Monday, June 4, 2012

Stuart Miller Meets The Big O

Omerta...The WADA is currently undertaking a consultation for revised its anti-doping code. The first phase of the consultation is closed and the WADA posted the comments received. I decided to take a look at the comments to see if the International Tennis Federation (ITF) made any submissions. They did. And one comment left me dumbstruck. It deals with article 10.5.3 of the WADA regarding reducing an athlete's ban if they offer substantial assistance. Here is the ITF's submission (p. 52-53):


A "cultural omerta"? This is a quite the statement coming from Stuart Miller. This is the same man who insisted tennis doesn't "lend" itself to doping. And that the lack of positive tests is an indication that the sport is "clean." Yet, in the comment above, that same man is saying that tennis may have a "cultural omerta" and that bigger incentives are needed get athletes to break omerta. Where did this come from? Whatever the reason this is the closest we've ever gotten to a tennis official admitting that the sport may have a widespread problem with doping, that players know it is going on, and that the players aren't speaking out.

Another thing, Miller's comment is clearly referencing Wayne Odesnik's "substantial assistance." Whatever happened to that?

32 comments:

  1. As Sen said, I think we can assume Odesnik is the one being referenced. I'll take that logic a bit further. How can it be "substantial assistance" if nobody else is brought down by his "assistance." You can make arguments about how someone like Odesnik could potentially offer insights about certain players without anything concrete enough to be able to punish those other players. At the end of the day, what difference does it make even if Odesnik named players who he knew were doping if he didn't offer any information that would actually lead to them being caught? If he says Player X is doping what good does that do us if the only way to catch Player X is through a test that doesn't work? If he says Player X dopes and Entourage Y is always in possession of his HGH then we're getting somewhere. Then we go to Entourage Y with law enforcement and try to find the HGH. There's no evidence that anything useful came of that, which is very disappointing.

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    1. There were rumors that Odesnik flipped Koellerer for match fixing: http://www.sbnation.com/tennis/2011/8/4/2342638/wayne-odesnik-ban-hgh-human-growth-hormone-comeback-suspension-atp

      Never substantiated. However, even if true, I would hardly call that "substantial assistance," warranting his suspension being cut from 2 years to 1 year.

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  2. I know exactly what Dr Miller is referring to. The players have a wall of silence when it comes to coming forward with what they may know about all sorts of things. Doping. Match fixing. Tanking. Faking injuries. You name it.

    Players are often aware of what is going on and seemingly the closer they are to really knowing the less likely they are to let the authorities know. In my experience the players that go public with allegations (Escude) do so based on gossip and rumour without a shred of evidence.

    But the players who really do know something first hand, don't come forward because they don't want to be the rat in the locker room.

    I saw this from players dozens of times in my time with the ATP trying to investigate breaches of the ATP rules by players. Players who clearly knew something but refused to come forward and refused to be a witness. They just maintained the wall of silence.

    In all the doping cases I have managed, only 2 athletes ever even admitted that they deliberately doped and then provided information on what, when, where and whom.

    This is the wall of silence that Dr Miller is referring to. In roles like the one I had with the ATP or ASADA or the one Dr Miller has, having people who know come forward with evidence is gold. At ASADA I even setup a ""Stamp Out Doping Hotline" to allow anyone to pass on confidentially any evidence they had of doping in sport.

    Caught athletes even with the current incentives of reduced sanction still refuse to spill the beans on how they doped, who helped them and who else is doping with them.

    Dr Miller is suggesting that WADA consider options to further incentivise athletes to spill the beans.

    And I am losing no sleep over Odesnik. This matter is top and centre on the WADA radar and WADA would intervene in a millisecond if it felt the rules were not being applied.

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    1. The culture of omerta extends well beyond the players. Journalists are only too happy to play along with omerta as well along with the authorities.

      Turkeys don't vote for xmas. People have seen what scandals do for sports (see cycling and athletics) and do their best to ensure that there are no scandals.

      It is up to the ITF etc to support whistle blowers not to throw them under the bus. There are plenty of examples from the real world where whistle blowers are supported. Sadly, sports has yet to catch on with best practice (perhaps because it doesn't want to have whistle blowers because it knows how rotten the sport is).

      Lets look at cycling for example - look at how Pippo Simeoni was harassed by Lance Armstrong for speaking out against Michele Ferrari. (For those who don't know Ferrari was Armstrong's doctor, Simeoni testified against Ferrari in court about how Ferrari had doped Simeoni. The upshot was that Armstrong chased Simeoni down during a race and basically treatened him. Later on other riders spat on Simeoni. Moving on a few years, Simeoni was Italian national champion, Armstrong ensured that Simeoni's team was not invited to the Giro D'Italia (it was the first time ever that the Italian national champion had not ridden the race)). Meanwhile, the media gave Armstrong a free pass about the incident, and the authorities conspired to exclude and punish Simeoni years after the incident.

      Look at Armstrong's campaign of harassment against Betsy Andreu (and others) for speaking out against him.

      Look at Jesus Manzano who broke the story about Fuentes, and was accused of being a liar.

      Look at David Millar and his attacks on Gaumont after Gaumont pointed the finger at Millar. Again, the media acted as a willing mouthpiece for these attacks.

      And the list goes on and on.

      The point is that it is going to take more than a hotline to break down omerta. There has to be a culture shift not just among the players but also the authorities and the media.

      Sadly, to echo George Orwell. 'Nothing short of dynamite will convince some people which century they are living in.'

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    2. There has to be a culture shift not just among the players but also the authorities and the media.
      -----------------------------
      But how can the culture shift without tangible proof which can only be provided by WADA? No journalist is going to send rumours around....though I agree they are doing the opposite job of reassuring us that all is well and fine in the sport.

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    3. In my 10 years in anti doping I have never met an anti doping program manager who was not determined to catch cheats. Some may have better programs or more resources or more political support than others. But all want cheats out.

      But I have run into endless examples of players with first hand knowledge of things like match fixing who simply refused to help the authorities. The stats speak for themselves. Every year world wide hundreds of athletes get busted for doping. But I will guess only a handful help authorities catch their supplier or doctor or other athletes they know doping.

      In the player ranks omertà is strong. Players in the know do not turn on their doping colleagues out of fear of being labelled a rat in the locker room.

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    4. Andrea - look at the work of Paul Kimmage, David Walsh, Pierre Ballester, in cycling there are a few journalists out there who are willing to make the effort and to point the finger. However, they are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to omerta. Sadly the majority like Daniel Benson or Susan Westmeyer are all too willing to support omerta.

      A classic scenario is this - a rider gets busted for doping, he comes out with every implausible excuse going, not once does the media question it, and instead they even go out of their way to try to support the excuse. They provide an uncontested forum for the athletes to disseminate their BS.

      Now, on the other hand when a rider blows the whistle, those same journalists rush to put the boot in, attacking the athlete, and giving uncontested space to other athletes to attack him/her.

      The same can be seen when we look at the way the trials of Bonds, Clemens etc have gone, lots of attacks on the people testifying against the athlete.

      A whistleblower can expect no support in the media.

      Richard - maybe anti-doping managers are determined, however, their bosses are often not. And I'm sorry but Anne Gripper's time at the UCI was a complete joke as she and McQuaid went from real testing to window dressing. She became nothing more than McQuaid's mouthpiece who was wheeled out whenever the UCI needed to pretend that they were serious about doping.

      Maybe she is actually anti-doping, but the UCI went backwards under her watch, she was up there with Stuart Miller for being a waste of space. If she is anti-doping then the only assumption I can make is that she lost out in the internal UCI politics to McQuaid and Verdruggen.

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    5. I wasn't intimating that anything inappropriate happened in the Odesnik case. I'm sure he provided some useful information. I was just making the point that in the end we don't see anything of any substance that came of it. If discussions of match fixing is what he relayed, that's a pretty weak reward for a guy who was physically caught with HGH. If he actually provided information on doping, there are no players who were subsequently implicated in any disciplinary action. It's disappointing that we have someone literally caught red-handed with banned substances who was given leniency for "substantial assistance" and we as fans have no idea was that assistance was.

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    6. I think the ITF would also want to demonstrate to clean players that the Odesnik deal paid dividends. If you were a clean player, how would you feel about Odesnik getting a reduced ban and then...and then...where are the busts? For some, the lack of results may leave the impression that "crime does pay."

      Overall, the lack of any identifiable benefit from the Odesnik deal does little for the credibility of the ITF's anti-doping program. And again, this is yet another story that the tennis media has conveniently forgotten.

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    7. It is a bizarre scenario where his suspension was reduced, and many players were up in arms about the length of suspension (especially as compared to Kendrick). If anybody actually paid attention it would be terrible from a PR perspective to have players say the punishment isn't harsh enough when tennis is trying to put forth the image of being extremely vigilant. The rationale is that he helped out in some meaningful way, but his fellow players certainly didn't seem to get that memo based on their comments.

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  3. It's bad enough that journalists just look the other way and one can see why they might be inclined not to rock the boat. It's another thing, though, for a journalist to claim that he doesn't believe that there is significant doping going on and that doping isn't going to help a tennis player. There is no excuse for that.

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  4. Cibulkova says that Stosur "plays like a man".

    http://www.tennis.com/articles/templates/news.aspx?articleid=18067&zoneid=25


    Hint. Hint. Hint.

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  5. "The deputy director of the World Anti Doping Laboratory in Cologne says that painkillers fulfil all the requirements of a doping substance."

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18282072


    It's an interesting area - certainly happens in tennis fairly often, whether pills in match, or injections beforehand.

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    1. Linked into that is the FIFA comments on the same problem.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18064904

      'Dr Jiri Dvorak found that almost 40% of players at the 2010 World Cup were taking pain medication prior to every game.'

      Not that pain killers would help you play epic 5 hour matches back to back...

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    2. It ultimately depends on how you define doping. I bet 100% of players consume liquids in the hours before matches. That's obviously not doping. The pain killers will impact performance favorably, just like being hydrated impacts performance favorably. I understand that pain killers can be thought of as a gray area, but I think players should be allowed to take those. Their bodies go through a tremendous amount of stress, and the main function of pain killers is not recovery or healing, it is reducing pain in the short-term so they can compete. If you think of Agassi's back injury, it was not going to be cured by pain killers. They just made the situation bearable. I think encountering situations such as his makes it extremely difficult to consider banning pain killers.

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    3. Seems that the main thrust of Dr Geyer's argument is the long-term adverse health consequences of excessive use of painkillers more than the performance enhancing aspects, although he does talk about both. The medical ethics angle seems to be the one he's really pushing.

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  6. This Errani is a very suspect player too. She plays moonballing like Nadal and can go on forever. That is a typical game based on destroying the edge/talent of the opponent thanks to amazing topspin, footwork and stamina.

    THose should be the prime tartgets for WADA.

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    1. Sara Errani has been on my dope radar for a while now. She's been on the tour for 10 years and never cracked the top 40 and now that she has "improved her fitness" (seriously, what kind of changes can you make to your training program after 10 years on the tour except for the obvious ones?), she's winning tournament after tournament and going deep into the Grand Slams. She might actually be going for the double this week because she has reached the semis of the doubles competition too. I watched her doubles quarterfinal match yesterday and it was a very physical 3-hour battle. You would think a strategic tank might be in order at this stage of the tournament but nope, on and on she goes.

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    2. You see, I did not even know her before I saw her play against Kutz the previous round. Glad you confirm/support my suspicion.

      To me teh most important factor to detect dopers is actually their tennis style. If it's based on physique (rssentially retreiving instead of dictating with safe margins game (Nadal, Murray, Djoko, Canas, Ferrer, Coria (though this one was very talented), Hewitt, Stosur ...) then chances are they dope with steroids and EPO.

      You can have attacking players being very suspect too (berdych, Sod, Delpo cause those ones need the mouvement and stamina to be able to keep their edge longer). However one can always have some doubts about those ones whereas there is no doubt with the first group.

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    3. I am so glad you guys brought up Errani. She has pinged my doping radar the past few months. She has done virtually nothing in her career up until now.

      As Shadow said above, she has been on the tour for 10 years and this year is her first year going deep in Slams. You mean to tell me, she didn't know anything about fitness or training or proper technique for 10 years? Now all of a sudden she's "discovered" what she needs to do? Kind of like Djokovic and his gluten.

      Of course her countrywoman is Schiavone who came out of nowhere to win the 2010 French Open. If I'm remembering correctly, prior to 2010, Schiavone hadn't even made it to the second week of a Slam. And she was 29 years old at that time. And pretty much most of us here suspect strongly that Schiavone is/was a doper.

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    4. Glad I'm not the only one who is suspicious of Errani. I just think it's hilarious that "people" will chalk it all up to a Hollywood story of years of hard work finally paying off, while ignoring the more logical one: that something drastic had to happen to achieve an instantaneously drastic change in results, that a new training regime in the last 6 months does not explain.

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    5. Add me to the list of Errani sceptics. While it's not impossible, it's... interesting that a top 50 journeywoman all of the sudden makes a ridiculous turnaround and becomes a slam threat. She, of course, chalks it up to hard work and fitness. Riiight.

      My husband was watching her match against Kuznetsova and remaked that Errani made Sveta look untoned and puny. I'm not casting aspersions on Sveta, but she's always been muscular - even as a teen. If Errani is miraculously out-muscling Kuznetsova, something's probably amiss.

      Stosur vs. Errani is going to be an entertaining match to watch, from a biochemical standpoint.

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    6. She has shown marked improvements in results this year, but her results seem less heroic when you go line-by-line on her match history. The highest ranked players she beat to win Acapulco were Vinci (23) and Pennetta (29). None of her other three opponents were ranked higher than 100. She won Barcelona by beating Georges (16) and Cibulkova (17). Neither of those are career-defining wins. All of her other opponents in Barcelona were ranked 55 or worse. She won Budapest by beating players who were all ranked 78 or worse. She also has a handful of bad losses on her record this year. She has some good wins at the French this year. Ivanovic and Kuznetsova are always mercurial, and Kerber was her first top 10 win of the season (she's ranked 10th). With the exception of a few good results in individual matches on clay, she's pretty much beaten the players you would expect her to beat. She's won a few matches where she would be the underdog, and she's lost a few matches where she was a clear favorite. When you factor in statistical variance, coupled with fortuitous draws and differing opponents, her results seem close to being in line with last year.

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    7. @mrn10sdave:

      You make some good points. Yes, a lot of the players she beat are utter headcases (Ivanovic, Kuznetsova, etc.)

      However, when someone has been a pro for ten years and is just now starting to make QFs and semis of Slams in their mid-twenties, then people are going to be very cynical.

      She might be using, she might not be, but it seems hard to believe it took her 10 years to realize she had to improve her fitness and work hard.

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  7. Errani worth a very close watch in my book too. She "broke through" in Australia this year after years of doing not much. Suddenly playing very consistently too which she never used to do.

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  8. People are always so quick to point at this player or that player for doping. Any player caught doping has rarely improved their game by much. Odesnik was doing big things when he got caught. Where is this evidence that Sara Errani is doping? Just because she's had a good run this year? Are we going to point fingers at Serena for winning two tournaments on a surface she's not known for playing well on? Are we going to point fingers at Djokovic for winning 41 straight matches and 4 out of the last 5 majors? After all, all he claimed to do was change his diet. Federer won or made at least the semis in virtually everything he played in for a 3 year stretch. I never once saw something claiming he was doping. He also almost never gets injured. None of you find that strange? Nadal's game has improved by dividends since he first won Roland Garros and he gets accused of doping all the time. Why? Any time a player goes on a "hot streak" does not mean they're doping. Improved fitness, changing their game plan, adding shots to their repertoire do that. None of you calling Errani out for doping have substantial evidence other than she's won a lot of matches lately. Have you watched any of her practices? Do you know what she's done off the court to improve her game other than change the way she thinks or plays on court? No, you don't. Schiavone won Roland Garros because she's always been consistent on clay (see her Fed Cup results) and she got an extremely favorable draw that year (also Dementieva pulled out of the semi). She's also always been extremely fit. Something like that isn't going to disappear when you're 29.

    None of your accusations make a lick of sense. Please have several seats, all of you.

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    1. Oops... I mean "Odesnik WASN'T doing big things when he was caught."

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    2. Judging from your statement that "Any player caught doping has rarely improved their game by much," am I to assume that you are of the belief that the tennis anti-doping program is effective at catching dopers? Have you looked at the doping statistics?

      Also, Odesnik never tested positive. He was caught for possesion.

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    3. I never said he was. I said he wasn't doing big things.

      I can't say if the ITF has been effective because, like the rest of the WORLD, no one knows until a player tests positive. The ones who have tested positive have been dealt with appropriately. Until you or anyone else finds that a player has indeed been doping you can't throw it around in the air slandering their name because you THINK they have been doping because of their results.

      I'm not saying that doping isn't something that works or that it doesn't happen. Off the top of my head, the only player that I can remember being caught after a great result is Mariano Puerta. I'm saying that until they are caught, we can't point fingers.

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    4. I'll ask again: Have you looked at the ITF's anti-doping statistics? Do agree with the minimal amount of out-of-competition testing they conduct? Do you agree with their policy of loser-targeted testing at Grand Slam events? Do you agree with their efforts to prevent the French anti-doping authority from testing at Roland Garros?

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    5. Yes and I agree on some of those except targeting the losers. And personally, I wouldn't allow the French to do anything without my consent. Testing should be regulated by tennis' governing body, not just a tournament.

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    6. So, given your review of the statistics you are confident in the testing program even though players can go a year or longer without recieving a single out of competition test? (e.g., Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Li Na, Andy Roddick, etc.)

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