Thursday, September 12, 2013

An Inconvenient Truth

This is territory I've covered before, but it bears repeating.

In 2009, the New York Times reported that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) conducted EPO tests "only if blood screening indicates a player may be using the drug."

On February 20, 2012 I asked the ITF to confirm the reporting of the New York Times. On February 21, 2012 I received a response from the ITF. The person from the ITF communications department who responded to my e-mail stated that "I spoke with Dr. [Stuart] Miller about the article in the New York Times and, as he recalls, he was quoted correctly about the programme at the time."

Further, in August 2013, ITF anti-doping manager Stuart Miller told Barry Flatman of The Sunday Times the following: "What we used to do was what are called 'blood screenings', which were samples we collected and sent to a local laboratory or haematology lab that were screened for evidence, a non-sanctioned analysis which would give us an indication of whether players were likely to be using EPO or an oxygen enhancing agent."

These statements by the ITF mean that, at the time, EPO tests were only triggered by a blood screening indicating a player may be using the drug (i.e., they were targeted tests based on blood screening results and not random). I examined the ITF's anti-doping statistics for 2008 and 2009 for the players that received an EPO test (again, the EPO test was conducted because, as per ITF policy, a blood screening indicated the player may be using the drug).

The tables are below.

As you'll see, many players tested were (and currently are) highly ranked, including a number of Grand Slam winners.

The EPO data raises a number of questions:

(1) What were the blood parameter values from the blood screenings that indicated these players may be using EPO?
(2) Given the number of EPO test triggered, how is it that no tennis player has committed an anti-doping rule violation for using EPO?
(3) Will the ITF or the players in question release the blood screening results for independent analysis?
(4) Did the ITF retest any stored samples based on blood screening results?

Here are the EPO tests conducted by the ITF in 2009:


Competition Last Name First Name Test date
Roland Garros Verdasco Fernando 28/05/2009
Roland Garros Azarenka Victoria 26/05/2009
Roland Garros Vesnina Elena 26/05/2009
Roland Garros Kuznetsova Svetlana 02/06/2009
Wimbledon Djokovic Novak 01/07/2009
Wimbledon Hewitt Lleyton 01/07/2009
Wimbledon Karlovic Ivo 01/07/2009
Wimbledon Bryan Bob 04/07/2009
Wimbledon Bryan Mike 04/07/2009
Wimbledon Nestor Daniel 04/07/2009
Wimbledon Zimonjic Nenad 04/07/2009
Wimbledon Federer Roger 05/07/2009
Wimbledon Knowles Mark 05/07/2009
Wimbledon Roddick Andy 05/07/2009
Wimbledon Lisicki Sabine 30/06/2009
Wimbledon Radwanska Agnieszka 30/06/2009
Wimbledon Schiavone Francesca 30/06/2009
Wimbledon Stosur Samantha 04/07/2009
Wimbledon Groenefeld Anna-Lena 05/07/2009
US Open Makarova Ekatarina 10/09/2009
US Open Williams Serena 14/09/2009

And here are the players who were tested for EPO in 2008:

Competition Last Name First Name Test date
Australian Open Mirza Sania 27/01/2008
Roland Garros Bondarenko Alona 26/05/2008
Roland Garros Chardy Jeremy 01/06/2008
Roland Garros Huber Liezel 04/06/2008
Roland Garros Black Cara 04/06/2008
Roland Garros Vemic Dusan 05/06/2008
Roland Garros Cuevas Pablo 07/06/2008
US Open Spears Abigail 03/09/2008
US Open Gonzalez Maximo 03/09/2008
US Open Sugiyama Ai 04/09/2008
Paris Open Del Potro Juan Martin 30/10/2008
Paris Open Simon Gilles 30/10/2008
Paris Open Nadal Rafael 31/10/2008
Paris Open Murray Andy 31/10/2008
Paris Open Federer Roger 31/10/2008
Paris Open Roddick Andy 31/10/2008
Paris Open Davydenko Nicolay 01/11/2008
Paris Open Blake James 01/11/2008
Paris Open Nalbandian David 02/11/2008
Paris Open Tsonga Jo-Wilfried 02/11/2008
Out-of-Competition Llagostera Vives Nuria 24-Apr-08
Out-of-Competition Martinez Sanchez Maria-Jose 24-Apr-08
Out-of-Competition Suarez-Navarro Carla 24-Apr-08
Out-of-Competition Zheng Jie 24-Apr-08
Out-of-Competition Cravero Jorgelina 24-Apr-08
Out-of-Competition Dulko Gisela 25-Apr-08
Out-of-Competition Jozami Betina 25-Apr-08
Out-of-Competition Salerni Maria Emilia 25-Apr-08
Out-of-Competition Peer Shahar 20-Jul-08
Out-of-Competition Pennetta Flavia 20-Jul-08
Out-of-Competition Safina Dinara 20-Jul-08
Out-of-Competition Vaidisova Nicole 20-Jul-08
Out-of-Competition Zvonareva Vera 20-Jul-08
Out-of-Competition Ivanovic Ana 11-Oct-08
Out-of-Competition Szavay Agnes 11-Oct-08
Out-of-Competition Kirilenko Maria 11-Oct-08
Out-of-Competition Bartoli Marion 11-Oct-08
Out-of-Competition Azarenka Victoria 11-Oct-08
Out-of-competition Coria Guillermo 06-Jul-08
Out-of-competition Del Potro Juan Martin 06-Jul-08
Out-of-competition Huss Stephen 06-Jul-08
Out-of-competition Hutchins Ross 06-Jul-08
Out-of-competition Djokovic Novak 20-Jul-08
Out-of-competition Federer Roger 20-Jul-08
Out-of-competition Mathieu Paul-Henri 20-Jul-08
Out-of-competition Robredo Tommy 20-Jul-08
Out-of-competition Federer Roger 12-Oct-08
Out-of-competition Nadal Rafael 12-Oct-08
Out-of-competition Ferrer David 12-Oct-08
Out-of-competition Youzhny Mikhail 12-Oct-08
Out-of-competition Andreev Igor 12-Oct-08
Out-of-competition Ancic Mario 12-Dec-08
Out-of-competition Davydenko Nikolay 06-Dec-08
Out-of-competition Djokovic Novak 22-Dec-08
Out-of-competition Kanepi Kaia 28-Dec-08
Out-of-competition Pennetta Flavia 13-Dec-08
Out-of-competition Radwanska Agnieszka 16-Dec-08
Out-of-competition Schiavone Francesca 13-Dec-08
Out-of-competition Tanasugarn Tamarine 28-Dec-08

59 comments:

  1. It's funny, you know, in 2012 when Nadal was out for 7 months if you googled his name all sorts of hits came up with Nadal and doping suspicions. Now he's a hero. Now he can do no wrong. He's gonna be No.1. He's gonna beat Federer's GS tally. He's the goat. Do people really have such short memories or is the tennis media just so desperate for a good tennis story? I can tell you if someone is exposed as a doper the tennis media will have plenty to write about. Of that you can be certain.

    Does anyone in the sport have the balls? There's got to be some low ranked players who are just a bit disgruntled about the situation and are ready to crack. I know if I were an up and coming CLEAN player I'd be furious. Or is there no CLEAN player on the tour to blow the whistle? To become the pariah?

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. BTW thanks for the new thread. The Murray one was getting very long.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for all the work you do and the questions you keep asking. The admission by the ITF that the tests are, in fact, not so random, led to me do a (quick) search in the ITF data for the players who have consistently and regularly been more tested than average over the last three year (I am talking about those who have been most tested (7+), in and out competition, three years in a row). The results are actually quite interesting, and could shed a light on ITF's own suspicions about players (unless, of course, the ITF have answers about why some players are so much more tested than others). Among them, Cilic (7+ three years in a row) and Zahlavova (7+ two years in a row) have been found positive. You may have already written a post about this, but just in case!

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Lopi: well, a big problem is of course that no matter how many suspicions one may have, without having any proof you can't just go about pointing at players as being doping offenders.
    A similar thing happened in cycling. Many people were/are angry at journalists for not exposing cyclists as offenders, but the truth for the vast majority of media was that they all had suspicions, but no proof. It's still the case that it's risky to just accuse people of using PEDs based on suspicions (slander/libel, you know).

    I'm sure there are clean low-ranked players who suspect a lot of PED use, but what are they going to do? Without having evidence, they would only jeopardize there livelihood and become the pariah of the tennis-world, especially if they accidentally are wrong about a player's PED-use.
    After all, we may have our suspicions about many, but what a lot on this site seem to have forgotten is that, remote as it may be, there is always the chance that we are wrong about somebody using PEDs.

    What is needed is journalists really digging deep to uncover PED-use and actually find proof, which is what some (not many, alas) cycling journalists did. And even that might not be enough (see cycling's armstrong-case, where federal investigation and then USADA was needed)...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I agree with what you say. However I also believe that most, if not all the players, know what's going on, either because they're doing it too or they know certain performances are other-worldly, You're right though, without positive tests or actually seeing a player being administered PEDs or blood doping, one cannot really blow the whistle. Proof is needed. IF the ATP/ITF are covering up positive tests and giving out silent bans or at the very least warning players when testing is iminent, then someone knows what's going on, be it someone in the lab doing the testing or someone employed by one of those assns. Surely one day something would have to come out. A secret of that magnitude couldn't stay secret forever. I guess one can hope anyway.

      Delete
  6. Nice post Sen, and the results of the blood screenings would be most illuminating....

    Also a valid point, whether those blood samples resulted in regular EPO testing or also newer variants like cera. Are any samples retained and available for retesting for newer variants of EPO?

    Again though, the reduction of EPO testing from 2008 to 2009 is disheartening, especially the total lack of OOC testing :(

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. So let me get that straight, since some time the ITF is running their very own targeted blood-testing/screening scheme, presumably for at some point they began to notice as well that things might not exactly be on the bright side when it comes to PEDs in tennis, admitting through the back door that EPO could, in fact, have infested the game. They were late to the party, needless to say.

    Using, if I understand you corectly Sen, non-credited labs on the down-low for their very own screening, instead of Wada-certified labs, to then look at those results and do what exactly?

    Certainly not to announce a cheat.

    It is fair to assume they must have found some positives among their tests.

    More so, they must have suspected something all along, as Iduf91 points out, with citing Cilic and Zahlova, who got suspensions, skipped tests etc. and as result got tested more frequently.

    Was the aim to cover up positives and tell players to stop using without sanctioning them?


    This puts the ITF in a really REALLY bad light. Really bad.

    Wada must be pissed, for, as it looks, these non-Wada compliant tests on the side though did show up in the stats (to fill up the pages) but had no consequences whatsoever.
    Wouldn't they actually be non-compliant in so far as they used non-credited/certified Wada labs? Which would leave the door wide open for possible biased results/manipulation?

    And leaves the doors even wider open for a competition where the ITF might have known about offenders all along and was sweeping those positives under the rug. For really, not a single player caught?

    Further, it would confirm that they are possibly protecting their cash cows and telling them to tone it down.

    On a positive note, it would also mean that they have quite a nice set of data collected already for their bloodpassport, no?

    We might need to match the above tests with the players performance that year, but from what I glanced so far, it was testing the right "suspects" then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, this is Dr. Miller's own private testing scheme. You can tell how well it works by the fact that it has caught absolutely no one. Or as the ITF says "working as designed."

      Delete
  10. I'm not exactly getting the goal of this article:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-09/let-s-hope-drugs-prolong-rafael-nadal-s-great-career-.html#disqus_thread

    Is the guy insinuating that Nadal is a cheater or that doping should be allowed in sports?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Both. This was posted in another thread here, a few times. At first it actually seems that the author is being sarcastic and that he doesn't really believe Nadal is doping but then at the end when he says:

      "How about Option Number 3: Who cares? If there’s a synthetic hormone out there that can soothe Nadal’s chronically tender patellar tendon and offset some of the pressure the torque of his violent two-handed backhand puts on his left knee -- well, then, there’s a scientist out there who deserves our thanks and congratulation.
      Who wouldn't want to see another 10 years “artificially” added to Nadal’s career? For that matter, is there a safe drug out there that can help slow the aging process for Roger Federer, who just turned 32 but whose days on the court now seem numbered?"

      ...it's pretty clear that the author is saying it's ok to dope as long as it keeps the top players in the game and making money for everyone concerned. Well I , for one , care. Let's face it, this is about as close as you get to declaring Nadal a doper without actually coming out and declaring Nadal a doper.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, you're right he can easily say that he was being sarcastic in case the Nadal camp came up with a law suit.

      Delete
  11. The screening is probably due to pragmatism. A CBC (complete blood count (which would include hemoglobin, hematocrit, red cell volume and reticulocyte count) is very cheap. Labs charge ~$20 to do these. Measuring EPO is certainly more expensive, because it requires an ELISA assay, and there are few medical indications for the test. In patients with renal failure who need EPO treatment because diseased kidneys don't make enough, they generally don't measure EPO levels, they just treat based on the hematocrit.

    I'm guessing that the screening parameter they used was hematocrit (the % of blood volume that is red cells). If the level is low or normal, it's unlikely that EPO will be high (unless the athlete dosed for the first time within a day or two of the test), so they avoid a costly test.

    Looks like most of the top players were tested for EPO in those 2 years. While this could have been prompted by suspicious screening tests, it could also be the case that they decided to test top players regardless, to avoid potential criticism that top players are never being tested for the substance....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would agree with that on the whole. It would be very interesting to know what the initial method they were using for screening.

      In cycling when they were testing the EPO test on the 98/99 samples the first step was a visual auto-radiology test that merely tests for the presence of EPO. If the sample then shows signs of EPO they move onto the full test to determine the markers.

      So its hard to know what they are doing, are they just doing an rbc count, are they doing a radiology detection, but either way, it wouldnt surprise me if thats fairly common and most testing follows this procedure.

      Delete
  12. If the ITF's doping programme is deliberately inefficient and self-serving and they are covering up negative results*, why would they target-test players they suspect of using EPO when that increases the chance of a positive test occurring (which they will then have to cover up)?

    Surely random testing would produce a lower proportion of positive results, or even better to target-test players you know are clean and guaranteed to be scandal-free (and their official line could be to claim it was random or targeted the other way), but a look at the list would imply they're definitely not doing that. (Obviously if they're keeping all results private anyway, it's not so much of a gamble, but there's still a risk any results could be leaked.) They clearly have zero-interest in actually penalising players who are doping, so weren't they just creating more work for themselves with this?



    * That's the impression I have, I'm not trying to suggest that the ITF is anything more than totally rubbish in this regard. The targeted testing just seems a counterintuitive move.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a way of warning players off; "Look, we know you're doping. Stop it!"

      Delete
    2. It's a way of warning players off; "Look, we know you're doping. Stop it!"

      Delete
    3. But that would imply the ITF did care about the sport actually being clean, rather thn just making sure no one was caught.

      Delete
    4. And an ineffective one, given several players were tested for EPO more than once. It's pretty meaningless as a "warning" to encourage them to stop, if they were testing players 3 times for it without consequence.

      Delete
    5. Or, "Look, we know you're doping. Make sure you are taking undetectable drugs via the standard test or are always clean during the one hour window for designated testing."

      After not getting tested for years, athletes may have gotten lazy about shooting up EPO and done it when it would still show up in their one hour window. This just let them know to go back to being careful. Just like Lance Armstrong was careful. He was tested hundreds of time and passed all of them (or got a TUE backdated).

      It could also be telling players to get TUEs.

      In any case, assume for a second that the ITF was interested in catching dopers. What would it do? It would randomly show up and test players enough times so that they could not skip the test (please read up on the "three strikes rule.") Does the ITF do this? No. It would randomly test players in competition rather than loser targeted testing. Does it do this? No.

      What would the ITF do it it was only interested in doping-theater. That is testing that is done simply so that you can show that testing is done without any hope that it actually catch anyone. They would have few OOC tests so that any player that was "glowing" could simply hide, take a strike and not worry about it. They would target losers in tournaments so that everyone knew exactly when they could be tested. The would announce which tournaments would not be tested for EPO. (Yes, they really did this). They would allow players to call up Dr. Miller if they didn't want to take a blood test. They would allow a player who called the cops on the anti-doping officers for being "intruders" to then skip the test once the cops showed up and it was established that they were not "intruders." They would get "substantial assistance" from a person caught import HGH to Australia to supposedly identify other dopers, but then not ever bust a single other doper or state what the "substantial assistance" was. They would ignore the Fuentes files and never intervene with the court to try to get the names. They would ignore the Bosch files and never intervene with the court to try to get the names.

      In any case, we know the following facts: Many players have TUEs (this has been stated by the ITF). Any top-tier player who does not want to give a test sample can call up Stuart Miller and get a waiver. (A doping control officer testified to this.) The ITF has failed to ever state exactly what its new biological passport is -- though the UCI (cycling) publishes extensive details on its program. The UCI program has caught numerous dopers. The ITF has not. The ITF is pushing for a relaxation in the "three strikes" rule from 18 months to 12 months. (The WADA published the comments from the ITF in its public review of the rules).

      So, why would this organization that is clearly not interested in catching dopers perform "targeted testing?" Well, any of these top-tier players could skip any test just by calling Dr. Miller. Lower ranked players can't get him on the phone and get busted. The top-tier players are fare more likely to have TUEs. We know they many of the test are positive but do not result in a rules violation -- likely because of a TUE. In fact, target testing players with TUEs is the best way to up your tests without a remote possibility of a rules violation. Finally, the better financed players are far more likely to have access to undetectable drugs.

      The entire BALCO fiasco was essentially triggered by a new designer drug that BALCO has developed. If you were using BALCO, you were basically "home free." Until someone anonymously gave a syringe full of the drug to the WADA. Most likely, people have learned from this and better financed players don't resort to "generic" designer drugs, but rather specialty designer drugs that are not being tested for. Also, no worry that ITF will test previous samples, because ITF never does this.


      Delete
    6. Players can personally call up Dr. Miller and ask for waivers? Wow. I never knew that.

      I agree that many of the top players probably have TUEs for their drug-taking. That's (more likely than not) one reason why any positive results of a Nadal, a Serena, a Stosur, etc. have never been made public.

      The ITF probably wishes they didn't have to test the top players, they probably do it because the IOC and WADA, and even then it's the barest minimum possible.

      Delete
    7. For most performance enhancers, there are no credible medical indications that would justify a TUE in a fit young elite athlete. No players with advanced renal failure on the tours. GH deficiency is rare and it would be very hard to fake an exemption. I sincerely doubt the ITF / WADA would allow the guys to dope based on "Low T"....... I would guess that TUEs are granted more for asthma therapies that are officially banned as stimulants, but not really performance enhancing.

      TUE standards appear to be high.... This is from the TUE application form

      International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions 25
      "January 2011
      6. Note:
      Note 1 Diagnosis:
      Evidence confirming the diagnosis shall be attached and forwarded with this application. The medical evidence should include a comprehensive medical history and the results of all relevant examinations, laboratory investigations and imaging studies. Copies of the original reports or letters should be included when possible. Evidence should be as objective as possible in the clinical circumstances and in the case of non-demonstrable conditions independent supporting medical opinion will assist this application"

      Delete
  13. Charlie Rose interviews Rafael Nadal (and his left eyebrow)...

    http://www.charlierose.com/watch/60264833

    It starts at about the 19 min. mark.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charlie asks him what he does in the off-season. LOL. I guess we didn't really expect him to tell the truth!

      Delete
  14. Interesting how some players seem targeted. I wonder if it's because they failed a test, missed it, or if it's just random. There are quite a few who seem to get more tests than others: Berdych, Ferrer, Federer, Jankovic, Hradecka, Medina Garrigues, Azarenka, Verdasco, Niculescu, Djokovic, Granollers, Pennetta, the Bryans, Nadal, Murray, Wickmayer, Shvedova, Nestor, Zimonjic, Makarova. Surprised at Kanepi being so targeted too.



    "They clearly have zero-interest in actually penalising players who are doping, so weren't they just creating more work for themselves with this?"

    I don't know, maybe they actually catch some people but keep the ban secret. Makes me wonder if some injuries and retirements could've been just cover-ups. Sucks to think about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kanepi was injured / sidelined for long stretches during her career.I think she climbed up the rankings in 2008. Then had some weird performances, early round losses, dip in form in 2009 and had a knee injury at Birmingham and withdrew. She continued her 1st rd losses. So, yes, there were reasons to target-test.

      Wickmayer got banned in 2009 for failed test/whereabout violation.

      Late in 2008 Fed got diagnosed with mono, after having been beaten by Nadal twice at Wimby and FO. He recovered in 2009, winning FO and Wimby, made the finals at UO and AO. So sure, a likely candidate for target-testing.

      Ferrer, well, possibly a client of del Moral, need I say more? And ALL Spanish players in general... well, ever since the Fuentes bust in 2004 they must have suspected something, no?

      Niculescu, well, she is from Romania...

      Anna Lena Grönefeld - she took a break from the tour in 2007 after splitting with her coach and their infamous quarrel about that weight gain etc, if I recall correctly, and came back in 2008 so that seems right.

      Schiavone, well, who would not target-test her?

      I could go on. So strong indicators to target test the above players where clearly there.

      Delete
  15. Lance giving back the medal: http://olympictalk.nbcsports.com/2013/09/12/lance-armstrong-sydney-2000-bronze-medal-cycling-usoc-ioc/related/

    I wonder if in 2023, Nadal will return the US Open trophy and all the others.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Let's say that a player's hematocrit was suspiciously high on a blood screening, so an EPO test would have been done next. Would an existing sample be target-tested for EPO, or would a new sample need to be collected for the EPO test?

    If the EPO tests were done on new samples, that would lead to very few positive results because the mere act of taking the blood screening sample would have warned the players to adjust their hematocrit levels prior to the collection of the EPO sample.

    On the other hand, if the EPO tests were done on samples that had already been collected, then there should either be some positive results for EPO or there would need to be other explanations for the high hematocrit levels on the blood screenings. What were the explanations?

    How was the follow-on EPO testing done after a blood-screening---new samples or samples that had already been drawn at the same time as the blood screening?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Well, that's quite a Who's Who on that list. Is that the inconvenient truth, Sen is talking about?
    I'd also like to know, how the procedure was actually carried out. Since some EPO tests were done, when no urine sample was taken (in Serena's case, they once EPO tested her without a blood test for screening), we have to conclude, that they sometimes must have gone back to the player to collect a urine sample after screening. How fast was that done? Was it a matter of hours or days? The documents only indicate, when the samples were taken. But when they had to go back for a urine sample after a suspious blood test, shouldn't there be a different date, when it was not taken at the same day?
    Another question is, what exactly made the blood test suspicious? A high hematocrit count? Is it damning per se to even get EPO tested? What other explanations can there be except EPO use? Blood Doping? Many things are quite unclear about the whole procedure.
    The real shocker is, how few blood samples were taken.

    ReplyDelete
  18. From the WADA website......

    In June 2003, WADA’s Executive Committee accepted the results of an independent report stating that urine tests alone can be used to detect the presence of recombinant EPO. This report, requested by WADA’s stakeholders and commissioned by the Agency to evaluate the validity of urinary and blood tests for detecting the presence of recombinant EPO, concluded that urinary testing is the only scientifically validated method for direct detection of recombinant EPO. This report also recommended that urine testing be used in conjunction with blood screening for a variety of reasons, including the cost savings of performing blood screening prior to testing urine. Some international sports federations still use both urine and blood matrix for the detection of EPO. Recently, the urine test was adapted to blood to perform detection of some new erythropoiesis stimulating agents.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is from 2008 and things may have changed since then, but still worth a read when considering EPO testing...

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080626100921.htm

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting.

      What is the present set-up? Do the ITF still use a dodgy urine test which does not detect the EPO or have things moved on?

      I think we should be told.

      Delete
  20. Interesting that Federer was tested 3 times in '08 - July & twice in October. That appears to be targeted testing to me. I don't know what could've triggered that since the whole mono thing was announced later in the year, no? And 2008 wasn't a stellar year for him, nor was he sidelined for any period of time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One line of explanation goes that EPO causes mono because it messes with your autoimmune system.

      So testing Fed at that point - prior to his public announcement - could mean it triggered his announcement to explain(-away) his absence - also to provide an explanation for his blood levels after maybe the ITF in their screenings found them too high...

      Nobody is sacrosant, not even Federer.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. Not sure about that, T_K. I couldn't find any evidence linking EBV infection (the virus associated with infectious mononucleosis) to EPO administration on PUBMED or Google scholar or other academic platform.

      EBV can be associated with anemia, but this would hardly trigger concern about EPO use......

      It's odd that Fed had so many tests then, but he was ranked 1 in July, and I suppose he might have been targeted for that reason.

      I ran an anti-doping program, I'd target the top 5 super-hard.

      Delete
    4. But the whole point of Sen's post is, that EPO tests were only done, when the blood tests were suspicious. That has nothing to do with target testing the top 5. So, what exactly made the blood tests suspicious, how damning is that exactly, and what could be alternative explanations for the bloodwork results? That's, what I'd like to know.
      Mono has nothing whatsoever to do with EPO use. That was one coach, who said so on his website, and all google links eventually lead to that one source. And, as far as I know, mono doesn't cause suspicious bloodwork results.
      Since every slam winner of the last 8 years was tested repeatedly for EPO,, does that mean,, they had all suspicious blood tests, which triggered the EPO tests, or were they tested for EPO, even if the bloodwork was not suspicious, because they were the top guns?

      Delete
    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    6. I was speculating that not all tests might have been triggered. They may have chosen to additionally target top players to avoid criticism that none of the stars were being EPO tested. I realize the article says "only", but it's hard to be sure when testing procedures and are so opaque.

      Another possibility is that the trigger parameter(s) were just to sensitive / permissive. Somehow I doubt this.

      Finally, it may have been that they were not testing for all pro-erythrocytosis agents at that time. I incorrectly assumed that they were measuring total EPO with ELISA in a prior post, because that is what we do in clinical practice, but now realize that to prove exogenous administration, they have to detect the actual recombinant products using isoelectric focusing + SAR- or SDS-PAGE. They do use ELISAs for hematide and EPO-Fc detection. Testing for all the recombinants and the latter 2 red-cell stimulants might not have been the practice at that time, in which case, incidences could have been missed. I wonder if they do any back testing at all..........

      Delete
    7. @ arcus
      I rest my case.

      I am not a medical expert... far from it, and I know we had that same discussion before when Sen posted that list previously. And yes, no hard evidence, I was only parroting what some have been saying. (Yet, anemia and EPO do go along very well, as a treamtment for anemia.)

      With my rudimentary bio-chemical knowledge, I could see how a messed up immune system might be more prone to get the symptoms of the EBV easier. But I will stop here, for actually what we would need is some expert in this field to make any valid claims.

      It does strike me though that many cyclists as well as tennis players caught mono.

      Delete
  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The number of players tested at the 2008 Paris Open is interesting. Assuming it's true that players were only tested when their screening tests came up suspicious it would appear that they waited until enough of the suspicious players were in one place to make it easier/cheaper, rather than immediately going after them one by one after suspicious screenings.

    Also I find it very interesting that both Federer and Nadal withdrew/retired at the same point in the tournament (quarterfinals). What are the odds of that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I just did a little research and Federer withdrew and Nadal retired from his match on the same date of their EPO tests. Curious.

      Delete
    2. I think that "little research" of yours did contribute nicely!


      Good find. Now what to make of it?

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    4. After looking more closely it would appear that all the testing dates line up with the days on which each player lost or retired, so there may be nothing in particular to make of it since testing after a loss is the standard procedure anyway.

      James Blake also withdrew from the tournament by the way. So that is 2 of the ten players tested withdrawing (Blake, Federer) and one retiring (Nadal).

      [note: I am terrible with putting my replies in the right place. Sorry about all the deleted comments.]

      Delete
    5. And I am mistaken about Blake, he played and lost. I misread the draw chart. Woops.

      Delete
    6. In any case, Nadal and Federer were both tested for EPO twice in October within the span of 19 days (notable in and of itself given the overall number/rates of testing) and then both withdraw/retire from the same tournament at the same point that same month. Hmmm.

      Delete
    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    8. Federer's back was bad at the end of 2008. If you saw his match against Murray at the WTF that year (which was a couple weeks after Paris) you would know he was playing with a lot of pain and lost in the RR. But if he withdrew from Paris for suspicious reasons he probably wouldn't have played the WTF.

      Nadal, on the other hand, retired in his match against Davydenko in Paris and wasn't seen again until 2009

      Delete
    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    10. Well, I don't see this kind of caveat being afforded any other player here. It's not like players have never tanked matches or faked injury before (hello Davydenko).

      The facts are that both Nadal and Federer were tested twice in the span of 19 days due to what was apparently suspicious blood screenings, and they both withdrew/retired at exactly the same point in the same tournament in the same month that they were both tested twice.

      Delete
    11. well you tell me what would be the point of withdrawing and then playing two weeks later? If there was a positive test then Federer wouldn't have played the WTF if you believe in silent bans. I don't get what you're implying.

      Delete
    12. Oh and BTW Nadal retired from that match with a RIGHT knee injury.

      Delete
    13. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete