Browne made history last month by becoming Australia’s first world heavyweight champion when he stopped local hero Ruslan Chagaev in the 10th round to stun a hostile crowd in the war-ravaged Russian satellite state of Chechnya.
Such was the interest in the fight, Chechynan leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a one-time rebel war lord, sat ringside on a specially elevated throne-like seat fully expecting to see a comfortable Chagaev victory.
But yesterday, Browne’s world came crashing down around him when the WBA announced the 37-year-old had tested positive to clenbuterol – a substance which boosts the metabolism and burns fat.
“I would like to assure all my fans, the whole of the boxing world and all of Australia that I am not a drug user or a drug cheat,” Browne said in a statement released overnight via his promoter, British boxing great Ricky Hatton.
“Prior to today I’d not heard of the drug clenbuterol and had no idea what it was used for. I am now aware that it is essentially a weight-stripping drug, and as a heavyweight boxer the idea of me using it is utterly ridiculous.
“I am a staunch long-time opponent of any drug use, performance-enhancing or otherwise.”
Privately, Browne’s team fear food contamination may have taken place in Chechnya as the party were under armed guard throughout their stay in Grozny and ordered not to leave their accommodation without a bodyguard for their own safety.
Plans are in place to have Browne’s B sample analysed by the Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) and he’s hopeful the matter can be resolved.
“My team and I were well aware of the many risks involved in going to a place like Chechnya to fight a reigning champion,” Browne said.
“We believed we had taken sufficient precautions. In addition, it was at our insistence that VADA testing was implemented for the fight.
“I will be in a position to release more details and make further comment in coming days.”
Hatton threw his support behind Browne and said he had no doubts the Sydney-born former bouncer is not a drug cheat.
“We believe strongly that boxing should be free from performance-enhancing drugs,” Hatton said.
“However, we believe Lucas Browne to be a clean athlete who arrived in Chechnya a clean athlete.
“We are therefore conducting our own further investigations and cannot comment further at this time.”
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