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Toney may be DQ'd

Sources cite problem with his test results

LAS VEGAS -- If the stories swirling around boxing the last 48 hours prove accurate -- and in boxing, where there's smoke there's usually a rat -- John Ruiz may want to change his name to Jason.

In the wake of Ruiz's lopsided loss to James Toney April 30, the horror movie character who refuses to die may greatly resemble Ruiz's career as heavyweight champion.

Both Ruiz's manager, Norman Stone, and attorney, Anthony Cardinale, were suspicious of Toney's rapid weight loss before the World Boxing Association title fight and his resiliency during the 12-round win. Toney lost more than 30 pounds in five weeks, and was recovering from a torn biceps and triceps suffered in his last bout, yet he seemed impervious to Ruiz's punches. "Something isn't right," Stone claimed yesterday. ''I felt it after watching the fight. The guy was too strong for a guy his size."

Certainly it now seems that something is afoot, because several sources in boxing say that Toney tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs following the bout. Certainly the circumstantial evidence does not look good. New York State Athletic Commission chairman Ron Scott Stevens said only, "We haven't done anything yet. I haven't written my report yet."

Asked why he would be writing a report if there was nothing to report, Stevens said, "I'm not at liberty to say. I'm not free to comment. It's still a medical issue. There's issues of confidentiality."

Not if Toney tested negative.

"This is serious stuff," Stevens said. "Attention must be paid."

When the Globe spoke with Stevens yesterday afternoon, he put the call on his office speaker phone. When asked if anyone else was in the room, Stevens said, "Hugo's here." Hugo is Hugo Spindola, general counsel for the athletic commission and its deputy executive director. Why there would be a need to have the commission's general counsel on a phone call if there was no legal issue was one of many questions that led to the suspicion that Toney's reign may be short.

Another was the daylong refusal of his verbose promoter, Dan Goossen, to accept calls from anyone in the media. He was, the Globe was told, "in a meeting" -- yet when a friend of Goossen's called him from the press room at the MGM Grand a few minutes later, he took the call and told him, "We may have a problem with Toney."

Ruiz's promoter, Don King, who now holds options on Toney, said he had not heard from either Goossen (a longtime vocal advocate for his fighters) or Stevens, and declined to comment until there was an official announcement.

"We'll deal with it then," King said.

Late yesterday afternoon, a source familiar with drug testing, the NYSAC, and boxing regulatory bodies said he heard that Toney tested positive for nandrolone, an anabolic steroid that builds strength and muscle mass. Many world-class athletes have tested positive for the substance, including sprinters Linford Christie of England and Merlene Ottey of Jamaica, as well as tennis star Petr Korda and a number of French soccer players.

Reached again last night, Stevens said he could not comment on that until a report had been filed with Fight Fax, a New Jersey-based record-keeping organization that is notified of medical suspensions. Commissions around the country check Fight Fax records to see if any fighter they are about to license is under medical suspension by another state.

Stevens claimed he was not "trying to stonewall" on the issue and said a call today might shed more light on Toney's situation.

Last night, Toney's attorney, Nick Kahn, said they had not been informed that Toney had tested positive for steroids but they had been told by the New York commission there was a problem with one of Toney's tests taken after the fight.

Kahn said Toney had taken prescribed medication from a doctor following his torn biceps and triceps of nine months ago. Kahn pointed out that Toney had never tested positive for steroids in 72 fights.

If Toney, in fact, did test positive -- as several boxing sources claimed -- he would be entitled to a hearing in front of the NYSAC, and the WBA would launch its own investigation to check if all testing protocol was properly followed, with the second of the two samples tested. The WBA would also want to be sure the World Anti-Doping regulations had been followed. Toney would be entitled to a hearing in front of the WBA medical staff as well.

However, under Rule 18.23, Subparagraph 4 of the WBA's championship rules, "If the challenger wins the championship fight and his antidoping test is positive and the losing champion has a negative result, then the champion shall retain his title in spite of the loss and the challenger shall be disqualified and shall not box for the title from the WBA during the next two years and only after presentations of medical evidence that he has been rehabilitated."

Although the appeal procedure might be lengthy, Ruiz would be reinstated as champion and the forces in boxing that have longed for his departure would be frustrated once again, as they were when he upset Evander Holyfield, Kirk Johnson, Hasim Rahman, and Andrew Golota during his two terms as WBA champion over the past four years.

The last fighter to test positive in a heavyweight title fight was Frans Botha, who was stripped of the International Boxing Federation heavyweight title he won from Axel Schulz in Germany Dec. 9, 1995, after testing positive for steroids.

Ruiz announced his retirement immediately after the fight but suddenly reversed his field Monday and said he was returning to boxing. A day later, word of a possible problem with Toney's pre- or postfight drug test surfaced.

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