Thursday, October 18, 2012

Douglas Robson on Doping in Tennis, plus a Kenyan Adventure (Update #4)

Today's gold star goes to Douglas Robson of USA Today for this article "Is tennis doing enough on doping?" Pretty solid work.

Robson notes that "the ITF recently concluded its own investigation of the del Moral, which included interviews with players."

However, the biggest piece of information comes courtesy of Janko Tipsaravic:
Janko Tipsarevic, who finished in the top 10 last year for the first time, said he had been tested frequently "maybe because I broke through."
The ninth-ranked Serb described how specimen handlers showed up at his door in Africa where he trains during the offseason.
"They came to me in Kenya," he said incredulously. "I believe that tennis is way cleaner than people think it is," added Tipsarevic, who reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals.
I'd suggest Tipsarevic pick a new training location because the Kenyan police, Athletics Kenya and the World Anti-Doping Agency are currently conducting a doping probe in Kenya, following reports that "doping is rife among Kenya’s runners and the foreign athletes who train in the Rift Valley." Do any other players train in Kenya?

Here's the best quote of the article: '[Dick] Pound said the ultimate question is whether the ITF's program, and others like it, "are actually designed to succeed or designed to fail and merely cover their butts."'

35 comments:

  1. 1.) I thought it was hilarious when Robson said Miller would neither confirm nor deny the budget as being $1.6 million. Is he sure he was talking to the right guy?

    2.) Does anybody else have a problem with people like Ricci Bitti and McQuaid being on the WADA EC? Just from a sheer "internal controls" perspective I don't think it's a good idea. In other walks of life, those are exactly the types of people you would want to help guide the way, because they have relevant experience. In this context, I think it's a bad practice. We're obviously worried that there is a conflict of interest in the ITF or UCI having a genuine intent to catch people at the top of the sport. It's impossible to prove that one way or the other, and they can always point to the positive steps they've taken. If you accept it as a necessary evil for the time being that the sports will run their own anti-doping program, that's fine. Maybe no other approach is feasible at the moment. There are ways around giving them total control for the very reason of being fearful that wrongdoing or lax enforcement is possible. We need more independent people on that board to provide adequate checks and balances. They shouldn't both be in charge of establishing the policy and then running and applying that policy in their own sport.

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  2. Also, Tipsarevic was in the "1-3" category for OOC tests in 2010 and 2011, but he was in the "7+" category for IC in 2011.

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    1. I remember a while back when the tennis commentators described Tipsarevic as "a journeyman player without big weapons." That was before the chicken drum-stick thighs and the path into the top ten (via Kenya, of course.)

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    2. If targeted testing means being tested at most three times OOC in a year, that's a pretty pathetic system.

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  3. So surely McQuaid of UCI can't get to decide on if they dispute USADA's Armstrong findings?

    The phrase covering their butts rather reminds me of Team Sky's new policy. Sign a letter and they can hold it up retrospectively if anyone gets caught. Since when did a code of conduct do anything other than give the employer a right to hang the employee out to dry?

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  4. Here is how Jean Regenwetter, the head of Luxembourg's cycling federation, described how UCI's annual meetings most commonly went down. He said McQuaid and Verbruggen ruled like autocrats - their leadership is completely intransparent, also a debate about essential things in cycling never happened. UCI meetings are basically just for show.

    They file some report, followed by a slide show with lot's of colorful pictures so participants won't get bored and then they show some film about foreign aid. Cycling's problems were never addressed or mentioned.

    Debates adbout doping would most commonly be listed under "Miscellaneous" that came up conveniently before the big lunch break. Also, no hint of self-critcism anywhere to be found, says Regenwetter.

    If this is how the UCI did it, I wonder how ITF meetings look like.

    German Source:
    http://www.spox.com/de/sport/mehrsport/radsport/1210/News/fall-lance-armstrong-uci-immer-staerker-in-der-kritik-jean-regenwetter-pat-mcquaid.html

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  5. The link to Kenya will be because his coach Dirk Hordorff takes his players there. He coaches a few players, and has taken Schuettler, Lu and Fabbiano there in the past.

    Hordorff was also Djokovic's manager when he was a junior.


    Looks like Serena Williams has also been "visiting" Kenya recently:
    http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/67d85c722420468b9977ad17a151a2c9/MI--Womens-Hall-of-Fame

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    1. In looking at Lu's wikipedia page, it says he trained with Rainer and Janko in Dubai (2006 off-season) under the direction of Dirk. I wonder why the switch from Dubai to Kenya or why Dubai in the first place. I always find it interesting how these connections always lurk about.

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    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lu_Yen-hsun

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    3. An interesting interview with Hordoff from 2004 (Google translation): "There is hardly a sport in which so much is controlled."

      http://bit.ly/RFFVsN

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    4. According to Janko, Hordorff has "a couple of tennis courts and some buildings in Kenya."

      http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Layout/Includes/TOI/ArtWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOI&BaseHref=TOIBG%2F2010%2F01%2F02&ViewMode=HTML&PageLabel=21&EntityId=Ar02102&AppName=1

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  6. Oh, I can hardly believe my eyes, look what Matt Cronin reports!

    http://www.tennis.com/news/2012/10/blake-there-are-dopers-tennis/39827/


    (He is SO late to the party! Seems to be safer to quote via USA today than writing their own investigative piece)

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    1. The funny thing is that Cronin didn't realize that the Blake quotes are from the US Open. They're not new.

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    2. He ignored those quotes real hard, I think. And he conveniently let's USA Today do all the work.

      Notice also how Cronin does not cite all the bits of that article...

      This is such a gutless post of them. Such cowards. Hiding behind USA Today...

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    3. Another one talks about doping: Courtney Nguyen, fangirl & blogger turned serious Sport's Illlustrated "journo" has something to say. As it looks, she read the USADA report on Armstrong and finally doubts begin to creep in.

      http://tennis.si.com/2012/10/19/friday-five-doping-tennis/

      She writes:"Most notably, Dr. Luis García del Moral, one of the masterminds behind the doping program, has ties to a tennis academy in Valencia, where David Ferrer, Sara Errani, Marat Safin and Dinara Safina have trained."

      Well, he not only has he "ties", he worked there for a long time and was a member of their technical team, to be precise.

      She also mentions hypoxic chambers and concludes the following: "The report also discusses the use of hypoxic chambers to help cyclists fool EPO tests. These are the same hyperbaric chambers that have been used by numerous tennis players, from Novak Djokovic to American Christina McHale. None of this alone means anything, and drawing conclusive links is both dangerous and irresponsible. But they don’t mean nothing either."

      Too bad she has no attempt at WHAT exactley they could mean.

      I guess this is how far she can go without running into danger. Too bad there has never been a serious, critical discussion of the chambers and POD's in mainstream media. That is also a fault of SI, imo they had enough mail bags emptied and cute photo posts. I am sure there would be room for a thorough article on the usage of those tents and chambers somewhere.

      She also mentions the underfunding situation of the ITF via that USA Today article by Robson. Again, second-hand quotes. I wonder why SI was never able to read the stats and come up with those figures themselves?

      Also, here is her response to the question if knowing a player doped would change her fond memories of that player.

      "I was posed this question earlier this week and my answer has haunted me ever since. If it were to come out that a high-profile tennis player was doping, would that alter my enjoyment of his or her tennis up to that point? Would my memories of their epic conquests, the thrill I felt watching them compete suddenly turn sour and cold? My answer at the time was no, reasoning that for those few hours on that day I was thoroughly entertained by what I saw and what I saw was something I had never seen before. I thought back to the ’98 home run race and how Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa saved baseball, which had been struggling since the 1994 strike, with every swing of the bat. I still have fond memories of that summer even though I know what I know now. It remains an untainted memory for me, and to be honest, in light of everything we’re supposed to believe, that doping undermines the integrity of sport, my response to my friend’s question worries me."

      Seems like reading the USADA report got her to worry-level at least. Before she must have been blissfully innocent, I guess.

      I think she nicely summarizes that attitude of most people who prefer to ignore the (highly likely) possibilty of doping - most of them are fans. However, in this case it is someone who writes for a major media outlet.
      Meaning, she should act as a journalist. The most important lesson for any serious journalist is to not fraternize with your subject and in general try to keep a critical distance and not get overwhelmed by your emotions.

      Her above answer does demonstrate nicely why it is increasingly hard to find writers willing to go against the grain, someone who is willing to spoil their fond memories by acknowledging the dirty truth instead of fanboying or fangirling.

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    4. An Italian website tennis.it has picked up the USA Today article - desperately trying to take it apart and simultaneously protecting their beloved Sara Errani from any doping allegations...

      http://tennis.it/usa-today-attacca-sara-errani-sul-doping/

      Google translate left me with this gem:

      "Knowing the transparent honesty and perseverance of Sara Errani, we Tennis.it of writing we are sincerely outraged by the cowardly attack on our player that we are sure, in terms of doping can at best make use of tortellini, Sangiovese di Romagna and if you really want to do crazy things, a slice of mortadella Bologna excellent."

      Suppose Murray's sushi is Errani's Mortadella Bologna slice...

      And I am not sure what those folks writing such crap are on...

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    5. The article makes no sense. They refer to Davide Errani's cardiac exam line without noting that Sara has contradicted that statement.

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  7. The cards keep falling

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/second-australian-quits-cycling-post-in-disgrace/story-e6frg7mf-1226499265345

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  8. Lookout, NBA

    http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/8521302/wada-director-general-says-nba-gaps-anti-doping-program

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    1. Where have we heard this before:

      "In the past, including in testimony before Congress in 2005, NBA officials have made the case that performance-enhancing drugs are unlikely to be effective in basketball." - Article language, not Howman.

      "They do not feel they have such an issue as the other major leagues and therefore haven't addressed it in quite the same way," Howman said. "I just think you've got to be very careful when you start saying performance-enhancing drugs are not beneficial in any sport, because you're going to be proven wrong. And you'll be proven wrong when you're not expecting it."

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    2. I have been surprised by the lack of mention of the possibility of doping in both the NBA and NFL for years now, ever since the MLB doping problem emerged. It seems to me that the NBA and NFL are both much more physically demanding and therefore more likely to have players doping than baseball, which would then suggest that tons of them are doing it. I am not big on speculation based on appearances but there are several NBA players and former players that look quite unnatural to me, specifically Lebron, Dwight Howard, and Karl Malone.

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    3. Doping in the NFL isn't just a possibility - it's a close second to professional wrestling in it's obviousness (is obviousness a word?) In order of obviousness it goes pro bodybuilding, pro wrestling, pro football. The only three NFL players I've personally known over the years all openly admitted to using steroids. Two were wide receivers and one was a defensive lineman. And they all played in the late 80's and early 90's.

      The difference between LeBron and Malone is EPO. Malone was thought to be HUGE, but the truth is LeBron is just slightly less bulky but LeBron runs around the court like a jackal. LeBron exerts literally twice as much energy, if not more, in a game than Malone ever did and never gets tired. Malone was roided up but not EPO'd up. LeBron is both, plus HGH. After LeBron the next two most obvious NBA players are Howard and Blake Griffin.

      High school and college players aren't any bigger today than they were 20 years ago. Look at team pictures of colleges from 2012 vs 1992. There's zero difference. But look at NBA teams from 20 years ago compared to NBA teams today and it's shocking how much bigger and bulkier and cut-up/toned and faster and fitter the players are. Professional and college players were already lifting weights in the 80's and 90's. It's not something that was just recently discovered.

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  9. Tipsaravic training in Kenya strikes me as very very weird, regardless of any thoughts about doping. Maybe that's just my ignorance about tennis in Kenya?

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  10. From 2009 onwards, the ITF should have data showing precisely how many tennis players have been in Kenya (or any other country) at any give time and for how long.

    This kind of information should be factored into targeted testing considerations.

    I wonder whether they could release some of that data (in a non-identifying way, of course).

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  11. I like the idea of an amnesty in principle, but I think it's irrelevant in practice. The problem with the current doping regime across all sports is that it's hard to catch anybody. Admitting that you cheated is a crushing financial blow. If they can't catch you, and it's hurts your wallet to admit doping, why would you just come clean?

    I like the idea, though. Anyway that could start sports on a path to becoming cleaner is good in my book. I'm not hung up on whether athletes are punished for their doping or not, my main hope is for cleaner sport throughout whatever means. If that means finding out that 95% of professional tennis players dope and letting them continue on playing, that's fine as long as it actually leads to a change in culture.

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  12. Whitlock did a column about PEDs today. I think he puts too much emphasis on extending the career or returning from injury when PEDs are obviously used throughout a career. Despite that, I think the real value of his column is his discussion of how athletes are built up and become important, sometimes irreplaceable components in a billion dollar industry. Within that discussion, he makes reference to how little incentive sports bodies would have to self-govern in a meaningful way.

    http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/lance-armstrong-alex-rodriguez-athletes-use-questionable-tactics-to-prolong-careers-but-who-is-to-blame-101912

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  13. http://bleacherreport.com/tb/d8KmY?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=tennis

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  14. Blair did a really nice job, again.

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  15. THASP and Sen - Just to say you have both made an excellent job! This LA saga has finally given you lots of credibility as finally many journalists dare to ask the right questions about tennis too. THASP has just moved from a "dissenting" site to a reference in doping culture in sport!

    Well done!

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  16. The Australian wrote an article about Del Moral and his "links to past and present players" : http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/tennis/a-disgraced-doctor-had-links-to-past-and-present-players/story-fnbe6xeb-1226495707956

    A good thing to see more and more people and journalists asking questions about it.

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  17. The Australian wrote an article about Del Moral and his "links to past and present players" : http://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/tennis/a-disgraced-doctor-had-links-to-past-and-present-players/story-fnbe6xeb-1226495707956

    A good thing to see more and more people and journalists asking questions about it.

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  18. About "WADA boss proposes all-sport doping amnesty" : another link (in french) :
    http://www.lequipe.fr/Tous-sports/Actualites/Fahey-et-l-amnisitie-generale/320640

    Unbelievable... Which credibility for the WADA after that ?
    This man has only one thing to do now : pull out.

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    1. Fahey is an absolute joke - he was only put in there because Dick Pound was serious about anti-doping, under Fahey and Howman, anti-doping has taken several steps backwards. Fahey is in the pockets of the sporting associations.

      Seriously, how McQuaid can sit on the board of WADA I have no idea.

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  19. The "update 3", tennisnow.com article on doping is an excellent article. "Journalists" like Peter Bodo should read that and take note. (Well, he should if he were a journalist.)

    As for Tipsy complaining that they dare fly all the way to Kenya, just to test him!! - I wonder, does his annoyance at this betray his reasons for why he went there in the first place?

    Besides stop complaining, Janko, you were only tested OOC "1-3" times last year! I get woken early by loud car engines outside more times a week than you got OOC tested the whole of last year.

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  20. http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2012/10/11/3608613.htm

    Fascinating programme from ABC Australia on the Armstrong debacle. 46 minutes long but well worth watching.

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