$5 Million Claim in Russian Sports Doping Case

MANHATTAN (CN) — Russian sports doping scandals continue, as WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder sued Alexander Povetkin for $5 million, claiming their fight was called off because Povetkin took Meldonium, the drug that got tennis champ Maria Sharapova banned for two years.
     Povetkin, a former Olympic gold medalist, was to fight World Boxing Council champion Wilder on May 21 in Moscow. But the fight was canceled on May 13 after Povetkin tested positive for Meldonium, Wilder says in his June 13 federal complaint against Povetkin and the Russian’s promoter, World of Boxing LLC.
     Wilder and his co-plaintiff promoter DiBella Entertainment claim the defendants lied about Povetkin’s use of Meldonium and crafted a sneaky contract to try to duck payment if Povetkin were caught doping.
     In March this year, World of Boxing’s proposed agreement for the Wilder-Povetkin bout was rejected because it did not include a clause requiring Povetkin to be available for the fight and required no security for the multimillion dollar-purse, according to the complaint. Nor did the contract specify where Povetkin’s urine and blood samples would be tested, nor what fines, if any, would apply if Povetkin tested positive for a banned substance.
     During negotiations, DiBella Entertainment says, it learned Povetkin had traveled to Spain, a hot spot for athlete doping. Negotiations began falling apart, with Povetkin’s camp refusing to submit to DiBella’s demands and protesting the authority of testing centers run by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), according to the complaint.
     “Wilder’s camp had become suspicious that Povetkin’s refusal to enter into an appropriate bout agreement that contained, among other things, VADA testing, was due to the fact that Povetkin was intent on doping prior to the fight,” the complaint states.
     The World Boxing Council then took control of the negotiations and drafted an agreement that required Povetkin to submit to drug testing and contractually obligated World of Boxing to produce Povetkin for the fight, according to the lawsuit.
     But Wilder says World of Boxing continued to dodge testing, by failing to pay VADA and questioning its neutrality. A letter from an outside attorney for World of Boxing said “it would be a tragedy for anyone to pig-headedly insist on it being ‘my way or the highway’ and in the process damage the public’s faith in the neutrality of WBC’s new clean-boxing program,” according to the complaint.
     Both fighters submitted to VADA testing on April 7, 8, and 11. Povetkin was randomly tested again in Russia on April 27, and the test results came back positive for Meldonium, Wilder says.
     “Povetkin took the Meldonium after his April 11, 2016, test, gambling that he would not be randomly tested again after his third test back on April, 11, 2016,” the complaint states.
     When DiBella contacted the escrow agent and told them not to pay the $4.3 million Povetkin’s camp had set aside for the fight because of the drug test, World of Boxing threatened through its attorney to sue Wilder for $2.5 million, the boxer says.
     The complaint cites a 2014 lawsuit filed and won by World of Boxing, which sued promoter Don King for $2 million when King’s boxer Guillermo Jones tested positive for furosemide, another banned substance.
     “[T]he rationale for [U.S. District] Judge [Schira] Scheindlin’s ruling in the WOB/King case applies with equal force here, and defendants are liable for breach of contract,” the lawsuit states.
     Meldonium was developed in Latvia in the 1970s and supposedly leads to increased endurance and rehabilitation after exercise, though some experts and the drug’s manufacturer say it should not be treated like steroids because it does not improve athletic performance, but rather stops tissue damage.
     The World Anti-Doping Agency added it to its list of banned substances in January this year. Since then nearly 200 athletes, many of them Russian, have been caught using the substance, among them Sharapova, ice dancer Ekaterina Bobrova and cyclist Eduard Vorganov.
     Wilder, of Alabama, has a 36-0 record, with 35 knockouts. He said in 2015 that he believed Povetkin had been doping, saying in an interview that “he’s looking too big … he’s on some kind of steroids.”
     Povetkin, known for his hard-hitting style, has a 30-1 record with 22 knockouts.
     World of Boxing, formed by Russian real estate tycoon Andrey Ryabinskiy in 2014, did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
     Ryabinskiy has said that the bout has been suspended, not canceled.
     Wilder seeks $5 million for breach of agreement and breach of escrow agreement.
     He is represented by Judd Bernstein.

%d bloggers like this: