UK chiefs Stevie Johnston stripped of World title

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The Independent Online

Top British boxing officials want American Stevie Johnston stripped of his WBC lightweight title following a positive drug test four months ago.

Johnston tested positive for the stimulant ephedrine following his unanimous, 12-round decision over Britain's Billy Schwer in London on Nov. 29. The World Boxing Council has declined to recognise the positive test, angering the British Boxing Board of Control.

"The matter won't go away," BBBC general secretary Simon Block was quoted as saying in Thursday's The Guardian newspaper. "We want to see a suitable penalty against the champion and some form of restitution for Schwer.

"I have no doubt the WBC title should be declared vacant. If an athlete takes drugs, knowingly or unknowingly, he's guilty of cheating."

The 26-year-old Johnson, of Denver, Colorado, said he took the substance inadvertently in a cold remedy.

The BBBC tested the A sample at a laboratory in London and, following International Olympic Committee guidelines, carried out the B-sample test at the same location.

WBC rules say the samples should be tested in different laboratories and the organisation has refused to recognise the positive test.

BBBC president Nipper Read dismissed Johnson's defence in a March 13 letter to WBC president Jose Sulaiman.

"Johnson has never given any valid reason for the drug being found in his urine," Read wrote. "He seeks to account for the fact by saying that he took a cold cure for some eight or nine days before the contest. This is now proved to be a tissue of lies. Ephedrine is a class A drug which cannot be obtained in over-the-counter medicines in England."

Johnston's trainer Miguel Diaz dismissed the BBBC's complaints.

"I don't know what the British board are talking about," The Guardian quoted him as saying. "Of course, Stevie didn't take any illegal substance. Why would he need to do this to fight Billy Schwer? Why is he going to take anything? Ephedrine is nothing anyway."

On March 18, Johnston retained his title for the fourth time with a second-round knockout of Julio Alvarez in Denver, improving his record to 30-1.