Thursday 26 April 2018

Boxing has to pass test of its credibility

WHEN did professional boxing die? Was it when the lines became so blurred that you could no longer tell one champion from another and no one really knew who was the best in any given weight division? Was it when the pre-fight promotional machinations of fighters reached pantomime levels? Or was it last Saturday night when there was such confusion around the drug-testing procedures before the Andy Lee-Julio Cesar Chavez Junior?

Whenever it was, it is safe to say that until such time as professional boxing puts proper doping control procedures in place -- and then sticks to them -- the business of professional boxing will continue to decline into the murky world currently occupied by professional wrestling's actors and cage fighting's 'roll around on the ground hugging each other' merchants.

Emanuel Steward, who is Lee's trainer, made some very interesting and general comments recently around the importance of doping control in boxing. "If someone is coming into a ring with an unbelievable big physical advantage where someone is able to enhance their performance and perhaps even enhance their strength, it's not like in any other sport like in basketball, or maybe someone hitting home runs in baseball, or someone maybe taking steroids or any kind of performance-enhancer. But if you're in another sport where someone is handicapped, that's a serious thing because in boxing a human being is being beaten physically in his brains, and his head, and he's not on an even playing field. That's something that's very serious."

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THE Irish Sports Council has revealed that its anti-doping programme recorded 17 missed tests in 2011 as a result of teams not training where they said they would be. You won't be surprised to hear that eight of those missed tests were by GAA teams.

The Sports Council has an arrangement with the GAA which means that if they can't find a team to carry out a test, the GAA will track them down and pay for any extra expense incurred.

A couple of questions occurred to us: Did any of these attempted tests take place during the winter training ban? If so, how did the GAA manage to track down counties that were training in contravention of the rules and why weren't they punished?

And, if not, were the Sports Council effectively telling counties that they wouldn't be tested during November and December, thereby leaving its programme open to the accusation of being less than comprehensive?

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A plucky non-league team aided by a wily international manager and several former stars coaxed out of retirement stuns English soccer by winning the FA Cup. Sounds like the plot of another awful soccer movie but Wembley FC are trying to make this clichéd dream a reality.

The Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League side have convinced Terry Venables to be their technical advisor, and persuaded English internationals Ray Parlour, Martin Keown and Graeme Le Saux, along with Claudio Caniggio and Brian McBride, to play in the FA Cup. David Seaman is goalkeeping coach.

You might well ask how an amateur team could afford to hire all these former greats. Have they attracted the interest of a Russian oligarch or Arab emir? No. Budweiser, sponsors of the FA Cup, are backers of Wembley FC and have stumped up the cash to pay for upgraded facilities and this entire stunt. The adventure will be filmed for a reality TV series and shown on ESPN, coincidentally broadcasters of the FA Cup. Not completely true to the spirit of Roy of the Rovers or the romance of the cup.

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Rain may have stopped play during yesterday's one-day international between Ireland and Australia but Australian cricketers appear fond of this country, so much so that they have lent us some of their best players from time to time. Australian legend Steve Waugh played for Ireland as a guest player in 1998. The Ashes-winning captain played six matches against an A team from his own country and made two half centuries in his three weeks here. His twin Mark, no slouch himself when it came to scoring runs, followed two years later and made 55 in a couple of ODIs against Zimbabwe.

Aisling Crowe and Fergus McDonnell

ssport@independent.ie

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