Late last week, I noted the ITF had posted that wheelchair tennis player Anthony Carter had been suspended for an anti-doping violation. The sanction was imposed by UKAD. The full decision has now been released.
May 27, 2012: Mr. Carter gave a urine sample at the UK's National Wheelchair Tennis Championships. The sample tested positive for cannabis.
July 6, 2012: Mr. Carter was issued a Notice of Charge letter from UKAD.
July 13, 2012: Mr. Carter admitted to the charge and waived his right to a test of his 'B' Sample. He also choose to take a voluntary provisional suspension at this time.
August 23, 2012: UKAD makes decision to suspend Mr. Carter for 3 months, effective July 13, 2012. The ITF updated their suspended list of players at this time.
September 3, 2012: UKAD publishes decision.
Commentary: The significance of this decision is not Mr. Carter's positive test, but the time lag between testing positive and the public being informed of the decision (approximately 3 months). This was a very straightforward case involving a relatively minor substance. Further, the athlete admitted to the charge and waived a 'B' Sample test. The only substantial item for debate was the length of the suspension.
However, even though the case was extremely simple, three full months passed between the sample being collected and the public being informed of a violation. If a tennis player with significant financial resources tested positive for a serious banned substance (e.g., synthetic testosterone), faced a long suspension, and decided to fight the case, how long could it take before a decision was rendered? How long could an unannounced provisional suspension last? Based on the Carter case, it seems that it could easily take a year, or more. And remember, in tennis, if the decision exonerated the player, no public announcement would be made. Instead, after a potentially very long absence, the player would return to the tour.
I would argue (as I have in the past) that it would be better for the credibility of the tennis anti-doping program to make public announcements of provisional suspensions. Transparency builds trust and mitigates rumor mongering.