Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Stories of 2012


Some of my top moments of 2012...

Simon Cambers for his excellent series of interviews with ITF anti-doping manager Stuart Miller (One, Two, and Three), plus his interview with Pat Cash on doping in tennis.

Jon Leicester for his investigative piece identifying a 14-15 year relationship between TenisVal and Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral. Honorable mentions: Blair Henley and Clément Guillou.

The deleted tweet of Vania King.

Neil Harman for this tweet.

The details of the "Substantial Assistance" provided by Wayne Odesnik.

Stuart Miller's mention of "Omerta."

Dimitar Kutrovsky for being the only ATP/WTA player to have been found to have committed an anti-doping violation in 2012 (so far anyways, for as we know the wheels of anti-doping justice turn slowly).

Learning that no sample was collected from Serena Williams during the "panic room" incident.

Most memorable quotes:
Sara Errani: "He [Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral] was the best doctor in Valencia for everything, so I have been working with him of course."
Serena Williams: "People show up at my house at five in the morning trying to test me. You never know when they come. Yeah, I get tested a lot. I don't know about the other players, but for me it's a pretty intense system..." (Williams went through 2010 and 2011 without a single out-of-competition test from either the USADA or ITF.)
Pat Cash: "
It’s [Tennis] the perfect sport to take performance enhancing drugs, with the recovery, strengthening etc, but I think the lack of positive results shows that tennis is a clean sport."
ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti: "...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."

23 comments:

  1. Nice work, Sen. You have really taken the blog to another level. At the very least, the heat has been turned up on tennis and the doping issue.

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  2. Whatever happened to "recent comments"?

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    1. Blogger says the gadget is broken and no longer available.

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  3. 'ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti: "...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."'
    This statement (wholly oxymoronic, with both components of the compound accented) gets my vote for the statement of the year - being, although unintended, the succinct sum-up of what we are dealing with here. Just give it a 'close reading' and - enjoy. Can't get much better than this, can it.

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    1. +1




      Makes it sound like tennis is somewhat stuck in Stone Age, wholly unorganized and unscientific, a mere dabbling, completely without a plan...
      Meedless to say, I feel violated by such nonsense, actually anybody upon reading his statement should feel the same and tennis should be ashamed of having such bloody liar as president.

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    2. If you have a testing regime that doesn't catch anyone, two things have happened: people that continue to dope have institutional support to create a proper scientific and organized program, and people without this institutional support or the drive to cheat are deterred by the tests, i.e. having inadequate doping tests creates more unfairness, as not everyone has the means to pass them.

      I think that if someone like Del Moral was involved with tennis as far back as fifteen years ago, then there is no doubt that plenty of tennis players have the necessary support to dope if they so desire.

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  4. Some rather elaborate ideas on how to improve anti-doping measures by also minimizing the financial incentives to dope, suggested by Jake Stephens over on velonation. Some interesting ideas, go give it a read, if you can spare a moment!

    "The next step is to drive a nail into the heart of the financial incentives to cheat. A system must be implemented which exposes cheaters, their supporters, and their beneficiaries to future financial consequences if they are ever shown to cheat – and a parallel future-testing program must also be implemented, providing for the acquisition and long-term storage of test samples. In short, a material portion of the wages and winnings of athletes must be partially withheld for future distribution, years later, after final future drug tests are cleared.(...)
    Fifty percent of all salaries and purses for athletes above some threshold would be withheld at the time of award, deposited into separate banking or investment accounts. Providing the athletes remained proven clean, part of these sums (say, half) would be released to the athletes on an annual basis over the following five years -- and the other half would be released as a lump sum after a longer interval, say ten years, provided a final test battery is passed from stored blood and urine samples, if no intervening subsequent tests or investigations have proven guilt.
    The program would be phased in over a short (say, three year) period, to provide a financial planning transition period to those affected, a short period of time being reasonable given typical contract lengths and the already tentative future earnings security of professional cyclists.

    Significantly, this system would bring the full weight and fear of future testing technology to bear in the anti-doping arms race. Currently, the informed doper operates in a detection avoidance paradigm based on doper’s knowing the full extent and nature of current detection testing methodologies -- and then developing and employing their own counter-detection doping methodologies which protect them from non-negative results."

    Thoughts?


    Source: http://www.velonation.com/News/ID/13511/Opinion-How-to-move-on-from-Armstrong-affair-and-safeguard-sport-for-future-years.aspx

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    1. I don't think the players will actually accept so much of their money being withheld from them. If there is anything like a player union, this would be the first thing they would get rid of. Furthermore, it would just stop a tiny percentage of dopers, I think most of them use doping products that can already be tested for, the testing regime is simply inadequate. It makes no sense to come up with these advanced system that do little more than anger the players, yet not start with patching the most obvious holes in the testing regime.

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    2. An interesting idea, but it ultimately suffers from the same problem that current testing does -- the complete lack of any meaningful collection of samples (at least for tennis).

      It also misunderstands the "incentives." Top players make their money from sponsors, not just prize winnings.

      The ITF is already allowed to recover the money from ill-gotten tennis wins. See Section 9.1. I realize this proposal would go beyond taking the prize money from one tournament, but it is essentially expanding on an existing idea that simply does not work. Curiously, the article talks about cycling, where Lance Armstrong just lost all 7 of his Tour titles, so clearly, it didn't work as a disincentive in his case.

      Simply allowing for this would do little to overcome the current apathy of the testing bodies. It is not like the ITF says, "Hey, we are $300k under budget, let's go test some past samples." They could do this currently and they do not. Involving players in a complex withholding scheme would do nothing to change this. Also look at the past attempts at back-testing. I think Team_kickass posted an article previously showing that these were horribly managed and the wrong athletes targeted. I just don't see this type of apathy changing any time soon.

      Ultimately, the Biological Passport is designed to overtime the issue of undetectable drugs. Whatever you think of the Biological Passport, it does amount to more testing, especially blood testing, than is currently done. Cycling has adopted these more frequent tests (http://www.uci.ch/Modules/ENews/ENewsDetails.asp?MenuId=&id=NTQzOA), and it seems to be working for cycling. Tennis, on the other hand, simply wants to make it easier to avoid testing agents by shortening the 18 month whereabouts violation window to 12 months, so that pretty much sums up the problem with tennis.

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    3. A rule like this was actually in place during my period at the ATP from 2001 to 2005. It worked like this:

      A player is tested and returns a positive A sample. Back then there was no provisional suspension. So the player could continue playing right up until the tribunal hearing which could take months. And during that period the player would continue to win prize money, maybe big prize money, and have to return it if found guilty.

      We realised the reality was that it would be extremely tough to get that money back especially if the player retired.

      So I drafted a rule, and had it approved by the ATP Player Council, to escrow player prize money won above a "living wage" (so covering a wage and cost of travel etc), into an escrow account. If the player is found guilty, the escrow goes to the ATP. IF the player is cleared, the escrow goes back to the player plus interest.

      The rule worked very well. And it definitely caused players with a positive test to speed up getting to a tribunal. But it had a trigger which was a positive test.

      But this suggestion of escrowing all prize money from all players is not workable. It would basically mean that the sport would have to pay players a living wage salary, escrow prize money for 8 years, and then start paying it after the 8 years was up and no doping was recorded.

      Over 8 years, across tennis, this would be an escrow of close to a billion dollars.

      Nice sentiment but unworkable suggestion.

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  5. What if Provisional suspensions were eliminated?

    Might result in fewer "injury" breaks.

    Might also have an effect on the loser-targeted in-tournament testing regime.

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    1. It depends on what it is replaced with. If the player is just banned outright and it is announced, then this clears up any confusion about "injury breaks," but the athletes lose privacy. For instance, an athlete may be entitled to a retroactive TUE, and it might not be fair to ban a player publicly until the issue has been resolved. I am all for transparency, but also understand that test results might not be accurate, or an athlete might want to present some contrary evidence, etc. It would be devastating for a top athlete to be falsely declared a cheat by the ITF and then later have the decision overturned because the test was contaminated or the player was entitled to a retroactive TUE.

      If you mean, simply allow the player to continue playing until final review has been exhausted, then as Mr. Ings pointed out above, the athletes will simply delay as much as possible and it might be difficult to recoup the winnings. The rule mentioned by Mr. Ings seems like a good solution to this issue, but obviously, it was something they had in the past and no longer want, for whatever reason.

      I think the privacy afforded by the provisional suspensions system is necessary. The problem I have is that I don't have confidence that they system is catching cheats, and that if it is catching cheats, that they are not being let off for nebulous reasons.

      What I would like to see is an explanation for why so many Adverse Analytical Findings do not result in Anti-Doping Violations. A brief statement such as "Valid TUE in place" or "Test was proven contaminated" would be much better than what we currently get -- nothing.

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  6. @MTracy I meant eliminating the suspension from participation but holding a portion of earnings in an escrow account as per the Rule in place 2001 - 2005. What is intriguing: If it worked well, then why it was removed?

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    1. The idea sounds good at first, but I think it is not fair to the players who are not doping. Typically, the results are not adjusted, and certainly nothing beyond the final could be adjusted.

      I mean, if you were a player who lost in the 1st round to a "known doper" who later had the suspension upheld and lost all his prize money, how would that make you feel? Or even worse, the quarters or semis? Would knowing that he/she didn't get to keep the prize money make up for this?

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    2. Conversely, shouldn't a provisionally suspended player be allowed to sue for lost earnings if he or she is exonerated?

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    3. Typically, you can sue for damages caused by the malfeasance or negligence of another. However, your damages are typically limited to what you could have otherwise obtained (punitive damages are different, but would likely not be available in such a case). That is, if you announce, "I can't play in the tournament because my left, oh, I mean my right knee, has a sprain, oh, I mean has a torn ligament..." Then you would likely not recover anything because you have admitted that you couldn't play anyway.

      On the other hand, if you did say, "I have been wrongfully accused of doping, and will be fully exonerated." You might have some claim. However, this is essentially removing the privacy provided by the current system because a player could not claim an "injury" or other reason for not playing and then expect to receive "lost" winnings.

      Finally, it depends on how the player was exonerated. If the player proves that the lab negligently handled the sample, then this might be a good claim. On the other hand, if the player admits his has cocaine in his system but states it was there because he kissed a girl who used cocaine, then this is not some type of negligence on behalf of the lab or the doping agency so there would be no reason to award lost earnings. I would expect that the number of negligence and/or deliberate manipulation cases is extremely small, but as no reasons are given for the dismissals, this is only speculation.

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    4. In tennis all players sign an annual agreement to accept all rules including the anti doping rules.

      That agreement signifies the players formal acceptance of all aspects of the anti doping rules which specifically include a no costs award component.

      So the sport is barred from pursuing costs against a player found guilty and the player can't pursue costs from the sport if exonerated.

      And that is formally agreed by each player each year as one of the conditions of competing on the circuit.

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    5. I can't comment on this agreement because I don't have a copy. However, in general, claims for negligence that inflict bodily harm cannot be waived. So, even if the player did sign an agreement that says, "I will never ever ever ever sue the testing agency for anything," it would not bar claims for negligence that caused bodily harm. That is, if the testing agency used a contaminated needle and the athlete contracted a disease, the athlete could likely sue for lost wages as a result of the disease, despite any agreement to the contrary. It is also not clear whether this agreement would bar claims against a lab that negligently conducted the test

      I realize that this is not exactly what we were discussing, but there is also the issue of malfeasance on part of the agency. This would be a little more complicated, but if an individual working for the agency deliberately contaminated a sample, I am not sure whether or not the player would be seen to have waived his rights to redress -- probably not worth discussing other than from an academic point of view. Typically, "gross negligence" and recklessness are non-waivable claims, so I would expect that a deliberate spiking of a sample would be non-waivable and the athlete could sue.

      However, this agreement would seem to bar the typical "false positive" type of claims, which would likely be the vast majority of the tests at issue. Most States in the United States follow the above principals. I have no idea what other countries do.

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  7. This demonstrates why the ordinary concept of privacy is not applicable to athletes. Governing organisations already have a "right to know" what is in the players' bodies (i.e chemicals, drugs, etc.) because having illegal substances present constitutes cheating. Just as a player is unable to hide his or her cheating ON the court, so too it must be impossible to hide cheating OFF the court. Transparency in sport means that adverse findings and exonerations fall within the domain of things that the public has a right to know about. Sport is a big business. Millions of dollars ride on match results. Player privacy is irrelevant to the modern game.

    Bring back amateur sport, I say.

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  8. Article about Steroids and NCAA football.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/20/college-football-steroids-ncaa-testing_n_2337326.html

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  9. 30 years old grinder called David Ferrer is playing Doha, Auckland and Ao in back to back weeks.
    The guy is leaving proof that tennis doping controls = epic fail.

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  10. More lawsuits against Lance... MTracy, you're still counting ;) ?

    Armstrong is now being sued by Murdoch's Sunday Times for $ 1.5m. Ah, the irony! Add that to the other claims by sponsors (US Postal et al) and insurances... that makes quite a nice sum, doesn't it!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/dec/23/sunday-times-sues-lance-armstrong

    Thomas Kistner (from Süddeutsche Zeitung) cites Tygart, who encourages Armstrong to break his silence and talk about his doping past thereby giving some much needed insight into the UCI's decisive involvement in covering up his tests and fostering a culture of doping - so USADA is actually interested in Mc Quaid and Verbruggen and the other chosen few from that smug little elite clique.

    Especially that positive sample for EPO from the Tour de Suisse as well as the Critérium du Dauphiné test (2002) followed by the UCI's (non-)dealings of those results seem to be relevant. Apparently, these tests were suspect already back then, but the UCI simply chose not to further investigate them.

    I wonder if that could happen in tennis? (Actually, I am realist enough to suspect similar dealings as well, samples by prominent players not being followed or dropped for being close to the margin).

    Those developments might be somewhat alarming for the ITF as well - imagine if it ever came to light that,say, the ITF covered up positive samples... I'd imagine, they closeley follow what is happening to the whole UCI/Trygart affair now.

    Source: http://www.sueddeutsche.de/sport/aufklaerung-im-dopingfall-lance-armstrong-trickreiche-finten-der-uci-1.1557556

    More sad news from German anti-doping, as to be expected, the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) recently voted down (450 vs 25 votes) an anti-doping initiative brought forward at their annual meeting by some of its more unruly member federations, like the German table tennis federation (DTTB), German track & field federation (DLV) calling for more criminal powers to prevent and pursue dopers by granting federal police more rights to go after doping crimes. Currently, the possession of certain doping substances in small quantities is not considered criminally relevant. Same goes for positive samples, those cases are left to sports' own jurisdiction. With the results we all know... Trafficking alone is being criminalized currently, affecting mostly amateur sports (the ususal suspects, the body builder scene). No top level athletes or their coaches so far were being prosecuted.

    The renegades much needed initiative was asking for extending criminal laws to apply them to investigate athletes and coaches too who are being caught. Doping should in fact have criminal/legal consequences and not only sports jurisdiction should deal with those cases, for federations obviously are rather "lenient" in doing so. So far, athletes and coaches have not been criminally pursued for there is no penal code involving doping usage currently.
    If you read German, you can find more on that topic by Jens Weinreich on his recommendable blog : http://www.jensweinreich.de/2012/11/28/strafbarkeit-des-eigendopings-der-athleten-doch-nicht-in-deutschland/

    In addition, a prominent criminologist, Dieter Rössner, is asking for more state involvement when it comes to punish dopers. He cites the Armstrong/USADA case as a reference. So far, a doped athlete is off the hook and cannot be prosecuted, although he/she betrays the ethics of their sport (fairness, level playing field). Yet, that does not constitute an offense, legally. Rössner would like to see that changed and allow more criminal prosecution, like Italy does. That Germany leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to anti-doping proesecution is highlighted by the fact that no coaches, doctors or staff have been prosecuted so far.

    http://www.faz.net/aktuell/sport/sportpolitik/doping/kriminologe-dieter-roessner-der-staat-muss-doper-bestrafen-11982120.html

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  11. So now Nadal has pulled out of the exhibition in Abu Dhabi citing a stomach virus. Do people still believe this guy? Seriously? What's next? Hang nail? Root canal? Bruised tailbone? I can help him make up some more handy excuses.

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