Sunday, November 4, 2012

Roger Federer on Doping Control in Tennis (Update #2: More from Murray)

Some very interesting statements from Roger Federer today on doping (reported by Piers Newbery of BBC Sport):

"I feel I'm being less tested now than six, seven, eight years ago...I don't know the reasons we are being tested less and I agree with Andy, we don't do a lot of blood testing during the year. I'm OK having more of that...I just think it's important to have enough tests out there...I don't like it when I'm only getting tested whatever number it is, which I don't think is enough or sufficient during the year...I think we should up it a little bit, or a lot - whatever you want to call it - because I think it's key and vital that the sport stays clean. It's got to. We have a good history in terms of that and we want to make sure that it stays that way."

Now do we have your attention?

And by the way, Federer is correct. He was tested by the ITF fewer times in 2011 than he was in 2010.

Federer, and Andy Murray, are also correct about blooding testing in tennis. In fact, blood testing by the ITF has decreased significantly over the past several years.

Update #1: Djokovic has hopped on the bandwagon, too: "I agree...We are trying to make this sport as clean as possible, as fair as possible for everybody, so I have nothing against testing and, why not, we should do it more."

Of course, talk is cheap. But with the three top players saying more testing is needed, why are Stuart Miller and Francesco Ricci Bitti missing in action? They need to explain why the ITF has underspent its anti-doping budget for the last three years.

Update #2: Andy Murray made additional comments about doping in tennis at his Nov. 3 World Tour Finals press conference:

Q.  I read recently you made some comments calling for increased drug testing, specifically blood testing.  I'm wondering if those came out of what's been going on in cycling or something you've been thinking about for a while.
ANDY MURRAY:  Did you say I said that?

Q.  Yes.
ANDY MURRAY:  I just got asked about it in Paris because we had the blood testing done.  We had a random blood test done two days before the tournament started there.  I was just making the point that in tennis we do a fair amount of drugs testing.  There could be more.  But a lot of it has been urine, not so many blood tests.
I think it's important to make sure we have all of those bases covered.  I think tennis is a clean sport.  But the more we can do to improve that all the time is good.

Q.  Has what has happened in cycling and other sports given you some security about the overall cleanliness in the game?
ANDY MURRAY:  Not in tennis.  Obviously, what happened there is pretty shocking.  You just want to make sure you can completely rule anything like that out in your own sport.  Because I love tennis, you would hate for anything like that to happen to your own sport.


  1. Nice, but it does NOT mean that he is clean. I have heard the same thing from Lance and many others so many times. Lance even donated money to the anti-doping organizations.

    1. True. I have repeatedly said the whole sport of tennis has a cloud over it.

    2. Whether he's clean or not, or even what you make of his standard line about tennis being a clean sport, is irrelevant. I think at this point, we've established that most players aren't going to get out of line unless they're willing to discuss detailed information about player(s). As you say, it doesn't speak directly to the cleanliness of any players who make these comments.

      What is extremely relevant is that blood testing has decreased over the last several years, is arguably below the fairly loose guidelines that WADA sets, and the top three players in the world are talking about it. What is also relevant is that despite the fact that the top three players in the world are talking about it, those in charge at the ITF are not talking about it.

    3. It's certainly possible ala Armstrong to make an argument that it sounds good to say you want more testing, because players know that even more testing is extremely unlikely to catch them. Even if you make that assumption, it portrays a gaping hole that players have now alluded to that the ITF must address to regain any credibility on this front. If you have the top 3 players saying they're not being tested enough (including reduced overall testing over the past several years as compared to prior years), and you've underspent your budget the last three years, you have some 'splainin to do (as my fellow Southerners would say).

    4. Speaking of donating money, I just read the ITF donated some money to Roger's charity.

      The call for more tests is certainly right and makes those calling look honorable for fighting at the forefront of the cause, but it could also serve just as a mere fig leave.

      Especially if one is aware of the actual shortcomings of the ITF's testing program. And there are many. For let's face it, try as they might, if they continue their predictable patterns, they can test as much as they want and never get a result.

      It's not about sheer quantity (though I admit, more tests, especially blood-tests are needed, considering the embarrassinly low numbers the ITF manages so far) but more importantly, it would need more OCC and less panic room type of avoiding tests.

      Uncollected samples should count. Suspensions ought to be made public. Punishment for anti-doping violations ought to be severe - the player should be banned for life, imo.

    5. I just want to comment on the "banned for life" issue. (I agree with your other sentiments on uncollected samples and making more information public).

      I understand the desire for lifetime bans, but I think they are actually counter productive because they overstate the ability of the test themselves and the varying degrees of doping.

      I don't think that someone who uses Jack3d should be banned for life. Nor do I believe that someone who had a poppy seed prior to playing should be banned for life. In terms of methylhexaneamine, it is not a significant PED, and certainly not a lifetime ban. In terms of other type of substances, the test do not always prove the use of the drug -- hence the endless appeals and explanations. I am not even sure cocaine or marijuana should warrant much more than a disqualification from the one tournament where the substance was found. Of course, the player may be subject to criminal punishment as well, but that is not an issue for the WADA.

      In terms of "real" doping violations, let's say EPO or testosterone, a lifetime ban for these simply encourages more frivolous TUEs and rewards the richer players who can afford to avoid doping test (train in exotic locations) and/or non-detectable drugs.

      I think a 6 month ban would achieve a much cleaner sport, or at least a more honest sport. Obviously, additional testing would be needed either way, including OOC. I just think the lifetime ban would mean that the top players are simply the ones with the best doctors.

  2. I think that the combination of the Lance Armstrong revelations and this blog (particularly the Del Moral stuff) is putting some real pressure on tennis regarding doping. Just a couple of months ago, players were complaining about testing and now they have done a 180. Keep up the good work, Sen.

    1. I second that.

      Tood Woodbridge (apologist extrodinaire) aside, it has even put a sock in the mouths of those "tennis players are tested rigorously" folks who do not want to see the truth.

    2. Seconded, too.
      It just cannot be a coincidence that right now there's at least talk about possible doping in tennis, and the 'rigorously testing'-bs is being debunked by these players speaking up (Federer's comments in particular, as he directs his words to his very own experiences with testing).

      Now it's getting high time for 'show, don't tell'.

  3. After Valencia, another victory for Dr Moral in Paris. In the finest Spanish tradition, the grinder Ferrer once again comes through. At 30 he is having the best year of his life and has won more tournaments this year than any other player. Remarkable. The Spanish academy where Del Moral works is certainly adding to its triumphs - even though its most successful "products" profess not to know him - now.

    1. Ah, the Humble Pitbull... The whole wide world is overjoyed by the fact that he finally bit his way through to a well-deserved Masters title. And, to his credit, as forgetful as we may find him, he actually did not forget to thank his girlfriend for helping him get all the way there! So warmly human, so, so... endearing! No? Si, si, si!

    2. Something tells me Del Moral et al will refrain from writing on the internet gloating about Ferrer's triumph this time, like he did with Errani.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. For someone whose supply chain via del Moal recently collapsed, Ferrer did extremely well at Paris-Bercy and Valencia.

      10 matches within only two weeks, quite remarkable. Compared to Janowiczs' 8 matches (he came through qualification at Paris-Bercy) he looked still pretty fit and his ususal energizer-bunny self during the final. Unlike Janowicz. Note what Janowicz had to say about his final:

      "This was his fifth match; this was my eighth match. I was really tired. I was actually exhausted almost," admitted Janowicz. "I'm only human, and I'm still happy about this final. David played today really good tennis. It was good enough to beat me today. He's a really experienced guy. He didn't get nervous."

      Janowicz rightly stresses how exhausted he was, but Ferrer should have been exhausted too, don't you think? For in fact Janowicz should know it was Ferrer's 10th match in a row.

    5. Yes, it was going to be interesting no matter which of them won. I suspect Janowicz was more tired -- running around that backhand can really wear you down.

    6. I would also suspect Janowicz.

      Out of nowhere to the final of Paris?

      Weird to say the least

    7. And he said, after "after all, I am only human" What did he mean but "after all". I bet if he would be Spanish he should be already choosing between crucifixion or lapidation. :-)

  4. He's now made more finals after his 28th birthday than he did before.

  5. I can rank the quality of the above three comments in order of highest to most meaningless.

    1) Federer's. He talks about it thoroughly and apparently off-the-cuff. He wants more testing and is appearing to be pushing for it. Pity about the "I think tennis is clean" part, but he is a diplomatic fellow, and probably naive. It is far from the first time he has talked about doping.

    2) Murray's. He seems to be backtracking ever so slightly from his comments the other day. He should stand up and say "Yes, and I am proud of what I said!". Rather he is almost excusing what he said the other day. I will say he does seem to speak about doping off-the-cuff. Which is why he messed up earlier in the year, calling Odesnik a "snitch".

    3) Djokovic. His comment is basically not saying anything. Makes a couple of general observations whilst never, even generally, appearing to deny anything. You get the feeling this was an organised sound bite, or he had a ready made answer should he be asked a question on the topic.

    I wonder if Ferrer will be asked again, and whether he'll expand on his "I didn't work with him but know he works with some players and worked with cyclists. But did I mention I don't even know who he is?" comments.

    Firstly, as others pointed out, he can't know about him and not know who he is. That is called deliberate disassociation, and is done by those with something to hide.

    Secondly, Ferrer himself, obviously a bit flustered, accidentally admits that he knows Del Moral works with some tennis players. That alone is virtually slam-dunk. What is Del Moral doing with these players? (As well as, let's be honest, Ferrer himself.) Giving them vitamin C pills and headache tablets? Please...

  6. Link of the interview with Federer (in French) from Le Matin newspaper.

    Interesting quote -my rudimentary translation both english and french, sorry: "I don´t understand. I won Dubai and Rotterdam and I was expecting to be tested, but nobodoy showed up."

    1. That is very interesting. Maybe Thiemo De Bakker (?) was telling the truth when he mentioned that Federer told him he had only been tested once this year up until Monte Carlo.

    2. It was Robin Haase:

      But, yes, it appears that Federer is confirming Haase's account.

    3. Notice that Roger also confirms that now, at the very end of the season, he all of a sudden gets tested three-times, whereas when he did his winning, during his peak times, he did not get tested at all.

      Might be that that ITF still has some budget money left that needs to be spent safely (=to not catch a positive sample). So they keep using it up in a brainless fashion only to get some more #'s in their stats...

      Federer is apparently also outraged (=outré) at how the Odesnik case was handled by the ITF. He also says that there is not going to be a drug that can inoculate technical skills. However, he is not going to say we have nothing to fear for either.

      (Mais je n’irai pas jusqu’à dire que nous n’avons rien à craindre.»)

      Another noteworthy bit is that the article references del Moral, (misspelling him as Dr. Morfal) and in that context appears an interesting quote that seems to be directly from Murray.
      He stresses, clearly in the light of the recent Armstrong revelations, the "danger of networks of aqcuaintances" (=«danger des réseaux d’accointances») who introduce their branch to tennis, as the author of the article adds in a sub clause. ("dont certains introduisent leurs filières dans le tennis").

      So while Murray still calls it only a danger, (and not a reality) I think this blogg has established nicely that these networks are in fact already in place and have been for a while. Only with del Moral being implicated by the USADA case against Armstrong and subsequently banned for life, have we finally got hold of one (of the many) in those networks.

    4. Quite right. It's very interesting the way Federer formulates this. Indirectly, he confirms that a player that is in form should be tested more and put under scrutiny. Makes you wonder what he thinks when other players start up miraculous runs...

      The article also qualifies del Moral as being "the personal physician of Sara Errani (WTA 6)".

  7. Test at the end of each major or whatever tournaments. Test the winner and runner up. PROBLEM SOLVED. I doubt the 100 to 50 ranked players in the world would knock off any of the top 10 players while using steroids/ doping, etc.