Boxing: Nine-month drug ban for Vargas

Fernando Vargas was suspended for nine months yesterday and fined $100,000 (£63,000) by Nevada boxing officials for testing positive for steroids after losing his title fight to Oscar De La Hoya on 14 September.

The suspension was deemed to start at the time of the fight, so Vargas cannot fight again until 15 June. The penalties came after Vargas told the Nevada Athletic Commission that he took responsibility for the positive test even though he had no idea he ever used the steroids.

The commissioners seemed to agree Vargas that did not knowingly take the steroid stanozol, the same drug that cost sprinter Ben Johnson his gold medal and world record in the 100 meters at the 1988 Olympics.

But they said he needed to be penalised for the test and that other boxers needed to know they will be dealt with harshly if they use steroids. "We like Mr Vargas but we feel this is the right thing to do," said the commission chairman, Luther Mack.

Vargas, who lost on an 11th-round knock-out to De La Hoya, threw himself at the mercy of the commission, saying he would never knowingly use steroids. "I don't place blame on anyone except myself," he said.

Mike Tyson, who has had his own share of dealings with the commission, sat in on the hearing to give moral support to Vargas. The two fighters share the same manager.

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