Thursday, March 22, 2012

Q&A: Richard Ings (Part Two: Conclusion)

Before I get to the Q&A, please note (and take a look at) the new Anti-Doping Incidents tab.

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.




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

81 comments:

  1. In several of his answers Mr. Ings tries to play down the patently obvious lack and poor timing of ITF OOC testing by referring to "extensive OOC testing" by national agencies. How gullible does he think we are?

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  2. Well, well, well...looks like the Wickmayer and Malisse cases may finally get wrapped up soon (i.e., this year). A new hearing date has been set at CAS:

    CAS hearings

    30 May 2012
    CAS 2009/A/1994 Xavier Malisse v. Vlaams Doping Tribunaal
    CAS 2009/A/1995 Yanina Wickmayer v. Vlaams Doping Tribunaal
    CAS 2009/A/2020 AMA v. Vlaams Doping Tribunaal, VTV & Xavier Malisse
    CAS 2009/A/2021 AMA v. Vlaams Doping Tribunaal, VTV & Yanina Wickmayer

    There's this too:

    29 March 2012
    CAS 2011/A/2621 David Savic v. Professional Tennis Integrity Officers PTIOs

    http://www.tas-cas.org/en/infogenerales.asp/4-3-544-1092-4-1-1/5-0-1092-15-1-1/

    Wonder when the Koellerer decision will be released...

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    1. Wow, the newswire picked up the Wickmayer-Malisse CAS date: http://www.tennis.com/articles/templates/news.aspx?articleid=16927&zoneid=4

      Question is whether the tennis media will actually offer any comment.

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  3. National anti-doping testing won't do much good if the player is based in the likes of Monaco (as so many players are) - what resources are they going to have for this? Or in Spain, with their attitude to anti-doping.

    Even the US tennis fed shows via their published statistics show pretty much bare minimum ooc testing.

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    1. Some numbers:

      USADA 2011: 11 OOC for tennis
      http://www.usada.org/sport-testing-numbers-2011

      USADA 2010: 5 OOC for tennis
      http://www.usada.org/uploads/annualreport/2010%20usada%20ar.final.pdf

      UKAD 2010/11 Annual Report: 1 OOC for ITF; 15 OOC for LTA
      http://www.ukad.org.uk/resources/document/annual-report-2011

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    2. For a NADO to test a player living in Monaco, you simply pick up the phone and call the French, Swiss or Italian NADO, give them the details and ask them to conduct a testing mission for you. It is called reciprocal testing and it happens every day.

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  4. Part One

    Very interesting these OOC testing numbers. Based on what the stats say, I would have hoped for higher OOC testing numbers on US tennis players by USADA especially in an Olympic year such as 2012.

    In regard to the nandrolone matters, at the time of these cases the science held a view that any nandrolone reading above 2.0 ng/ml must be synthetic. The science was based on research carried out at the Nagano Winter Olympics.

    Here is a BBC report of that research:

    Olympic laboratories, tasked with ensuring that their tests are fair as well as effective, have researched natural nandrolone production regularly over the past quarter-century, the most recent study being conducted at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

    There, of 621 competitors tested after competition, only five produced results where their nandrolone levels exceeded 0.1 nanograms per millilitre of urine (ng/ml).All five were women. The levels in women are marginally higher, as a result of a different hormonal make-up and use of the contraceptive pill. But the levels are still minimal. Nobody in the Nagano tests exceeded 0.4ng/ml.

    This just served to confirm the IOC's cut-off levels - a doping-control speed limit, where anything above 2ng/ml in men or 5ng/ml in women is regarded as an offence. Basic arithmetic suggests that the IOC scientists have set themselves a generous margin for error - 2ng/ml being 20 times what might be regarded as a "normal" level of nandrolone in men.

    Are you with me so far….

    The ATP's very broad anti-doping program was at that period doing close to 1000 samples per year. When it ramped up, it started getting nandrolone readings from 1.0 ng/ml to about 7.0 ng/ml. There were 8 samples above 2.0 ng/ml which were prosecuted as "positives" as required and close to 100 samples over 2 years between 1.0ng/ml and 2.0 ng/ml which are not "positive" but added to the intrigue and speculation.

    What was interesting was that these 100 results (remember 8 positives and nearly 100 trace reading negatives) all had a common analytical fingerprint indicating that wherever the nandrolone came from the source was common. Remember that there were samples above 2.0ng/ml and well below 2.0 ng/ml with the same analytical fingerprint.

    Now these results came from players from over 30 countries from qualifying to finalists from satellite players to top 10 from events on most continents all with absolutely nothing in common.

    The ATP tried the 8 positive cases before tribunals comprising CAS arbitrators like Yves Fortier and Richard McLaren and including panel members such as Dr Gary Wadler and we lost. We could not satisfy the panels that the source of the nandrolone was not a ubiquitously distributed (it was available in every locker room) electrolyte of extremely dubious manufacture (the electrolyte was made by a supplement manufacturer that had a history of making 19-nor based supplements on the same pilling making equipment as the electrolyte…19-nor causes nandrolone positives).

    While the cases were lost for these reasons, the ATP continued to try and find what was causing all this. Firstly we were able at a later date to conclusively rule out the electrolyte as the common source. That was good news. We also worked to develop a new analytical procedure to detect synthetic nandrolone conclusively in samples between 2.0ng/ml and 10.0 ng/ml. That was great news.

    So what caused the common readings of over 100 players? (See Part 2)

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    1. Thank you again for being interviewed Mr Ings. I am glad you acknowledge here in the comments that the USADA testing is inadequate. This would seem to nullify a few of your answers above.

      I think this is the problem in general, everyone assumes that testing is rigorous etc, when really when one looks at the evidence, it really isn't.

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  5. Drilling through the results patterns emerged. The common source nandrolone readings were coming from the same groups of tournaments. All outdoor events. Places like Indian Wells. Miami, Vina Del Mar, Scottsdale, Itaparica, Cincinnati from Masters Series to Challenger events.

    None of the reading were coming from indoor events. Then we noticed that the readings were coming on the same days. So if we tested Mon/Tue/Wed..the same source readings were happening on Tuesday. Then we noticed they were coming in the same matches on the same day. So both singles players, or all four doubles players in the same match playing on a Tuesday afternoon in Acapulco or Cinci or Miami or Vina Del Mar or some obscure challenger event would return same source nandrolone trace readings.

    Then the issue became clear. The common factor was extreme heat and long matches. In every case the samples were collected from outdoor events on excruciatingly hot days (up in the very high 30C to low 40C) following long matches. That was the common link.

    We now know that nandrolone readings between 2.0 and 10.0 ng/ml can occur quite naturally where extreme heat and dehydration is impacting on the athlete. This combination of extreme heat and dehydration acts to boost the reading of natural nandrolone in a sample beyond 2.0 ng/ml.

    The imposition of a mandatory 2.0 ng/ml cut off for doping has been turned on its head and new tests ensure that no athlete will stand wrongly accused of doping for nandrolone when it was just naturally in their body. All thanks to a new test which was developed in partnership between the ATP and the Cologne and Montreal labs which can conclusively determine if any level of nandrolone is synthetic and doping or natural and absolutely innocent.

    Which leads me back to how could the science of nandrolone missed this. The impact of severe heat and dehydration on nandrolone levels. Remember where the statistical research into nandrolone levels was done to determine the cut-off of 2.0 ng/ml?

    Part 2

    It was done at the Nagano WINTER Olympics.

    And in closing, back to the original 8 matters, why did the ATP lose. Because we were unable to satisfy the tribunal beyond their comfortable satisfaction that in those matters with the available dubious science and the available facts that the athletes doped and that the results were not caused by other factors outside the control of the players.

    Thank goodness these tribunals had the guts to make this tough call. They got it right.

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    1. Thank you for the clarification Mr. Ings.
      That story does seem to make sense.

      And I'm glad to see you agree that the OOC testing numbers of USADA seem low.

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    2. Thanks for the explanation, Richard. One question (as it's not clear to me in your responses above): Were any of the 100+ readings (including the original 8) retested using the new procedure to see if the nandrolone was synthetic or natural?

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    3. Sen. The true million dollar question.

      For the 8 so called positive samples, as they had been through the anti-doping process the urine in the A sample and B sample had been largely used up (you need a minimum urine quantity to conduct a test) and the integrity (chain of custody) of any remaining urine lost as the matters were long closed.

      The trace readings (that is the negative readings below 2.0 ng/ml), and there were over 100 trace negative readings, were a different story. We had sealed B bottles for all those samples. A few were retested blindly to test the new analytical technique and they were all negative for synthetic nandrolone. Irrefutably no doping.

      Does that mean that the other 8 so called positive tests were not positive? We will never know. And even if we could find out the 8 year statute of limitations has long passed.

      But we do know that no panel could be comfortably satisfied that doping took place and ban a player for 2 years given all the facts of these cases.

      And in this the panels, despite huge criticism, made the courageous and correct decision.

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  6. Mr Ings,

    First I would like to thank you for accepting to participate in this Q&A session, which gave us a very interesting insight into the workings of some anti-doping agencies.

    However, I cannot help but remark that some of your responses are very unsatisfactory, as they imply either a very high level of gullibility, or a bald-faced lie.

    I think especially to your answer regarding testing in the early rounds of ATP events. As the numbers computed by Sen No Rikyu unmistakably and conclusively show, a very high number of Grand Slams and lower events only test the losers. The only winner to be tested is the one winning the whole tournament.

    You cannot possibly be unaware of this. That is why I would like you to clarify your stance here, lest I should consider your whole testimony deeply flawed.

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  7. Vincent. Note I have been careful not to criticise any TDP. These decisions are for sports and WADA is the watchdog. I can comment on what I managed between 2001 and 2005 but can't comment directly on how testing takes place today.

    But I have stated that TDP's should be constantly changing so as to ensure that no athlete can be sure when testing may take place. Static TDP's telegraph testing intentions.

    I know that the ITF program is highly targeted with its testing based on risk. As with any TDP there appear opportunities to adjust how testing can take place.

    But it raises an interesting question. One I will pose here.

    Role play……...

    You now run the TDP for all of tennis. You have over 4000 ranked professional players internationally, male and female and disabled. Around 200 top tier events between Slams, DC, Fed Cup, Masters Series etc etc. And then you have Challenger events. WTA International series (?), Satellite events. Literally thousands of tournaments all over the globe.

    And you have resources for say 700 in-comp tests and 100 OOC tests for the whole sport (sorry but you need a little aside as every case before CAS costs around $50k to $100k in lawyers fees to prepare and prosecute, and you expect say 8 cases each year, plus you have a global education program to fund on the risk of doping, a whereabouts program to administer, pay to freeze samples, pay for travel to all these events for testing, pay Dr Stewart who has to run this whole program you give him, and he deserves a rise by the way etc etc etc…all that adds up to $2million give or take…there is another couple of million in the anti-corruption program but match fixing is just as important to fight so sorry you can't borrow from that).

    You can move in comp resources to OOC but at a cost of 5 to 1. One OOC test costs the same as 5 in-comp tests to conduct. Why? It is expensive sending testers and chaperones to collect one off samples to a players training location in the Bahama's for example and if the sample is not collected for some reason you still have to pay the people who attempted the mission. It is much cheaper to collect a dozen or more samples in one day at an in-comp setting which you can do with the same number of doping officials as one out of comp test.

    So add one OOC test to your hundred and drop your IC numbers by 5.

    Propose a TDP with that resourcing. Not trying to be glib here. And the numbers I outline are based on my experience.

    But I pose the challenge as this is what ADO's (anti-doping organisations) face every day. Where would you allocate that resource between mens and women's events. Top 10, Top 50. Injured players. Doubles. Winners or losers or both. Up and comers racing up the ranking of challengers. Davis Cup. Fed Cup. Disabled tennis.

    All those players at all those levels want to know the person on the other side of the net is clean.

    So the pressure is on to keep the players, tournaments, WADA, media, NADO's, WADA and the blogosphere satisfied that the game is clean.

    Luckily the Olympics is covered by the IOC so forget that for a moment. And don't worry about lawsuits. We have liability coverage which should cover any damages claim for a player falsely accused because some lab stuffed up the analysis..which is OK now as WADA pulled their accreditation. The cost of that liability insurance comes out of your $2.0 million so you have $50 million in non-consecutive coverage. Which should cover you in most cases. Big premiums for that by the way.

    Perhaps Sen can collate the responses into a TDP you can propose to Dr Miller at the ITF.

    You will find that as you pull it together, you have to make choices. And compromises. Where do you make them? How do you explain the compromises to your stakeholders?

    It is really a tough job. Believe me. But give it a go as it may uncover some great ideas for the ITF to consider.

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  8. It is certainly a tough job, no-one thinks it would be easy. For one thing I wouldn't put three quarters of all tests to take place *after* the slams are over, at least not for the top players. For them and everyone, I'd OOC test more often in early January and from April to September, the meat-and-potatoes part of the season. For players outside the top 10 they can be randomly tested late season, sure, but I really can't agree that, even for lower ranked players, Oct-Dec is more important than Apr-Sept.

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    1. I like your thinking. You have now used up your OOC test budget testing in January (most players are in Australia in January so your OOC testing just cost you a premium as you need to fly people to Australia for the sample collection) and then April to September.

      But the media is now all over you. You mean that you will not be OOC testing in December? This is the official off season and the media claim that players can use this period to bulk up and overcome long term injuries before they hit to circuit in January. I would drop OOC in January (too expensive and the players will be competing anyway so OOC windows are few) and move it to December.

      But either way you have used 100 OOC tests. But you have 700 IC tests to allocate across a thousand events and 4000 ranked players. Where do you go next?

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    2. I don't really see how testing more so from Apr-Sept, and less so Oct-Dec, really changes things all that much, or even at all. For instance, players are still OOC tested (be it far less so) from Jan-Sept, but then it triples from Oct-Dec. It could easily be the other way round as far as I can tell without meaning the budget is all used up too quickly, certainly no more than the budget is currently all solely used from Oct-Dec without any testing at all before that. I guess what I mean is a more even spread of OOC testing, to encompass the middle of the year, when three slams take place, instead of at the end of the year when there are less top level tournaments, would be better. That way we wouldn't "have used 100 OOC tests", by, what, September?, but rather would use say 75% by September, instead of 75% *after* September, which I think would be better.

      As for January testing, if it's too expensive (leaving low budget issues aside), as obviously I don't 100% know the ins and outs of, then mid/late Dec-early January, before players get to Aus. Late December only if Qatar, Auckland, Mumbai, Brisbane, etc are testing. Randomly do it differently in different years. Whatever. I'd take away most of the 75% of Oct-Dec OOC tests and put them more so when it matters.

      As for the media being all over us for not testing at the right times? Please! :-)

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  9. However I appreciate that you aren't in ASADA nor the ATP at the moment and cannot really comment on what is being done NOW, only a bit of what was done in the past.

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  10. Mr. Ings,
    I appreciate your responses, although they constitute what I would consider to ba a pollyanna version of drug testing in tennis. There is a lot that I would comment on, but I'll try to keep it to a few points:
    1. Allowing players to pretend they are injured while under a provisional suspension is harmful to clean players who are actually injured. Why would I hear about dubious injuries of top players from, say, cutting their foot on glass in an unnamed restaurant, having mononucleosis for months on end or being diagnosed with a rare and debilitating, uncurable autoimmune disease like Sjogren's Syndrome and magically returning to play and not just assume that these players are doping and hiding suspensions, which you seem to think is okay. This gives the impression that any player who is injured for a period of time is a doper.
    2. The "science" you are citing for the Nandrolone cases is just speculation from scientists operating under the dubious assumption that the players were clean and these were false positives. It is not what got them off. They were let off for the claimed reason that the drink was contaminated, which was known even by WADA to be false at the time, which negates the argument that secret hearings are not biased. This exonerating pseudoscience came long after they had already been let off and the idea that there was some special common marker indicating that it was all from the same source is not credible and the first I've heard that argument being made. Those participating in secret hearings have an obvious vested interest in the outcome, which is why it has been known for centuries that secret hearings of any kind do not elicit honest results and why no country calling itself a democracy engages in such hearings. We have already seen that tennis officials let the rules slide when their interests are at risk. That is why they let Agassi off and let Jimmy Connors pretend he had diarrhea, etc. and it is why they will always give top players the benefit of the doubt.
    3. It is ludicrous to chalk up the fact that half the top players in tennis in 2009 missed one of their only two out of competition tests due to security gates. There might be one or two isolated incidents, but most of these players missed them because they wanted to miss them and there is really only one good reason for that. To suggest otherwise is simply naive. If there were such barriers to getting test samples, then why did almost no one miss both tests? The players are called on their phone at the time the drug testers arrive. The only way a security gate is going to prevent a test is if the player refuses to open it even after being told that a drug tester is at the gate.
    4. If it isn't enough that Serena Williams hasn't been tested out of competition in 3 years and missed AT LEAST two out of competition tests during that time and has been dodging tournaments with an absurd string of suspicious injuries, then there is the simple fact that she is also bizarrely muscular, as are a few other female (and male) tennis players, which by itself should make one suspicious. This leads not only to significant suspicion that she is using steroids, but that the ITF does not appear to be doing anything about it other than enabling her to do so and presumbaly hiding any evidence. She is the most obvious example, but there are plenty of others.
    In short, the players attract suspicion by their actions and tennis officials attract suspicion due to their lack of action. Secret hearings, slack testing, fake injuries and the like are exactly what tennis officials should be trying to avoid. Good drug testing starts with a real commitment to catching cheaters. What I see whenever we get a sliver of information is the opposite. As an exterminator once told me: "For every cockroach you see, there are 400 in the walls." Without tranparency, there is no real testing program.

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  11. Vincent. I hope to avoid going around in circles. It is ok to disagree. I am just giving a general insight into how anti-doping organisations (ADO's) work, the efforts being put in by anti-doping agencies to fight a difficult fight. the way the WADA Code works and what is mandatory and what is not, the trade offfs that are made addressing a big issue with very large but not infinite resources, the often conflicting political agenda's of the many and varied stakeholders and to emphasise my experience that ADO's are diligent, competent and doing they level best to keep sport clean.

    Now to your comments.

    (1) The WADA Code does not require sports to publicly announce provisional suspensions. Most sports do not announce provisional suspensions. Tennis does not announce provisional suspensions and that is perfectly OK with WADA. If you have an issue with that flexible area of the WADA Code then address it to WADA.

    But a player out with injury should not equate to suspicion that they are a doper. If they are provisionally suspended they are not a doper. They have a matter pending against them. If they are found to be a doper by CAS it will be publicly announced as required under the WADA Code.

    If the player is making up stories as to why they are not competing then take that up with the player. The sport itself will be steadfastly silent as is their right under the WADA Code.

    (2) It is not scientific speculation at all. It is a fact well proven now that natural nandrolone occurs in samples at concentrations greater than 2.0 ng/ml under not uncommon circumstances. But a new test ensures that only where the nandrolone is synthetic will a case go forward. It is a great step forward in protecting clean athletes from false accusations against which they have no defence.

    And they are not secret hearings even then. WADA had a right (indeed they were invited…the Rusedski hearing was across the road from the WADA Offices in Montreal) to attend the hearings.

    In the cold hard light of day the tribunals that heard those matters got it right. And I have to admit that as someone that prosecuted the cases and sought penalties for these athletes. Disagree sure but respect that CAS arbitrators disagreed with you and they had ever bit of evidence before them.

    (3) I don't know the stats you are referring to but I can outline that OOC tests result in failed missions all the time. And it is covered in the rules that athletes get 3 missed tests before any consequence is considered. Again it is a balance as WADA realise that it can and does happen that the knock on the door, or the buzz of the intercom, may not be heard. Remember the visit is unexpected.

    (4) This athlete is under the jurisdiction for testing by USADA and the ITF. Address question to both organisations. But I would caution against linking size or shape to doping. In my experience doping is used particularly in sports like tennis to treat injuries, improve stamina, and hasten recovery. Your accusations are simply speculation.

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    1. "And it is covered in the rules that athletes get 3 missed tests before any consequence is considered."

      That for me has always been a big issue - what is to stop a tennis player just lying about their whereabouts constantly when they are doping offseason? At an average 1 ooc test per year for the top50, there's minimal risk of them getting 3 in 18 months.

      Looking at the leaked 2009 ITF list, it's noticeable that the one player who did actually miss two OOC tests that season promptly fell like a stone in the rankings for the next 18 months, and then miraculously recovered his form.

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    2. The problem is Richard is that your claims that a cover-up would be impossible because of the rules is simply not supported by evidence from other sports.

      i) 1999 - Lance Armstrong tests positive for steroids. It is later revealed that he was allowed to submit a backdated TUE claiming that it was part of a treatment for a saddle sore.

      ii) 2001 - Lance Armstrong tests positive for EPO at the Tour of Switzerland. In return for an 'anti-doping' donation, the positive test is suppressed. (The amount is rumoured to have been $250,000)

      iii) 2010 - Alberto Contador tests positive for Clen - the news is not made public until it is leaked to the German media by someone in the UCI who believed that another cover up was in the making.

      There are numerous examples where the sporting authorities (not just in cycling but in other sports as well) have conspired with popular, name athletes to ensure that their positive test results do not see the light of day. To argue that it would be impossible for a cover up to take place is insulting to our intelligence.

      Delete
  12. Spain does it again: "A Madrid court has declared police evidence gathered in Spain's Operation Greyhound anti-doping probe as invalid, meaning the outstanding charges against the accused are to be shelved."

    http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/22032012/2/doping-operation-greyhound-anti-doping-probe-invalid-says-court.html

    ReplyDelete
  13. First of all. It's pretty incredible the budget to battle doping is only 2 million. We're in the first quarter of 2012 and Roger Federer already earned more than that in prize money alone! The ITF should make a case of receiving an x % of the total prize money from every tournament in order to ensure the competition is clean and fair. Set up a lobby group and get on it.

    Also, I fully agree with Mystery's comments saying the ITF os focusing too much on OOC in the last quarter of the year. Really, there's no sensible argument to do so.

    But most of all I would advise the ITF to reduce their 'random' testing (i.e. all the losers in Grand Slams) and start focusing on players who stand out. Is somebody on a win streak? Go check him out. Is somebody starting to beat players (s)he didn't beat before? Go check 'm out. Is somebody physically changing? Go check 'm out. Are there patterns in their results? Go check 'm out.

    Yes, I know there are over 4.000 players to keep an eye on, but it is possible to set up algorithms to recognize suspicious behavior/results and then let an anti-doping team decide how to proceed.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Mr Ings,

    I appreciate the exercise you propose. Here are some elements of an answer, although I am sure THASP or Sen No Rikyu could propose a much more elaborate TDP.

    First, quintuple, at least, that 2 million budget. I'm sorry, but it's a must. 2 millions is what Roger Federer makes by winning a GS and an ATP 1000. Considering the obscene inequality between the revenues of the top 3, or top 5, and the rest of the players, and the massive year-on-year increments in prize money distributed at the tournaments, I cannot imagine it should not be possible to earmark at least 10 millions to the anti-doping budget.

    If you insist going on with 2 millions, fine. It's just that I find it pocket change for such a rich sport as tennis. Anyway.

    Regarding the TDP itself :

    - Concentrate on the off-season in December, the run-up to the four slams (starting from two months before), and the run-up to Indian Wells and Miami. Sacrifice the period after the US Open. Don't worry about the media, nobody talks about this stuff anyway except this blog.

    - Targeted testing. Every big increase in performance or in stamina should make the concerned player a target. After an evaluation of the case, including player's history, genetics, and so on, I would test him in short succession in a run-up period to an important tournament, for example three OOCs in two months leading to Roland-Garros. Then test him at Roland-Garros itself after each one of his matchs, in-comp. Then have a fourth OOC in the weeks after Roland-Garros. Yes, this means that some players will get OOC tested 4 times in a few months while others will remain scot-free for a year, but the generated uncertainty is worth it.

    - Blood passport and monitoring. Every top 100 player, man and woman, should have his blood parameters regularly screened, and suspicious variations should be systematically analyzed.

    Those are only a few ideas. Notice that, during the run-up to the USO for example, all the players are in North America, which should make OOC testing a lot easier than Australia. Same thing for the clay-court swing, where all players are in Europe, in the vicinity of extremely good laboratories like Chatenay-Malabry.

    I am truly convinced that, with these few measures, we would see dramatic changes in performance patterns.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Is our message slowly getting out? This cycling piece makes a reference to the blood testing and out of competition testing in tennis:

    "...The WADA president singled out cycling as a sport that was making serious efforts to tackle the drug cheats. “Cycling had a very bad record going back ten years or so ago,” he acknowledged. “They have at least stopped denying the problem, and worked with a programme to deal with the problem.”

    "According to the UCI’s Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) Business Report for 2010-2011, released last month, during 2011 a minimum of 13,057 tests were performed on riders, 5,154 on blood samples.

    "...the inference to be drawn is that there is minimal blood testing taking place in other sports.

    "In tennis, for example, according to the International Tennis Federation, during 2011 a total of 2,150 samples were taken from male and female players, of which 6 per cent were blood tests. The vast majority of tests were conducted in competition, with just under 10 per cent of tests taken out of competition."

    http://road.cc/content/news/55424-wada-president-says-drug-cheats-getting-away-it-due-lack-blood-testing

    ReplyDelete
  16. Exactly.

    Keep in mind, here, that, financially speaking, cycling is tiny compared to tennis. When was the last time you saw a cyclist make 5 mil$ a year, just in prize money ? Are some cyclists in the top 10 best paid athletes in the world, like Federer or Nadal are ? (Or top 20 or top 50, I didn't look at the numbers). Tennis and the best pro tennis athletes are giants compared to cycling. And all they can give for anti-doping is 2 millions ? let me laugh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here are the numbers:

      Sport played: basketball (15); Baseball (11); Racing (7); Soccer (6); Golf (4); Football (3); Tennis (3); Boxing (Pacquiao)

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2011/06/01/highest-paid-athletes-behind-the-numbers/2/

      Delete
  17. Koellerer ban upheld by CAS. Court said he "made invitations to other tennis players to fix matches on five occasions."


    Professional gamblers will be smirking at this one. He was ..... "well known" for a long while. Not much liked either, for a variety of on and off court reasons, which was probably what got him caught.

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    Replies
    1. Hmmm...Doesn't offer any insight into the whole TIU process. The only real thing we learn is that "The CAS has confirmed the decision of the Anti-Corruption Hearing Officer (AHO) to rule that Daniel Koellerer be permanently ineligible to participate..." So, sounds like these decisions are made a single individual acting as a judge. What qualifies someone to be an AHO?

      Delete
  18. Got to smile.

    I setup the ATP anti-corruption program. I based it on the WADA code by replacing doping violation with corruption violations. I also gave it powers to secure phone records from players and support staff to identify links to professional gamblers.

    That program grew to an all tennis program under the ITF some years after it was launched. Corruption in sport is a far bigger issue and an even greater challenge to fight than doping.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Mr. Ings,
    Your responses are so frustratingly naive that it is hard to respond without getting angry, but I'll point out a few things for thought:
    If a player is "provisionally suspended" and faked an injury during that time (which you seem to feel is okay) and was then "exonerated," true we would never hear about it. However, if a player was provisionally suspended and was found to be a doper and that was made public, we would all know that the injury was bogus. Interesting, that that has never really happened, then. In other words, all players who fake injuries while provisionally suspended have been "exonerated" to date, since none have had a doping violation announced months after claiming an extended injury. There is really no way around the fact that players are secretly suspended and it is never announced to the public because it is bad for tennis and not a matter of justice.
    Also, if, as you say, skipping drug tests, possessing huge muscles, avoiding tournments and claiming varioius dubious injuries is just "speculation," such speculation should lead to targeted doping according to WADA, which is exactly the opposite of what has happened with Serena Williams. The reason that doping hearings are kept secret is beyond obvious. The reason that players skip drug tests is beyond obvious, yet none of the 47 players who skipped one of two drug test in 2009 faced any public consequences. Not one. If players can skip as many out of competition drug tests as they are scheduled to take, which is pretty close to the situation, what kind of "balance" is that? There is absolutely no way that you believe that players miss that many drug tests because they don't hear the doorbell. Your defense of them is outrageously implausible. They are required to be accessible and have a phone number and are called at the time the drug testers come to their homes. I'd like to chalk this up to an astounding level of naivete, and I actually hope that is the case, but your responses really make me question your motives and integrity. I'd like to be nice about it, because it is appreciated when someone of note makes comments on this blog and a rare event, but really...

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    1. In 10 years of work in anti-doping for both a professional sport and a statutory government anti-doping agency, I have pulled together anti-doping programs that have seen some 230 athletes sanctioned. I am far from naive. But I am well and truly experienced in the ups and downs and ins and outs of fighting doping.

      If a player is provisionally suspended WADA do not require a public announcement. Period. WADA believe that there are sufficient safeguards to give sports complete discretion to announce or not. Remember that at this stage the athlete is completely innocent even if they have a most serious allegation pending against them. And WADA and the NADO know every detail of every matter where an athlete has been provisionally suspended.

      If a provisionally suspended player was found to be a doper then it must and is publicly announced. What the public think in addition to the doping that the athlete lied about being injured is a matter for the public. The sports job is to prosecute the case and keep silent until the case is concluded so as not to prejudice the outcome. Sports will not cover for an athlete saying he is injured by confirming he is injured when he is not.

      Your logic that "In other words, all players who fake injuries while provisionally suspended have been "exonerated" to date, since none have had a doping violation announced months after claiming an extended injury" is just plain flawed. Sorry. If an athlete has returned to competition then CAS (the independent Court of Arbitration for Sport) has cleared them and WADA and the NADO have reviewed the evidence and agree with CAS. Case closed as the court has spoken.

      Your list of issues about muscles and missing events is pure speculation. Which is not to say that such players do not get subject to targeted testing. I am sure they do by their sport or by their NADO. But if you have an issue with a particular US athlete then for sure tackle USADA and ITF on that point.

      To say "If players can skip as many out of competition drug tests as they are scheduled to take" is just not correct. Three strikes and you are out and that is the WADA rule for all sports.

      When you say "They are required to be accessible and have a phone number and are called at the time the drug testers come to their homes" is also incorrect. OOC tests must be "without notice" which means that the anti-doping officers are PROHIBITED from using a phone to call the athlete. The DCO (Doping Control Officer) must knock on the door and the athlete needs to be at that location. If they are not it is a strike. Three strikes and you get sanctioned.

      Testing will not alone stop doping. It just won't as it has such limits in terms of science and in terms of logistics. It is a valuable tool that will catch the tip of the iceberg of dopers. And it should be used extensively and targeted and balanced between IC and OOC testing. But it won't catch all the dopers.

      Combining testing with investigations and partnerships with law enforcement and customs and freezing samples is the combined approach to minimising doping. Why minimise. Because just like you can never stop all crime, or stop all tax evasion, or stop all drug abuse, or stop all pick any rule of law, you will never be able to stop all doping.

      People are people and there will always be a few that will try any system.

      Delete
    2. Respectfully, Mr. Ings, I believe that what THASP was trying to say is that since it appears that players are only likely to be tested once per year OOC, they can assume that deliberately missing that one test is not very likely to put them at risk of missing 3 in 18 months.

      On several occasions, you have blurred the lines between what could theoretically happen to a player, or what is legally permitted to happen (getting tested by their national body, freezing blood samples) with what is actually happening under the current regime of testing. I am interested in the latter. There are lots of laws in place around the world (I'm talking outside of tennis now) to create the appearance of fair play. What is actually enforced is an entirely different matter.

      I would also argue that the low budget for testing is clearly a sign of organizational priorities.

      Delete
    3. 1) How long is a player typically out on provisional suspension whilst a case is being heard/debated/considered?
      2) Is an exonerated player allowed to sue for damages and/or lost income?
      3) If it is assumed that a provisionally suspended player is "completely innocent", then doesn't it follow that they should be allowed to continue to play until they are convicted?
      4) How are players expected to explain their withdrawal from participation due to provisional suspension? Is it expected that they provide "no comment" to press questions? Do not tennis fans deserve to know the truth? They are paying for this show.

      Delete
    4. Michlob,

      In answer to your questions which are good ones.

      (1) Once the A sample is confirmed positive the player is provisionally suspended. The process now goes to a B sample, preparation for a hearing, the hearing, and the judgement being handed down by CAS. My experience is that it takes from 3-6 months. But all parties are aware that the player can't earn a living so the sport at least tries to get things moving quickly. My experience is it is the player that takes allot of time especially in preparing their CAS defence.

      (2) They can sue for anything. But they would lose. The players sign up to an annual agreement to comply with the tennis rules including a no damages clause in the anti-doping rules. Parties pay their own costs, and no damages apply either way (unless of course one or the other party goes too far and disparages or libels the other. Which is why sports keep their mouths shut and let the case takes it course)

      (3) They may be innocent but they have an extremely serious case to answer. It is mandatory that the player be stood down after the positive A for that reason.

      (4) To be frank. They can't. I had a rugby case with ASADA where the huge super star player for the NSW Waratahs in the super 14 had to be provisionally suspended at 5pm before he was due to play at 7pm. The sport simply said that the player had been suspended under the rules without giving further details. The player then came forward to say he had a positive cocaine test pending.

      He later was suspended for 2 years.

      Delete
  20. Thank you once again to SnR and Mr. Ings in setting up this really insightful Q&A. I am also glad Mr. Ings was willing to providge factual evidence whereby an ASADA case was actually found posteori to be tried on incomplete scientific analysis.

    I am quite shocked at the low budget, as most on this site, and think that if tennis is really serious about the doping issue their budget should be proportional to the type of prize money being earned at the major events on tour. Year over year you hear sponsors of tournaments at the trophy presentation stating they broke" record x" or "Record y" in attendence, and despite a downtrodden economy still recovering from the 08 crash you have millions of dollars being pumped into the game in the form or new sponsor deals. It is a pathetic indictment on the seriousness of the issue from both the ATP and WTA perspective that the budget is allowed to stay so disproportional and stagnant. On this note, can Mr. Ings speak to efforts that he heard from ITF officials when on ASADA or when in talks through ATP, to help grow the budget for testing? What were the biggest pain points in trying to secure funding for both parties?

    Without a realistic operational budge this arm or branch of the sport is pretty much just relagated to being a paper tiger.

    Now, onto a proposition - since the players have to agree to rule changes and competition quirks, i think that the burdnen of missing an OOC test should fall onto a player, period. Yes it would be a tough sell, heck go ask the NFL players association in their fight against hgh testing, but the reality of it is that this *must* be pitched in an attempt to recover wasteful costs on a wild drug attempt chase.

    I assume the players agree when they go through the ATP paperwork with the whereabouts rule, and that they are going to be on the hook at least from a strikes policy if they miss a test. Enough of hitting their ego, time to hit them where it really matters, the pocketbook. If they are unresponsive to a doping OOC test request (and by unresponsive i mean all means necessary have been exhausted; phone calls to players, knocking on their front doors, back doors, trap doors, any doors, smartphone updates, etc) that means they are docked a certain # of dollars.

    If that is too hard a sell, fine, they are docked *points*. That is in many ways tantamount to being docked $$ since the impact could eventually be a drop in seeding, or even cutoff for tournament main draw / qualifying status. This, indirectly, effects pocket books.


    That is all i have for now in terms of suggestions, but i would also like to hear your response to my query posted in Q&A comments 1, regarding therapeutic use exemptions. I believe an alteration of TUE is necessary

    if i may requote from my previous entry

    "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."


    In other words, Does it simply come down to resources spread too thin? If so, i would think any experimental procedure being pushed by players should be a flag for immediate testing during sed TUE.

    ReplyDelete
  21. MaskedMuffin,

    Thanks for the comments. I jumped in here to give an insiders view as I felt it would add value. This issue is very different up close and personal than it can appear from a distance.

    I have covered OOC testing in previous posts. Suffice to say it is an important tool but it will always be relatively simple for a sophisticated doper to avoid a positive test whether in-comp or OOC. Testing just has too many scientific limitations and OOC testing has significant logistical difficulties.

    Marion Jones was tested exhaustively OOC. Enough said.

    But to clarify, OOC testing must be carried out without notice. No notice testing is mandatory. That means the DCO (doping control officer) cannot under any circumstances call the athlete, send them a text message, All the DCO can do is appear at the address provided by the athlete and knock. If no one answers then a strike is recorded. Three strikes in 18 months and you get sanctioned.

    Athlete who miss tests like this race to the top of any good ADO's target testing list. It is a big red flag and there should be a DCO returning for a further OOC very quickly.

    In regard to PRP. This is really too technical a medical area for me. But WADA's TUE Committee set the policies in this area. They adjust it annually. The put things on the banned list and take them off the banned list (sometimes even putting then back on again the banned list). These doctors and scientists know their medical and clinical treatment stuff so I have confidence they are being prudent with PRP requirements.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Athlete who miss tests like this race to the top of any good ADO's target testing list. It is a big red flag and there should be a DCO returning for a further OOC very quickly."

      Interesting, thanks.

      However, if that's the ideal, the reality seems to fall well short. According to the accidentally leaked ITF 2009 sheet, those who missed tests.....

      Moya: missed OOC test 16/may. Was given another about 6 weeks later.
      Benneteau: missed OOC test 20/may. Was given another about 6 weeks later.
      Karlovic: missed OOC test 31/may. No more ooc test attempts that year.
      Nadal: missed OOC test 14/jun. No more ooc test attempts that year.
      Bolelli: missed OOC test 15/jun. No more ooc test attempts that year.
      Williams sisters: both missed OOC tests 16/jun. No more ooc test attempts that year. Also no successful ooc tests in 2010 or 2011 at all (probably more missed tests?)
      Acasuso: missed OOC test 17/jun. No more ooc test attempts that year.
      Mauresmo: missed OOC test 1/jul. Another 4 days later
      Mathieu: missed OOC test 7/jul. Another in December
      Sharapova: missed OOC test 9/jul. No more ooc test attempts that year.
      Simon: missed OOC tests 9/jul, and 8/Dec.
      Nestor: missed OOC test 15/jul. Given another in December.
      Roddick: missed OOC test 15/aug. No more ooc test attempts that year.
      Huber: missed OOC test 24/aug. No more ooc test attempts that year.
      Del Potro: missed OOC test 26/aug. No more ooc test attempts that year.
      Hantuchova: missed ooc test 26/aug. No more ooc test attempts that year.


      ....and I got bored at that point.

      There doesn't seem to be much increased frequency of getting another test after missing one.

      Especially worrying are the Williams sisters - how can two such high profile players go 2.5 years without a single OOC test?


      I assume that those engaged in off week doping will rationally not make themselves available for testing (ie lie on whereabouts). However, with ITF and national anti-doping stats showing an average of only one test a year cumulative, the probability of ever reaching 2 missed ooc tests is not high - a player doping 10 weeks a year has only an 11% chance of getting two missed in any single 18 month period. I am also assuming that a doper would simply go clean after they hit two, and not risk a third - this seems to be the real deterrent in the system (only an idiot would actually get caught).

      Not only is this frequency of testing not a deterrent, it's barely even a speedbump to a doper. The cheats could have an entire career and not ever reach that situation of two missed, and even if they did it's only a short clean period before they're back at one, and can resume doping.


      It would appear the whole system is essentially an acceptance that OOC testing with this resource level is basically pointless - for comparison, cyclists get 30+ ooc tests a year, against the one of tennis. Has tennis basically just decided to put all its eggs in the IC testing basket instead? To concede defeat against OOC doping as too expensive, but at least achieve a measure of success on the IC front?

      Delete
    2. I think it is pretty clear from the evidence that the NADOs have ceded OOC testing to the ITF, which is clearly not carrying enough to trigger many (if any) instances of whereabouts violations. I'd also point out that a players on the 2009 list with no sample collected doesn't not necessarily mean that the test was counted as a missed test or whereabouts failure.

      Case in point: The WTA memo on the 2012 doping programme makes this statement regarding whereabouts: "Reminders: It is to a player’s benefit to request an administrative review and raise all possible defenses to an alleged whereabouts failure prior to the failure being recorded against her." http://www.wtatennis.com/SEWTATour-Archive/Archive/AboutTheTour/2012antidopingenglish.pdf

      So, for all we know, many missed ITF OOC tests are being forgiven.

      All we really know is that based on the Wickmayer-Malisse case is that the Flemish anti-doping body seems to be pretty vigilent about OOC testing.

      Delete
    3. Good work Arf, those statistics say it all. They just don't publish those kinds details any more. Tennis transparency died in 2010.

      Questions for Richard Ings: Who makes decisions about targeted testing? Is it one person or is it a committee? How quickly do they react? Perhaps they meet once every 6 months to discuss testing targets? Whatever it is, they weren't doing a great job in 2009, that's for sure!

      Delete
    4. "All the DCO can do is appear at the address provided by the athlete and knock. If no one answers then a strike is recorded."

      The whereabouts timeslot is one hour duration. Is it the case that the DCO can be made to wait up to 59 minutes after announcing his arrival before the athlete makes himself available?

      Delete
  22. By the way

    "I am also glad Mr. Ings was willing to providge factual evidence whereby an ASADA case was actually found posteori to be tried on incomplete scientific analysis."

    This was the ATP nandrolone cases. Not any ASADA case.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I see Venus came back after taking 6 months off due to her career threatening disease (having been diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome at the US open last year) and beat the #3 seed in her first match in Miami. o|O

    Amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sorry that was her second match. I wish I could edit my post.

      Delete
    2. Pretty good, considering there is no known cure for Sjogren's.

      Delete
    3. I am currently watching Venus against Wozniak and she's a pale shadow of her former self. Her huge serve is completely gone and so seems to be her endurance. She's slumping over after almost every point that lasts beyond 5 shots. I can only assume that Kvitova must have played like utter crap against her.

      Delete
  24. Mr. Ings,

    I'm wondering if you can comment about the incident involving Nicolas Escude's critical remarks about the ATP's anti-doping program in 2002. It was reported by some that he was disciplined for his comments (e.g., fined and/or put on probation). Did this occur?

    Also, were any other players disciplined for making similar remarks around the same time? For example, Fabrice Santoro and Andrew Ilie.

    In recent years, other players have made remarks about doping in tennis (e.g., Christophe Rochus, Mahesh Bhupathi, Daniel Nestor). These statements seem to indicate that there is a disconnect between the perception and reality of doping in tennis. How do you account for this?

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    1. Happy to comment. I managed this matter for the ATP. These were Escude's comments translated from the French newspaper he spoke to that concerned me as the administrator of rules and regulations for the ATP.


      “But if the best don’t budge, it means that the ATP has files on them. When I hear Roddick say that it is out of the question that he would get stuck for a blood test, I get mad. When I then hear that there are other Americans that don’t want to get stuck with a needle, because they are so-called Jehovah’s witnesses, or whatever, I say, don’t take me for a bloody idiot.”


      “And when I hear today that Mark Miles (editor’s note: ATP CEO) is untouchable, I wonder. They tell me that there are files that can’t be opened. What can they be, if not files on doping? It’s a whole mafia that’s installed. If these files exploded, tennis would be in bad shape for six months. But it would a bad thing for a good cause.”

      In his interview with Le Parisien Escude made a number of statements concerning the Tennis Anti-Doping Program that he was perfectly entitled to make. His general comments and criticisms about the Tennis Anti-Doping Program were perfectly fine. As a top player at the time, his thoughts on this important area were valued and respected.

      The investigation concerned the direct allegation that top players are on drugs, that the ATP is aware of this drug use and that the ATP CEO Mr. Miles was blackmailing these players for support to keep his job. These public allegations were extremely serious yet made with no evidence that would support or substantiate the comments.

      As he could not substantiate these comments and they were directed to his fellow players and the ATP CEO, he was put on probation and asked to formally apologise to Mr. Miles. Which he did and which is hardly unreasonable.

      There were no dossiers. Just lots and lots of testing of all players that turned up positives as outlined in your list.

      Delete
  25. Nadal claims that he is "so far removed from doping that his lack of knowledge is complete".

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



    Interesting since he uses a doctor (Cotorro) who specializes in "doping control".

    Interesting that if he knows so little, he knows that Richard Gasquet, Yanina Wickmayer, Xavier Mallise, and Alberto Contador are innocent.

    He knows so little, that he knows that there is no doping in tennis.

    He knows so little, that he knows that Out of competition testing is too stringent.


    Is there anything this humble naive hick doesn't know ?

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    Replies
    1. Excellent comment, fully agree.

      Delete
  26. Mr. Ings,

    There may not be "dossiers" as Escude discussed. However, in addition to publicly announced violations, you know as well as anyone that there remain confidential exonerations. For example, there are the 6 unidentified players who tested positive positive for nandrolone, but were exonerated. Other players have been exonerated after testing positive with the results remaining confidential (e.g., Agassi, I recognize that this occurred during the "dark ages" of anti-doping in tennis).

    So let me ask you this: During your tenure at the ATP, what was your approximate success rate at prosecuting anti-doping cases? (e.g., 80 per cent; 50 percent)

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    1. SEN,

      Firstly lets start by noting the the Escude matter did not concern his general comments but his specific words about his fellow players and the ATP CEO. He was asked to provide evidence in support of his claims about drug use and blackmail and could provide none. It was all locker room gossip with a single piece of supporting evidence.

      I took a similar approach in dealing with a more recent allegation. This one by Elke Graham a retired Australian swimmer.

      http://www.heraldsun.com.au/archives/old-sport-pages/graham-urged-to-name-cheat/story-e6frfgko-1111114703082

      When people come forward to make allegations it is only helpful to authorities if they can back it up with evidence. You can't take a case forward without evidence. If athletes have evidence, real evidence, anti-doping authorities will act on it.

      To your further question, sorry but I don't have stats from the time when I ran the ATP program. I recall there were 8 nandrolone cases. Remember the first one was Bohdan Ulllirach. He was prosecuted by the ATP and received a 2 year penalty from the tribunal. Which was overturned on appeal. The last was Greg Rusedski who publicly announced his matter and he too was cleared by a tribunal.

      These were the only cases lost by the ATP at tribunal.

      I now recall another issue which will mess up your stats of percentage of adverse analytical findings that result in doping findings.

      AAF's at this time not only included T/E's (which are now termed unusual findings as they need further follow-up) but they also include matters where athletes had a TUE on file to use the banned substance.

      The most common of these were asthma medications where a player had a TUE to use salbutamol or or the like for medically recognised asthma, or at that time corticosteroids (which then needed a full TUE…not now) approved for medical use to treat injuries.

      These positives were included in AAF's reported by labs to the IF and reported to WADA but subsequently disqualified as an approved TUE had been granted.

      T/E's and TUE AAF's need to be backed out of the stats as they are not doping matters unless athletes exceed the approved medical dose. Allot of people have asthma in the general population.

      Delete
    2. Unfortunately, there's no way to back T/E or TUEs out of the stats because the ITF won't give the information. I asked them last year for data on TUEs and they refused to release any. The WADA won't release the data either.

      Delete
    3. SEN that makes it difficult then. As elevated adverse analytical findings that were elevated T/E's or where the player had an approved TUE on file need to be backed out if you are looking at the win rate on prosecutions.

      Elevated T/E's and TUE matters never get to a prosecution unless the T/E in followup testing was shown to be doping (and they rarely are) or the athlete exceeded his TUE dosage (which happens occasionally).

      Normally adverses findings which turn out to have a TUE on file are a big percentage of adverse findings reported.

      Delete
  27. I am sorry, but I am here to find out the truth about doping in tennis.

    I find that "advocates" (as Mr. Ings clearly is, whether he is paid or not), and partisans (of certain players), only contribute "spin" (deliberate distortions of the truth). Propoganda gets us further from the truth, not closer.

    I find it more than curious that just as the public's suspicions are being raised (Rafael Nadal's 2010 magic serve, Novak Djokovic's 2011 magic stamina improvement, the grueling 2012 Australian Open final), Mr. Ings shows up to give us the obvious "party line" that we would expect to hear from the tennis authorities.

    I VERY STRONGLY SUSPECT that Mr. Ings is here to do damage control on the tennis authorities behalf.

    What say you Mr. Ings ?

    ReplyDelete
  28. No. I am adding my voice to ensure a balanced debate. My views are entirely personal. I am retired from anti doping and simply wish to contribute to this debate.

    You will note I never comment directly on individual players. I focus on anti doping program capability, the limits of testing, the need to mix testing upmtommake it less predictable, the critical need to freeze samples, and work with law enforcement bodies.

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    1. There is no debate here. Just some Federer fanatics who started whining ever since their idol stopped winning Grand Slams. The discussions are civilized now because he's in good form and has won some tournaments but if you go back to some older posts, you'll be able to read hundreds of disgusting comments. These people have zero respect for the players and zero respect for the game. The owner of the blog even dared to suggest that Alisa Kleybanova got cancer because she used performance enhancing drugs. I really don't understand why you're wasting your time.

      Delete
    2. Boring Boreman. Why are YOU wasting your time here?

      Delete
  29. I am afraid but after the treatment of an Agassi compared to a Korda, I will never be convinced that the ITF/ATP will do its best to fight doping in tennis.

    I am in fact convinced that if it takes doping to bring more viewers and a more interesting match between Nadal and Federer the ITF/ATP will be fine with it.

    ...And M. Ings I sadly donot believe in "balanced" debates when the reality is so twisted and corrupt towards money this sport can generate.

    ReplyDelete
  30. And this is why I contribute.

    Agassi has admitted that he tested positive for a crystal meth in 1997 which under the rules carried a 3 month ban if the substance was taken deliberately. Agassi indicated he did not take it deliberately. And with that under the rules he was cleared.

    Korda by comparison tested positive for the steroid nandrolone at a level above 100ng/ml and got banned for 12 months based on exceptional circumstances instead of the standard 2 year ban for steroids.

    One a stimulant that carried a max ban of 3 months. The other a steroid that carried a max ban of 2 years. Chalk and cheese especially under the rules in place 15 years ago!

    And at the time one was ranked in the top 10 and a grand slam winner (Korda) and the other was ranked outside the top 100 and stuck to playing challenger tournaments (Agassi).

    It is inconvenient I know and for sure anti-doping authorities can improve their programs, but tennis like every other sport I have worked with couldn't give a toss about the name of a player just with the results that come from the lab.

    And doubly so for the government anti-doping agencies that equally have jurisdiction to prosecute these athletes including the top professionals.

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  31. Ah! Now I can see you are bent on Agassi's case and you are not understanding the financial sides of the sport. They do care a lot about who is being caught. I know this because we knew Agassi was also caught red handed in teh Nandrolone case and they dropped the case cause he was involved and the ATP chose to blame themselves.

    SO either you don;t know the details, or you are here to try to temper this site with a clear agenda. I think most likely the former.

    Agassi was tested positive for Methamphetamine, not crytal meth (though it's the same thing). Methamphetamine is a powerful doping substance when used in right doses and carries the same penalty as steroids. There was no investigation made about Agassi's positive test and the ATP chose to believe Agassi's letter, very conveniently. They chose to make things public and carry investigation on Korda's.

    Crytal Meth is the junky version which of course has a

    ReplyDelete
  32. Smile…..

    Agassi's positive test for Methamphetamine in 1997 (15 years ago Andrea..the rules have changed completely since then) was managed by the ATP under the rules at the time.

    Methamphetamine in 1997 was classified as a class 3 stimulant which placed it in the illicit drug category which carried a maximum penalty of 3 months if taken deliberately…back in 1997.

    Today methamphetamine falls into the same class in-competiton as steroids but it didn't back in 1997.

    Agassi in his own book notes he mislead the tribunal on his intent. Incidents like this resulted in the WADA Code and much tougher rules.

    Agassi never on my watch tested positive for nandrolone. I have never seen any report anywhere suggest that Agassi ever tested positive for nandrolone. Where did you get that from?

    Korda's matter was not managed by the ATP. The ATP was not even aware of it. Korda tested positive at a Grand Slam and his case was managed by the ITF.

    The ITF would not have even been aware of the Agassi matter as it was managed by the ATP. Agassi tested positive at an ATP event.

    Back in 1998/98 these organisations were hardly on the best of terms and these sorts of matters would not have been shared between the organisations.

    SO no link between the two cases apart from two organisations that ran cases under their rules with tribunals handing down decisions.

    Besides these cases date from 1997 more than 15 years ago when the anti-doping rules to be frank were entirely unacceptable. The rules today have been completely re-written in the form of the WADA Code.

    I should have taken note of Josh …..

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    1. Agassi never on my watch tested positive for nandrolone. I have never seen any report anywhere suggest that Agassi ever tested positive for nandrolone. Where did you get that from?
      -----------------------
      No officisl versions but I have colleagues working in Sport jouralism and told me when I was miles away from suspecting him. Then a few weeks later the Rudsedski story breaks out confirming what they were saying.

      Of course there is no link between the 2 cases (Agassi/Korda) but it is the clear difference in treatment that some are questioning! DO yuo really think that had Agassi been caught with Nandro like Korda he woudl have been given away to media? And do you really think the media woudl have broken out the story?

      They had no problem giving away an old player like Wilander for cocaine but Agassi with the multi $$millions he repesented? No way!

      I can't understand why you don't see the difference in treatment.

      Delete
    2. Agassi never returned an adverse analytical finding for nandrolone at any ATP event during my 5 years at the ATP from 2001 to 2005. Nor did Agassi ever return any trace reading below 2.0 ng/ml during my 5 years at the ATP. I cannot be more specific or direct than that.

      As to Agassi matter versus Korda's matter, thy are chalk and cheese, as per the rules in 1997.

      Agassi tested positive for a then class 3 stimulant (i.e. the least severe category under the then rules) which carried a 3 month ban if the substance was taken deliberately or a warning if taken inadvertently.

      Korda tested positive for a class one banned steroid which carried a ban from a warning to a 2 year ban and he was given 12 months.

      You can't draw any inference from this except that the rules in 1997 were full of gaping holes. Huge holes that players could drive trucks through. Not just in tennis but in every sport.

      Those rules have been changed and we now have the WADA Code. Under the vastly different WADA Code rules in place today versus 1997, if the same circumstances had applied, both players would receive 2 year bans.

      Delete
  33. MR. Ings, thank you for participating in this blog. since a lot of my questions and points have already been presented, here are my opinions and some questions on what has been discussed so far:

    1. on agassi's case, with this quote: "Agassi indicated he did not take it deliberately. And with that under the rules he was cleared." exposes the biggest flaws of the protocols. you claim one must have evidence to make a case, that otherwise it's just pure speculation, and yet, when faced with evidence, authorities accept lame excuses? well that sucks. what does a guy have to do to get caught, turn himself in? you should at least concede that this is bull and i'm actually shocked you made this as an point of justified argument on agassi's case to andrea.

    2. this statement ticks me off: "The assumption that testing will catch a doper is simply incorrect. It will catch some. But miss most. Witness Marion Jones." we understand that its not 100% foolproof, but assuming that it will catch dopers is INCORRECT? why do it then? the point that it catches some only should fuel the drive to increase its reliability to catch all and not to imply that catching cheats are only flukes of (from what you have said) a pointless mechanism.

    3. there are important points here that have been raised like on the possible sources of budget, why tennis has a very measly anti-doping budget compared to other sports, the fact that there are less than 3 OOC tests per player making the allowable 3 missed tests almost sound stupid etc. that you seem to ignore. hopefully, you give more insights on these.

    4. i understand that you do no have jurisdiction on what's happening today, that's why i would appreciate more insights and opinions from you on the current situation, using your past experiences. so far you engage more on clarifying past events and while you answer questions that asks your opinion, you have not answered with too much insight so far. see sen's questions with "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?".--- no answer was provided for this.

    5. and sorry, you stating that there is no reason to at least be suspicious of serena's actions and missed tests is the most unreasonable thing you have stated so far (i'll even go ahead and laugh at it). if her activities should not merit suspicion then nothing should.

    in the ended, the best thing i have gathered so far from you is that, your mindset is a little lacking and defensive. something i would expect from a person straight from an anti-doping organization.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My responses

      (1) You are right.The protocols in 1997 were just plain awful. I have said this in previous posts. The rules that allows players to provide an unsupported explanation for a positive applied in tennis and pretty much every other sports. Similar problems existed in athletics with athletes using dog ate my homework explanation. These rules were so bad they have been dumped and replaced works-wide by the strict liability provisions of the WADA Code which have been in place for Olympic sports for over 10 years.

      (2) Testing is constantly being improved. The science is getting better and better. But so are the doping substances. I am on record as saying what is critical is to freeze samples and then it doesn't matter if the science has a gap today as that testing gap will be fill over 8 years and you can then re-test the sample. Like keeping DNA evidence in case it comes in handy at a later date. This approach ensures that every sample collected can at some point be retested with new technology. As I have said every high tech doping method that at the time had no test has proven to be detectable within normally a 4 year window of that doping being used.

      (3) I have gone on record as saying that if a player misses an OOC test there should be immediate re-testing. This is standard protocol. Tennis if that is not happening needs to find a way to achieve that.

      (4) I talk about programs and capability in anti-doping. Not individual athletes. This is a public forum and I will not make comment on particular players nor make specific allegations which I cannot categorically back in a court of law. You guys may be happy to libel players. I am not. Read this:

      http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/chris-cairns-wins-match-fix-libel-case/story-e6frf7jx-1226310724319

      (5) Read (4) and (3)

      Just pointing out how it works. And often where it doesn't.

      Delete
  34. Mr Ings, I do not expect a clear answer from you on the subject I am going to touch upon.

    At the beginning of 2002, Andre Agassi was a heavy favoroite for the Australian Open. Indeed, in the run-up to the tournament he was formidable. However, on the eve of it, he withdrew suddenly, citing wrist problems.

    Marcelo Rios accused him of missing a doping test, by claiming the dubious excuse that someone was going to "kidnap his son".

    Later, Pat Cash, in an op-ed for a British newspaper, also mentioned that there were grave doubts in the locker rooms that Agassi served a silent ban and was expelled from the Australian Open 2002. As I recall, Cash mentions that Agassi remained locked up with the tournament organisers for many hours just before the tournament started, and only then announced his withdrawal.

    My contention here is that Agassi tested positive and was silently banned. This contention is supported by two major insiders, Marcelo Rios and Pat Cash.

    Are you going to deny or approve this contention, or do you deny that the retirement of Agassi in 2002 was anything other than normal ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hehe, Aus2002 instantly came to my mind too.

      However, and possibly pre-empting Mr Ings' reply: ITF and ATP had separate anti-doping protocols at the time, so it wasn't his unit that would be involved.

      The Agassi-nandrolone accusation was made by Magnus Norman, possibly separate from the above.


      Interesting to me that Agassi never sued all these coleagues openly accusing him of doping.

      Delete
    2. The anti-doping protocols may have been separate, but no way Mr Ings did not hear about it at the time, if this story is true. This would have been a major cover-up, and Mr Ings was pretty well-placed... Well, let's hear it directly from the insider then. Agassi 2002 : all clear, nothing to see here ?

      Delete
    3. Arf yes the ATP and ITF anti-doping programs were separate. So I can never be sure what may or may not have been happening behind ITF closed doors at that event. And I won't speculate.

      I have heard of players withdrawing from events to avoid testing. But before you all get excited, these incidents (and I remember one…and it was not Agassi) related to fear of testing positive for a substance banned in-competition ONLY.

      Cannabis is an example. It is not banned under the WADA Code out-of-competition but it is banned in-compeition. Note this is not when the substance was taken but when it tested positive.

      Cannabis is stored in the fat cells in the body and slowly released over time into the urine. So it can stay in the body for over a month after a single incident of consumption. If it is in the body on match day, it doesn't matter if it was taken a month prior on holidays, the rules are all strict liability today and a penalty would be applied. If cannabis is in the body in an OOC test, the WADA labs don't report it as it is not banned OOC.

      In this situation the player has a choice. The WADA Code says that a player taking cannabis has not committed any violation unless they take to the court in a sanctioned match with cannabis in their system. If the player plays they are breaking doping rules. If they don't play until the cannabis clears their system, they are complying with doping rules.

      Note that if a targeted OOC test were conducted (and they are where suspicious withdrawals take place) cannabis would not be reported by the lab as it is not banned OOC by WADA.

      Now I have also been on record as saying I think this is one area where the WADA Code needs to tighten up. I believe that stimulants and cannabis should be banned both in-competition (like now) but also be banned out-of-compeition.

      Delete
  35. We don't expect you to speculate about what may have happened in this meeting if it took place, but, from what you may have heard, was there a meeting to, at the very least, explain Andre's AO 2002 wrist injury?

    ReplyDelete
  36. When a player withdraws late from any tournament there is always a meeting plus the player must see the tournament doctor to confirm the injury. So yes the tournament referee and tournament physician would have met with Agassi and or his representative and he would have been examined by the tournament doctor to confirm the injury. That is the standard practice for every withdrawal after the deadline.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And what about the comments from Marcelo Rios and Pat Cash ? Maybe I should read the press more often, but it's not every day I see two former No.1 or Grand slam winners publicly and directly accuse a top player like Agassi like this. Just sour grapes ? Craving for attention (and risking some heavy defamation lawsuits by the way, but let's ignore that for a moment) ? If these accusations were false, why did not the ITF intervene, at least in the case of Marcelo Rios, who was still an active player at the time ? Did Marcelo Rios apologize ?

      Delete
  37. What exactly did Rios say? What did Cash say. Exactly what were they quoted as saying?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Pat Cash remarks were from an article he wrote for the Sunday Times. Unfortunately, it's pay for access now. However, is a reference to his remarks with a quote:

      http://www.theage.com.au/news/sport/tennis/agassi-reveals-another-drug-incident/2009/11/01/1257010108655.html

      "Australian Pat Cash, who admitted in his own autobiography to smoking marijuana on the night before each match of his Wimbledon debut as well as to out-of-competition cocaine use in his own ''regrettably lower moments'', said he was not surprised by the news of Agassi's drug-taking, but had been ''amazed they were of the recreational variety''.

      "Cash said there had long been suspicion among tour players that Agassi may have used performance-enhancing drugs to help build his renowned fitness and strength. ''There were some dubious circumstances, none more than his early-morning withdrawal from the defence of his title at the 2002 Australian Open, citing a wrist injury,'' Cash wrote in his column in London's Sunday Times."

      Delete
    2. Recreational drug use on professional sports tour in the 90's? While it is before my time I would not be surprised if there was.

      In regard to performance enhancing drug use well athletes get caught for such doping each and every year. Again I will never speculate on individuals and on my watch the list SEN has provided were the players guilty of doping with confirmed positive A and B samples.

      But then you all know my views on testing especially back then. Athletes like Marion Jones routinely beat testing through sophisticated drugs and clever dodging of testing patterns. Could tennis players do the same? Any athlete could do the same.

      Which is why I advocate freezing samples for future retesting as new science uncovers new forms of doping with tests to detect it.

      Pats comments here are speculation. The locker room at tennis events is just full of gossip and suspicion on all sorts of things. But if any player has evidence against another then come forward. Be a witness. Stand up for what you saw or know for a fact. And protect your sport(s).

      As an anti-doping program manager I would need hard evidence not innuendo or rumour. I can't convince a tribunal to a comfortable satisfaction that an athlete doped with rumour and innuendo.

      Delete
  38. There is also this article by a former ATP employee about the Agassi positive test: http://www.standard.net/topics/sports/2009/11/02/agassis-positive-drug-test-was-well-guarded-secret-atp

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  39. I know this piece. Pete is a good bloke.

    What he writes is pretty much how it works except that from 2001 I reduced the number of people within the ATP aware of a matter to "need to know". So the EVP Comms, CEO and General Counsel were briefed by me on cases as soon as the B sample was confirmed (which then was the trigger to inform the ATP of the name of the player).

    With comms I would prepare three FAQ's at this time. One should the player simply accept the maximum ban and not appeal. One if the player appealed, lost and was sanctioned. And one if the player appealed, won, and was cleared.

    There were no crisis committees. Even when 7 nandrolone positives came through in quick succession (and again with players unknown as the B samples were not yet performed..the 8th Rusedski was months later).

    ReplyDelete
  40. Mr. Ings,
    What do you think of this site? Can we keep running this site to push fighting on doping in tennis? Can you recommend something to make this site better to raise awareness for all tennis fans regarding doping by athletes? What should we do to communicate better with authorities so that we can be well informed about testing program currently taking place?

    ReplyDelete