One of the big stories hanging over the head of Japanese boxing was the news, in April, that WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) [井岡一翔] had failed a doping test around the time of his bout with Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) [田中恒成], at the very end of 2020. The news broke from a Weekly magazine in Japan, rather than an official statement from the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC) and it seemed badly mishandled from the off, with the police being involved and Ioka himself not being informed of an adverse finding.
Things got even stranger when reports circulated that the test on the A sample had discovered an element of marijuana, hence the police involvement, but that the B sample had found 3 elements of banned substances.
At the time of the news Ioka proclaimed his innocence, his lawyer seemed to clear things up with the police, and charges were seemingly dropped rather quickly, how the JBC themselves were going to investigate what happened. They were going to take control and look at how we came to the situation of a Weekly magazine reporting the news, and whether there were other issues with the whole testing process.
And amazingly the JBC have done the right thing here. They have, unlike many boxing commissions, take full responsibility to the fact that they messed up. Big time. As they held a press conference, and shared a report, to explain what happened and what will happen going forward. And lets just start by saying this is an incredibly embarrassing moment for the JBC which featured a catalogue of errors.
We'll start with the outcome for Ioka. The JBC investigation ruled that there was no doping violation by the fighter. Instead JBC president Yuhei Nagata stated that he apologises to Ioka in full for the situation and will personally meet Ioka and Tanaka, to apologise for the situation.
More tellingly however was the announcement that there would be a new doping committee and governance committee set up to avoid similar issues in the future.
They also explained what happened, and this is where things get laughably bad for the JBC.
The A and B samples from both fighters were taken and stored. Rather than taking them straight to a hospital or lab the samples were taken to the home of a JBC staff member and put in the home fridge for several days. They were then taken, by public transport, to the hospital on January 5th. When transported they were moved at room temperature, being taken from the testing venue to the staff members home, and from the staff members home to the hospital without being stored properly. They were never frozen at any point. Essentially this alone invalidated any testing protocol.
When Ioka's A sample was finally tested on January 6th, a week after the sample was taken, THC was found, a prohibited substance on WADA's list and with it being cannabis an illegal drug in Japan. A third party then tested the B sample and found 3 prohibited substances, other than cannabis, including ephedrine, a blood pressure medication and a drug banned as a stimulant by WADA, on January 29th. Almost a full month after the original samples were taken.
On March 5th, again more than a month after the B samples were taken, there was a JBC meeting to discuss whether or not to consult the police. No agreement was made at the meeting however information was shared with the police force on the advice of a lawyer who was at the meeting. The police then began their investigation, taking the B sample on March 9th. More than 2 months after the sample was originally taken. The police requested that the JBClet them investigate the matter before holding their own ethics committee meeting regarding the situation.
On April 9th the police reportedly finished their investigation on the B sample, and used it all in the process.
It was later revealed that the original test, on the A sample, was a simple screening test, not an in depth analysis. This gives a provisional result, but can't be used to confirm anything. It was essentially a cheap commercial kit that should have acted as a platform to do a proper, full scale test. Something that wasn't done. Even if it had, however, it would have been useless as the sample was never frozen. In fact by not having frozen the sample it potentially lead to the screening test giving a false positive. Simply, the JBC failed to store the sample properly. As a result the test was essentially ruined, and useless.
The three chemicals found in the B sample were revealed to be ephedrine, as already mentioned, phenethylamine, a stimulant, and tyramine. These were not, as originally reported, 3 more metabolites of cannabis but are typically used for blood pressure and as a stimulant. Of course the B sample, like the A sample, had been rendered void by the mishandling of the samples, which again weren't frozen and were completely mismanaged. The view here was that the samples had decomposed in a way to produce a false positive of these three chemicals.
Kentaro Sadahiro, a lawyer of the Ethics Committee who participated in the press conference, explained "There is a strong suspicion that the cannabis produced in the first test is a false positive...it's possible that poor storage has created a result for something that wasn't originally there. "
They also included some very clear issues with the way the B sample was used, not just stored but used, explaining that they should have informed Ioka of the positive outcome to give him the chance to request a retest, and the opportunity to explain why a substance may have been in his sample. They admitted there was a "serious procedural defect" and it seems very clear that this really is inexcusable. At the very least an athlete deserves to be informed of a positive test, so they can be there when a B sample is opened.
Mr Nagata explained that there are no current provisions for storage of samples of their movements, and even explained "I thought it would be okay to store them in a refrigerator." He also explained that the B sample was never returned by the police, stating "I asked the police to return the sample, but I was told that they used all of it because the amount was small."
It was also, and again this does not reflect well on the JBC, that there are many issues with the doping tests they use to begin with and they only detect a small number of the prohibited substances and that they are still using simple tests, one that were apparently used in the 1990's and not up to today's standards. Mr Nagata made it clear that this was set to change and that full scale tests from the JBC would be brought in for A samples in the future.
All in all this seemingly completely clears Ioka, and seems genuinely embarrassing for the JBC who are usually held as being among the very best commissions in the sport. It's great that they have taken responsibility and said that they failed here, unlike some commissions thats blame the fans and bury their heads in the sand as things they need to sort out, but it's inexplicable as to how we ended up in this situation and just how bad the JBC come across here.
They should have known that samples need to be frozen, they should have been aware that the provisional tests needed to be followed up on, and that the athlete needs to be informed of a positive test, and that the athlete has a right to attend the B sample testing, and that the sample should have been analysed properly, rather than just handed over to the police, and that the sample needs to be frozen before transit. Likewise for them to take almost a month to test the B sample is just inexplicable.
All in all a series of confusing mistakes that are indefensible and really cannot be done again.
Earlier today WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) [井岡一翔] made his first statement since word broke that he had failed a drugs test for marijuana around the time of his bout with Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) [田中恒成] at the end of 2020.
The fighter has done pretty much the only thing he can in his statement, stating "To avoid affecting the deliberations, I will refrain from further announcements at this time."
Ioka isn't expected to talk again on the matter until the ongoing investigation into the situation is completed by the Ethics Committee.
For those who haven't followed the story over the last few days. On Monday morning the Daily Shincho broke the news that one of Ioka's drug samples taken by the JBC for the Tanaka fight had shown a component of cannabis. A drug that is still very much illegal in Japan and where punishments can be up to 5 years in prison and a fine, for people found guilty of possession and use.
Following the Daily Shincho article the JBC and JPBA revealed there was an ongoing investigation into the matter, and that is had reported the details to the police. The samples were reportedly later handed over to the police as evidence of a potential crime.
According to Ioka's lawyer the JBC never contacted Ioka, or the lawyer himself, to discuss the situation, before contacting the police, and never informed the fighter that he had had an adverse result, and were not able to confirm the test results or the sample, though police did later talk to Ioka and the lawyer has explained "the charges have cleared up."
Rather weirdly the B sample was, reportedly, turned over to the police, deviating massively from the usual drug testing procedure which would see sample A opened, then sample B opened upon request of the party with a positive test. This is a procedure needed to confirm a violation, and something the testers have seemingly made a giant mistake in doing, if the Japanese reports are accurate.
It's also been reported that the reason this whole story has taken so long to come to light is because the police have just recently finished their investigation into the situation.
TLAROCK entertainment, who manages Ioka, have released a document on the matter, stating "Ioka has never taken any illegal or illegal drugs such as cannabis".
Notably an agent working for Ioka that the positive test could have been due to CDB oil, however CBD is legal in Japan and is not banned by WADA. If it does indeed turn out to be CBD this could turn into a hugely embarrassing moment for the JBC. However in saying that the investigation is still on going and results from that investigation will be shared as soon as possible.
On April 26th, Japan time, the Daily Shincho reported a suspected doping violation found in a sample from WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) [井岡一翔], from around the time of his bout with Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) [田中恒成] at the end of 2020.
According to the report Ioka tested positive for marijuana, which although being a legal drug in some parts of the world isn't legal in Japan and is on the WADA banned substances list.
The report, which we will link to below, quotes a Japanese official explaining what has been found and some of the background behind drug testing in Japanese boxing.
"Ioka and Tanaka were tested for doping before the World Title Match on New Year's Eve last year. JBC has been testing for doping in the World War for nearly 20 years since the 1990s. So far, no "positive reaction" has been given. Therefore, the result of the simple test found after the match was shocking .... A positive reaction for "marijuana""
The report states the positive reaction came from a urine sample, though due to the situation they wanted to do more due diligence, and took it to a specialised agency to verify the result.
Regard that further testing, the report, again quoting an un-named JBC official, stated "This time, three components other than marijuana were detected. Of course, the release of these components does not mean that Ioka was taking illegal drugs immediately. The problem is the first. Marijuana, which tested positive, and the three components detected in the second test are all substances that the World Anti-Doping Organization (WADA) has banned from use during competition. However, we are in a situation where we have to deal with it. "
Whilst the issue of a failed doping test, which this would be, is a bad one to begin with things could potentially get worse for Ioka, with the JBC source being quoted as saying ”JBC approached the Police Agency after the Marijuana component was detected in Ioka's sample. It is said that Ioka is actually being interviewed by the Police Agency."
According to the report Ioka's lawyer has confirmed that the fighter has spoken to the local police, after a report stating he had a cannabis component show in a doping test. The police investigation is said to have been a short one and the charges have "already cleared up".
Whilst the police don't seem to be taking the matter further the JBC are, according to the report, discussing what to do next, with a punishment of some kind expected to be dealt out to the fighter.
The report, which appeared online, is set to be followed up later in the week in the print edition of the Daily Shincho with more evidence set to be shared.
The article on the Daily Shincho website, with the allegations, can be read here in Japanese.
Whilst the Daily Shincho is regarded as a reliable source, it should be noted that they also reported a deal was done for a bout between Ryota Murata [村田 諒太] and Mexican boxing megastar Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in January 2020, when no such deal had been agreed. Given the allegations at hand however we suspect they have some very good sources and evidence backing this particular story.
The latest issue of Japanese boxing magazine "Boxing Beat" will be released tomorrow and it promising to be an interesting issue with a lot to talk about.
One of the key features will see WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) [井岡一翔] talk about his 8th round TKO win over fellow Japanese fighter Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) [田中恒成] at the end of 2020, in what was one of Ioka's best performances.
Other features also include something looking at the domestic divisions across Japan, going from Minimumweight to Heavyweight.
There is also a lengthy preview of the up coming WBA Light Flyweight "Super" title fight between Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) [京口 紘人] and Axel Aragon Vega (14-3-1, 8), who meet in March in Kyoguchi's US debut.
Among the fight reports in the magazine are write ups about some of the biggest domestic fights from January, including Takuma Inoue's (14-1, 3) [井上拓真] win over Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) [栗原慶太], for the OPBF Bantamweight title, and Gakuya Furuhashi's (27-8-1, 15) [古橋大輔] sensational win over win over Yusaku Kuga (19-5-1, 13) [久我勇作], for the Japanese Super Bantamweight title.
The magazine will be available in stores across Japan or digitally on Amazon.jp.
Earlier this month the list of nominees for the Japanese annual boxing awards were announced, with the Japanese Boxing Commission working alongside the JBC and Tokyo Athletic Press Club Boxing Subcommittee, to decide the shortlists for the various awards. Today the winners of those awards were all announced.
The MVP for the year was unified WBA "super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥], who now taken the award 5 times during his career, in fact he's taken the award 4 years in a row now showing just how much he has dominated Japanese boxing in recent years.
The Skill Award was won by WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔], who won the award for the second year running. Inoue also won the KO award.
The Special Merit award went to WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) [中谷 潤人]
The Effort/Fighting award was a share award, won by Ryoji Fukunaga (13-4, 13) [福永亮次] and Kenichi Horikawa (41-16-1, 14) [堀川 謙一]. Fukunaga had a great year, unifying the JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight titles, whilst Horikawa claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title in an excellent performance in July.
The Newcomer Award was won by OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (10-0-1, 3) [三代大訓]
The best world title bout bout of the year was the brilliant WBO Super Flyweight title bout between Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) [田中恒成], which took place on New Year's Eve and delivered a truly brilliant battle.
The best non-world title bout was the dramatic clash between Masayoshi Nakatani (19-1, 13) [中谷正義] and Felix Verdejo, who fought for the WBO Intercontinental Lightweight title.
The female MVP for the year was WBO female Minimumweight champion Etsuko Tada (20-3-3, 7) [多田悦子], who actually had a clean sweep as her bout with Ayaka Miyao [宮尾 綾香] also won the female fight of the year.
There was also Special awards for former world champions Takahiro Ao [粟生 隆寛] and Akira Yaegashi [八重樫 東].
Sadly there wasn't a ceremony like usual for the awards, given the on going pandemic.
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