LAS VEGAS -- James Toney likely will lose his WBA heavyweight title – and John Ruiz is likely to be reinstated as its champion – after the New York State Athletic Commission confirmed Wednesday that Toney tested positive for a banned substance following his April 30 victory against Ruiz at Madison Square Garden.
Toney was suspended for 90 days and fined $10,000 by the NYSAC.
NYSAC chairman Ron Scott Stevens said that "due to a violation of our illegal substance policy" the decision of the fight would be changed with official record keeper Fight Fax from a unanimous decision win for Toney to a no decision.
"We've done our due diligence and the suspension is appropriate," said Stevens, who notified both camps of the decision.
The positive drug test – for the steroid Nandrolone – means the WBA is expected to withdraw its recognition of Toney as champion based on its explicit rules governing banned substances.
According to the WBA's "World Championship Regulations" rule 18.23-4, "If the challenger wins the championship fight and his antidrug 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 World Boxing Association during the next two years, and only after presentation of medical evidence that he has been rehabilitated."
Toney, 36, denied taking any performance enhancing drugs.
"Being accused of taking performance enhancing substances is an insult to me. I don't do drugs period," Toney said in a statement. "I've never used any illegal substances to prepare myself for a fight."
In a fight last fall, Toney severely injured his biceps and triceps. Co-promoter Dan Goossen said Toney's treatment for the injury was to blame for the positive result.
"Toney received medical treatment for recovery from his biceps and triceps surgery last year," Goossen said in a statement. "His doctor has stated that the combination of medications used to control the inflammation and tissue growth caused the positive test result. This is further supported, since the body, in combination with the medications, naturally create the form of substance reflected in the test results.
"It would be unjust for the sport to reprimand a fighter who was under a doctor's care and direction many months before in healing a career threatening injury."
Don King, who also co-promotes Toney and is here promoting Saturday's Felix Trinidad-Winky Wright middleweight fight at the MGM Grand, had no comment about Toney.
"I am into Tito, not Toney," King said.
The Ruiz camp was pleased by the news, especially manager Norman Stone, who had accused Toney of using steroids during the month-long buildup to the fight.
"I think it's great. Now the title goes back to Johnny unless there are some shenanigans," Stone said. "I think the whole Toney team should be suspended. If it was Johnny who tested positive, they would have all blamed me."
Ruiz, 33, who Tuesday underwent surgery on his nose, which was broken in the fight, was happy to hear the news.
"He's thrilled to death," Stone said. "He gets his title back and gets to go on."
Stevens said Toney would have 30 days to request a public hearing before the NYSAC, and that if he does, "he can submit whatever evidence he wants to."
In order for Toney's suspension to be lifted, Stevens said that after 90 days Toney would have to submit to testing.
New York rules call for a mandatory 90-suspension for the first offense. A second positive test is a mandatory 180-day suspension. A third one is an indefinite suspension. The maximum $10,000 fine is at the discretion of the commission.
This is the second high-profile heavyweight title bout overshadowed by a positive steroid test. In 1995, Francois Botha decisioned Axel Schulz in Germany to win the vacant IBF heavyweight title, but Botha tested positive for steroids after the fight, he was stripped of the title and the result changed to a no decision.