By Steve Kim
The WBC Clean Boxing Program Shield
On July 19th news broke that a highly anticipated all-Filipino bantamweight unification battle between WBC champion, Nonito Donaire, and WBO belt-holder, John Riel Casimero, was set to take place in Carson, California on August 14th on Showtime.
A week later, that pairing had imploded after a week long (and very public) back-and-forthing played out over social media between Rachel Donaire, the wife and manager of 'the Filipino Flash' and Sean Gibbons, who represents Casimero. On the morning of July 26 the Donaire's had told organizers of the event that they were walking away from the fight.
The battle centered around drug testing, specifically the enrollment in the VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) program, which would provide a comprehensive drug testing protocol leading up this contest. It has to be stated that the Donaire's erred in not getting this into the contracted beforehand. This was a glaring omission in the fight contract. But the pugnacious Mrs. Donaire kept setting deadlines for Casimero to sign up for VADA, they were told consistently by Gibbons that they were already under the WBC Clean Boxing Program administered by VADA.
Which while factually true, is misleading. It turned out that Casimero had an incorrect whereabouts form, and had never actually been tested under this WBC CBP program since 2017.
So just what is the WBC Clean Boxing Program?
Instituted several years ago by the World Boxing Council, it mandates that anyone in their top 15 of their 18 weight classes be eligible for random drug testing at any time. On the WBC website, it explains: (https://wbcboxing.com/en/clean-boxing-program/)
"One of the main concerns of the World Boxing Council is taking care of the health and life of boxers, as well as promoting honest sports practices and with the greatest possible prudence.
Using prohibited substances or procedures to improve performance is considered an unsportsmanlike practice because it generates unfair competition having advantages over the adversary. It should be noted that doping is strictly prohibited in all sports, and especially in combat sports as it can cause irreversible damage that not only puts health at risk, but can lead to death.
The WBC was the first to institute mandatory anti-doping tests. Today, the dream of our Lifetime President, Don José Sulaimán, is a fact, because thanks to the joint efforts of the WBC AND VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency) under the direction of its President, Dr. Margaret Goodman, the Clean Boxing Program has achieved great results, since its foundation in 2016. At that time it was implemented only to men boxers, but from 2019 it was extended to women.
The WBC-VADA program is ambitious. Its main objective, apart from testing, is to educate athletes about the danger and disadvantages that doping may cause, in addition to the penalties of testing positive for prohibited substances, inside or outside of a competition.
It is mandatory to enroll for the world champion and the first 15 male classified fighters of each division and for the champions and first 5 ranked fighters in women boxing; however, yet any boxer can voluntarily enroll in the program."
While its educational efforts are well-intentioned, it's ineffective due to a lack of funding and resources (as pointed about last week by Michael Montero on 'the Friday Wrap-Up). According to Montero, who has done extensive stories in the past regarding the usage of PED's, and drug testing in boxing, the yearly -- not monthly -- budget for the WBCCBP is $150,000. Which comes out to roughly $13,000 a month to test fighters who live around the world. This money goes towards covering the travel, lodging and other expenses related to procuring tests.
Here is a link to Montero's show: The Friday Wrap Up (2021-07-02)
The reality is that a small fraction of boxers are actually put under the microscope. Montero states that, "over 90-plus percent of the fighters enrolled in the Clean Boxing Program go more than a calendar year without ever being tested."
This WBC CBP casts a net as wide as a bedroom quilt. At this point, it's nothing more than a designation for the most part. Canvassing various managers and trainers of those in the sport, the consensus is that their boxers have never been tested out-of-competition under this system.
On the flip-side, the full VADA program clearly states when drug testing will start and end between two competing parties, with a clearly outlined list of banned substances. The tests are regular and random. No, it's not perfect, but for the past decade it has clearly shown to be the gold-standard in this realm.
Going back to the Donaire-Casimero snafu, while Gibbons and strength-and-conditioning coach, Memo Heredia, kept stating his boxer was under some sort of drug testing supervision, the reality was that he was not. And it was only after the Donaire's had pulled the plug on the fight on June 26 that the opposing side turned in their VADA forms.
At that point it was too little, and far too late.
What's interesting is that as Victor Conte (the founder of SNAC, who has consulted in the past with VADA) probed about the drug testing for the upcoming match-up between Manny Pacquiao and Errol Spence, Gibbons had the same defense.
That like Casimero, the legendary Pacquiao was under the WBC CBP.
It's clear that the WBC CBP is now being used as a shield of some sorts. If a boxer isn't undergoing extensive drug testing, well, they can just state that they are in this program. At this moment, it's not clear if Pacquiao or Spence are signed up for any real drug testing outside of what will be mandated by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
While the Donaire's will point out the misogyny exhibited by the opposing camp as a reason for cancelling this bout, the lack of transparency in regards to drug testing was the central reason this fight was called off. They could've brushed off the tasteless insults as long as they felt sure that there was a level playing field.
Donaire is a pioneer of sorts in this given that he was the first boxer years ago to actually sign up for year-round full VADA drug testing. Here, all he was asking for was for about seven weeks. As Casimero and his team dragged their feet, Donaire decided to make a stand by walking away.
Its not clear what will be in his immediate future, he does have some lucrative options, such as a rematch versus unified champion, Naoyo Inoue, with whom he battled back in 2019 in a memorable affair in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series. They are at peace with their decision.
As for Casimero, it was announced over the weekend that he would now be facing the man he was originally slated to square off against on August 14th in Guillermo Rigondeaux.