Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Doping Violations: 2008-2011; How Many Agassi Cases? (Updated Feb. 22, 2012)

The Data

Anti-Doping Violations by ITF Players 2008-2011; Adverse Analytical Findings for 2011 Not Available
What Does It Mean?

I've talked about this before, but I thought presenting the info in this way made things more clear. Let's break it down: Not very many doping violations have occured and the players found guilty of committing violations are, almost without exception, low ranked players. Tennis journalists love to talk about this because it promotes the view that there is no PED problem in tennis and those that do use are marginal.

However, there is more. First, all the testing violations are from in-competition tests (which speaks volumes about the ITF's weak out-of-competition testing regime). Further, as I noted previously, unlike other sports like cycling, the ITF's anti-doping rules state that the ITF will only make public decisions that find a doping violation occurred. If a player tests positive and is found "not guilty" no information is made public.

The data show that the ITF is, in fact, not disclosing positive tests. For 2008-2010, adverse analytical findings (30) exceed test-based violations (10). Why? For what reasons did these adverse findings not result in an anti-doping violation (e.g., is the ITF's prosecution of these cases (in)competent)?

Further, how many times has the ITF agreed with a player's defense/excuse and dropped a doping case (e.g., Andre Agassi)? How many players have been exonerated by their national anti-doping body (e.g., Alberto Contador's exoneration by Spanish authorities) and the ITF decided not to appeal the decision? Who are the players and what are the substances? Were the adverse results obtained from in-competition or out-of-competition tests? How many unreported provisional suspensions occurred as a result of these test results?

Despite these questions, I have yet to see one tennis writer even acknowledge the discrepancy that exists between the adverse findings and violations, let alone question why the discrepancy exists.

Let's not kid ourselves. There are tens of millions of dollars at stake in tennis, creating huge incentives to cheat. Three tennis players (but no cyclists) made the Forbes Top 50 highest paid athletes list (Federer, Nadal, and Sharapova).

When will there be an honest and open discussion about the use of performance enhancing drugs in tennis?

FYI: Adverse Analytical Finding means the presence of Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers (including elevated quantities of endogenous substances) or evidence of the Use of a Prohibited Method.

Sources for Doping Statistics & Cases:

ITF Anti-Doping Decisions

2010 WADA Anti-Doping Organization Activity Summary: ITF had 6 adverse findings against 3 violations.

2009 WADA Report: ITF had 10 adverse findings against 4 violations.

2008 WADA Report: ITF had 14 adverse findings against 3 violations.


  1. Is provisional suspension automatic upon the occurrence of an AAF?
    I wonder what is the average length of a provisional suspension?
    I wonder if there are players who have remained provisionally suspended in order to avoid public identification?
    With no transparency, we can only but speculate.

  2. Another player gets "fitter". With Cahill's approval, you KNOW this guy is doping.

  3. To be fair, Tomic was particularly slow. Then again, maybe that's what guys at 6'4 or 6'5 max out at "naturally". I always was suspicious of the current generation of tall guys who don't give up much in the way of movement.

    Separate point: with Australian customs a threat, as per Odesnik, I wonder if that means dopers are forced to do so beforehand. Who is late to arrive in Australia?

  4. No offense, but it's really quite possible for taller guys to still be explosive. I am 6'6 and have always been very explosive, more so than the majority of classmates, and have very good coordination. Great for squash and tennis. Unfortunately for me, I lack the real technical talent for both (or any other sport for that matter)...
    My point is that, although impressive, the tall guys like Tomic are not exceptional in terms of movement.