling consistent with the WBC’s Rules & Regulations.
II. WBC CLEAN BOXING PROGRAM
The WBC in association with VADA launched the historic CBP with the ultimate goals of protecting boxers and maintaining transparency in the sport of professional boxing. Under the CBP rules applicable to the present situation, all WBC World Champions, designated challengers and the top fifteen (15) WBC-rated fighters in each weight class are subject to random, year-round unannounced testing for performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”) and prohibited methods. The CBP program also includes testing on specific fights, voluntary fights and voluntary fighters.
The Bout contract contemplated submission to, and participation in, the CBP of both Champion Wilder and Mr. Povetkin.
III. VOLUNTARY ANTI-DOPING ASSOCIATION (VADA)
VADA is an independent, non-for-profit, anti-doping management and testing agency founded in 2011. VADA is the testing administrator and testing management arm of the CBP. VADA uses only laboratories accredited and in good standing with the World Anti-Doping Association (“WADA”) and WADA-certified sample collectors. VADA’s responsibilities concerning the CBP are: (1) determine, update and maintain the list of banned substances applicable to the CBP; (2) design testing protocols; (3) administer sample collection through Clearidium, which is a WADA-accredited sample collector; (4) administer testing logistics and sample chain of custody; and (5) report results of each test.
IV. WORLD ANTI-DOPING AGENCY (WADA) AND RELATIONSHIP WITH CBP
WADA was established in 1999 as an international independent agency. Its key activities include scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti-Doping Code. The WADA Code was designed to harmonize anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries. For general information on WADA, please visit www.wada-ama.org.
WADA’s role in anti-doping testing around the world can be summarized as follows:
1. WADA accredits the testing laboratories and sample collection organizations that independent agencies like VADA use for human doping control sample analyses;
2. WADA creates, maintains and updates the list of banned substances which sports programs and organizations around the world routinely adopt;
3. WADA also conducts studies (including excretion studies) involving banned substances and provide notifications about their findings to the public at large; and
4. WADA also provides specific recommendations about the results management of the banned substances to sports organizations.
Meldonium (Mildonate or Mildronats) is a medicament originally designed to treat patients with certain cardiovascular diseases, including angina, chronic heart failure, cardiomyopathy and other cardiovascular disorders. Meldonium is supposed to work through its ability to increase the size of blood vessels and therefore improve blood flow. But there is also controversial data and ongoing debate among scientists and the medical community as to whether Meldonium intake indeed produces performance-enhancing benefits during athletic competition.
Meldonium came to the attention of sports regulatory bodies when it was detected in the fluids of a significant number of athletes.
VI. WADA’S POLICY ON MELDONIUM
1. On January 1, 2016 WADA approved the addition of Meldonium to WADA’s list of banned substances.
2. On April 11, 2016, WADA published a notice concerning Meldonium. According to the WADA April Notice, given that the results of ongoing excretion studies are needed to determine the time of the ingestion, WADA’s official position about levels of Meldonium under 1 ug/mg found in tested athletes after March 1, 2016 was to recommend two options, at the discretion of the results management authority (in this case the WBC):
a. That the athlete continue serving his or her provisional suspension until the excretion studies results are available and a decision can be taken; or
b. That the results management authority, in this case the WBC, lift the athlete’s provisional suspension and that the athlete be allowed to compete. However, if it is later established based on the results of the excretion studies that he/she did take the drug on or after January 1, 2016, then the results management authority, in this case the WBC, may change any competition results and penalize the athlete as required.
3. On June 30, 2016, WADA published a clarification of the WADA April Notice. The WADA June Notice originated from WADA receiving the results from some of the urinary excretion studies on Meldonium that it had commissioned. According to the WADA June Notice, those results enabled WADA to provide “updated guidance regarding the Results Management and Adjudication process to be followed for cases involving Meldonium.” The WADA June Notice also remarked that while “other excretion studies are ongoing, and remain unpublished at this time, the results of these first studies allow WADA to provide guidance for cases where athletes claim that the substance was taken before 1 January 2016; the guidance is determined by the Urine Collection Date and Urinary Concentration of meldonium found in an athlete’s sample.”
With respect to urine samples collected from March 1, 2016 through September 30, 2016, for concentrations of Meldonium under 1.0 microgram per milliliter (µg/mL), the WADA June Notice stated that: “[I]n the absence of other evidence of use on or after 1 January 2016, a finding of no fault may be made.”
VII. MR. POVETKIN’S TEST AND RESULTS
On May 13, 2016, VADA reported that Mr. Povetkin’s “A” Test sample showed an adverse result for the banned substance Meldonium. Subsequently, that result was confirmed and corroborated by an almost identical test result of the “B” Test sample.
The level of Meldonium in Mr. Povetkin’s “A” sample was 0.070 micrograms per milliliter (µg/mL) and the “B” sample yielded a level of Meldonium of 0.072 µg/mL. Those levels were approximately 14 times smaller than the threshold level of 1.0 µg/mL set in the WADA April and June Notices.
The Test was the fourth anti-doping test Mr. Povetkin underwent in connection with his then upcoming fight for the WBC World Heavyweight Championship. The previous three tests, performed from samples collected on April 7, 8 and 11, 2016, had shown no adverse result and no presence of Meldonium or any masking agents. A subsequent test from a sample taken from Mr. Povetkin on May 17, 2016 also showed no adverse finding.
During the WBC’s inquiry meeting with Mr. Povetkin and his representatives, they acknowledged that Mr. Povetkin had taken Meldonium between August 31 and September 13, 2015, as part of his preparation for high-altitude training. So, Mr. Povetkin claims that any ingestion of Meldonium would have taken place before January 1, 2016, which is the date VADA included Meldonium in its list of banned substances. At the time Mr. Povetkin admitted using Meldonium, it was an over-the-counter medication.
VIII. WBC’S FINDINGS
Based on detailed research and information gathering, the WBC finds as follows:
1. Mr. Povetkin agreed to participate in the CBP.
2. Meldonium is a banned substance under the WBC CPB by virtue of its inclusion in VADA’s List of Banned Substances.
3. Pursuant to their participation in the CBP, Mr. Povetkin was tested five (5) times between April 1, 2016 and May 17, 2016.
4. The anti-doping test of sample collected from Mr. Povetkin on April 27, 2016, tested positive for Meldonium.
5. The WBC is not aware that Mr. Povetkin has ever tested positive for any banned substances, including during his participation in the Olympic Games in 2004 or in the 4 WBC-sanctioned bouts in which he has participated.
6. Tests performed from samples collected on April 7, April 8, April 11 and May 17, 2016, were negative for all banned substances, including Meldonium and banned masking agents.
7. The WADA April Notice stated that Meldonium was a complex substance and that there was very little excretion information available at that time.
8. The WADA April Notice established a finding of “no fault” with respect to samples collected between January 1 and March 1, 2016, for concentrations of Meldonium under 1.0 µg/mL.
9. The June WADA Notice confirmed that some excretion studies had been conducted but that they were ongoing.
10. The June WADA Notice extended the finding of “no fault” with respect to samples collected between March 1 and September 30, 2016, for concentrations of Meldonium under 1.0 µg/mL.
11. Based on the scientific and medical information the WBC received during its investigation and inquiry processes and on the WADA Notices, it is not possible to ascertain that Mr. Povetkin ingested Meldonium after January 1, 2016.
12. As the CBP’s Results Manager, the WBC has complete discretion as to whether to impose any penalty to Mr. Povetkin.
IX. WBC BOARD OF GOVERNOR’S RULING
The WBC Board of Governor’s ruling is based on the facts as known to the WBC at the time of the ruling. The WBC is not biased, nor does it takes into account, any prejudicial perception about the use of banned substances in any particular region of the world of by boxers of any particular nationality. The WBC does not issue rulings based on generalities or prejudice and absolutely opposes any form of discrimination.
Based on the adverse finding of Mr.’s Povetkin “A” and “B” April 27, 2016 samples, and taking into consideration the detected levels of Meldonium in those samples, the impossibility to scientifically prove that Mr. Povetkin ingested Meldonium after January 1 2016, and WADA’s Notice concerning Meldonium, the WBC has ruled as follows:
a. In order to protect the welfare and health of the participants, the WBC called the Bout off and reserved any further ruling until the ongoing investigation, inquiry and evaluation process concluded;
b. The WBC granted Champion Wilder the right to make a voluntary defense of his World Title, which defense took place on July 16, 2016;
c. VADA, pursuant to the WBC CBP, will design a specific testing protocol for Mr. Povetkin at Mr. Povetkin’s own cost and expense. The VADA-designed protocol will commence as soon as feasible after this ruling and will continue for one year thereafter; and
d. In the event there is an adverse finding concerning any of Mr. Povetkin’s samples during the time prescribed above, the WBC shall immediately: (1) suspend Mr. Povetkin from participation in any WBC-sanctioned events indefinitely; (2) divest Mr. Povetkin from any WBC title or any other rights he might have at the time; and (3) impose any and all available penalties under the CBP without further inquiry.
e. If during the course of the pending litigation between Mr. Povetkin and Champion Wilder, the Court makes a final ruling that differs from the findings set forth herein, the WBC shall have the right to review this ruling and take any course of action it may deem appropriate.
f. If WADA issues a Notice or changes its policy on Meldonium in a manner that would necessarily result in a different ruling in this case, the WBC reserves the right to review its ruling and take any course of action it may deem appropriate.