IT IS delightful to spend a few days at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset, when Glastonbury Festival is in full swing. The hedonistic atmosphere is always the same and so too are the positive headlines the festival generates year after year.
Boxing is a world away from Glastonbury, of course, but returning to reality on Monday, which for me is plunging into boxing’s mucky bathwater, is nonetheless comparable, in that the headlines here don’t seem to change either. Though comforting is the wrong word – jarring would be a better one – there’s something about the familiarity of it all that makes the transition somewhat effortless.
The first headline I noticed when I plucked up the courage to open Twitter was from an influential outlet who declared that Conor Benn had “proved” his innocence, with a nod to two Times’ articles written by Matt Lawton as evidence. At no point did Lawton have the gall to report that Benn had ‘proved’ his innocence, however. What he did do was speak to Benn, who again explained what a dreadful time he’s been having, and two ‘doctors’ who can seemingly explain why Conor last year failed two VADA tests without knowingly ingesting clomifene.
In many ways, Benn is to be admired. Eight months after he went from one of the most popular figures in British boxing to its most villainous in mere hours, here he still is battling to clear his name, and surely spending an incredible amount of money in the process. What we don’t know, even though many of us think we do, is why. The most popular opinion is that he got caught red-handed and has become so entrenched in the process of lying that there’s no going back. A little like the kid who promised his parents he wouldn’t have a party when they went away and when they got back, the kid then spun an almighty fib to explain why there was vomit in the sink and the family’s beloved peace lily had been replanted in the ensuite toilet. Before the kid knew it, the party itself was the least of his worries.
The other possibility is that Benn is indeed innocent, and someone did break into his home and pee all over the carpet, after all. That may sound cynical but in all walks of life injustice occurs, even in the unlikeliest of situations. Just because we know that plenty of boxers take performance enhancing drugs and get away with it, we should not presume those who do fail tests have been taking them too. Nor should we presume that the testing process is faultless; many athletes have been justifiably cleared of wrongdoing because of the food they ate or the supplements they swallowed. There is, and always has been, a chance that Benn is not guilty of knowingly taking an illegal substance.
What is a little frustrating is the constant noise in the background about Benn fighting again before his case has been heard. There is a date, venue, and opponent already in place that Benn’s promoters are happy to tell the world about. And it’s that noise, one designed to illustrate that they’re in control and the authorities are not, which is perhaps the most frustrating thing about the whole sorry process. Though Matchroom are a hugely successful promotional outfit, without question one of the best in the world for good reason, it’s surprising that they’re still so keen to create Benn versus Chris Eubank Jnr.
I’m not suggesting they nor his pals in the media shouldn’t be loyal to Benn, but the manner in which that loyalty manifests itself, with middle fingers to anyone who questions the ethics of carrying on regardless in the face of two failed tests, tarnishes the already dodgy reputation that boxing presents to the outside world.
The suggestion that VADA, UKAD or the BBBofC (all of whom will generate money from Benn if he’s a clean and active fighter) have long held a vendetta against him is also tiresome.
Boxing News understands that the findings that Lawton reported have not yet been handed to UKAD. Though the latest line of defence from Benn makes interesting reading and triggers worthwhile questions, it’s far from a conclusive report. It is merely one side of the story that’s taken a lot of time and money to generate.
Furthermore, if Benn and his team of doctors are correct, why not wait until the evidence has been considered by the only people who can really clear his name before saying I told you so? Only then will doubt not cloud every word they utter.