(AP) Former welterweight champion Andre Berto has failed a doping test, and the promoter of his rematch with Victor Ortiz says next month’s fight is off.
Berto denied using steroids Friday, but said he couldn’t explain the voluntary test that showed evidence of nandrolone usage.
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer said Berto tested positive last weekend, and a secondary test also came back positive Friday. Berto and Ortiz are scheduled to fight June 23 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, but Berto will be replaced by a new opponent for Ortiz.
“Obviously it’s unfortunate, but at least it will allow us to save the event,” Schaefer said, praising Berto adviser Al Haymon for promptly informing Golden Boy of the positive test. “Victor will be fighting, and all the other fights on the card will happen. We will be announcing within the next two days the replacement (for Berto).”
The fighters agreed to doping tests for their rematch through the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, a Las Vegas-based organization that tests blood and urine for steroid use and other banned substances.
Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) said he has only received a one-page summary of the laboratory’s findings, and he plans to ask for complete laboratory documentation of the testing.
“At the present time, I cannot explain the positive drug test, which was provided as part of a voluntary anti-doping program in which I agreed to participate,” Berto said in a statement. “I know that I have never used any steroids or other banned substances, and I am investigating all possible causes of the positive test with my attorney Howard Jacobs. I have never cheated, and all of my success has come from hard work and dedication.”
Berto held the WBC welterweight title for nearly three years until Ortiz handed Berto his first career defeat in a thrilling unanimous-decision victory in April 2011. Their rematch was among the most anticipated fights of the summer after being postponed from Feb. 11 when Berto tore a muscle in his left arm during training.
Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs) used his victory over Berto to land a big-money bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr., who stopped him in the fourth round last September. Berto stopped Jan Zaveck to win the IBF welterweight title, which he vacated to fight Ortiz.
The test is another setback for Golden Boy, which has lost two lucrative fights in the past two months over positive tests by its fighters’ opponents. Two-belt 140-pound champion Lamont Peterson was discovered to have high levels of synthetic testosterone in March, scrapping his rematch with Golden Boy’s Amir Khan scheduled for Saturday in Las Vegas.
“It’s a costly situation,” Schaefer said. “But if, at the end of the day, the result is that we have a cleaner sport, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.”
Victor Conte, the founder and president of BALCO Laboratories, worked in Berto’s camp for the fight. He took to Twitter on Friday to defend the fighter, saying he believes the positive test resulted from contamination.
“Anybody who believes an elite athlete would use nandrolone with an intent to cheat is uninformed,” Conte tweeted. “Clearly contamination in Berto case … Because it stays in your system from (minimum) 6-18 months.”
Schaefer has criticized Peterson’s camp for delaying its revelation of the fighter’s positive test, forcing Golden Boy to scrap its entire fight card at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Berto immediately made his results known to Golden Boy, allowing the Staples Center card to go on with attractive undercard fights including 140-pounder Lucas Matthysse against Humberto Soto, along with heavyweight contender Chris Arreola’s next fight.
“What we need to do is we need to give Mr. Berto an opportunity to explain himself on how it happened and why it happened and what was going on,” Schaefer said. “What it shows is there’s clearly a need for more sophisticated testing in the sport of boxing, and we at Golden Boy are happy to be shoulder by shoulder with Floyd Mayweather, who has pushed for a clean sport.”