Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Q&A: Richard Ings (Part One)

Richard Ings has recently posted some comments on this blog. We contacted him and he agreed to do a Q&A on anti-doping issues with us via e-mail.

Mr. Ings held the position of Executive Vice President, Rules and Competition, of the ATP Tour (2001-2005), where he was responsible for developing and implementing anti-doping and anti-corruption programs for men’s professional tennis. From 2005-2010, he also served as CEO of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA).

The views expressed by Mr. Ings through the Q&A are his views alone, based on his experience and observation accumulated over 10 years in anti-doping. They do not represent the view of any sporting federation or government agency.
 

Q&A

SNR: Overall, what is your view of the ITF's current anti-doping efforts? In answering, please consider the following:

Section 14.1 of the WADA Code allows organizations to publicly identify of any Athlete or other Person who is asserted by an Anti-Doping Organization to have committed an anti-doping rule violation. Further, section 14.2.3 of the Code allow organizations to publicly disclose decisions, with the consent of the subject of the decision, where it is determined, after a hearing or appeal, that the Athlete or other Person did not commit an anti-doping rule. 

Other sports federations appear to provide the maximum disclosure allowed by the Code by announcing positive tests and provisional suspensions prior to an anti-doping Tribunal review. However, the ITF follows neither of these practices (and, to my knowledge, neither did the previous ATP and WTA regimes). And, in any case, because the ITF does not make use of section 14.1, it has no incentive to make use of section 14.2.3. This lack of disclosure also lessens the incentive for other organizations (e.g., WADA) to devote resources to appeal ITF Tribunal decisions, as there is no public reporting (nor publicity) of potentially controversial exonerations.

How can the ITF's approach be justified? Do you think that having positive tests kept confidential and exoneration decisions kept confidential without the ability for the public to see the evidence are acceptable practices? How can the public assess whether an "independent tribunal" is actually independent, assess the credibility of the athlete's defence, and/or assess the competence of the ITF's prosecution when they don't even know that there was a positive test, hearing, and decision?

RICHARD INGS (RI): The ITF fully complies with the WADA code. When a sample returns an adverse analytical finding, the WADA accredited lab must report the test result to a number of organisations. WADA get a copy. The international federation get a copy. And the athletes national anti-doping agency get a copy. The organisation that collected the sample has results management responsibility (for example the ITF if they collected the sample) but they must keep the other parties updated (WADA and say ASADA if an Australian athlete) on progress of the matter.

These other parties can and do attend the hearings. And these other parties have 21 days to appeal any decision made by the hearing panel. So there are always 2 separate and independent organisations following and, in my experience, critiquing the case and with appeal rights at the end.

ASADA has appealed cases run by IFs. WADA appeals cases concluded by IFs all the time as WADA has every detail of every case guilty or innocent.

Secondly the panels hearing such cases are appointed by the CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport]. So they are completely independent of both the sport and the athlete. These are major court cases. Landis was a CAS hearing for example. All ITF matters are heard by CAS.

Finally the WADA code prohibits sports from releasing any details of matters where the athlete is found not guilty. Sports have no option here but to keep the details confidential. The only exceptions are where the athlete formally permits the sport to release details of the innocent finding by CAS.

Should CAS find an athlete guilty, the decision and opinion must be published. The CAS website has them all. As does the ITF website.


SNR: Continuing on the issue of transparency on disclosure, do you have any comments or thoughts on the revelation that Andre Agassi tested positive in 1997, but successfully lied about the nature of his positive test?

Would not the public and the integrity of tennis been better served by a more open and transparent process? Does the Agassi revelation give the public reason to believe that other players have successfully lied on other occasions, resulting in positive tests remaining confidential?

RI: Anti-doping is managed in accordance with the rules in place at the time. Back in 1997 there were hardly any rules and the ones that were there for all sports were wholly inadequate. The substance in question here was an illicit drug which carried a maximum 3 month suspension at the time.

This was before WADA was even thought of and well before strict liability was in place. Back in 1997 most sport rules had to establish intent to cheat, which is near impossible even today. So the Agassi matter is really irrelevant to today as it dates from a different era of rules. And in that case the rules, what rules there were, were followed to the letter.


SNR: A number of vague injuries/illnesses have been reported by players in recent years, preventing them from competing for several months. This seems to suggest that, at least in some cases, the player might be under a provisional suspension, but feign injury/illness to explain their absence.

Are you aware of any instances where this occurred? How often are players given provisional suspensions for doping and other violations that are never brought to the attention of the public because they are later exonerated? Do you think such a practice is justified? Would it not be more transparent and credible for the ITF to simply take full advantage of the disclosure permitted by the WADA Code?

RI: The WADA code requires athletes to be provisionally suspended when an adverse A sample is reported. There is no requirement on sports to also publicly announce a provisional suspension, just to make sure it happens. Some sports publicly announce provisional suspensions. Others including tennis do not. WADA allow sports discretion to follow either path.

Personally what is important is that the athlete is off the pitch or tennis court in fairness to others competing. I find that public comment at the A sample point simple drags out gossip and is unfair on all parties keeping in mind that the athlete is still innocent at that time. But I respect that some sports may wish to announce provisional suspensions.

And remember WADA is aware of every provisional suspension as are the NADO so cover-up is impossible.


SNR: The ITF has recently decreased the detail in its published anti-doping statistics. Section 14.4 of the WADA allows organization to publish reports showing the name of each Athlete tested and the date of each Testing. For years the ITF previously published its statistics as fully allowed by the WADA Code. Why should we not assume that the reduction in transparency is to conceal an ineffective and inefficient testing regime?

RI: WADA receive all the detailed information and will be quick to challenge sports with TDP [Test Distribution Plan] issues. The ITF publish what they are required to publish under the code and WADA are the watchdog.

I have no doubt that the ITF is committed financially, politically and morally to robustly fighting doping at any level of tennis.


SNR: The tennis media is reluctant to write about the prevalence of doping in tennis. And when they do, they downplay the possibility that top players are doping. Instead, it is argued that journeymen players are the more likely candidates for using performance enhancing drugs. While this view may accord with most of the anti-doping violations in tennis, it seems unrealistic that tennis, which rewards performance with lucrative prize money and endorsement possibilities, has a lower incidence of doping than other sports. For example, in other disciplines (e.g., athletics, baseball, and cycling), many top athletes have been found guilty of anti-doping violations (or belatedly admitted to doping) in recent years. Also, the WADA recently suggested that ten percent of athletes may be doping.

What is your opinion on the pervasiveness of doping in professional tennis?

RI: In my experience, doping is about choices made by individual athletes irrespective of what sport they play. Doping substances build strength, increase stamina, speed recovery, allow athletes to compete and train longer and harder, or enhance aggression. Doping can assist any athlete in any sport.

That being said, there are sports more at risk than others. Professional sports place great physical demands on athletes to week in and week out be fit and at the peak of their game  to make make a living from that sport. So the risk versus reward from doping is greatest in professional sports. Professional sports are most at risk of rogue athletes being involved in doping.

End of Part One

39 comments:

  1. To our French-speaking readers, can we get a translation of the "Les Guignols" paragraph?

    http://www.lequipe.fr/Tennis/Actualites/Nadal-ca-m-a-fait-mal/271409

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  2. The Guignols: "I do not usually read about myself in the press (...). But they talked a lot about it and I ended up watching. It does not make me laugh, but each his humor. Each country also has a different humor. (...) There were too many reactions (...). It increased day by day. Anyway, luckily, it stopped. (...) I am always the first to appreciate laughing, but I think there is a problem (...): a portion of the population has no idea what is professional sport. They do not know how the drug testing works, nor that it's testing is going on almost every day. That we need to give our whereabouts 365 days a year. (...) This sketch could create a negative opinion (...) for people who are less familiar with all that. I find it unfair. (...) I do not accept that '' doped'' label , as since I was seven I have worked thousands of hours every fucking day! After a moment, it tires me. "


    Roughy translated...thanks to google too.

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  3. RI: The WADA code requires athletes to be provisionally suspended when an adverse A sample is reported. There is no requirement on sports to also publicly announce a provisional suspension, just to make sure it happens. Some sports publicly announce provisional suspensions. Others including tennis do not. WADA allow sports discretion to follow either path.


    Personally what is important is that the athlete is off the pitch or tennis court in fairness to others competing. I find that public comment at the A sample point simple drags out gossip and is unfair on all parties keeping in mind that the athlete is still innocent at that time. But I respect that some sports may wish to announce provisional suspensions.


    And remember WADA is aware of every provisional suspension as are the NADO so cover-up is impossible.
    ----------------------------

    mmhhh. Thanks for answering the questions but I doubt that cover up in not possible.

    It's really strange that the customs and police investigation can detect more dopers than Wada themselves with all the means they have behind them.

    I cannot believe it's impossible to catch the Nadals and Djokos. It's simply that they are too lucrative to teh sport to be dragged down.

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    1. It is not a surprise that customs and police are better able to catch people involved in doping. These organisations have massive resources (Australian Customs have naval ships and a small fleet of aircraft) as well as coercive powers in conducting an investigation including search and seizure, access to phone records with a court order, ability to seize things like hard drives and computers to forensically examine them for evidence etc etc.

      Australian Customs will make literally thousands of interceptions of individual and commercial volume importations of doping substances every year. Check out the Australian Customs website for more information.

      Sports which form WADA can collect blood and urine from athletes and that is it. Which is why WADA is so committed to building partnerships with customs and law enforcement agencies to expand the fight against doping.

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  4. Another doping ring busted in Spain. As always, the question is whether any athletes will be implicated:

    "Spanish police arrest ten as they break up 'next generation superdrug' doping ring in Operacion Skype": http://road.cc/content/news/55184-spanish-police-arrest-ten-they-break-next-generation-superdrug-doping-ring

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  5. The English version of El Pais has provide a translation of Nadal's comments to L'Equipe:

    "There is a part of the population that does not understand what professional sport is like or how anti-doping controls work; they are practically daily and we have to be locatable 365 days a year...Maybe I am being naive, but it is better that I am. I'm so far removed from the
    world of doping that my lack of knowledge is complete."

    http://elpais.com/elpais/2012/03/20/inenglish/1332267959_101284.html

    However, in spite of his complete lack of knowledge Nadal goes on to state tennis is a "clean sport."

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  6. Firstly, thank you for answering some questions Mr Ings.

    A couple of comments on the questions. I found the Agassi response by Richard acceptable; that the testing procedures and punishments themselves were the problem in those days. The lack of publication of the facts are NOT excusable, but the procedures were so lax that there isn't much difference any way.

    However I found the response to the question "SNR: A number of vague injuries/illnesses have been reported by players in recent years..." to be very telling. In other words, Yes, some never-properly-explained injuries/illnesses by players *would* have in fact been provional/silent suspensions. If, in fact, a really big name player did get found guilty, is it that far a leap of the imagination to think they were also allowed to serve a silent suspension (making up some mysterious, vague, injury), but that the real reason was a positive test?

    I can think of one high profile former #1 (and current top 2) male and a high profile former #1 fashion-loving American female who have had mysterious injuries where the story changes constantly, leading to a long time out of the game.

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    1. Mystery I am happy to answer that.

      There are two steps here. When an athlete has a positive A sample they are stood down from all competition. No public announcement is mandated by WADA. It is at the option of the sport and most sports make no public announcement. The athlete just stands down.

      When this happens the anti-doping process is still ongoing. There is a B sample to test. Which may or may not confirm the A sample. Next if the B confirms the A there is a hearing which for most IF's is before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). During this entire time remember the athlete is still stood down from competition.

      CAS will hear the evidence presented by the IF and rebuttal by the athlete. These are seriously contested matters as there is much at stake and they are run along the lines of a court case. CAS having heard the evidence retires to issue a verdict which can take over a month in my experience. And still the athlete is stood down from competition.

      If CAS find the athlete guilty of doping, that decision MUST be publicly announced within I think 21 days. This is a requirement of the WADA Code. And WADA are watching! It is also posted on the CAS website normally depending on the level of the case.

      If the athlete is found not guilty, the athlete is cleared to resume competing and no public announcement is made as none was made to begin with. Though sports that did publicly announce the provisional suspension may have to publicly announce that they lost the case and the athlete is innocent to compete (which raises all sorts of reputation issues for the innocent athlete as well as damages issues for the sport).

      As you can see. These matters are complex and there are careers and millions often at stake. The anti-doping bodies do a damn fine job in my opinion managing all this given what is at stake and the scrutiny they are under.

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    2. Thanks for the response. I guess if these court-case style hearings drag on and on, that's when a player's vague injury might drag on and on too, and the possibility that a positive test had occurred will be eyebrow raising to those of us on the lookout for such. In fact, I can already think of one or two possible cases.

      I guess in best case scenario (i.e. assuming no coverups or corruption exist, as they do in every other part of human existance) that if a player tests positive in Sample A and B, then they will with all their millions pull out all stops to try to get off this positive test. And often, for all we know, probably do!

      I hope that after a **positive doping test**, the onus is on the player to prove innocence, and not the other way round.

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    3. Richard, a positive test is a positive test. You do not debate the results of a scientific test. If the test is accurate, it tells you that certain levels of a certain substance were detected. That is a fact and no hearings or debates or excuses can change the results of a test. The truth hurts no one.

      The public has the right to know. Tennis is funded by the public. Does an athlete have the right to lie to the public when he is on an "unannounced" suspension? Should the ITF assist players to make up stories to explain their absence from competition? What if a player is exonerated following an "unannounced" suspension and subsequent hearing? Surely that player has a right to sue for damages and lost earnings? Am I correct? Has it happened already? How would we ever find out anyway?

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    4. Mystery….

      A coverup would require the IF, the NADO, the lab and WADA to collude on burying a case. There is just no way it can happen the way things are setup. I am very comfortable that the system is safe from this sort of multi-lateral, international, multi-organisational collusion.

      I am more concerned that doping cases are taken forward for political reasons when the evidence is rubbery, or the science questionable, or that excessive penalties are sought for less serious offences to appear to be tough.

      Doping is a breach of rules, and the penalty should fit the nature of the violation. There is a huge difference between an inadvertent excessive puff of an asthma medication and a hGH or EPO positive.

      Michlob…..

      A positive test is presumptive. It has been be scrutinised by the CAS and found to be properly conducted before a positive test becomes a doping violation. In my experience, labs around the world are not "black boxes". They have varying standards, widely varying pieces of analytical equipment, different levels of training of technicians and differing handling procedures for samples. And labs do (all be it rarely) get it wrong. As I have said labs have even recently had their accreditation pulled for serious violations of lab standards in analysis samples.

      Your final paragraph highlights the quandary that sports face. "The public have a right to know" that a player has been provisionally suspended is balanced agains the fact that "what is a player is exonerated …surely the player has a right to sue for damages and lost earnings". Which is why WADA gives sports the option of announcing provisional suspensions. An elite multi-million dollar earning athlete will be tarred and feathered by an A sample provisional suspension announcement. This places big sports at extreme risk of being sued and bankrupted if the player is then found to be completely innocent (and it does happen believe me).

      Now cycling due to their extreme doping issues have taken a position to announce all provisional suspensions. Athletics too for the same reasons. All power to them.

      But most sports do not announce provisional suspensions due to the risk involved of labelling an athlete as a doper and being wrong. And this is a perfectly reasonable risk approach for a sport and completely OK under the WADA Code.

      What is important is that the player is off the court till the matter is resolved. In my opinion. How an athlete deals with that is up to them and you will find that IF's will not be making statements to cover for the player. Remember that only 3-4 people in an IF will know about the case. The IF media people at events will know nothing about any pending doping matter and simply relay whatever the athlete has said.

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  7. SNR, I would have loved you to ask (and maybe you will in part 2 or, hopefully, 3!) about the widespread steroid issue back in the early 00's, with Greg Rudedski the sacrificial lamb, who was then let off any way.

    I suspect this Q&A is already complete, but if not, perhaps also ask, as I did in the previous thread, about why certain players, having a seriously high increase in form, were given an OOC test possible ONCE, and no more than 3 times, the entire year in which they suddenly increased their "very good" level of play to a "G.O.A.T." level of play.

    We know for a fact that testing states that players should be sought out for tests if they suddenly increase their level of play, get injuries, come in and out of retirement etc. So why was this not played out in reality last year?

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    1. Mystery,
      Richard addressed nandrolone in a comment here: http://tennishasasteroidproblem.blogspot.com/2012/03/you-cannot-be-serious.html?showComment=1332057166705#c5935107603780196992

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    2. Thanks Sen, was an interesting read.

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  8. Sen, I was interested in Richard Ings's earlier comment, when he said, "if an athlete takes one course of a doping agent that clears the body in 2 hours to overcome an injury then no anti-doping test will discover that today." That suggests to me that he is acknowledging that a determined doper will (and can) find a way to beat the testers, no matter how zealous is the testing regime. If that is so then we have lost the battle. Only the careless will be caught, not those who know what they are doing - and I suspect most dopers now do.

    I would also be interested in Richard Ings views of the extraordinary physical performances of top players, as shown by the recent AO final (or the 5 hour-plus match between Schiavone and Kuznetsova at last year's AO) and whether such performances ought to arouse suspicion in those charged with eradicating doping in sport.

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  9. Richard. Quite the contrary. The chances of a sophisticated doper being caught today are greater than ever before.

    While it is easy for a sophisticated doper to beat a single doping test today, anti-doping agencies now freeze suspect (maybe an athlete out injured and coming back quickly) or high profile (think Olympic Medallists) samples allowing them to be retested for doping agents up to 8 years in the future.

    Think of that. A doper today doesn't just have to beat one test. They have to beat every advance in testing technology over the next 8 years to get away with doping. The WADA code grants an 8 year statute of limitations for re-testing samples with new technology. This is an incredible deterrent for top class athletes who regularly have their samples frozen long term.

    Anti-doping agencies also operate tip off lines (to get better intelligence of doping) to better target test as well as working with law enforcement to get evidence of doping from the supplier end (think of a traffickers list of clients buying doping products).

    All these things combine with better science to create a much greater deterrence today than ever before. Basically of you dope today the chances of being caught in the future are much much greater than ever before.

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    1. To respond in this thread for seemingly the umpteenth time, will any of these frozen samples be tested randomly or as a matter of course in the future? Or will they sit there frozen until say an event occurs that will cause them to be unfrozen and tested, such as the player turns out a positive test at a later point in their career, or their doctor admits doping them up way back in the day, etc.

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    2. Richard Ings, I accept that WADA urges keeping samples for 8 years, and that this is the policy of the IOC, but this is not yet the policy in tennis, is it? I recall a couple of years back Roger Federer agreeing with the 8 year rule, precisely because it hadn't been adopted in tennis. Are you saying it now is? If so, when was it adopted? (and why wasn't it announced?)

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    3. Stored samples such as the ones we are discussing are being stored to detect possible doping with substances that we don't even know and for which today no test even exists!

      So no random resetting there. That would be a waste of a good sample. When new evidence comes to light that an athlete may have been using a previously unknown doping agent (BALCO and the famous steroid called The Clear is the classic example), then the sample can be retested using that new technology to determine if that doping agent was then being used.

      In the case of Marion Jones, when The Clear was uncovered and a test developed, there was a scramble to find frozen samples form the athletes in this conspiracy. Because if a sample existed it would likely re-test positive and the case of doping would then be very straightforward. For Ms. Jones, there were no samples frozen. If her 2000 Sydney Olympics samples had been frozen, they would have immediately been re-tested with perhaps a positive test result. But without samples it took another 2 years till she admitted to doping.

      The frozen sample is a very cheap and powerful anti-doping tool.

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    4. Mr Ings, I am sorry but I missed the part where you say whether tennis has adopted the 8 year policy. Roger advocated it. Has it been adopted?

      Secondly, if masking agents were available ten years ago (such as with The Clear and The Cream) then how do we know that drugs being used today are not also being masked?

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    5. The Williams sisters have not undergone any out of competition testing for the past two years. Sophisticated dopers don't need to beat the tests if they're not doing any.

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    6. Richard…

      Sorry I missed that question about the 8 years. The 8 years statute of limitation on retesting a sample is a mandatory part of the WADA Code. The ITF has adopted the WADA Code in full years ago. So the 8 year re-testing window has applied to tennis since they adopted the WADA Code.

      The ITF can freeze samples and most likely already do. Most labs provide the service of storing deep frozen samples for 8 years and the accounting and control requirements that go along with that.

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  10. I am less interested in how players fair in a 5 hour match (as male players play 4+ hour matches all the time) as to how quickly they rebound to be ready to compete the next day after a 5 hour match. Doping agents that aid recovery to get you back on the park the next day represent a very big risk as has been highlighted in cycling.

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    1. It would be risky, but as I think SNR has demonstrated on this site a month or two ago, players are generally tested once during Slams, and that's after they lose (or win the final). Cycling (at least the likes of the TDF) test every day or thereabouts. If this (re tennis) is in fact the case, as the supplied facts seem to indicate, then doping after a 3rd or 4th round match to be ready for the 4th/5th round match, wouldn't necessarily be *all* that risky. Especially when one suspects one will win the third/fourth round match.

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    2. Richard Ings, you say that you are less interested in how players fare in a five-hour match (including women serving and volleying, as Schiavone did at the end of her 5-hour marathon?) than how quickly they rebound to recover to compete the next day (which Schiavone also did, without signs of fatigue.) Well, the 2012 AO men's finalists showed amazing capacity for recovery for the final, but how they played is surely just as relevant. Check out the views of the most intensively trained top players of the past. After the final Agassi said that he had played guys who could "play marathon matches but (he had) never seen players who could sprint for a marathon". Quite. That's off the chart powers of recovery. And Jim Courier said that he and Ivan Lendl, despite being the fittest players of their generation, would have been dying of cramps out there, and they couldn't figure how Nadal and Djokovic could do it, sprinting time and time again to every ball.

      So how do they do it?

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    3. I have learned not to speculate on the performance of athletes in any sport. I have seen amateur athletes in local sports involved in doping. And professional athletes too of course.

      As a former anti-doping director my thinking was always "trust but verify" and as I have pointed out there are many many tools now to do just that.

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  11. I have a question regarding the standing down of athletes: Why was Martina Hingis allowed to compete in the 2007 US Open after she tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon the same year? It seems to me as if that would go against the WADA code.

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    1. At the time of this offence the WADA Code did not have a mandatory provisional suspension requirement. It was optional for sports to stand players down or not to. Tennis had a policy then of not standing players down as did the majority of sports.

      The tennis philosophy then (and this is ITF, WTA and ATP) was that the player was innocent until found guilty, but if they were found guilty all their results and prize money would be scrubbed. This policy had the overwhelming support of the various player councils at the time.

      THe WADA Code changed subsequently to make provisional suspension mandatory for all sports if a positive A sample was found.

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  12. Interesting question, Shadow. The answer is simple: Seems that the sample analysis and Review Board process took time. Her test at Wimbledon was conducted on June 29, 2007. Samples were received by the WADA accredited lab in Montreal on 5 July 2007. Certificate of analysis of the sample dated 26 July 2007. Upon notification of the positive result, ITF convened a Review Board to see if there was a case to answer. The Review Board decision that there was a case to answer came in on 7 September 2007 (at the end of the US Open). This is all in the Tribunal Decision: http://www.itftennis.com/antidoping/news/pressrelease.asp?articleid=18254

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    1. See my previous note. This time line is correct. But Martina was not stood down because the rules did not require it. The rules get updated all the time as learnings are made along the way.

      Under the current rules, if in force at the time of this matter, Martina would have been stood down from competition the moment she was notified of the A sample positive around 26 July if not sooner as these matters now are much more time sensitive given a provisional suspension applies.

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  13. First, a big thanks to SnR and Richard Ings for agreeing to this interview; It at least provides a better glimpse into the testing process, parties at play, and timetable for decision making.

    I too would like to hear what Richard has to say about the consistent testing patterns unearthed by SnR going back year over year in GS vs masters 1000s using the ITF material. There seems to be a rhyme and reason to the pattern and quite easily to bypass if you are a top player confident of your performance in early rounds but less sure in later rounds when competition stiffens up (alluding to the dearth of testing late in GS).

    Also, can Richard expound on the decline in OOC testings over the past 5-6 years as SnR has shown, in a sport whose dependence on athleticism and recovery has gone up 10x during this time period (making certain drugs, such as EPO, a very attractive option).

    Finally, could Richard shed some light on the tricky nature of TUE and its utilization on sketchy modalities such as PRP, which scientifically have shown in recent clinical tests to be no more effective than prolotherapy on soft joints but offer a great conduit for growth factor injection directly into the muscle.

    What is their justification in allowing this procedure via TUE without oversight, seeing as it really is "bleeding edge" therapy currently, with huge hit-or-miss statistics (see nadal vs blake on the same exact procedure). I would think ATP would want to police these procedures more carefully due to the potential for malpractice to be so high.

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    1. MaskedMuffin

      I will do my best. These are some excellent question.

      I will not comment on the ITF TDP.

      I will say that the any TDP relates to identifying risk of when and where doping may occur. The TDP should be dynamic, Changing constantly and as unpredictable as possible. Athletes learning the rhythm of testing quickly so it is critical to constantly mix it up.

      Also note that you don't have a complete picture of testing in tennis. NADO's around the world are also testing hundreds of players and predominantly their elite professionals. Add this layer of testing on to what you see published by the ITF and you will see a very different dynamic.

      I know the ITF people well having worked with them for years. They as a team are committed to both anti-doping and anti-corruption in their sport. They have no fear of suspending elite players if the analysis and rules support that happening. The ITF is the custodian of the integrity of the sport for all generations and capable and competent to do complete that task.

      Will mistakes happen. Absolutely. But don't don't the commitment.

      In regard to OOC testing, again remember that NADO's are also OOC testing and most NADO's require detailed whereabouts information from players. What you are finding is that IF's are more in-comp testing as they manage the events and NADO's are more OOC testing as they have the whereabouts information. But between them the players are routinely tested both in-comp and OOC.

      PRP is a very technical area. I think I will best leave this to the doctors and the experts at WADA>

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  14. Thanks to Richard Ings for contributing positively to this discussion, it's very interesting to hear your views. I think the questions posed above by maskedmuffin are excellent, I would like to know your opinions on them. Here is one from me:

    A recurring theme is your answers are comments like "The chances of a sophisticated doper being caught today are greater than ever before."

    I don't disagree with this, tests & procedures are clearly much improved from the past. But some of your comments imply that the chances of being caught are quite high, I'm sceptical that this is the case. The impression I get is that basic doping is quite difficult to get away with anymore, but for those with the resources it is possible to dope with a very low likelihood of being caught.

    This leads in my opinion to a situation of the "haves and have-nots". Lower ranked players dope in unsophisticated ways, maybe out of frustration, and sometimes get caught. Those with the resources produce incredible performances, miss minor events (or years with no olympics or world championships) with dubious injuries and always peak for the main event in their sport. There will be plenty of performances in this years Olympics that are just not credible judging by what we know of the past, but few if any top athletes will be caught.

    It's a bit of a long winded and subjective question, but I'd like to know when you watch the Olympics this summer, will you be amazed at the performances of the human body and spirit or amazed at the advances in pharmaceuticals and doping procedures?

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    1. cob,
      I had a similar thought about chances of getting caught. For exmaple, let's say 15 years ago the chances of a sophisticated doper getting caught was 0.0001 percent and today, as an example, it's increased to 0.4 percent (or even 1 percent). That is a huge increase in the chance of getting caught, but it's still pretty close to zero.

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  15. Check out the new: "Anti-Doping Incidents in Tennis" Tab

    http://tennishasasteroidproblem.blogspot.ca/p/anti-doping-incidents-in-tennis.html

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  16. Mr. Ing, thank you for replying to specific questions here.

    What do you think of the public resistance by many players to out of competition testing ?

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    1. OOC testing is an important part of anti-doping. But it is a huge imposition given that most athletes compete cleanly. Just to experience what it is like, I tried completing whereabouts once. Imagine having to account for where you are every day to the authorities. And if you are not where you say you are you get a strike. If you change your plans, then you have to immediately update your whereabouts. Miss it 3 times and you get fired.

      I am incredibly sympathetic to athletes you have problems with this. But and it is a big but, it is required to protect sport. So athletes need to accept it and the ADO's implementing it have to be reasonable in balancing how they do OOC testing. It has to be a balance but it needs to happen.

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  17. Mr Ings, you say that as far as doping is concerned you "have learned not to speculate on the performance of any athlete". Frankly, that astonishes me. It suggests that if testing doesn't catch an athlete then they can't be doping. But experience shows us - from the East Germans in the 70's and 80's through to the Chinese swimmers and distance runners in the 90's, to individual sportsmen and women like Marion Jones (whom you mention above), Barry Bonds, and many others - that dopers have been rife in professional sport (and, yes, amateur sport, too), and yet most of them never failed a drug test. I repeat that: these dopers never failed a drug test (that we know of.) The track and field records set in the 1980's by the East Germans, Flojo's sprint records and the distance records of Chinese athletes in the 90's - still on the books - mock the performances of today's athletes, who cannot get near them. We know now these records were only possible through doping. Marion Jones, the winner of multiple gold medals at the 2000 Olympics, never failed a drugs test. So, as an official responsible for eliminating doping in sport you would have been happy to give her (and others like her) the benefit of the doubt? Nothing comes up on your "bullshit meter"? Yet it is the incredible performances of many athletes that are the only clue that they might be doping. Examples abound. In the wake of phenomenal new records being set in baseball a decade a ago, a former top pro, Jose Canseco, in his autobiography "Juiced", claimed 85% of professional baseball players were doping. Turned out he was mostly right. So what was testing achieving there? Nothing.

    We know that doping is very sophisticated, and that as testers develop methods to detect existing drugs new drugs are being produced that leave the testers a step behind. Take, for instance, the powerhouse drug IGF-1: there is no known test for it apart from a muscle biopsy, which an athlete would never permit. Yet it gives tremendous additional strength to the athlete who uses it - safe also in the knowledge they can't be caught. If dopers like Jones, Bonds, Dwight Chambers (another track sprinter) knew their drug use couldn't be detected through tests, because it was masked, you can bet that masking agents will exist for the present generation of drugs.

    So what has performance got to do with all this? It shows us better than anything else the possibility of doping, even when testing is unable to confirm it. If history teaches us anything it at least teaches us that. To believe otherwise must be wilful blindness. We even have former pro tennis players saying that. Perhaps it's time for the administrators to pay them some heed.

    A step in the right direction might be for the ITF to ramp up its out-of competition-testing from a risible 7-8% of its annual testing programmme (which also allows players to be "not available" for tests on two occasions without penalty.) Dopers aren't going to be caught except by surprise.

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  18. When I say speculate I mean speculate publicly. ADO's privately conduct target testing missions base on many of the criteria you outline.

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