- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Former welterweight titleholder Andre Berto was issued a boxing license by the California State Athletic Commission on Tuesday despite testing positive for a steroid in May.
"As someone who truly believes in clean sport, I have never used any type of performance-enhancing drugs," Berto said in a statement. "Everything I've achieved was the result of hard work and determination. I am excited that this whole situation is behind me, and I look forward to returning to the ring soon with another exciting performance, so stay tuned."
Berto's positive test for the steroid norandrosterone came as a result of a random urine test conducted by the Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, which was overseeing the drug testing that Berto and former welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz had agreed to use before their rematch. The bout was scheduled for June 23 as the main event of a major Showtime card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) submitted to a random urine test May 2, and both the "A" and "B" samples came back positive for norandrosterone.
Because of Berto's positive test, he was dropped from the fight. Ortiz's promoter, Golden Boy, replaced him with Josesito Lopez, who pulled off a major upset by breaking Ortiz's jaw in two places and forcing him to retire after the ninth round.
In preparing for the rematch with Ortiz, Berto had Victor Conte, mastermind of the notorious Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroids scandal, in his training camp for this fight. Conte has repeatedly denied having any involvement in Berto's positive test.
According to the 28-year-old Berto of Winter Haven, Fla., the positive test "revealed extremely small amounts of a banned substance that were inconsistent with any performance-enhancing effect and were much more consistent with contamination of an otherwise acceptable food or supplement."
"We sent all of the medical material to California and he was issued a license," said promoter Lou DiBella, who has promoted Berto for his entire career. "I'm glad he's back in the ring with his eye on the prize, and in the future he'll be more careful. He wasn't on a steroid program. It was probably a tainted substance that caused the positive test. That is my belief. Right now, Andre Berto is focused on getting back in the ring. He's looking forward to his next fight taking place as soon as possible."
DiBella said there were no specific plans in the works for Berto's return.
"He just got licensed (Tuesday)," DiBella said. "We were hoping the license would be coming, and now we can get to work on his next fight."
When Ortiz and Berto met for the first time in April 2011, Ortiz won a unanimous decision to claim a 147-pound world title and handed Berto his lone professional defeat. It was a sensational slugfest and fight-of-the-year candidate in which both fighters were knocked down twice each. After the fight, Berto accused Ortiz of using performance-enhancing drugs in the bout, even though he had no proof. That allegation was one of the factors in the fighters agreeing to the VADA testing leading up to the rematch.
In Berto's only fight since losing to Ortiz, he stopped Jan Zaveck to win another version of the welterweight title in September. Berto eventually gave up the belt to face Ortiz in a lucrative rematch rather than face a mandatory challenger for far less money.