Inside Lines: Olympic hope suspended as drugs allegations rock boxing

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's big Olympic hopes has been charged with a drugs offence.

The super-heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua, 21, a leading contender for GB's 2012 team, will appear in court at Hendon on Wednesday accused of possession of an illegal substance with intent to supply. It is a double blow for the sport, as an investigation has been ordered into an unrelated allegation of the use of recreational drugs at a training camp for women boxers.

Londoner Joshua, the current ABA champion and a member of the Sheffield-based GB Development Squad, is one of the hottest prospects in amateur boxing.

The 6ft 6in, 16st KO specialist from Finchley recently turned down a £50,000 offer to turn professional in order to concentrate on winning a place in the London Games. Last night the British Amateur Boxing Association said: "We have been made aware of an incident [and] we are conducting an investigation. Given the nature of the charge, we've suspended the person involved."

Joshua, British-born of Nigerian parents, won the senior ABA title in only his 18th bout last year. This is the second embarrassing drugs issue to rock amateur boxing.

Richard Caborn, the former Labour sports minister who is now president of the Amateur Boxing Association of England, has confirmed to The Independent on Sunday that he has ordered an inquiry into an allegation of the use of recreational drugs at an ABAE training camp for young women boxers in Bradford.

This is said to have occurred two years ago but a formal complaint was only made to Caborn last week by a former ABAE council member. Says Caborn: "I have received a file which I have passed to the ABA board and asked them to set up an internal inquiry. Depending on the outcome we will take any disciplinary action which may be necessary."

It is claimed an ABA official was made aware of the incident but no action was taken because of the fear of adverse publicity. But Caborn insists: "As far as I know there was no cover-up. The allegation is that some cannabis was smoked. I don't know whether or not it was reported at the time and if it was why no action was taken but I will sort it out. I am a bit surprised it has been raised after all this time."

The camp in question was one of the early ones run by the ABA for young female boxers, with more than 50 girls in attendance all aged 17 or under, with "some from pretty tough backgrounds," according to Caborn.

This is the second inquiry into affairs at the troubled ABAE. We recently reported that following a complaint from a "whistleblower" to Sport England an independent panel was set up to probe allegations of financial mismanagement. Says Caborn: "It is a pity there has to be this negativity for amateur boxing when we are doing brilliantly in our progress towards 2012."

Wen and why?

At least another heavyweight will be fighting in 2012. China's Olympic women's judo champion Tong Wen has had a drugs ban overturned "on a technicality" by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and is cleared for 2012.

Good news for her – but not for British hope Karina Bryant, whom Wen beat before testing positive for steroids in the 2009 world championships final.