Amir Khan Faces Questions Over His Legacy After Failed Anti-Doping Test

The Bolton superstar was found to have ostarine in his system after losing to Kell Brook
17:00, 04 Apr 2023

Amir Khan has been handed a ban from all sport for two years, as a banned substance was discovered in an anti-doping test he gave in February 2022. Ostarine was found in the Olympic silver medalist’s test results after his loss last year to Kell Brook. The UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) website describes ostarine as having “similar effects to testosterone.”

Khan admitted to the charge but refutes that the substance was ingested for reasons of performance enhancement. The UKAD agrees, ruling that the dosage was too small to give a sporting advantage and minimal enough to have been credibly taken by accident.


The sporting sanction in this case is almost immaterial. Khan retired from the ring in May of last year, having mulled it over since Brook stopped him three months before. The two-year ban will have no effect on a man who had shown little inclination to return to boxing. But it does cast an unwanted pall over a fine ring career, intentional or not.

Khan’s defence is believable, with the anti-doping body itself agreeing with his assertion that the substance could have been ingested in a supplement or through human contact. His response has been genuinely contrite but also a little unwise. 

Speaking to Sky News, Khan said “You can see by my performance against Kell Brook [that it] wasn't the best. I lost the fight. If I went in there and knocked Kell Brook out it is different.”

But it isn’t different, not at all. Banned substances are not only illegal if you win. The fact Brook beat Khan does not negate the offence that has been committed here. Statements like this are not helpful in cases like this, where the damage to a legacy could already be severe.

How much the stink of a failed drugs test lingers seems to depend on the fighter. Mike Tyson’s bad boy image probably helped when it came to his failed test after making Andrew Golota quit in three rounds in 2000. The fact it was marijuana rather than a performance enhancing substance also helped him save face. But Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez will always carry his failed test around with him, which came ahead of his second fight with Gennady Golovkin. Fans have been quick to make jokes about clenbuterol and the supposed “infected beef” Alvarez alleges he ingested it from in the years since.

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Khan has always been given short shrift from a boxing public that often demands perfection. As supremely gifted as he was at his peak, heavy knockout defeats to the likes of Breidis Prescott and Alvarez have seen him underrated by some. Those same people who refused to give the former WBA and IBF super lightweight his flowers will surely have a field day now. 

Khan is not the only British fighter reckoning with what a failed doping test does to a reputation. Like Khan, Conor Benn has perhaps not handled his own failure in the best way. Clomifene was found in Benn’s test ahead of his bout with Chris Eubank Jr last year and has been through the public-opinion wringer since. The WBC’s assertion that Benn’s positive test result came about due to consuming an abnormally large quantity of eggs was almost beyond parody.

Benn has been a figure of fun ever since but, at the age of 26 and with his world ranking restored, ‘The Destroyer’ will at least get a chance to redeem himself. For Khan, this failed test will forever sit on his ledger as a controversial postscript to a great career. History has a way of leaving out the details and, “Khan’s career ends with failed drugs test” is more enduring an epitaph than “Khan’s career ends with failed drugs test that the national anti-doping body admits was likely accidental”. 

As ill-advised as his defence was, this incident shouldn’t colour Khan’s career too much. He has never before been found using a banned substance and he will not fight again, thus no future opponents will have that element of doubt in facing him. Some argued Khan and Brook facing off so long after their last fights, and with their primes behind them, was ill-advised at the time. Brook has admitted to struggling away from the limelight while Khan is now suffering this unedifying end to his career. It looks like on reflection, those critics were quite right.

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