Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nothing to See Here (Updated #2)

A picture is worth a thousand words, no?

(Updated) By the way, 2008 was an Olympic year. Tennis was played from August 10 to August 17.

Yes, your eyes are correct. In 2008, the ITF did not any conduct any out-of-competition (OOC) tests in 5 out of 12 months. However, the underlying story is much worse...

First, as seen in the table below, 79.1 percent of OOC tests took place between September and December. Yes, that would be after the US Open AND after the Olympics. No OOC tests were conducted in January, prior to the Australian Open. Only 9 tests (8.2% of the total) were conducted prior to Roland Garros and Wimbledon. The remaining 12.7% percent of tests occurred in July following Wimbledon. Zero OOC tests occurred in August, leading up to the US Open and the Olympics.

If you go even deeper into the data, to the days when the tests occurred, the story is worse. All 110 OOC missions were crammed into a grand total of 33 days. And there was only 1 OOC mission conducted (March 1) between January 1 and April 24 (i.e., there was virtually no OOC testing for the first 4 months of the year).

I don't remember reading anything about this (or hearing anything on XM radio) when these statistics were released, do you?

Data Source: ITF

Update: ESPN's Howard Bryant has written a piece on PEDs. He touches on Ryan Braun, Spain, but also discusses Nadal and tennis: "In any other universe, even though he has never been linked to performance enhancers and has never failed a drug test, Nadal and tennis would be at the center of the doping question."


  1. Ooh, interesting.

    I wonder if in practical terms this is simply to avoid annoying the players during the main season, since so many have extremely changeable schedules (get knocked out, book new hotel, book new flight, etc etc).

    In terms of an optimal setup, December probably is one of the main doping blocks? Maybe not so bad there. Oct/Nov are stupid times for OOC testing though.

    After Wimbledon I guess would be the other one, to spin up for Canada/Cincy/US Open.

    Not that it matters of course, they'll just skip the tests if they're doping anyway.....

    1. Late December testing (e.g., last two weeks) would make sense if there was also testing in January, leading up to the Australian Open. But there isn't, a player could just wait until January 1 and start cycling without risk.

      I was looking at the 2009 stats and the first OOC test was February 24, which, I suppose one would call a marginal improvement over 2008's first test occurring March 1.

    2. Another thought, while I'm sure the ITF doesn't want to annoy players, given that the top players usually take it easy pre-Aussie Open and during February, you would think that it would be a good time for OOC. Unless, of course, the players are using that time to "get in shape" for the season.


    Bodo tries to "cover up" the dramatic increase in stamina of todays players, over the stamina of players of the past. He does this by assuming that because there were long matches in the past, then the players today aren't any "fitter".

    Of course, today's players use polyester ("dead" string, which requires much more effort to hit the ball at the same speed. As well, you can't determine "fitness", unless you accurately measure footspeed, shot speed, rally length, throughout a long match, and compare over eras.

    A simple observation of a match where two players degrade the same amount over the course of a long match would appear as though both players are "fit", when in fact, they are not as fit as two players whose performance doesn't degrade over the course of a long match.

    I am pretty sure that the player's of the past, could not hold out the way Djokovic, and Nadal did in the Aus open final, after 5 brutal sets using polyester strings.

  3. Very interesting data. Notice how the performance level of many top players decreases during the heaviest testing periods. Imagine if they started testing players in the two weeks leading up to Slams and randomly during Slams. Maybe when hell freezes over?

    1. Surely, it must be coincidence that some players' performance declines sharply at the end of the season, precisly when the bulk of OOC tests are conducted?

  4. SNR, that Howard Bryant quote needs more, as in the rest of what he wrote:

    The game has become more powerful, more physical and more grueling, most recently evidenced by the epic five-hour, 53-minute Australian Open final between Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Big servers such as Canada's Milos Raonic, America's John Isner, Croatia's Ivo Karlovic and Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro routinely top 135 mph. Nadal, never a big server, won the 2010 U.S. Open over Djokovic because, for two weeks, he did something he'd never done before: He became a big server, adding roughly 20 mph on average to his serve -- the equivalent of a low-90s pitcher hitting 98 on the gun. Nadal hit 130 mph on the radar gun during that championship fortnight, and attributed the increase to a grip change to continental. But he'd never reached that velocity before, and hasn't done it consistently since.

    There, it's been said, in simple black and white...

    Does this mean that the cat is really out of the bag?

    Time will tell.

    By the way...

    SNR, thanks tons for doing all this heavy lifting of late!

    1. Thanks, Spartina. On the Bryant article, once again, we have a non-tennis journalist, saying what no tennis writer would dare even hint at.

  5. That's an excellent article by Bryant. Most of it is on baseball which I like but am no expert on - I cannot comprehend how a sport could NOT do all it can to combat doping and be seen to combat doping. And I cannot comprehend just as much how the public, the fans, don't realise this basic fact. Same goes for tennis. Tennis doping control is about a rigorous as a tired Anteater sleeping next to a honeyant anthole during ant-peakhour. Yet it takes a non-tennis writer like Bryant to call out tennis's naked emperor.

    Hello! - grip change, new serve action (carefully leaked to the media), or any other innocent explanation - Nadal put on 15-20mph to his serve, and NEVER REPEATED THIS AGAIN. Why, oh why, if it was grip change, action change, whatever, would he NOT serve like this ever again, especially when it won him a Grand Slam?

    He didn't serve like this in the Australian just gone - despite wanting to beat Novak so badly that he risked adding a few grams to his racquet in order to take it to him. But he wouldn't repeat that USO10 serve? There must be a reason...

    Let's not let Novak off the hook either, he's juiced to his gills these days, 18 months ago he would've passed out after four and a half hours of this year's AO final, not gone to nearly 6 hours and BEAT Nadal...

    1. Indeed!

      I've heard it be argued that Nadal's lack of a repeat of that serve was that it put strain on his shoulder (which kept him out of the subsequent Paris Masters), and had to be reverted somewhat.

      However, any time Nadal was asked about his serving, particularly compared to his US Open serve from 2010, he never said that it was due to shoulder problems and always chalked it up to some wishy-washy confidence issue, which seemed a little evasive if it was simply a physiological problem after all.

      Combine this with the fact that Nadal misses chunks of play like nobody's business with very dubious injuries (regarding nature of injury, healing times and timing of occurance) and the fact that Paris in 2010 had introduced just about the worst surface for Nadal's game in the last half a decade (a very slick hard court (indoors of course)), and the shoulder case fails to convince me.

      I am as speculative as you are with regards to the reason, of which there MUST be one.

  6. LOL.

    1. Notice how we transparently receive a fairly comprehensive lowdown on the situation, including info on statements, before a final verdict has been reached or a sentence given.

      There is clearly no such transparency regarding tennis' anti doping program. Thank you for profoundly demonstrating this.