What came first? The drug test or the eggs? This is the question that is on the minds of anyone that remembers that Conor Benn was set to fight Chris Eubank Junior last year. The prospects for this fight were ended when it came to light that Conor Benn had failed a drug test despite promoter Eddie Hearn’s attempt to push forward with the event. Further reporting would show that Conor Benn had actually failed several drug tests.
With the recent news that the World Boxing Council(WBC) Results Management has cleared Conor Benn let us remember he still has a case pending before the British Boxing Board of Control(BBB0C). The BBBoC uses UKAD’s Results Management process to handle Adverse Analytical Findings (positive tests). Unlike the WBC which can only put Benn back into their rankings, UKAD is a WADA-signatory and WADA sanctions are now recognized by most major commissions. But let us begin our examination of the issue.
Conor Benn supposedly tested positive on several occasions for Clomiphene. Clomiphene was first synthesized in 1956,has been on the market since 1967 and is most commonly used to increase ovulation in females. Many users or perusers of steroid forums will know of Clomiphene as being a post-steroid stack drug used in an attempt to mitigate the impact of steroids upon the human body.
However, usage of Clomiphene alone in athletes is just as common. When taken by itself, Clomiphene will raise the body’s natural testosterone levels in males as the excess estrogen will be converted by the body into testosterone. The World Anti-Doping Association, who set the doping standards for international competition has seen a rise in the number of clomiphene adverse analytical findings since 2011.
As with many substances on the prohibited list, when WADA notices substances being detected through the process of screening athlete samples they will explore potential environmental contaminations that could be leading to these results. This is how they have developed their guidelines consistent with meat contamination for Clenbuterol which is a known contaminant in several countries.
This leads us to the case of Conor Benn’s egg eating habits. For the research on the subject has shown that it is possible that eating eggs contaminated with Clomiphene may result in someone testing positive for Clomiphene. This study showed that Clompiphene residue could be detected fourteen days after the consumption of eggs and six days after the consumption of tissue. So there is a basis for the claim by Benn’s camp that egg contamination was the culprit.
However, in April of 2022, additional research has provided a means by which the WADA-accredited labs can differentiate between Clomiphene that is product of contaminated eggs and Clomiphene that came from another source. This is a test that UKAD has at its disposal as the WBC seemingly never requested that this test be conducted. They just accepted Conor Benn’s claim that the contamination must have come from eggs which leads us to the major hurdle Benn will have in a results management with a WADA-signatory.
The Problem With Eggs
Now, while there is this research into the potential of clomiphene contamination in eggs; there is no actual evidence of any clomiphene contamination within the global poultry industry. The only known incidents to this writer are the various accusations hurled between government regions during trade disputes.
The United Kingdom has a prohibition on all hormones in poultry. In fact, every country has prohibitions on hormone usage in poultry because unlike sheep and cattle, poultry is not classified as livestock where hormone use is allowed. Now I know what some might say, “Just because it is illegal doesn’t mean it is not happening.”. But the logistics of using clomiphene or other hormones make no practical sense for poultry producers.
This study, while focusing on broiler chickens(used for meat), details the inefficiencies of hormone usage. In short, it is about the cost. While clomiphene application in studies has shown that it can increase the maturity in pullets (female chickens in the “teenage” stage before egg laying) one has to remember these studies are usually done with a dozen or two dozen chickens.
The average egg-producing operation consists of thousands or tens of thousands of hens. The estimated size of the laying flock in the UK alone was approximately 42 million hens in 2019. There are not only hurdles in acquiring clomiphene in bulk amounts but the ability to recoup one’s costs for a benefit that only shortens the pullet non-producing time by four to six weeks.
In comparison, let us look at clenbuterol. Clenbuterol is not prohibited because it promotes growth (claimed) in livestock. It is prohibited because it can lead to contamination and poisoning in people who consume the meat of animals who were given clenbuterol. The reason some feedlots use clenbuterol is because it is cheaper than the approved hormones.
The standard methodology for approved hormones is to implant pellets in livestock that dissolve over time as the livestock is held in the feedlots before they are sent to slaughter. In short, ranchers get paid on whole weight of animals by feedlots, feedlots get paid on carcass weight by slaughterhouses.
Clenbuterol has legitimate uses for animals. It is used in the treatment of respiratory ailments in horses, as an example. This is also the likely pathway that feedlot owners use to acquire the drug for illicit usage. Much in the way some readers of this article might have acquired their ketamine.
But there is no approved usage in animals for clomiphene which brings us to the final section of this article.
The Problem With Benn's Excuse
The WBC in their statement on clearing Conor Benn said they had no reason to doubt Conor Benn’s excuse that excessive egg consumption was the reason he tested positive for clomiphene. Given that the WBC did not include the test results, I can only assume that Benn’s team used the term “excessive” as a means to explain the amount of clomiphene or related metabolites found in the test result. But Benn apparently did not provide the WBC with the eggs he was consuming or even the location where he bought these eggs.
This should be the major hurdle with the UKAD results management investigation. Under the WADA code it is not the responsibility of the WADA-signatory to prove the athlete cheated, it is up to the athlete to provide a plausible reason for why they tested positive. Just saying, “Oh, it was eggs” is very unlikely to result in the finding of no fault with UKAD.
Generally when an athlete is notified of a failed test, they work with the testing agency to try to identify potential sources of contamination. By the WBC’s account, Benn did not provide any information in regards to his test until December of 2022. According to news articles, Benn is not cooperating with the UKAD investigation.
This is extremely suspicious given his claim of contamination. If his eggs were the source, UKAD could have acquired eggs from the same product lot or producer to test them to see if the contamination claim is valid. There are many athletes that had their suspensions reduced or even changed to findings of no fault when they were able to produce a source that showed positive for the same substances found in their drug tests.
The WADA code has a clear and fair pathway for athletes to explain the testing results. Something woefully absent in this arrangement between the WBC Clean Box program and the Volunteer Anti-Doping Agency (VADA). Benn not only refusing to work with the only agency that could clear him tells me all I need to know about his guilt or innocence. Add to this the rumour that he plans to sue in order to “clear” his name and you have all the hallmarks of someone who knowingly used a performance enhancing drug, in my opinion.