Promoter Liable For Contract Breach After Boxer’s Positive PED Test

Interesting reasons for judgement were released last week by the US District Court, Southern District of New York, discussing contractual liability after a boxing bout was cancelled due to an athlete failing to pass a pre-bout drug test.

The full decision can be found here: World of Boxing v. Don King

In short Don King was found liable for breaching his contract with co-promoter World of Boxing, LLC after King’s fighter, Guillermo Jones, failed a pre bout drug test and the bout was cancelled.

In finding liability rests with King District Judge Scheindlen noted as follows

The question is which party – King or WOB – should have to shoulder these costs.  The law makes it clear that the answer is King.  As the party who promised to secure Jones’s participation, King “assumed the risk” of foreseeable events that might frustrate his ability to ake good on that promise.  Because the risk of a second positive test was foreseeable – so foreseeable, in fact, that the Agreement set out a mandatory testig provision to lessen its likelihood, King’s breach cannot be excused”

Legally this case speaks to the importance of contractual agreements clearly setting out who is liable should a bout be cancelled due to a positive PED test.  Damages have yet to be assessed and it would be equally desirable for such contracts to spell out exactly what damages the aggrieved party would be entitled to in these circumstances.

Lastly, this case is notable because it illustrates that it is reasonable for a fighter to withdraw consent to fight an opponent who is on illicit PED’s.  This withdrawal of consent can be instrumental to proving civil liability if a fighter is ever harmed at the hands of a PED using opponent.  In noting that Lebedev’s withdrawal was reasonable the Court referenced a letter from the WBA noting that-

“(Lebedev’s withdrawal) was justifiable on the basis that the WBA would not, and could not, sanction a championship bout when it was aware of Jones’ positive test as this would violate WBA rules, may cause unnecessary harm to Lebedev and would otherwise compromise the nature of the WBA world title bouts.”

In accepting that Lebedev did nothing wrong Judge Scheindlin noted “Once Jones tested positive, WOB and Lebedev were entitled to treat the entire contract as broken, because Jones’s participation (which the positive test rendered impossible) was the centerpiece of the agreement.  In other words, King’s argument that Lebedev breached the agreement necessarily fails, because the Agreement had already been breached – by King – when Lebedev withdrew.


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