Monday, October 1, 2012

20 Questions

Based on a recent interview (here and here), it appears that the head of the ITF's anti-doping programme, Dr. Stuart Miller, is in a talkative mood. That being the case, I have a number of questions for Dr. Miller about the state of the tennis anti-doping programme.

I would ask Dr. Miller these questions myself, but the ITF no longer responds to my e-mails. Therefore, I am posting my questions here in the hopes that a journalist (or a group of them) will pose some (or all) of them to Dr. Miller.

Asking and getting answers to these questions is critical to bringing transparency and accountability to the ITF's anti-doping programme. If you care about doping in tennis, you want these questions answered.

1. Why did ITF blood testing decrease by approximately 33 percent between 2006 and 2011?

2. In 2011, what proportion of out-of-competition missions resulted in no sample collected? What proportion of out-of-competition missions missions were conducted outside of the player's selected whereabouts hour?

3. For 2011 (and also in 2010), the WADA reported that the ITF recorded six adverse analytical findings and three anti-doping violations. What accounts for the difference between the two numbers?

4. How many EPO, HGH, and synthetic testosterone tests did the ITF conduct in 2010 and 2011? How many were conducted out-of-competition?

5. The tennis anti-doping programme (per Article 13.3) does not publicly identify players who are alleged to have committed an anti-doping rule violation unless and until a Tribunal has determined that a violation has been committed, and/or the violation has been admitted. However, the WADA Code (per Article 14.2.1) permits anti-doping organizations (ADOs) to publicly disclose this information prior to a Tribunal determination and/or the player admitting to a violation. Why has the ITF's anti-doping programme not implemented this public disclosure provision of the WADA Code?

6. How many tennis players are currently serving provisional suspensions?

7. Do players sometimes claim they are injured when they are, in fact, serving a provisional suspension? If so, does the ITF condone such actions?

8. Article 14.2.3 of the WADA Code states that in cases where it is determined, after a hearing or appeal, that an athlete did not commit an anti-doping rule violation, the decision may be disclosed publicly with the consent of the athlete. Further, the Code stats that the ADO shall use reasonable efforts to obtain such consent, and if consent is obtained, shall publicly disclose the decision in its entirety or in such redacted form as the athlete may approve. However, Article 8.8.5 of the ITF anti-doping rules states in cases where a Tribunal decides that an athlete did not commit an anti-doping rule violation (i.e., exonerated), then the decision shall not be published and its confidentiality shall be strictly maintained by all parties. Does the ITF believe Article 8.8.5 is compatible with Article 14.2.3 of the WADA Code? Does the ITF make any efforts to obtain consent from an athlete for public disclosure of exoneration decisions?

9. At this year's (2012) Wimbledon Wayne Odesnik suggested that the "substantial assistance" he provided to have his anti-doping ban halved was medical information substantiating his possession of HGH. This explanation is in conflict with the definition of "substantial assistance" in the tennis anti-doping programme (Article 10.5.3). Does the ITF agree with Wayne Odesnik's characterization of the assistance he gave? If not, please explain what assistance was offered and the state of any investigations initiated by that information. Has at least one other person (other than Odesnik) been pursued due to the information he provided?  If so, has the investigation concluded?  If so, what was the result?  Were any doping violation(s), professional conduct violation(s), or criminal violation(s) uncovered?

10. At this year's Wimbledon, Andy Murray suggested that the ITF should not have reduced Mr. Odesnik's suspension, stating: "You want to make sure that people who are fined and suspended aren't let off because they are telling on other players. That is snitching." What is your view of Mr. Murray's statement?

11. What were the results the ITF's investigation into whether or not any players (or coaches or trainers) who worked with Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral did so for the purpose of doping? How was the investigation conducted (e.g., What was the methodology? Was an independent 3rd part retained to conduct the investigation?)

12. The French anti-doping authorities (AFLD) have been attempting to obtain permission from the ITF to conduct doping controls at ATP and WTA events in France. Previously, the ITF agreed to allow the AFLD to conduct doping controls at Roland Garros on a one-off basis in 2009. The AFLD has been seeking the ability to test at other events such as the Paris Masters, but the ITF will not agree to this. Why is this the case? Did the AFLD accept the original denial of the ability to test by the ITF, or did the AFLD appeal the issue to WADA, forcing WADA to consult with the ITF to understand why it wouldn't be appropriate for AFLD to do testing?

13. The ITF anti-doping unit has come in under-budget the last three years. Can you comment on why that occurred and what was done with the surplus funds?

14. In the ITF's submission on the WADA's current Code review process, you suggested that there may be a "cultural 'omerta'" in tennis. What led you to make such a comment?

15. Article 6.2 of the ITF's anti-doping programme states that "Where a Participant knows or suspects that any other Participant has committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation, it shall be the Participant’s obligation to report such knowledge or suspicion to the ITF Anti-Doping Manager as soon as possible [...] Failure to comply with any of the foregoing without acceptable justification shall constitute an Anti-Doping Rule Violation within the meaning of Article 2.9."
In the above cases, did the player communicate their concerns to the ITF or did the ITF approach the player for further information? If so, please explain what assistance was offered and the state of any investigations initiated by that information. If no follow-up occurred, please explain why.

16. Please explain the rationale behind the ITF's use of loser-targeted testing at Grand Slam events between 2006 and 2009? Is the practice still used?

17. In 2011, the ITF granted a total of 64 Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE). How many different substances were approved for TUEs in 2011? What was the most common substance for which a TUE was granted? What was the most common condition for which a TUE was granted?

18. The ITF currently does not make use of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP). Why is this the case? Does the ITF intend to adopt the ABP? If so, when? If not, why?

19. Article 14.4 of the WADA Code states that "Anti-Doping Organizations shall, at least annually, publish publicly a general statistical report of their Doping Control activities with a copy provided to WADA. Anti-Doping Organizations may also publish reports showing the name of each Athlete tested and the date of each Testing." Between 2006 and 2009, the ITF's annual statistical report showed the name of each player tested and the date of each testing. The ITF stopped reporting the date of each testing after 2009. Why did the ITF make this change?

20. What performance enhancing drugs do you think most benefit a tennis player? Why?

32 comments:

  1. Wow, congratulations for this fantastic post, SNR!
    Hopefully someone follows up on this.

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    Replies
    1. Well maybe with the Simon Cambers' interview and the fact that Sara Errani was asked about Del Moral, perhaps slowly but surely people are starting to ask questions.

      More pressure is needed though.

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  2. Good questions. Not that we can expect them to be answered except perhaps to say, "I can't comment on that."

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  3. Nice job, Sen. As you're already aware, I'd really like for a journalist to ask WADA whether WADA thinks ITF rule 8.8.5 is compatible with WADA Article 14.2.3. Is anybody out there listening? Unlike most issues that we talk about, that one is a little more black-and-white. If 8.8.5 violates 14.2.3, it must be changed. Furthermore, if we're interpreting 8.8.5 correctly, it would indicate that to the extent there have been tribunals that players have won, the ITF has VIOLATED the WADA Code.

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  4. A let's pretend game (that is, suppose I'm at the answering end): Uhm, these are very good questions, very good indeed, absolutely in line with what we, at the ITF's ADP, are all about, and, therefore, are relentlessly pursuing - day-in-AND-day-out. But, uhm, there are considerations well beyond what the general audience is capable of considering... Uhm, such as, consider: the secretiveness imposed upon our public efforts! Huh? For, you well may find those articles of faith, from whichever various Codes you've just chosen to mention, as mutually contradicting, but they ARE in place, and for good reasons! Let me mention just one: privacy. Just consider: 6 am (the appointed time-slot, but, hey, it's 6 am!),and one of our gum-shoes rings the front door bell, while the object of his/her investigation, having the early hard- or soft-on, as the case may be, is tennis-balling some object or other of his/her own investigation... And - what? What is the poor sod to do? Well, of course, pretend he/she is not at home, or run (together or alone) to the specially designed panic-room! No? And this is just ONE of the myriad possible examples of the appropriateness of our excellent Codes and our excelling effort to diligently uphold them. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain, if only a titbit, of our unceasing struggle to keep this wonderful sport the cleanest of them all, just it has ever been. Cheers, my dears.

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  5. In other news, the Australian Open has announced a $4 million increase prize money: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/open-announces-4-million-rise-in-prizemoney-20121002-26wh2.html

    Oddly, no announcement was made regarding whether there would be an increase in funding for doping control.

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    1. The additional prize money has been cannibalised from Tennis Australia grass roots tennis development programs I have read.

      The cuts were made and the money moved into prize money to head off a boycott of the Australian Open by professional players.

      The players have long complained that the Australian Open was the most expensive tournament to play for players (airfares, hotels, being away at Christmas/New Year for a month etc all paid for by the players for them and their entourages) but had the lowest prize money compared to other Slams.

      So TA addressed that to head off a player boycott.

      Delete
    2. Mr. Ings, perhaps you can enlighten us: just where does all that profit from ticket sales and selling the broadcast rights for the Grand Slams go? Surely it is in the many hundreds of millions and a paltry five million or so could be spared to subsidize the players' accommodations and increase the prize purse (assuming it is distributed in an equitable fashion).

      Does it all disappear into the pockets of ATP bigwigs and corporate sponsors? Cui bono?

      I don't believe for a second that beggaring the development programs for Australian tennis is the only possible way to address the threat of a player boycott. It's just another case of false economy being practiced by cutting programs that are already starved for money so that the giant revenue streams that the people at the top enjoy can continue untouched.

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    3. Australian kids should boycott tennis and go and play sports that aren't rife with drug cheats.

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    4. Demo best to go and check the annual reports of the Grand Slams as to what their income and expenditure is.

      But the 4 Grand Slams drive well over 90% of the revenue generated by professional tennis world-wide. One Slam alone generates more revenue than the entire ATP men's circuit of over a hundred tournaments combined. The revenue of the ITF is pocket change compared to the revenue for a Slam.

      There is no money disappearing into the pockets of corporate sponsors. The corporate sponsors contribute this money to the tennis revenue pool. They fund it.

      The ATP makes no money from Slams and the ITF receives annual dues from the Slams.

      But the vast bulk of the money is revenue to the 4 major national tennis federations (France, US and Australia) and the private club that is Wimbledon.

      Best to check the books of what these 4 bodies do with the revenue but Wimbledon for example has invested hundreds of millions in recent years in completely renovating and re-building its stadium and grounds. The US Open has done the same. These bodies fund all these infrastructure projects or indeed fund most of it.

      But I don't have much knowledge of current expenses of the Grand Slams. HAve a look t their annual reports to see where the revenue goes.

      Delete
  6. ESPN: "Rafael Nadal plans to return from a knee injury at an Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament in December."

    http://espn.go.com/tennis/story/_/id/8451850/rafael-nadal-plans-return-late-december-exhibition

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    1. One with no dope testing I imagine.

      It's a miracle. He is risen from the dead. Either that or a 6 month silent ban is due to expire.

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    2. This guy is unbelievable. Even when he wasn't ''injured'' he always played exos in December, even after spending the year bitching about the long schedule.

      So he's risking his knees in meaningless exos.

      Delete
    3. I wonder why the Marvel Comics hasn't already started a new never-ending serial entitled "Rafa, the Livid Knees Blockbuster", or some such... Could it be that the Uncle is asking for an outrageous sum of bucks for the copyright(s), to start with?

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    4. "Meaningless" ex's represent 7 figure practice sessions for the elite tennis player these days.

      So think of it as a low intensity practice session lasting an hour or so and getting paid 7 figures.

      Even the lamest player will front up for that which is why players complain about the long season but then play ex's when the season is over.

      Making hay while the sun shines so to speak.

      Delete
    5. @Richard Ings:

      Oh yeah, it's definitely about the money but I just get a laugh out of guys like Nadal who spend the entire season complaining about the length of schedule than play exos in December or their time off.

      Does Nadal really need the million or so to play the exos? He made $30 million last year.

      Delete
  7. In his latest Keeping Tabs column, Stever Tignor gives a nod to Simon Cambers' interview of Stuart Miller:

    http://www.tennis.com/news/2012/10/keeping-tabs-102/39641/#.UGuAU1HkaSo

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  8. These are fantastic questions. I would actually respect Dr. Miller if he agreed to answer any of these questions.

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    Replies
    1. I get your point, Seeya, but I don't think you would enjoy the answers, should that happen.

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    2. LOL, probably not, he'd probably give evasive answers anyway. But I would still love to see him try to answer some more in-depth questions (not that Cambers didn't do a great job but he probably only had so much time).

      Delete
  9. Excellent questions of course.
    But typically the kind of questions which will probably never been answered (or correctly answered)...

    A little question for Sen : you wrote "The ITF agreed to allow the AFLD to conduct doping controls at Roland Garros in 2009. Why have they been denied the ability to test since 2009?"
    Are you sure (if so, where did you read this info ?) that AFLD asked ITF and/or WADA the permission to conduct controls in 2010 and 2011 ?

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    Replies
    1. Based on the discussion here, although it appears that the AFLD has now given up hope of testing at Roland Garros:

      http://www.rue89.com/rue89-sport/2012/06/03/le-tennis-ce-sport-ou-le-dopage-nexisterait-pas-232477

      http://tennishasasteroidproblem.blogspot.ca/2012/05/afld-v-itf.html

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    2. I've tweaked the question a bit.

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    3. Thanks. It looks clear.

      Find it strange seing two different organizations testing players separately during a tournament. Certainly disturbing a bit - not logical - for the players.
      To me, this (2009 testing by AFLD at RG) shows the lack of confidence between ITF and AFLD. (and it is continuing !)
      ITF should better correctly do the job : I mean, do more tests, OCC tests particularly.

      Good question anyway.

      Delete
  10. Who's the wise guy? Check out the poll:

    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?s=6dfc94859d663dc2a2b6085fe644722d&t=441387

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  11. Here we go again:

    Toni Nadal: "We are going to start very light training in another 15 days and when he is totally recovered and in totally good physical shape we will return to competition...The problem is we are at the end of the year and I don’t know if he can play this year, but if [everything works out] then he has the small possibility of playing London or the Davis Cup final, but it’s complicated."

    http://www.tennis.com/news/2012/10/uncle-toni-only-small-chance-rafa-plays-season/39649/

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, somebody better tell David Nadal, because according to his tweet five days ago he expects Rafa to be training in the next couple of days.

      Delete
    2. The Nadals remind me of the old Richard Nixon joke.

      Q: How can you tell Nixon is lying?

      A: His lips move.

      Delete
  12. UCI wins Swiss judgement against Landis : http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/news/39891/Landis-loses-UCI-defamation-case

    (in french) : http://www.lemonde.fr/sport/article/2012/10/03/cyclisme-l-uci-ne-rime-pas-avec-kadhafi_1769612_3242.html

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete