Conor Benn says drug cheats should get life ban

Around a week from now, Conor Benn will know his fate and the outcome of the appeals of the British Boxing Board of Control and UKAD.

Benn was cleared to box by the National Anti-Doping Panel, but the Board and UKAD appealed that verdict and so Benn finds himself back on the road, boxing for the second consecutive time in the US, hoping that he is cleared of any wrongdoing in next week’s appeal hearing so he can resume his career in England.

Instead of topping the bill in a stadium this weekend against Chris Eubank Jr, Benn boxes at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon against Peter Dobson.

Benn has spent the best part of 18 months in boxing purgatory, protesting his innocence having twice been found to have clomiphene in his system from two separate tests, one administered by VADA and one by the WBC in accordance with their Clean Boxing Program.

Benn boxed in Florida last September, but he went on the front foot in his defence, something he admits might not have been the best way to go about clearing his name.

The 27-year-old went through some hard times, and for many the mud of a failed test sticks.

The welterweight contender spoke about the impact the fallout has had on him during a recent media call.

“It was like I was grieving,” Benn said. “Do you know what? It was really naïve of me. I thought everyone in the boxing community, everyone who knows me would be like, ‘Something’s off here’. Instead, it’s ‘What’s going on here? He’s a witch, burn him. Burn him’. And I was like, ‘Fuck you lot then’. Because you haven’t even given me the benefit of the doubt. And that naivety made me vulnerable. I felt, ‘Alright then, it’s fight or flight’, and obviously I’m a fighter and I chose to go about this completely the wrong way, but how do you tell a 26-year-old your life is going to change dramatically and you’re going to be up against it. I said a lot of things I regret. My attitude towards it was wrong, and I understand. But I had to go through it to learn. I had to go through that to realise a lot… slagging everyone else off, I apologize. I apologize to the Board. I don’t want no conflict. I just want it to finish.”       

Much has been made of the supposed 270-page dossier Benn and his team created in his defence, that he presented to the WBC and which resulted in him being placed back in their ratings, but Benn said it was not as lengthy as the WBC made out. 

“It's not 270 pages, by the way,” Benn added. “I don’t even know where that came from. It’s like 33 pages. [But] If I told you how much I had spent on this whole thing, flying scientists to America, back and forth, speaking to scientists in Germany, flying scientists over from Germany, it’s been almost two years. If I was guilty, let me sit quiet, wait two years because I’ve spent an absolute fortune over the last two years. Would I have just gone, ‘You know what? I accidentally done this.’ Or ‘I accidentally took this’. I couldn’t even say that.”

Benn is now saying he hopes the time and money he has spent trying to prove his innocence will help others who are found with clomiphene in their system, and he believes his case will change things for those in the same situation that he has found himself in.

“I just strongly believe that my evidence… and I pray that in five years’ time…10 years’ time… that my evidence is the measuring stick because not everyone has the resources. 

“What if this happened to a Maisie Rose, George Liddard [Benn stablemates], two-year-ban? For what? Why? And it was never a case of, ‘Oh, let’s pay scientists and let’s pay doctors and pay lawyers and pay this to get me off’. That was never the case. Because if you’re guilty, you’re guilty. Because science doesn’t lie. You can’t con science. It’s impossible. They can solve murder cases from 10 years ago. They can see if there’s any abnormalities in my body over the last six months, or the past year.”


Many have urged Benn to make the document public, to highlight why he feels so strongly that he has been wronged and that the system is flawed. 


“You say publish the report? People won’t get it,” Benn went on. “The average person says, ‘Let’s just see the dossier’. When the time’s right, the evidence will be submitted and watch the laws change around testing for clomiphene. Watch it change, because it will change… I pray that my evidence will be used and I pray that in however many years, people will say, ‘Do you know what? He was actually innocent. He was public enemy No. 1 for a year, but he was actually innocent’. That’s my prayer.” 


Much of what Benn says now sounds contrite, and those who view him through a prism of guilt will sigh and roll their eyes at the things he says about his own case, about the future and about the system.  


“I do think it’s flawed,” Benn explained. “I think there needs to be a better duty of care for the athlete, that they should be given the benefit of the doubt. Amir Khan’s case [tested positive after his final fight with Kell Brook] was kept quiet for however long, so they need to stop this double standard because if this was dealt with under the radar it would all then come out before the public made up their mind, because the narrative was heavily pushed, there was constant leaks, there was constant x, y, z, so I feel like the testing system needs to get better. 


“Don’t be out to catch the people who aren’t doping, ban people for life who have tested positive and who are positive and have taken… Ban them for life. They have no place in this sport. They have no place in combat sport. Ban them for life. Ban me for life, if I’m guilty. If the evidence shows I’m guilty, ban me for life. And that’s what I believe should happen to athletes because then it will make people think twice. But if they are innocent, they’re innocent, and then you have to look at why this happened and I’ve done the investigation myself. I’ve had to pay for this all myself. My own scientists. No one’s paid this for me. I’ve done this out of my own pocket, and fortunes, for this reason. So I pray that the evidence is used one day as a measuring stick.”


Benn’s career has stalled as a consequence. After quick wins over Chris Algieri and Chris van Heerden, who was on the cusp of big things. The Chris Eubank fight emerged, and days before the first bell, news emerged of Benn’s tests. Benn now hopes to be a champion this time next year, or within a couple of fights. 


Dobson comes first, but Benn may still have stiffer opposition next week in the shape of the Board and UKAD and their appeal, but despite his pleas to discuss his case with them, Benn says they won’t listen.


“They don’t want to sit down and look at the evidence,” Benn stated. “We’ve asked on multiple occasions, UKAD and the Board, they’ve expressed zero interest in the evidence, because no doubt I’ll win the hearing. Even when the hearing’s all done and I’ve won, the case is finished and I’m very confident in winning it, I will still say, ‘Here is the evidence’. This will help other athletes. That’s how I feel about my report and the evidence I have. I pray it’s used as a measuring stick.”