10 Times Boxers Failed Drugs Tests | Boxing’s Highest Profile Positive Drugs Cases

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez - Failed Drugs Test
Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez - Failed Drugs Test
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In light of the recently controversy surrounding Conor Benn and his failed VADA test ahead of his fight against Chris Eubank Jr, we have dived into the boxing history books to look at 10 of the highest profile cases of a boxer testing positive for a banned substance.

This list includes the likes of Jarrell Miller, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Tyson Fury and Pernell Whitaker. So without further ado, here are 10 times boxers failed a performance enhancing drugs test.

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10 Times Boxers Have Tested Positive For A Banned Substance

Shannon Briggs – May 2017 – Boosted Testosterone Levels

Shannon Briggs

The outspoken and brash American heavyweight kick starts our list of ten boxers who unfortunately for them, failed a performance enhancing drugs test.

‘The Cannon’ is a former world heavyweight champion, having won the WBO crown in 2006 against Siarhei Liakhovich. The heavyweight veteran was scheduled to fight Fres Oquendo on June 3rd 2017, but was popped for performance enhancing drugs a few weeks before the scheduled bout.

The fight was meant to be for the WBA Regular World Heavyweight Title, but the governing body were quick to pull the plug on the fight after Briggs failed a VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) test.

The test showed that Briggs had very high levels of testosterone in his body, after getting popped after a positive urine sample. This wasn’t the first time ‘The Cannon’ had been caught up in PED talk of course. Briggs failed a post-fight drug test for an undisclosed banned substance back in 2009, and was handed a 90-day suspension for his failed test.

With his world renowned catchphrase ‘LETS GO CHAMP!’, Briggs had became somewhat of a fans favorite in the later years of his career. However, this positive test put the final nail in the coffin of the career of Shannon Briggs. He hasn’t fought since and is now well into his 40s.

James Toney – May 2005 – Nandrolone In Urine Sample

James Toney

Just 11 days after defeating John Ruiz for the WBA World Heavyweight Title in 2005, James Toney was stripped of the belt and had his win overturned to a No Contest (NC). The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) overturned the result due to Toney testing positive for an illegal substance in a urine sample.

‘Lights Out’ was suspended for 90 days and fined $10,000 after nandrolone was found in his urine sample. The anabolic steroid found in Toney’ system is one that can only be injected into your system. There is no denying that Toney got caught red handed using performance enhancing drugs.

Nandrolone helps boost an athletes performance and improve their physique, hence why it is on the banned substance list in sports such as boxing, cycling and athletics. Toney of course denied the allegations, but there is simply no denying that the four-division world champion was on performance enhancing drugs.

Roy Jones Jr – May 2000 – Anabolic Steroid Use

Roy Jones JrArguably one of the greatest boxers to ever step foot in a ring, Roy Jones Jr is up next on this list of boxers who failed drugs tests. This one is slightly different to the first two we have looked at, given that Jones wasn’t suspended for the positive test.

Jones fought Richard Hall in a light-heavyweight bout, and after provided a test which came back positive. The boxing Hall of Famer was six times over the allowed limit of testosterone levels, which surely indicates to having taken some form of illegal substance to enhance his performance.

Jones Jr team came up with a quick plan and said the failed test was due to traces of androstenedione in a supplement that Jones was taking called Ripped Fuel. This was an over the counter drug, but was merely a cover up for Jones’ insanely high testosterone levels.

Roy Jones Jr escaped punishment from the Indiana State Athletic Commission, where the Hall fight took place, as they didn’t have any drug laws. Jones also didn’t have to submit a B sample to the commission either, which is very odd.

Although he was never actually banned from boxing and given a sentence, it is clear that Jones was using performance enhancing drugs at some stage during his career.

Tyson Fury – February 2015 – Positive Findings Of Nandrolone

Tyson Fury

Another one that has been brushed under the carpet is the positive drugs test of the now world heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury. Fury and his cousin Hughie were both found with nandrolone in their systems, when giving a drugs test to UKAD (United Kingdom Anti-Doping).

The positive test for Fury came in February 2015, which was around the time ‘The Gypsy King’ fought Christian Hammer. His next fight turned out to be against Wladimir Klitschko, when Fury won the three world heavyweight titles.

The positive nandrolone tests weren’t publicly released until 2017, by which time Fury hadn’t boxed in two years. The allegations came to light after a farmer, Martin Carefoot, had been offered £25,000 to provide an alibi for Fury’s case.

The WBC Heavyweight Champion blamed the positive findings of nandrolone in his system on eating wild boar meat. Fury was given a retrospective two year ban and was able to continue his career in December 2017.

Of course, Fury didn’t fight again until June 2018, but began training and losing an insane amount of weight in a bid to get back to the heavyweight pinnacle after a few years of piling weight on, along with alcohol and substance abuse.

Dillian Whyte – July 2019 – 2 Steroid Metabolites In System

Dillian Whyte

In the lead up to his heavyweight fight with Oscar Rivas in July 2019, Dillian Whyte gave a positive test which flagged for two metabolites of a steroid in his body. ‘The Body Snatcher’ supposedly had trace amounts of performance enhancing drugs in his system, found weeks before the Rivas bout.

Whyte was cleared by UKAD and the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) to fight, despite the positive tests. This is because both the BBBoC and UKAD allowed Whyte to fight as they didn’t feel he had breached any rules.

Whyte went on to win the fight via unanimous decision, but there was a huge cloud hanging over the big heavyweight at the time. In the end, Whyte was cleared of any wrongdoing. In a statement about Whyte’s positive PED findings, UKAD came out with this public statement:

“UKAD initiated an investigation with which Mr Whyte cooperated fully. UKAD has accepted the explanation provided by Mr Whyte and, in accordance with the UK Anti-Doping Rules, the charge against Mr Whyte has been withdrawn.”

Although there were banned substances found in Whyte’s urine sample, there was supposedly nothing to suggest that he used steroid in the lead up to his fight on July 20th 2019. The samples given produced ‘extremely low’ levels of metabolites, hence why Whyte was never given a ban.

Conor Benn – October 2022 – Adverse Finding Of Fertility Drug

Conor Benn

The most recent of these ten cases and the inspiration behind this list is of course Conor Benn’s positive drugs test before his scheduled bout with Chris Eubank Jr. The fight was going to be absolutely massive, with the pairs dad’s having fought on two occasions in arguably the biggest British rivalry in history.

Fans were robbed of the fight from happening as the clash was cancelled yesterday, after Conor Benn failed test due to an adverse analytical finding of a fertility drug in his urine sample.

It was revealed on Wednesday 5th October that an “adverse analytical finding for trace amounts of a fertility drug” had shown up in one of Benn’s recent tests by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA).

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) announced the clash was “prohibited as it is not in the interests of boxing”, in a statement they released on Wednesday afternoon after Benn’s positive test was announced publicly.

Although Benn completed several UKAD tests that had no traces of any performance enhancing drugs, the bout was called off, and rightly so. Benn released a statement o Thursday, insisting that he ha done nothing wrong, is a clean athlete and will focus on clearing his name now.

“I am still completely shocked and surprised by this and it has been a tough couple of days. My team and I will consider the next options including rescheduling the fight, but my immediate focus is on clearing my name because I am a clean athlete!”

The fertility drug found in Benn’s system was clomiphene, which is a banned women’s fertility drug that triggers testosterone production in men. It is still early days in the whole drugs scandal with ‘The Destroyer’, but it seems like he has messed up big time here.

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez – April 2018 – Positive Tests For Clenbuterol


Possibly the highest profile name on this list is of course Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. The Mexican failed a test back in 2018 after testing positive for trace levels of the banned substance, clenbuterol. Canelo failed not once, but twice for the performance enhancing drug.

The undisputed super-middleweight king was given a six-month ban suspension for his failed drugs tests. Clenbuterol was found in Canelo’s system on two separate occasions, after the first bout between him and long term rival, Gennady Golovkin.

The rematch between Alvarez and ‘GGG’ went ahead in September 2018, almost exactly one year after their first fight. This meant Canelo’s six month ban had been served during the period between the two fights.

Canelo’s six month ban was awarded by the Nevada State Athletic Commission at a hearing in Las Vegas in 2018. Canelo blamed the traces of clenbuterol on ‘tainted meat’, but it’s clear to boxing fans, as well as the board, that this was purely a cover up story.

Again, a bit like Fury, the Mexican’s positive PED tests were brushed under the carpet, as he is such a huge draw and brings huge eyeballs to the sport of boxing. However, that doesn’t make him invincible and untouchable, as he is officially a proven drugs cheat and will always have that asterisk beside his name now.

Luis Ortiz – September 2017 – Chlorothiazide and Hydrochlorothiazide

Luis Ortiz

Two-time heavyweight title contender, Luis Ortiz, is next up on the list. The Cuban failed two tests ahead of his scheduled world title fight with Deontay Wilder.

‘King Kong’ was found to have used chlorothiazide and hydrochlorothiazide in his system, which are banned for their masking effects on performance-enhancing drugs.

In hindsight, it all makes sense with Ortiz. The Cuban was 39-years-old at the time, but was seeming to put in some of the best performances of his career. Both hydrochlorothiazide and chlorothiazide are used to cover up whatever substances an athlete may have taken to enhance their performance.

In this case, Ortiz was clearly hiding something, hence why he felt the need to take these two masking agents. Ortiz still boxes now despite being 43-years-old, but is one of the high profile heavyweight boxers who has famously failed a drugs test in his professional career.

Jarrell Miller – May 2019 – Plethora Of Banned Substances

Jarrell Miller

Arguably the funniest story of a drugs scandal on this list of of course to do with Jarrell Miller. Miller was scheduled to fight Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden in June 2019 for the unified heavyweight championship of the world. However, ‘Big Baby’; got popped for numerous different banned substances in his system.

The American heavyweight was caught with GW501516 in his system, which is an illegal endurance booster. He also tested positive for EPO and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in his urine sample just days before his bout with ‘AJ’.

Miller admitted that his positive tests for HGH and EPO were due to a ‘stem cell shot’ in his elbow in the lead up to his maiden heavyweight world title fight. Although he admitted his wrongdoing, ‘Big Baby’ was handed a lengthy ban and has only fought once since those failed tests in 2019.

A year later when he was set to return, the unbeaten heavyweight contender failed yet another drugs test, making him the laughing stock of worldwide boxing. Miller went on to blame a lack of education regarding drugs for his repeated failed tests – and vowed to bone up on the banned substance list.

Miller was like a walking pharmacy in the lead up to the Joshua fight. In the end he never got the fight, and rightly so, and has gradually fallen away from the heavyweight limelight as time has gone on.

Pernell Whitaker – March 1998 – ‘Sweet Pea’ Tests Positive For Cocaine

Pernell Whitaker

Last but not least on this list if of course the high-profile drugs case with Pernell Whitaker. Unlike the rest of the cases on this list, Whitaker’s failed drugs test wasn’t actually sue to a performance enhancing drug.

‘Sweet Pea’ tested positive for cocaine in the lead up to his scheduled bout with WBA welterweight champion, Ike Quartey. Due to the positive test, Whitaker was made to serve an automatic six month suspension from boxing.

Although only actually caught and suspended once, there have been several rumours over the years that the American southpaw had been using cocaine for a long period of his career. Whitaker, a six-time world champion in four weight classes, was also ruled out of WBA title fights for at least two years, following his positive test for cocaine.

We don’t want you to think that Whitaker for one second took performance enhancing drugs, like the other nine boxers on this list did. However, it is clear that ‘Sweet Pea’ did indulge is consuming cocaine from time to time throughout his professional boxing career.

That concludes our list of 10 times boxers failed drugs tests. Certainly some names you probably forgot about, as well as some that were completely brushed under the carpet for one reason or another.

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