Jon Wertheim (May 18, 2011)
Before I get to Mr. Wertheim's points, let me point out that nowhere in the excerpt above (or elsewhere in his discussion) does he make any reference to the ITF's anti-doping statistics. He does not claim to have examined the statistics. Mr. Wertheim makes no reference to the ITF's minimal out of competition testing, the reduction in blood and EPO tests since Stuart Miller took over the program, missed out-of-competition tests, or the loser targeted testing at Grand Slam events. He makes no reference to the ITF's anti-doping budget. You cannot claim to have an "informed opinion" and that tennis is "overwhelming clean" without discussing data, but Wertheim fails to bring any to the table to support his many assertions.
Let's take on Mr. Wertheim's points:
1. "It's harder to cheat when you're on the road so much."
The evidence completely contradicts Mr. Wertheim's assertion. Wayne Odesnik was caught carrying vials of HGH into Australia, so clearly there are doping products available that are both portable and easy to administer. Moreover, top tennis players have personal doctors and trainers who travel with them and could administer doping treatments. Further, did he never read Floyd Landis's description of doping during the Tour de France, where riders engaged in transfusions in hotel rooms and buses? Also, riders would wear testosterone patches to bed. It would be shocking if similar stuff isn't occurring in tennis.
2. "My strong suspicion is that the bulk of the cheaters are players ranked, say, 200 trying to get to 80; less the players ranked in the top 15 trying to become top three."
This is another assertion without facts or data. Evidence from baseball, track, and cycling and other sports reveal that athletes at the very top of their discipline are more than willing to engage in doping to get an edge, achieve and maintain sporting glory, and reap financial benefits. Further, top tennis players have the resources to purchase sophisticated doping regimes while journeymen do not. Also, one can argue that top players are those with personality types disposed to doing whatever it takes to win, which would include not just a commitment to training, fitness and diet, but also doping. These fiercely competitive personality characteristics would make them the most likely candidates to dope.
3. "...the testing procedure -- while imperfect and not without loopholes -- is still more rigorous than in other sports."
Again, Mr. Wertheim makes a statement without reference to facts or data. What exactly is the "testing procedure" to which he is referring? How is it "imperfect"? What are the "loopholes"? What are the other sports? He certainly can't be referring to cycling, athletics, or swimming, can he? And what is Mr. Wertheim's definition of "rigorous"?
4. "...in the absence of a credible union, cheating players know that, if caught, they have a hell of a fight on their hands."
I'm guessing that Mr. Wertheim means that players caught doping will have to fund their own defence. Fair enough, but that deterrent effect applies to low ranked players with limited means (although even journeymen like Robert Kendrick had the ability to get a decent enough lawyer to get his ban cut to 8 months; and Odesnik managed to cut a deal, too). These financially constrained players happen to be the same players that Mr. Wertheim claims are doing the bulk of the cheating. How does Mr. Wertheim square this apparent contradiction?
However, top players have vast financial resources with which to fight an adverse test result (and the means to get the best doping plan). This, again, points to top players being more likely to engage in doping.
Mr. Wertheim states later in his piece that "...speculating about specific players is wrong." Fine, but what about the fact that the ITF's anti-doping program is extremely weak (and been weakened in recent years through reduced blood and EPO testing)? This site has shown, through examining ITF data, that the anti-doping program in professional tennis is not rigorous. Also, what ever happened to Odesnik's "substantial assistance"? Or Serena Williams's "panic room" incident?
Shouldn't "one of the most accomplished sports journalists in America," be investigating and holding the ITF to account? If Mr. Wertheim is going to claim that tennis is "overwhelming clean" he needs to bring some hard data to the table instead of unsubstantiated assertions that aren't borne out by the facts.