Saturday, September 29, 2012

Interview with Stuart Miller: Part 2

Simon Cambers at The Tennis Space has posted Part 2 of his interview with Stuart Miller. The focus is on the lack of blood testing in tennis. Miller's answers here are more ridiculous than those he gave in Part 1 of the interview. Anyone who wants tennis to be clean should be extremely concerned with Miller's responses.

When asked why blood few out-of-competition blood tests are conducted, Miller begins his response with:
"There are things I can tell you and things I can’t tell you. I will tell you that there were certain constraints about blood testing under the programme previously..."
Miller refuses to be more specific about the "constraints." What is he talking about? They couldn't be financial constraints since the anti-doping budget has come in under budget for three consecutive years. And it does not explain why blood testing decreased between 2006 and 2011.

And here's some samples from his response on whether the WADA goal of making blood tests 10 percent of total testing is high enough:
...There are also more prohibited substances that can be detected in urine samples than there are in blood samples. One might, therefore, suggest there is more value for urine samples than there is in blood sampling...
...Is 10 percent enough? That’s not for me to decide...
More verbiage. No insight. Dr. Miller is the anti-doping manager for tennis. It is his job to decide how much blood testing is required for tennis. If he thinks his job to is merely meet minimum WADA requirements, he should resign.

I would quote more from the interview, but it would just make me upset.

Once again, kudos to Simon Cambers for asking tough questions.


  1. Considering the TenisVal players were working with cycling doping doctors who were known to use blood transfusions and EPO as a big part of their doping regimens, the lack of blood tests is a major problem. Checking blood hematocrit levels would be a good way to determine whether someone is likely receiving EPO or transfusions. The "constraints" he is referring to are likely from the top players whining and having blood testing limited. It is possible that blood tests done on some of the TenisVal players is the reason that they were flagged for more out of competition tests if they had high hematocrit levels. We will probably never know...

    1. He was asked specifically if blood testing covers EPO. He responded that EPO is done with a urine test. The answer is factually correct, but it is misleading and deflects the question. Last we knew, the ITF was only doing urine EPO tests when a blood screen threw off suspicion, correct?

      If that's still the case, a blood test is a pseudo-test for EPO.

    2. Correct.

      New York Times (2009): "In 2008, the tennis federation conducted 20 tests for EPO in competition and 32 such tests out of competition. Those numbers appear low, [Stuart] Miller said, because the tests are conducted only if blood screening indicates a player may be using the drug."

    3. Of course, if you asked Miller about this, he would deflect it by saying something like: "That was our policy of the time, but we are always reviewing our policies. As you can understand, I can't tell you the details of our current policy on EPO testing."

    4. The urine EPO test is probably only going to catch people who are caught off guard, like they did with Lance Armstrong, testing his urine from many years before after the test became available. A blood test is harder to manipulate. You need to use an IV bag of saline to dilute the blood, assuming they will flag suspicious hematocrit levels. That is going to be trickier to squirm out of. The problem is that, unlike cycling, they don't seem to do anything about high hematocrit levels other than maybe flag them as suspicious and check a urine test for EPO, which can wash out of the system quickly and does not even account for transfusions, which are probably more popular these days.

    5. There is a blood test available which can conclusively detect either autologous or homologous blood doping.

      You would only look at hematocrit if you were looking at a blood screen (which is low cost and often used as a trigger to run the more expensive tests needed to detect doping).

      Basically a complete test would include:

      (1) a urine sample with extra volume to allow a normal screen plus an EPO analysis.
      (2) Several vials of blood (I forget how many big vials you need but I think it is around 6) which allows for testing for autologous blood doping, homologous blood doping, cera (and variants), hGH and a plasma sample to freeze.

      This full suite of tests probably costs around $3000 for one athlete including lab, collection. centrifuges, biohazard safe shipping etc etc.

      You can't safely go around taking this volume of blood every day so you need to carefully target when you do it to maximise the chance of a detection.

    6. Mr. Ings, other than that, what say you of Mr. Miller's interview? I would be grateful for your comments.

    7. Richard Ings,
      I haven't heard of that test. Is that different than the "plasticizer" test that was positive for Contador. I can't imagine tennis would have the genuine motivation to do such a large, expensive blood test.

    8. THASP not sure about the name of the test, but there is a blood test available to detect autologous blood doping as well as one to detect homologous blood doping.

      It is not feasible to do all these tests all the time. You can't go around taking 6 vials of blood every day. So what is important is that (1) sports have the capability to do these tests (what I mean by this is that only a handful of WADA labs can actually do these test so sports better be using labs like Montreal or Koln amongst others) and (2) sports have a target testing program to enable for right athlete to be subject to this type of testing when it is needed.

      Just to add that I have been a long supporter of rationalising the number of WADA labs to have fewer bigger mega labs with the full suite of best practice tests available. Not all labs can do these type of tests and that is a big gap in the global anti-doping fight.

    9. I have read the interview. Things have changed since 2005 when I move on.

      In 2005 for example I took a view that:

      All testing activities should be publicly released broken down by tests per individual player.
      Here is an example of the spreadsheets I released annually (I remember collating these stats on my laptop in Ponte Vedra every year):

      I did this with the full support of the players on the player council. The logic was that I could show what was being done to protect the sport and I could show how players were being tested (and not that top player were either protected or singled out….there are two locker room gossips here…the lower ranked players all believe the top players get and say ride and the top ranked players believe they get singled out for special attention).

      These stats in the link show that Agassi for example was blood tested 6 times in 2003. Roddick was blood tested 5 times. And this was the first year of blood testing in mens tennis if I remember right.

      There were 238 blood tests conducted in 2003 in tennis. That is not too shabby for 2003. But it is 2012 now and some 7 years later there should be double that number of blood tests especially given that the most serious and problematic doping can only be detected via blood testing these days.

      Releasing these itemised stats by individual player was a big political win with the players and one that they accepted and very much supported right through 2005. I don't know where or why that changed.

      It also kept the ATP honest as the numbers are the numbers and there for everyone to see. I remember checking stats coming into a final quarter and noting that maybe a top 10 player was under represented for testing. Not by any logic but it just happened through scheduling. I would target test them in that final quarter to get some more "tests on the board" before the end of year reporting.

      The next thing I don't get is that NADO's will test tennis players if the ITF ask. But NADO's will not test tennis players if they are not asked. So it is important. Indeed critical, for IF's to collaborate with NADO's in preparing an international TDP so you have an integrated approach to fighting doping in your sport using all the tools and organisations available.

      Finally you need to know to the ml of blood exactly how your athletes are being tested when where and by whom so you can take a holistic approach to the program in identifying any gaps in protecting your sport.

      I am not suggesting that Stuart does or does not have these things in place. These are just my personal views of what I think is best for any IF in running an anti-doping program.

    10. It's pretty shocking to see that the number blood tests in 2011 (131) were almost half the number conducted in 2003 (238).

    11. Thank you very much, Mr Ings!

  2. One my favorite bits of the interview is when Camber asks about the volume of testing and Miller states: "if you were a top player, you would probably be in double figures."

    Probably? What a joke.

  3. Off Miller topic, but since this is the last thread, thought I'd share.
    Serbian daily Politika had an interview with Dr. Marija Andjelkovic, from the Serbian Anti-doping Agency a few days ago. A few points.
    They test the top hundred Serbian athletes once a quarter (athletes are subject to whereabout rules, testing is unannounced).
    The only exception are Seebian tennis players, who are tested by doctors from the tennis association (!).
    She says Serbian athletes dope on average more than the world average (my comment: perhaps they do a better job than someother countries at tearing)
    On another note, she believes Armstong is a victim of jealous people, his testosterone level was higher only because of the cancer treatment.