Chemical reactions

By Ben Thomsett on October 12, 2018
Chemical reactions
Can you be a World Champion by only eating normal food? (Action Images/Peter Cziborra)

Is talent and hard work not enough anymore? Who can we trust? Who decides the moral high ground in our sport?

One thing about chemistry: it’s complicated. Nothing is ever really static. Chemical academia is advancing all the time. I’m not a chemist, though I do have a fairly minor qualification in neuro-pharmacology. Heady days. My qualification is of no use to Billy Joe Saunders, or Frank Warren, but they should both have taken heed of the complexities and importance of chemicals when they entered a) the defensive stance vs. Billy Joe’s VADA positive test result for Oxilofrine and, b) operating in professional boxing per se.

I’d never heard of Oxilofrine prior to last week. And, like a lot of us, my ear was turned to what exactly the Massachusetts State honchos, Billy Joe, and Frank Warren had to say about it before I lazily looked up the drug on Wikipedia.

Frank Warren says it was a simple mistake; that Oxilofrine is present in a simple decongestant nose spray. I was kind of surprised he didn’t say it was present in Wild Boar meat: the current popular choice of the pro boxer caught out by a positive blood test. So I looked up his claims. Here’s what I found/couldn’t find:

1)    I couldn’t find Oxilofrine (also is known as Methylsynephrine or P-Hydroxyephedrine) listed as an ingredient in any over the counter nasal sprays in the UK that I came across. Okay, there may be one I missed, but I can tell you it doesn’t appear to be a common additive to nasal remedy sprays.
2)    Oxilofrine is an amphetamine-like chemical. It acts to increase heart efficiency and blood pressure and oxygen exchange. It was first synthesized in the 1930’s and mimics Ephedrine. Oxilofrine has been banned widely by WADA since 2006. Obviously, it’s a drug that can be open to abuse by an athlete to help them achieve an unfair advantage. 
3)    Adverse side effects can include: Cardiac Arrest. In short, it can put the user at risk.

But here’s where we disappear down the rabbit hole. You see, even though the US Food and Drug Administration had banned Oxilofrine for over a decade, in 2016 a scientific journal called ‘Drug testing and analysis’ released research findings that said it had found the drug in 14 different ‘Dietary Supplements.’ And in each case, the product had failed to list Oxilofrine as an ingredient. According to the FDA, ‘Oxilofrine doesn’t occur naturally in any plant that we’re aware of.’ Making it a nefarious, at best, addition, and showing us to what extent supplement companies will go to gain an edge. Is it possible a fighter really could ingest this drug by accident even though the FDA wrote strongly-worded letters in 2016 to the companies found to be illegally including Oxilofrine in their products? I guess it might be.

So where does this leave Billy Joe? Well, Frank could have, perhaps, considered his options before talking about nasal sprays. Did he get good advice? Did he panic? One thing we know is that he must be a sore as hell for the cancellation of the Andrade fight. He says he intends to sue someone, for something. Frank even had a swipe at Eddie Hearn, saying Eddie would be happy not having to pay a “seven figure purse,” now that Saunders wouldn’t be fighting. He queried the legality of the license withdrawal—WADA doesn’t consider Oxilofrine illegal if a fighter tests positive for it leading up to a fight, only on the day of the fight, yet it is banned in the US by the FDA as a supplement, and banned by VADA full stop (who caught Saunders on their test).

When big bucks are on the line after a failed drug test the first thing you always hear are the same old excuses: “Accidental,” “Read the small print,” “He’s no cheat,” yet here we are. Another fighter fails a drug test for a substance shown to increase their advantage over an opponent. The promoter can only do one thing—lash out at everyone. They have to remain loyal to their fighter. To do anything else is to consign your income stream, and potentially a friend, to the trash can.

I think we need to ask some questions and, unlikely as it is, try to gain some answers.

Is the banned substance list too complicated? Did Saunders ingest Oxilofrine unknowingly? Is the supplement market too dodgy to trust? Can you be a World Champion by only eating normal food; without protein shakes; nasal sprays; power gels; etc. etc.? Is talent and hard work not enough anymore? Who can we trust? Who decides the moral high ground in our sport?

Will there ever be a solution?

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  1. Your Name 05:28am, 10/16/2018

    Yes, no ducking

  2. fan 09:42am, 10/15/2018

    we should have another boxing league without drug, lowblow, ducking and flexible judging.

  3. Kid Blast 12:27pm, 10/14/2018

    Excellent article Ben. Nice ending.

  4. Kid Blast 04:53pm, 10/12/2018

    Pootie Tang, Correct on all points. Even at my advanced age I use whatever gear I can get away with. Belt of course, compressed underwear, knee wraps, elbow sleeves, wrist sleeves, and 2ply singlet. And on the Bench in training, I use a slingshot and board and get about 60 more pounds up than I can with just a shirt, And I also load myself with supplements. Very few do raw anymore. It’s an addiction and a cult. Hard to stop once you start. Cheers, mate. It’s a pleasure to see you know the sport well.

  5. Pootie Tang 02:11pm, 10/12/2018

    Kid Blast…. I value my health more than money. No amount of money can replace good health. Powerlifting is brutal on the body even without the massive drug use. The loads some of those guys put on their spine with those 800-1000lb plus deadlifts and squats will definitely take its toll years down the road. My brother worked up to a 500lb plus touch and go bench press, NO GEAR, plain t shirt,  while ingesting nothing more than peanut butter sammiches, rare steaks, and gallons of milk. He never competed, he just liked to lift.  Of course nowadays a 500lb bench press for a guy weighing about two fitty would be average at best in a powerlifting contest, even a RAW meet. Me thinks that without the drugs, and lifting RAW ONLY, a 500- 600lb bench press would be a very rare feat in powerlifting as it used to be back in the day.

  6. Kid Blast 01:47pm, 10/12/2018

    Pootie Tang, when millions of dollars and attendant careers are at stake, athletes will do whatever they can to enhance their performance with drugs—legal or otherwise. The most important thing these days is how to mask their use.

    I’ve seen guys put stuff in their system so they could lift 10 pounds more—but the stuff would fell an elephant. It’s amazing.

  7. Kid Blast 01:35pm, 10/12/2018

    Check this out:

    BJS has become areal loser. SAD

  8. Kid Blast 01:33pm, 10/12/2018

    Basically, Oxilofrine is an amphetamine .The weight loss potential is massive. It is 10-fold more powerful than what Canelo used.

  9. Pootie Tang 01:20pm, 10/12/2018

    Lucas McCain… Not only in the garbage that they feed us, but in all those medicines that are supposed to help overcome all the sh*t we acquire eating garbage food. Which brings us to the opiod crisis and the Sackler family. How these creeps sleep at night is beyond me.

  10. Lucas McCain 01:01pm, 10/12/2018

    The world is so awash in drugs and chemicals, it’s hard to be sure anything is safe.  Cheerios and Quaker Oats now have carcinogenic pesticides in them.  I’d rather have a little speed in my cereal.

  11. Kid Blast 12:36pm, 10/12/2018

    Oxilofrine is an amphetamine—the weight loss potential is massive. Reportedly, Some components of Oxilofrine’s overall chemical structure have very “interesting” resemblances to Methamphetamine and Pseudoephedrine

    Victor Conte: What Billy Joe Saunders took is ten fold more powerful than what Canelo took - YouTube

  12. Kid Blast 12:30pm, 10/12/2018

    Robert has the beat

  13. Pootie Tang 10:13am, 10/12/2018

    If you can wolf down about 36 eggs, two or “tree” dozen raw oysters, and a couple of 2lb T-bone steaks a day, you might can pull it off. Of course this only applies to “gifted athletes,”  PEDs or extravagant diet plans aren’t going to turn Poindexter into Bruce Jenner or even Caitlyn Jenner hopefully. That diet might help with boosting up your “test”, libido, recovery, and strength, but I doubt it would do your heart much good though. Talent and raw athletic ability can still go a long way. PEDs aren’t going to turn a fighter into the next Joe Louis, no matter what the guy or gal ingests or shoots in their arse. However, everyone looks for an edge and even the most talented among us have self doubts, so a clean or “natural” athlete in the year 2018 is about as rare as natural breasts on a stripper.

  14. Robert 09:53am, 10/12/2018

    How is it possible that every athlete in every sport over the last 30 years who fails a drug test is innocent—even a person with a superficial experience with gyms(of all kinds) knows that people use PEDS for improved performance or just to look better—and the cheaters are continually looking for new and improved drugs and masking agents to fool the testing process

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