Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Public Disclosure: Adverse/Positive Tests, Provisional Suspensions, Exonerations

Enough of the fun stuff. I've received some enquiries regarding disclosure of positive test results, provisional suspensions, and findings of non-guilt. So, I thought a final post about the topic would help. Please forgive the length as there are a few exerpts from Codes/Rules.

The rules governing public disclosure are found in the WADA Code
14.2.1 The identity of any Athlete or other Person who is asserted by an Anti-Doping Organization to have committed an anti-doping rule violation, may be publicly disclosed by the Anti-Doping Organization with results management responsibility only after notice has been provided to the Athlete or other Person in accordance with Articles 7.2, 7.3 or 7.4, and to the applicable Anti-Doping Organizations in accordance with Article 14.1.2.
14.2.3 In any case where it is determined, after a hearing or appeal, that the Athlete or other Person did not commit an anti-doping rule violation, the decision may be disclosed publicly only with the consent of the Athlete or other Person who is the subject of the decision. The Anti-Doping Organization with results management responsibility shall use reasonable efforts to obtain such consent, and if consent is obtained, shall publicly disclose the decision in its entirety or in such redacted form as the Athlete or other Person may approve.
From the above, it is clear that the WADA allows sports governing bodies to publicly announce both positive test results and decisions finding that no anti-doping rule violation was committed. However, the key word in the above rules is the word "may," meaning that it's up to the governing body to decide whether it wants to disclose. The only mandatory rule is that decisions finding that an anti-doping violation occurred must be made public.

The ITF takes full advantage of the discretion allowed in the WADA Code. Article 13.3 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme:
13.3 The ITF shall use its reasonable endeavours to ensure that Persons under its control do not publicly identify Participants whose Samples have resulted in Adverse Analytical Findings or Atypical Findings, or who have a Provisional Suspension imposed on them, or are alleged to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under this Programme, unless and until an Independent Tribunal has determined that an Anti-Doping Rule Violation has been committed, and/or the Anti-Doping Rule Violation has been admitted...
To be clear, this means it is possible for a tennis player to test positive for a prohibited substance (and be provisionally suspended) with everything kept confidential if the player is exonerated. This means players can still "pull an Agassi."

Far from speculation, this, in fact, appears to be occurring according to the data on adverse findings versus doping violations in tennis.

Have other sports made the same choice? Here a couple of examples from two sports that have had doping scandals and decided that transparency is the best policy:

Track & Field

August 19, 2011: "Michael Rodgers, an athlete in the sport of track and field, who tested positive for the prohibited stimulant methylhexaneamine at the 2011 Sport e Solidarieta in Lignano Sabbiador, Italy in July, accepted a provisional suspension today and voluntarily withdrew himself from the 2011 IAAF World Championships set to take place in Daegu, Korea beginning on August 27, 2011. Mr. Rodgers, who was scheduled to compete for the U.S. in the 100m and 4x100m relay, maintains his innocence and claim that he did not intentionally ingest the prohibited substance, however, he has decided to withdraw from the World Championships out of fairness to the other athletes competing there so that they may do so without the distraction of his positive test. Mr. Rodgers’ lawyer, David Greifinger, has indicated to USADA that he will continue to investigate the cause of Mr. Rodgers’ test and will decide with his client how Mr. Rodgers will proceed."



Description: The UCI has advised Australian rider Deon Michael Locke that he is provisionally suspended. The decision to provisionally suspend this rider was made in response to a report from the WADA accredited laboratory in Beijing indicating an Adverse Analytical Finding of Phentermine in a urine sample collected from him in an in competition test (Tour of Hainan) on 23 October 2011.

The provisional suspension of Mr. Locke remains in force until a hearing panel convened by the Australian Cycling Federation determines whether he has committed an anti-doping rule violation under Article 21 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules.

Mr. Locke has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample.

Under the World Anti-Doping Code and the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, the UCI is unable to provide any additional information at this time.

Why doesn't tennis provide the same level of transparency and disclosure as other sports? Why does tennis make less disclosure than the WADA Code permits?

Why does the tennis media say nothing?

More importantly, why doesn't the WADA make such disclosure mandatory and eliminate the discretion currently afforded by the Code?

1 comment:

  1. The ITF is supposed to "use it's reasonable endeavours" to ensure that provisional suspensions are not made public. How then, is a player supposed to explain a sudden withdrawal from participation?

    Is a player a "person under it's control"?

    What if a player decides to announce to the media that they are provisionally suspended? Surely that's better than lying?