Thursday, January 12, 2012

This Is Testing? The 2009 Australian Open

We've established that out-of-competition testing in tennis isn't strong. What about in-competition? Is it possible to engage in micro-doping at a major tournament on the professional tennis circuit? Let's take a look at the testing conducted at the 2009 Australian Open Men's Singles Main Draw(testing for Men's Doubles and data sources given at end of post):

Notice a pattern? Does this look like random testing?

As the table makes obvious, players were only tested IF they LOST(with the exception of champions). You'd have to play in more than one draw (e.g., singles and doubles) just to have a chance of getting tested twice. Is it any wonder that so few players are caught doping in tennis? This testing protocol means that a player could potentially micro-dose (e.g., fast-acting synthetic testosterone) all the way to a championship by boosting after each win and on off-days since they would know in advance that they wouldn't be tested. By dosing in such a manner, any traces would clear before the next round and the player would test clean if they lost. And if a player was really cocky, and convinced that they were going to beat their opponent, they could boost the same day as the match (or even during a match), knowing that by winning, they wouldn't be tested (except for the finals).

Why would anyone have such an ineffective (and clearly non-random) testing protocol? I asked the ITF to confirm that this was the testing protocol for Grand Slam events in 2009 and whether this testing practice continues. Their response: "We do not comment on testing protocol at the Grand Slam tournaments or any other tennis events where testing takes place."

I should note that the exception for 2009 was the French Open, where supplemental "random and targeted" testing was carried out by the French anti-doping authority (AFLD): Nadal, Federer, Tsonga, and others were tested following early round wins.

Given the testing data, how can it be claimed that the anti-doping programme conducted by the ITF is adequate? How many years has this been going on? Was the same testing plan carried out in 2010 and 2011? Unfortunately, we don't know becuase the ITF didn't published detailed information for 2010. Is this the testing plan for 2012?

How should the testing be conducted? Well, here's what happened at the 2010 Tour de France: "8 Post-Finish tests per day with the Stage winner and the holder of the Yellow Jersey automatic selections and 6 further tests either drawn randomly or targeted using intelligence from the UCI. In addition on selected days unannounced testing was conducted in the evening and the morning for the purposes of target testing."

Why can't tennis test the top 2 or 4 seeds after every round with further tests either drawn randomly and/or targeted? Tennis was clearly not using these methods in 2009. Is it using them now? They won't say. Without random and/or targeted testing of all players (winners and losers), the testing isn't going to catch much. And it hasn't.

It is clear that not only is the out-of-competition testing in tennis deficient, but even in-competition testing is weak. This presents a significant credibility problem.

The WADA should send an Independent Observer Team over to the Australian Open ASAP.

Data Sources

How the list was compiled:

Players tested and test dates: ITF's 2009 Anti-Doping Programme Statistics
Win/loss and Round Info: ITF Archives
Supplemental Round Info and Dates: Archived Day Schedules

If you find an error, let me know.


  1. Very revealing stuff; great work once again Sen. Just wondering if the test dates for the finalists was supposed to be entered as 'Feb' as opposed to 'Jan'?

  2. Fed and Nadal in same half of Aus Open draw. Must admit I never bought into that Federer/Djokovic "same half" conspiracy, I think it was just coincidence. However Federer and Nadal both got qualifiers in the first round of this AO12. However, Tennis Australia new favourite son Tomic got Verdasco, so I don't know if we can read too much in to that.

    Possible qtr final matchups, for your info:

    Top half:
    1 Djokovic v 5 Ferrer
    4 Murray v 6 Tsonga

    Bottom half:
    3 Federer v 8 Fish
    2 Nadal v 7 Berdych

  3. Serena gives us further insight into modern training methods.

    After unveiling her electric blue outfit for next week's tournament, Williams was asked about the regimen behind her taut abdominals, which she says have little to do with exercise and more to do with enjoying herself.

    ''I laugh a lot, so I think that has a lot to do with developing those muscles. I don't really do sit-ups too much,'' she said.


    Isn't she a card! Meanwhile the glory of Spain has declared himself free of injury troubles in the leadup to the AO, in a significant change of tune to the persistent whining noises we heard last week after his loss to Monfils in Doha.

    Nadal last night declared his shoulder troubles behind him, after warming up for this year at an exhibition in Abu Dhabi and then reaching the Doha semi-finals on the way to Melbourne, where he has practised without pain for the past three days.

    ''I had a little problem on my shoulder during December, after the Davis Cup final, so I have been away off the tennis court for around two weeks, that breaks a little bit my preparation,'' Nadal said at a responsible-use-of-alcohol promotion in Melbourne.


    So will he be taking time off in February to repair his 'injured' shoulder, as he has previously indicated he would do? Has the heavier racket cured his injury, or was it something else? What has happened with the knee injuries he says he incurred in his Davis Cup match win against Del Potro in December? Magically cleared up all of their own - or has another marvellous PRP injection done the business? I can't wait to hear his answers to the questions the tennis media won't be asking.

  4. so you've revealed they potentially have time to do it. now, any evidence they are ?

  5. Dear Nesia,

    If there was irrefutable evidence, this site wouldn't be necessary.

  6. The biggest mystery in all of this is how so many forum members on the big tennis forums can still parrot the line that tennis has a "stringent" doping regime. They read it somewhere in a Bodo fluff piece five or six years ago and mountains of evidence won't make them change theirs minds. It's a fascinating study in the power of the human mind to intoxicate himself...

  7. Comments formatting looking horrible on my computer at the moment - anyone else?

  8. @Nesia: every single sport with ultra lax testing and lots of prizemoney has been subsequently found to have a massive drugs problem. Why should tennis be any different?

  9. It appears as though players were only getting tested AFTER their matches at the Aus Open 2009.

    Since they only play every other day at the Aus Open (every 48 hours), and we know(from Victor Conte , an expert in doping) that there are substances that will be undetectable in 12 hours or less, it is highly likely that there are cheats who will use doping in-competition at some grand slams.They have a 36 hour window to get it done without testing positive.

    Why not, if it gives you an advantage over your opponent , and you know (because of the predictable testing) that you can't get caught?

    If the ITF was serious about catching the cheats, they would have random (any day/time) testing at grand slams, not just after matches.

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