This post presents the second half of our Q&A with Richard Ings, former Executive Vice President, Rules and Competition, of the ATP Tour (2001-2005) and past CEO of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (2005-2010). Part One is here.
I'd like to thank Richard for taking the time to answer my questions and giving us his thoughts and insights into the world of doping control. I'd also like to thank him for answering additional questions that have been posed in the comments.
As with Part One of the Q&A, the views expressed by Mr. Ings are his views alone, based on his experience and observation accumulated over 10 years in anti-doping.
Q&A (Part Two)
SNR: In 2008 (an Olympic year), 79 percent of ITF/WADA out of competition testing occurred in September through December, after the Olympics and all the Grand Slam events. Such a testing distribution would have no chance of catching sophisticated dopers.
Why should this be considered an efficient or effective approach to out-of-competition testing? Should not a more effective, random and targeted approach be used as stated in section 5.1 of the WADA Code and section 4.3 of the International Standard for Testing?
RICHARD INGS (RI): What is key is mixing it up so as routine doesn't set in. Early testing. Late testing. Finals. First rounds. It really doesn't matter as long as it doesn't become routine.
Ramping up testing late in a season is also not unusual as players will be carrying more injuries and be chasing end of year qualifications for the Masters etc. So players are at higher risk of considering doping to stay on the court, recover quicker and play a few more events chasing points. Sounds like a very reasonable test planning approach to me.
Remember that testing in any way shape or form will not detect sophisticated doping using micro dose administration routes or naturally occurring blood products. That is why anti-doping agencies now freeze samples to retest them as technology advances.
The assumption that testing will catch a doper is simply incorrect. It will catch some. But miss most. Witness Marion Jones.
SNR: A review of the ITF's past anti-doping data (2008 and 2009) shows that at Grand Slam events (with the exception of Roland Garros in 2009), only losing players were tested. The only time a winning player was tested was if s/he won the tournament.
How long has this practice been used for testing? Why should this be considered an efficient or effective approach to in-competition testing? Should not a more effective, random and targeted approach be used as per the WADA Code and IST?
RI: I recall between 2001 and 2005 when I was running the ATP anti doping program that we routinely tested winners and losers. For example we would arrive on quarterfinal day and test all 8 singles participants for urine and blood. And then come back Sunday to test both finalists. I remember doing this quarterfinal day testing on the same day at 3 ATP events on 3 different continents.
Nothing has changed today as far as I know.
SNR: A review of the ITF's past anti-doping data of non-Grand slam shows that testing is typically carried out in the early days (e.g., pre-quarterfinals) after which testing is discontinued.
Why should this be considered an efficient or effective approach to in-competition testing? Should not a more effective, random and targeted approach be used as per the WADA Code and IST?
RI: The WADA code requires targeted testing. And the ITF implements targeted testing. Players in particular rounds will be targeted for testing. And the ITF routinely tests the later rounds of big events.
SNR: A review of the ITF's out-of-competition testing data has shown that top players can go a year (and sometimes more than 2 years) without giving an out-of-competition sample. In 2009, many top players had an out-of-competition missions for which no sample was collected.
Doesn't this suggest that many players skip tests when they can potentially test positive or do you have another explanation?
RI: International federations like the ITF must cooperate in testing players with national anti-doping agencies. For elite players their national anti doping agencies will also be conducting out of competition testing using whereabouts information. This cooperation ensures that a player does not get an out of comp test from say the Swiss NADO in the morning and the ITF in the afternoon. Or worse both agencies at the same time! It also makes better use of resources.
So the player you outline will likely have been extensively tested out of competition by their national anti-doping agency. With the results reported to the ITF who has review and appeal rights.
Also for out of competition testing if it happens that the testers turn up and no one is home there are rules to cover this. Athletes that duck and cover will be target tested.
SNR: Wayne Odesnik was caught smuggling HGH into Australia, yet had his suspension for that shortened. It was claimed that he was providing valuable information for drug testing officials, yet no player to date has been implicated due to any cooperation from Wayne Odesnik.
Why should the public not assume that Odesnik was actually rewarded for his silence on this issue? Do you believe that the HGH he was smuggling was exclusively for his own use?
RI: I know this case well. ASADA handled the matter in our partnership with Australian Customs and it was ASADA that notified the ITF and handed over the case file.
The WADA code allows penalties to be reduced for cooperation. I would suggest that this player has met his burden to assist the authorities. WADA have not indicated otherwise.
The amount of hGH confiscated by customs could easily be for personal use, or be carried to give to someone else. It could be either. Tribunals determine all that. To prove trafficking the sport needs to prove the person had intent to pass on hGH to other athletes. This is very tough to prove and CAS has a high standard of proof where the penalties are from 4 years to life bans as in trafficking.
Odesnik in this case got caught without even a test for a substance that was then near impossible to detect with testing. That is a big leap forward for anti-doping.
SNR: Serena Williams has not had an out-of-competition test since 2009. During that time, she has had at least two out-of-competition tests where no sample was collected, including one in October 2011 when it was reported that she thought the drug tester(s) were intruder(s).
Is there a reason that the public should be suspicious about this?
RI: No. Out of competition testing is very challenging for both the athlete and the testing body. Especially when athletes are behind security fences and intercom systems. WADA are again monitoring all this and USADA also have jurisdiction to test US tennis players.
SNR: Serena Williams was not tested by the USADA in 2010 and she also had not been tested as of the end of 3rd quarter 2011.
RI: Serena's testing is a matter for both USADA and the ITF as both have coverage to test her as a US athlete.
SNR: Do you think the ITF is doing enough investigative work to ensure that the members of players' ever growing entourages (e.g., doctors and nutritionists) are not involved with doping activities?
RI: Yes the ITF is doing all it can. But sporting organisations by nature have severe limitations on what they can investigate. Sports do not have compulsive powers like government bodies. International sports have the added complication of dealing with local national laws and national government authorities when trying to investigate.
The types of doping matters you outline here are criminal offences (trafficking, possession) in many countries and sports should refer such matters to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.
Bottom line is that sports by nature are community organisations and not law enforcement bodies. Sports are not best placed for conducting complex cross border investigations into matters such as doping or corruption. This is best the domain of government bodies that have the required powers.
SNR: If you could make improvements to the ITF’s anti-doping programme where would you place your focus (e.g., more out of competition testing; adoption of the biological passport) and why?
RI: I would place greatest focus on education. Doping is about making wrong choices and educating young and not so young players of the consequences of doping is critical. I would also focus on freezing samples for future retesting with advances in technology. There is no greater deterrent to the sophisticated doper than the risk that their sample stored for 8 years will re-test positive with new technology. No doping technique has yet to remain undetectable for 8 years.
SNR: Last question, if you could make improvements to the WADA Code where would you place your focus (e.g., tougher penalties; less room for discretion by IFs and NADOs; test distribution planning) and why?
RI: I believe the WADA code strikes a sensible balance between the rights of athletes and the rights of sports. There is flexibility where needed yet mandatory requirements where demanded.
My suggested change relates to the prohibited list. At present illegal stimulants are only banned in competition. Put another way the WADA code bans cocaine use on match day but does not ban cocaine use out of competition. This in my opinion is a nonsense. Cocaine and other illegal stimulants meet the criteria of being dangerous to health and being contrary to the integrity of the sport. Such illegal stimulants in my view should be banned both in competition out of competition even if the penalties vary.
End of Q&A