Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More from Ricci Bitti (Updated #1)

The English language press has picked up the comment by ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti on doping. He had more to say than was reported in the Italian and Spanish stories readers of this blog translated yesterday. Here is what Bitti had to say that wasn't picked up yesterday:
"Over these few weeks we have been working on creating a programme that retains the same quality and has a few more tests, especially out of competition...

"Defining 'out of competition' in tennis is harder, because 'out' is rather before or after competition. But anyway we'll try to increase the percentage of tests done out of competition, blood tests and the number of tests in general...

"These are the three areas on which we are working with our partners (the Grand Slams, the ATP and the WTA). But we need consensus, because increasing the programme means a lot of money...

"We think our programme is absolutely good. In terms of quality, our work is highly appreciated...

"I think we are a little bit exposed in terms of quantity...

"I am not as pretentious as to think that we can catch all cheats...

"But I am confident that tennis is a clean sport. We need to improve our programme, but knowing other sports I am reasonably confident that we cannot have an Armstrong case. That was a highly organized and scientific system. That is not the case with tennis."
Update #1

A few thoughts on Ricci Bitti's comments (some have been mentioned in the comments):

1. How can he think that tennis is clean when he also thinks it is exposed in terms of the quantity of testing?

2. If tennis is exposed in terms of the quantity of testing (especially out-of-competition testing), how can he be confident that no organized and scientific doping is occurring? How can he know anything about this at all? Does he think the only dopers in tennis are engaging in "cowboy" chemistry in their basement? Is he not aware of other doping incidents (e.g., Ben Johnson and Marion Jones)? History shows that all serious doping is organized and scientific with close attention paid to the substances taken, how the substances are taken, and clearance times.

3. How is loser-targeted testing and no off-day testing at Grand Slams considered a "quality" programme?

4. How is a decrease in blood testing since 2006 considered a "quality" programme?


  1. Not sure why "out of competition" is more difficult for tennis. Is there a sport where they are taking urine samples while the players are competing?

    In any case, the current "loser targeted" testing system is obviously after the competition. Hopefully, he understands out-of-competition to mean that off-day testing as well as out of tournament testing is needed, especially during the November - December time frame.

    The statement "I am confident tennis is a clean sport" contradicts the design of a new program to increase testing. If the exsiting system makes one "confident" that tennis is clean, why change it? To annoy the players? To waste money? Obviously, the only reason in increase testing is because you are not "confident" enough that the sport is free of significant abuses.

    I am always disappointed that the people charged with enforcing anti-doping programs always seem to say that the programs are not needed in the first place or that minimalistic testing is adequate. A more accurate statement would be "We can only be as confident as our testing. The more we test and the more varied our testing, the more confident we will be that tennis is a clean sport."

    Finally, the statement "That is not the case with tennis" is also meaningless. In cycling, the cheaters found an elaborate system to avoid testing. Obviously, if tennis players found such a system, Mr. Bitti would not be aware of it. He is essentially saying "There is no cheating system that I am unaware of that I am aware of" -- again, just nonsense.

    1. Clearly, Ricci Bitti is saying that only disorganised and unscientific doping takes place in tennis, which makes sense because the only people they catch are those who take recreational drugs or use Jack3d.

      Bitti seems to have been consulting with the UCI on how to spin a story.

    2. Yeah, they gloriously caught, for instance, poor Gasquet, enhancing his performance by the sophisticated way of using cocaine, of all the cutting-edge technologies. They might as well retroactively punish those two blokes, way back when, at Wimbledon, sipping champagne between games and falling all over towards the end of the match, the winner being the one able to better withstand the impact of that powerful PED.

  2. More news on Armstrong/Livestrong. Good read by Selena Roberts.

    Apprently the IRS has been knocking at the doors of Livestrong insistently.
    IRS are tough mf's like USADA - this is going to be interesting!

    Also, Lance might be strapped of cash anytime soon...no more luscious appearance fees for attending his very own Livestrong events ("Ride-with-Lance"), out went all his generous sponsors, also an estimated future loss of $ 35 million... He has been taking out loans and extending his credit line, his Austin home is listed collateral. Yeah, the one he tweeted his unapologetic pic from.


    1. Wow, that is an interesting article. You never can tell with anonymous sources, but some pretty damming allegations. For example, it claims that Armstrong tried to essentially politically threaten Barack Obama to get him to attend a cancer summit. It also claims that Armstrong was getting "six-figure daily fees" for these "ride-with-lance" events.

      Regardless of whether you feel Armstrong was doping or not, I do not feel accepting "six-figures" to ride for your own charity is appropriate. Of course, as with most issues discussed on this site, I have no proof that Mr. Armstrong actually was being paid that much beyond what is posted in this article. Thanks for posting the link though -- very interesting read.

  3. Ricci Bitti's remarks can best be weighed perhaps in the knowledge that since the beginning of time not a single tennis player has been busted for EPO, the drug of choice for so many athletes across so many sports for so many years.

    This can only be attributable to one of two things. Either as Bitti suggests, tennis is as pure as the driven snow or something more sinister is afoot and the testing programme as currently configured is simply incapable of catching the dopers. People can form their own judgement as to which of these two scenarios is the more likely.

  4. So he is not pretentious to think he could catch all cheats...hmm. Yet, he is hypocrite enough to applaud a program that does not even aim at catching some. More so, he even has the audacity to call it "highly appreciated". Sure it is, by all those, who use it successfully to dope.

    The problem seems to be when an oragnization that normally should vouchsafe for a fair and rule-abiding sport, at least this is what I would expect them to do, if this very organization is itself unwilling to act tough on cheats. Instead it serves us flowery language praising its own (non-existing) merits and thereby hiding its deficiencies by throwing smoke, something I would call pretentious, by the way, then no wonder there is doping in tennis.

    Athletes will only act accordingly by making generous use of the ITF's inabilities, laxness or seeming unwillingness to act. Who would blame them? Their program is an invitation to do so! No wonder some athletes mirror their federation.

    When a watchdog, the ITF in this case, is not really worth its name and even your own federation is as soft as butter when it comes to investigating cheats, who could really blame them for a rampant drug culture in tennis? As the old proverb goes: When the cat's away, the mice will play!

    There is a theory in behaviourial science that argues the key to implementing rules or basic ethical practices in a closed group is having someone actively enforcing them and thereby setting an example that radiates and affects the culture lastingly. Pretty standard thought, right? The key being the observation here. Once a set of rules is implemented and the group acts accordingly, new members to the group will internalize and follow them or, more so, enforce those very rules, simply because everybody else does so, by setting an example, but also because they are being watched and know any transgressions result in the ejection from the group, and as an ultimate consequence, in the loss of privileges previously provided by the group.

    Now if we apply that theory to either the ITF, the executive, policing branch, or the ATP in general, neither of them appears as a threat or radiates anything close to deterrence. They are harmless as a litter of little kittens. They are not fully committed nor keen on wanting a clean playing field, is the impression one gets from them.

    However, they know publicly, they have to ~appear~ as if they were invested. I think they have resigned and parted from that initial thought of a clean playing field a long long time ago, or maybe were never really convinced from the beginning? They are apparatchiks, afterall, raised in that rotten culture and every fiber of their being is soaked with it and reeks from it, especially their language. Or maybe they have made peace with doping and become cynics and bitter? All I hear from Miller or Bitti is: "Things are fine, why fix it"?

    While now with Murray and Fed saying something about lack of blood testing (which immediately drew the media attention to the ITF and their shambolic program) they begin to crawl out of their holes and act "a little bit". Appropriately by answering to the selected media in a condescending, patronizing way, arrogantly shading both Fed and Murray.

    Del Moral is the closest link to organized doping by sports officials we got so far in tennis. And clearly, that TenisVal academy and del Moral's medical practice looked to me anything like a dingy meth-lab basement Bitti seems to fantasize about. From what I have been reading on doping in West Germany in the 70's and 80's, sports medicine has been very much complicit and eager to provide sanitary conditions and cutting-edge research to their clients. Not clearing up that medical grey zone, instead acting lenient towards it, that was the first cardinal mistake any federation made.

    Mr. Bitti needs to get real!

    1. I just want to comment on the following: "When a watchdog, the ITF in this case, is not really worth its name and even your own federation is as soft as butter when it comes to investigating cheats, who could really blame them for a rampant drug culture in tennis?"

      I think you hit the nail on the head in that it does not appear that the ITF has any ability to "investigate" cheating. Their anti-doping program seems exclusively limited to testing players - generally at tournaments. Even with evidence that Dr. del Moral was assisting dopers, the ITF appears to not have the ability to ask simple questions. I know Team_kickass has posted in other threads that they should look at how much money these players paid for "routine cardiograms" -- a good idea, but something that the ITF appears to have no authority to do, let alone desire.

      As a serious question to those that know, let us say that a person signed a sworn statement saying, "I witnessed Player X purchase EPO from Doctor Y on June 15, 2012 at the TennisX sports facility." What authority would the ITF have to investigate this? Could they issue subpoenas? Could they question witnesses under oath? Let us say they found corroborating evidence, how would the ITF go about disciplining the player? Has there even been a case where a tennis player was banned because of an ITF investigation?