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Guilty, Not Guilty, Not Proven…

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

An opinion piece from the only Donald worth listening to…

Full Stop – In British English grammar a full stop is a lengthy pause, in the US, you call it a period. In the UK that tends to suggest feminine products. Here it means a period of time where

I look at something in boxing in a little more depth. I am typing from my perspective of a fan who watches the sport closely. It’s an opinion. It is my opinion. Don’t like it? There are other opinions out there but if you don’t like it then good, debate and democracy are a good thing. If you do like it, feel free to spread the word.

Guilty, Not Guilty, Not Proven…

Scotland is a distinctive place. A separate education system to the rest of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it also has a distinct and different legal system. We do things differently.

And, within that distinctive legal system we have not two but three options for a court to decide the guilt or otherwise of the accused. We have guilty, and of course not guilty but also the verdict – not proven.

Not proven has proven, if you pardon the pun, controversial in recent years. Taken to mean either, we know you are guilty, we just cannot prove it or, the prosecution has failed to make their case, but we think you might be a wee bit dodgy, I believe it was meant to simply state that the jury could not decide one way or another but the accused must be set free because there is insufficient proof of guilt.

But you can see how that sounds like a safety net in case someone is guilty but clever; that we are just not quite there in terms of proving it. Like a warning shot – don’t get cocky, we are on to you.

It’s a thought or two which has some relevance currently with drug testing in boxing. Now, both Alycia Baumgardner and Dillian Whyte have successfully and with clear legal arguments proven their case that they are clean and are now clear to fight – Whyte having already done so. Connor Benn – with or without the spite he had in his gloves prior to the Hoo Hah around his eggs, his fight with Chris Eubank Jr. and calling everyone out for a fight – had also, to some people’s satisfaction, proven his innocence.

These are three distinct cases but for most, there does seem to be a lingering, not proven stink around them.

Whyte has been in a similar position over having adverse findings. This time round he shut up, refused to talk and let the process prove him innocent. A contaminated supplement was found to be to blame. In many ways of all three this is the one that seems to be the simplest to understand. Whyte, perhaps having been bright enough to know that the last time he was in the middle of a similar row, where he was cleared to fight but had had a sample test which did not pass, that he needed to prepare everything with caution. He had meticulous records, apparently which helped his fight to clear his name.

He did not fail to prepare.

Baumgardner went private, not rogue but got an independent test of her hair to prove she had not taken any steroids thus showing that she had not intentionally doped. What is most fascinating is what she had to say in her statement, “I learned how urine samples should and should not be handled; how they can yield false results and how unreliable urine testing can be. I learned about fairness, due process, and my rights as an athlete. I learned a lot. As a result, I gained full confidence in my ability to thoroughly and categorically defend myself against the ignorance and accusations.”

The learning to which she refers is how she went away, looked at the process and studied what might have happened and how the process was managed after an athlete has given over their sample. It is learning which is invaluable. It is learning that boxing should start to implement.

It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, because Baumgardner had to go outside the sanctioning bodies, the regulatory framework to prove her innocence. Some still feel that she is guilty – some always will. In short, without a verdict people will put faith in, some will feel she has not proven her innocence.
But why, when sanctioning bodies are paid fortunes by elite boxers are their tests not swiftly managed to prove or disprove the guilt or innocence of a fighter? Boxers who pay these fees are entitled, surely to a better service.

Ask Connor Benn.

He proved he was innocent, but the British Boxing Board of Control (BBB of C) disagreed. The judgment handed down by the BBB of C that he was suspended was challenged by Benn, he won, the BBB of C appealed, and that appeal has taken so long to happen that Benn has managed to sneak in a fight in the meantime. Now there is talk of a big money fight against ring legend Manny Pacquiao. The appeal was due to be heard in February but the focus on Saudi money has meant that we have had less time to talk about Benn and his woes. Right now, Benn can fight anywhere in the world apart from his own country – the UK. And then he lost the appeal. It is now more of a hokey cokey than a legal process.

Due to the size of the sport in the UK, the BBB of C, unlike many of the sanctioning bodies, is not a rich organization. But promoters are. Matchroom have made a massive commitment over testing. Since the love in in Arabia between them all, there has been less criticism about Queensberry not doing the same.

But the stink remains. Of a sport unable – or to some unwilling – to deal properly and sensibly with the issue. For me, those riches should be cut into squares and the two biggest squares should go to keeping the boxers safe in the ring through enhanced testing and outside the ring with a retirement fund to support them after their careers have come to an end. Without both of those we shall continue to hear of the two biggest clichés again and again and again – boxers being maimed and killed in the ring, and punch drunk in retirement without a home. Dillian Whyte did not fail to prepare. Baumgardner has learnt a great deal and the injustice of unnecessary delay for Benn appears to show that the sport incapable of doing the same as Whyte and Baumgardner and learning their lessons.

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