Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury, who pulled out of an Oct. 29 rematch with former champion Wladimir Klitschko last week for unspecified reasons, has been notified that he tested positive for cocaine.
Klitschko and Fury agreed to have drug testing for their rematch overseen by the Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA).
England's Fury submitted to a random urine test on Sept. 22 in Lancaster, England, and the results came back positive for the substance benzoylecgonine, the central compound found in cocaine and the marker for a positive test for the banned substance.
In a letter from VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman sent to representatives for Fury, Klitschko, the British Boxing Board of Control and the United States' Association of Boxing Commissions on Thursday night, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com, she wrote, "This letter is to advise you that the 'A' sample urine specimen number 4006253 collected from Tyson Fury on September 22, 2016 in Lancaster, England through his participation in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) program has been analyzed for anabolic agents, diuretics, beta-2 agonists, stimulants and drugs of abuse. The results of the analysis are as follows: Adverse. Urine specimen contains benzoylecgonine.
"Mr. Fury has the right to promptly request analysis of the 'B' sample at his expense."
The VADA testing for performance-enhancing drugs is done separately and takes longer, so those results are not yet available.
Fury promoter Mick Hennessy did not respond to requests for comment.
When Fury withdrew from the Klitschko fight last Friday -- the day after the VADA test was conducted -- Hennessy announced that it was because Fury had been "declared medically unfit to fight. Medical specialists have advised that the condition is too severe to allow him to participate in the rematch and that he will require treatment before going back into the ring."
"Tyson will now immediately undergo the treatment he needs to make a full recovery," Hennessy said. "We and Tyson wish to express our sincerest apologies to all those concerned with the event and all the boxing fans who had been looking forward to the rematch. Tyson is understandably devastated by the development."
At the time, multiple sources said the correspondence between both fighters' camps included a letter from Fury's doctor stating Fury had mental health issues and that he would be "unavailable for the foreseeable future."
Now comes the disclosure of the positive drug test, which likely will result in Fury being stripped of the heavyweight world title belts he was to defend in a rematch with Ukraine's Klitschko on Oct. 29 at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, Fury's hometown.
The sanctioning organizations involved in the fight already have requested that Fury provide them with medical reports on his status or he risks being stripped of the titles due to inactivity. Now, being stripped appears inevitable because of the positive drug test.
"Hopefully, the organizations will move quickly because Wladimir wants to fight for a title before the end of the year," Bernd Boente, Klitschko's manager, told ESPN.com. "He has already been in the longest layoff of his career because of Fury, and he is keen on fighting again for a title by the end of the year."
This is the second time the rematch has been called off. It was originally scheduled to take place July 9, also at Manchester Arena, but Fury pulled out in late June after he said he sprained his ankle during a training run and was told to lay off it for about six weeks.
When the fight was rescheduled for Oct. 29, the camps scheduled a news conference for Sept. 5 in London but that was called off for undisclosed reasons one day before. It was rescheduled for Sept. 12, also in London, and while the promoters and Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs), 40, showed up, the 28-year-old Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) skipped it, claiming his car broke down.
Boente said he wished they had contracted with VADA to handle testing when Fury scored a huge upset to take Klitschko's heavyweight title belts by unanimous decision last Nov. 28 at Esprit Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany. One of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history ended Klitschko's 9½-year title reign.
"If this is true about his positive drug test, it's too bad we did not do VADA testing before the first fight," Boente said. "We are not surprised because this is how Fury acted the whole time and now we probably have another indication why he didn't show up at the press conference in London, where he claimed a car problem. It also shows the ongoing situation with (the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Association) situation under a different light."
Entering the scheduled rematch, there were many questions about possible performance-enhancing drug use hanging over Fury, although not in regards to the fight last year against Klitschko. In a UKADA drug test, Fury tested positive for the banned steroid Nandrolone in an earlier fight, even though, for reasons still unclear, the results did not come to light until June, well after he had beaten Klitschko.
Fury, who denied taking a banned substance, faces a UKADA hearing on Nov. 4. If found guilty, he could be banned, although the positive cocaine test also could cause him to have his license suspended or revoked.
"I feel very sorry that UKADA never was open about that situation with us because then we would have insisted on VADA testing before the first fight," Boente said. "I think Fury is probably the most unworthy heavyweight champion in history, not only because of this situation but because of the whole package of his sexist comments, his anti-Semitic comments and his homophobic comments that have been [well documented]."