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The Ballad of Larry Olubamiwo Part One

Arguably the most unique anti-doping case in recent years was lost amid the high-profile positive tests of Lamont Peterson, Andre Berto and Antonio Tarver in the spring of 2012. To U.S. boxing fans, heavyweight Larry “War Machine” Olubamiwo, 10-3 (9) is an unknown. In the U.K., he’s a 35 year old colorful character with a five-year jail stint for armed robbery in his rearview mirror and a rough and tumble style. However, Larry went international last June when U.K. Anti-Doping (UKAD) announced it was banning him for four years from boxing for anti-doping offenses. Olubamiwo had been snared through intelligence gathered by a DEA operation named “Raw Deal” and subsequently target tested for Erythropoietin (EPO) in his January 13, 2012 fight with Sam Sexton. UKAD informed him of the information they had gathered and the positive test. With this info, Olubamiwo admitted to a doping regimen that included 13 banned substances ranging synthetic testosterone, human growth hormone, and EPO dating over the course of his amateur and pro career.

“The list of substances Mr. Olubamiwo admits to taking is both alarming and disappointing,” said UKAD president Andy Parkinson at the time.  “This reinforces the fact that testing in the UK is targeted and intelligence-led, and that law enforcement has an invaluable role to play in the fight against doping.”


A little less than a year later, that statement would again prove true.


Olubamiwo had been buying various PEDs through China and sending them to his address. He’d been on the DEA’s radar as far back as 2007.


“[UKAD] asked me to cooperate with them and to tell them basically about my usage from [2007 on],” he explained. “Now I didn’t have to. I could have just accepted the ban and that’s it, but I decided that everyone should know what’s going on, basically. Why I was using and also how I was able to get away with it for so long. And that’s why I decided to basically tell them everything that they wanted to know.”


For his offenses, Larry O (as I would come to know him) was given a ban of four years from the sport. We’ll get to that later.


There are a few things that set Larry Olubamiwo apart from an anti-doping standpoint. It isn’t the drugs he was using. It isn’t that he’s in boxing’s glamour division. He’s not exactly a marquee name. If you asked anyone in the States who he is, their guess could just as likely throw him on an NFL team as it would into the ring.


The first thing that makes him unique is his background: Larry O is a former sprinter who holds a Bachelor’s of Science from the Queen Mary, University of London in pharmaceutical chemistry. If you know anything about doping and track and field, you know they go together like PB and J. To say Larry O has a unique education is an understatement.


“It essentially went back to my sprinting days,” the former 100m and 200m sprinter told myself and co-host David Duenez.

 “I was introduced to [PED use] by another sprinter. Obviously, I knew. I read “Speed Trap” by Charlie Francis (Francis’ book about doping, Ben Johnson and the Olympics). I knew the facts of life, so when I was introduced to it I wasn’t alien to the whole idea or concept of performance enhancing drugs.”


According to Olubamiwo, doping in sprinting was not only common in his day; it was fairly out in the open.  


“Even more casual than boxing,” he said. “You’d go to the track to train, and after the pleasantries, it would be nitty-gritty talk straight away. It’s pretty raw in the track and field game. It’s in your face. It was when I was doing it, anyways. I do not know how it is now because I don’t keep in touch with many of them now but it was pretty in your face at that time.”


As Olubamiwo put it, his use of PEDs came down to recovery better from workouts.


 “For me it was only about recovery, to be honest. I was always big, I was always muscular and I was always strong. I’ve always looked like that. It’s genetics. If I never touched a steroid I would still look big and muscular, so it wasn’t about that,” he explained. “For me, it was about recovery. When I was training, I was training six days a week, twice a day, and had a job on top of that. So I would train in the morning, go to work, finish work, training, then go home. And believe me when I tell you, that the distance between work and training was very far. It took like one-and-a-half hours to get to work, and then back to do the same trip again afterwards. All of this takes a toll on your body, so I felt I needed a tool to help me recover faster, so I could put in the hard work.”


The sport doesn’t matter. The decision to cheat or not cheat with drugs or any other way comes down to one simple question: How bad do you want to win?


“You know, at the end of the day sports is big business,” he said. “Winning and losing could mean the difference between having a great lifestyle [and not]. And people are looking at this and saying, ‘well I’ve got to do what I can to win, and make money for myself and my family.’ If a lot of people are doing it, or the people at the top are doing it, and you’re trying to reach the top, what choice do you have? You can say, ‘okay, I won’t do it and I will not bother to try and make money for myself,’ or you say, ‘right, okay, I’m going to do this so I can be at the top and make money for me and my family.’ It’s basically their [potential users] choice, and you got one or the other, it’s as simple as that.”


To some, Olubamiwo would seem just a drug cheat refugee from Track & Field but to hear him tell it, boxing is every bit as rife with drugs as any sport. He didn’t bring drugs with him from some other sport. They were here when he arrived.


“When I took up boxing, I’m looking around and seeing the different cases and different fighters, and speaking to a few people, and I gathered that the same was happening in boxing,” he said. “So I decided myself, to administer myself with these substances and to form a protocol by myself. I do actually have a degree in pharmaceutical chemistry. I do have knowledge of these substances so it wasn’t too hard for me to do that part myself.”


Something else that sets him apart is his straight forward nature. When he was caught, Olubamiwo admitted to his crimes. Few athletes caught doping cop to it no matter the evidence against them but not Larry. But also, he has been straight forward with fans. Soon after the news of his ban broke, he went on a boxing forum he regularly visited on and released this statement:


“i felt i owed to the forum to say a few words when it wasnt busy as i dont wanna argue with anyone or create any bad feelings,” it began, alluding to the late hour he posted the message. “yes i had been doping for 6 years but for most of u guys to think my opponents were not because of their physiques is quite ridiculous.


"although i will not mention any names the majority of the boxers u all love so dear are on stuff, fact and this is from me talking to them, seeing them buy stuff or talking to their training personnel. Cheating is when u are the only prson doing something and since i know that i wasnt the only person doing it, it cant be defined as cheating.


"a large minority if not majority of boxers are doping and the naivity of the public to think that mine is an isolated case is staggering. Also i am so surprised that i get so much stick but the guys i look up to in the sport like roy jones, shane moseley and james toney who have all been caught dont get as much stick.


"Also lets not forget the holyfield incident with evan fields story, vargas and even mayweather using banned painkillers. if u hate me for doping fine, but then be prepared to hate all ur fav boxers and indeed athletes.


"I appreciate the support I got from this forum and thats why i am coming on here and telling u this. Also i will not hide away as that is not my style and i will be back in boxing when the ban ends like it or not. Walk a mile in my shoes b4 u judge me."


This would not be the last time that Larry O would point a finger though he wouldn’t necessarily become a whistleblower. Soon after he released that statement, I contacted Olubamiwo and he agreed to be interviewed by me and David Duenez. He didn’t ask me stay away from any subject. He simply agreed to take both of us down a rabbit hole seen by many and recanted by few.


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