Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thoughts? (Updated)

Jon Wertheim writes:
"First a programming note, we vowed to discuss tennis and doping in a coming Mailbag. Here’s some preliminary reading that put the topic “top of mind” as they [sic] in corporate America. But, this week, as the ATP’s culminating event plays out, we’ll hold off..."

Some previous statements of Wertheim:
As for the role of journalists, I stand by this cut-and-paste from the last column: "Journalists should investigate. But what does this mean? Investigate what? Time and resources are finite. And we're talking about a confidential process and an inherently secretive act. How much attention to do you want to devote to this? That's a choice each journalist has to make. Having spent a lot of time and effort chasing rumors that turned out to be bogus, I try to be judicious here. If I catch wind of something or have a source suggesting I poke around, it's one thing. If the "evidence" is a photo showing a prominent vein, or a player winning back-to-back three-setters, I'm less inclined to investigate. This I can assure you: This is not about managing relationships or covering for sources or self-preservation. That's the journalism equivalent of using PEDs."
Well, let's hope Wertheim addresses in his column what investigating he did in relation to Biogenesis, Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral, Operation Puerto, and other anti-doping incidents of note in tennis (e.g., panic room).

There is also, of course, this classic quote:
“When you declare a contemporary athlete clean, you do so at your own peril. But it’s not just unlikely that a top tennis player’s success or muscles or stamina is the product of anything other than genetics and industriousness. It’s damn near impossible.”
– Jon Wertheim, Strokes Of Genius, pp162-3 (2009)
As well as:
“First, tennis doesn’t especially lend itself to doping. It’s more a sport of hand-eye coordination, technique, and mental fitness than it is a sport of raw speed and brute strength.” (Strokes Of Genius, p161)
“Second, and more important, tennis has one of the most rigorous and systematic anti-doping policies in all of sports.” (Strokes Of Genius, p161)
So, I hope Wertheim explains what evidence, information, and research he gathered to support the extremely bold statements he made in Strokes Of Genius. Further, if he no longer holds these views, it would help to know what evidence he relied on.



  1. Wow, I saw on twitter some dude discussing with Ewan about doping and mentioning Wertheim. It seems that mention totally worked. Nice work.

  2. call me pessimistic but i think he's getting ready to debunk it.

    1. Me too. But this will just be the beginning. Ewan's piece is about how journalists are in the comfort zone by not making any uncomfortable questions or investigations regarding players and their staff. Jon, answering fan mail, does not address it at all.

  3. Sorry for the offtopic guys. But I am curious about your thoughts on the upcoming boxing fight between Klitschko and Pulev. I am a compatriot of the Bulgarian and here in my country the doping topic is largely discussed in the media, since the two fighters do not have equal conditions for preparation approaching the match. The Ucranian's promoting company is the organiser of the fight and according to Vlad's contract he would be tested only once - after the fight. On the other hand, Kubrat Pulev is obliged to give samples any time and as far as I know, he had been tested 3 or 4 times for a period of 2 weeks before the fight was postponed for another date due to Vlad's bicep injury.. And God knows how many times Kubrat has been tested since then. Also it is very obvious I think that Klitschko is a different person at the moment compared to his edition of two months ago, for instance. His veins and muscles.. He is so pumped! In my opinion, if both fighters were clean, or both of them could juice (not only Vlad), maybe Pulev had a chance of winning the match. But in reality he will be smashed now. What a pity and what a farce!

  4. "Wasted Time" Jon Wertheim will use phrases like "grey area" and "complex issue" throughout his column and, once again, it will amount to a big pile of nothing. There a red herrings everywhere yet he won't see them. Whatever...

    Also, shame on him for that "juicy" (lol) quote:
    “First, tennis doesn’t especially lend itself to doping. It’s more a sport of hand-eye coordination, technique, and mental fitness than it is a sport of raw speed and brute strength.” (Strokes Of Genius, p161)

    How can an American scribe - assuredly not oblivious to the baseball steroid scandal - offer mind-boggling opinions like the aforementioned? Last I checked, you need hand-eye coordination, technique and mental fitness in baseball as well.

    1. Hand-eye coordination, technique, and mental fitness...yep, that's all it takes to play a five setter, then come back two days later and do it again. And win. And never look tired. Also, no one has ever used any sort of chemical to improve mental focus.

  5. Sen, please rephrase your question and ask Wertheim on what basis he could say in 2009 that "tennis has(d) one of the most rigorous and systematic anti-doping policies in all of sports". Because as it stands, he is the one trolling and giving non-answers, again.

    1. He probably said it because propagandists like the doper Agassi kept repeating it as a mantra and journalists were either too lazy or star-struck to look further. If Agassi says the anti-doping regime is tough then that becomes received wisdom, doesn't it?
      Why was the hypocrite Agassi never called to account for his claims?

    2. Exactly, it's the old repeat a thing/lie enough times and suckers will believe it. My problem with this is that (scared pro-establishment) journalists are always repeating ad nauseam that you need proof and evidence to make judgments. Yet, with those kinds of non-threatening mantras, they never look up for evidence, they just relay the information like freaking publicists. Guys like him (i.e. 99% of sports and even mainstream general matters reporters nowadays) are useless. Oh, I have no evidence of course, just my two eyes.

  6. I know I don't lurk around here much anymore, but this is a really good post. I don't necessarily take issue with Jon's point about running down rumors. It's certainly a fine point that time for any writer is limited. There's obviously a legal and time-management component to not getting caught up in innuendo. I respect that view to the extent that it's true.

    My problem, then, becomes some of the statements that he's made in the past. It's inconsistent to tell someone they can't make a judgment based on seeing someone have lengthy consecutive wins, but then also make blanket statements himself based solely in his opinion on how he views tennis in comparison to other PED-proven sports. I actually agree with him that it's dangerous to cast dispersions on someone due to physical appearance or propensity to look like Superman after six hours on court, but I will also chastise him for making opinion-based statements about how tennis doesn't lend itself to doping. Did he rely on a scientific study which found tennis didn't lend itself to doping or did he just rely on anecdotal evidence that it's too skill-based to be heavily influenced by doping?

    The one statement I can't get past is "It's damn near impossible." I would love for Jon to argue how that statement is ANY more valuable to society than someone saying "It's damn near impossible" that a tennis player ISN'T doping. I'd have no evidence to say that the player is doping, but I could easily make the assertion. What evidence did he have that "It's damn near impossible" that the muscles weren't derived from doping? Did he spend hours interviewing seasoned sports physicians to understand how doped muscles look in comparison to un-doped muscles?

    The point is that whatever he says now can possibly bring to light that we truly do know more about how the anti-doping system in tennis works. It's fair to hold a position that it's easier to see the flaws in the system than in was 5-6 years ago. It's not fair to say that without explaining how he rationalizes the blanket statements he made, because that's a completely different issue.

  7. Anyone remembers this?

    It's amazing that the most confusing facts regarding Nadal's 'treatments' has been omitted by every 'serious' journalist. I suppose, as mr. Wertheim says, it is too resource and time consuming to ask a few questions about it.
    Let's recap.

    "PRPs cannot be used in muscle injuries, but its use in tendinopathies is allowed after completing a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) document. In fact, some representatives of the spanish anti-doping agency and the spanish olympic committee visited Dr. Eduardo Anitua´s research center in Vitoria, and granted us permission to use this treatment in this particular athlete."

    Do you know why a TUE is filed?

    "A Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) is an exemption that allows an athlete to use, for therapeutic purposes only, an otherwise prohibited substance or method (of administering a substance) which may be present during competition."

    So, PRP was still banned at the time of that blog post (2010). WADA approved it in 2011. Dr. Sánchez indicated that they filed a TUE so they could apply a banned at-the-time method. He implied that PRP doesn't have performance-enhancing properties (which is reflected on its posterior 2011 aproval). But that reason made no sense at the time, since all kinds of substance with performance enhacing properties are allowed under a TUE if they're necessary due to health reasons. We now know that PRP is almost a fraud for tendinopathies, so PRP wasn't the reason for Nadal's improvement.

    So, the questions to ask are:
    How could a doping test detect a player that has used PRP? I assume that, if it was banned, then it was detectable somehow.
    If they could detect it due to the presence of growth factors in the blood, could PRP be used as a way, not to improve performance, but to MASK the actual presence of banned growth factors (IGF-1, HGH, etc.)?

    If the substances that the PRP is able to mask are detected with more fiability via biological passport, does that explain Nadal's switch to stem cell treatment?

    WADA's reason to ban PRP was the growth factors

  8. They can't get behind the scenes with player doping regimes, obviously What journalists can do from an investigative point-of-view would be to start picking away at the TUE system, for example, to reveal whatever abuses are going on there. What exactly is being applied for and could these medicines be applied to a more subversive purpose? There's no pressure on the ITF at present to reveal such information. This could easily be released without compromising an individual player's right to confidentiality. Also the Biogenesis case remains with questions unanswered. A nice little bung to the ex-owner, Tony Bosch, to establish just what exactly Wayne Odesnik was up to would be a good start. And were other players HGH doping beside Odesnik? It's down to the journalists to start working for their money.

  9. Trying to be balanced about this.....

    I guess Wertheim will argue (not unreasonably) that.....
    1] He's constrained in a way that most of us aren't...... It's one thing for an anonymous poster (like me) to speculate about doping in a sport/athlete. It's another for organizations/individuals with an international audience, where threats of legal reprisal are more legitimate. He's likely gagged to an extent by his employers.
    2] He'll contend that it's unfair to assume guilt without proof of doping in the upper echelons of tennis.
    3] Although his prior statements about doping don't stand up to scrutiny in the post-Armstrong era, he'll say he's more clued-in now.

    While there's validity to these arguments, I still maintain that tennis journalists (with exceptions) continue to fail to address doping appropriately. Given the depth of innately skilled tennis players, the wealth, the slender victory margins, the increasing physicality of the modern game, and the global culture of doping in sport, it's impossible for me to believe that a significant number of players aren't cheating.

    In a real sense, journalists act as the voice of the fans (who pay all the bills), and it falls to them (the journalists) to publicly ask the challenging questions, and keep the tougher issues 'live'. This pressurizes the authorities to do the right thing. Cycling (admittedly with more of a history) had great journalists who did just this. The best of them dug-deep on this issue, despite lack of either resources or definitive proof (Walsh, Kimmage, Macur, Fainaru-wada). They kept-up the pressure, and ultimately contributed to positive outcomes. I think tennis needs this.

  10. I'll admit that, with Federer's withdrawal, his chances of being currently doped are slim. But that increased the chances of a younger Federer being doped, sad to say.

    1. to be fair, if someone is ever going to have a strong argument against federer, it would be based on his heydays, then maybe the past 3 years. 2004-2007 were monstrous, 2008-2011 (yeah, even 2009) were generally what you'd expect from a player his caliber, 2012-2014 performance could be classified as improbable and somewhat peculiar (he's been up and down) at best but the case is still there.

      Also to be fair , I couldn't see how this withdrawal would somewhat have much impact on if he is doping or not currently. If that was he case, Nadal would be the last person you'd suspect. the fact that it is only his 3rd withdrawal in 15 years of his pro-career would be a better argument for both sides.

      which brings me to the question, which would be a better pattern to look at when looking at possible patterns to doping? a sustained, unobstructed high performance throughout 4 years (2004-07) or an up and down performance throughout your entire career (Nadal)? this is the reason i'm still, objectively, not very convinced that federer doped since his patterns are like stages lasting for about 4 years (04-07, 08-11, 12-14*). 4 years seems to be a natural transitioning of ability level due to age. his game is efficient, and his scheduling is superb depending on what period he was on so the lack of injury can still be convincingly explained (although it still leaves question marks). add to that that his comments on doping were basically dares to the ITF/WADA to keep an eye on him(although i find it peculiar that he has become TOO diplomatic regarding other players. yes, i understand that he should prevent controversy for the sake of himself, but he has stated numerous comments that say he doesn't believe any of these players are doping. i mean it would be just as easy to say he has no opinions on it) overall though, it still holds up for me that fed was probably clean. bias? maybe.

      on a side note, i am still also suspending my judgement on nole. since my knowledge of the oxygen chamber. i'm not medically inclined but i have watched several shows highlighting the capabilities of the egg on aiding recovery. nowadays, recovery is a premium to be on to, because it allows you for more workout and higher endurance during tournaments. and if the egg is legal, and his performances every year are somewhat still acceptable and within the norm (assuming an egg was and is still in play which allowed his grueling matches). in any case, i'd really want to know everything, especially nadal's story.

    2. Different regimes demand different inactivity lapses (due to liver load and other details) if any. My take on Federer's doping (I'm somewhat inclined to believe that ALL the bif 4 have doped) is that his regime was lighter and directed to recovery. Which should explain the recurrring back issues at the time of the biological passport introduction (2013-2014).

      Nadal's regime is, for me, the polar opposite: a cocktail so explosive and demanding that he needs several months 'clean' due to too much load on his body or his mind. Which explains his obvious cycling, destroyed knees (steroids years ago) and continuous public experimentation of exotic treatments strangely related to doping (PRP, stem cell).

      Djokovic's regime, in my opinion, is similar to Federer's. But with added benefits due to his diet and egg chamber treatment. An elite athlete simply can't be consistent without something that guarantees being 100% all the time.

    3. Federer has had recurring back problems for a while now, not just since the biological passport. I recall the end of 2008 when he was massaged during a match against Murray at the World Tour Finals. It's still entirely possible he has doped though, but yeah, Nadal is the one that jumps at you. I wouldn't be surprised at all should he be a total steroid creation similar to Alex Rodriguez in baseball, who has been accused by certain parties of PED use starting in high school (!). Not unlike Nadal, he has also been one to delve into various exotic and plain weird treatments, and also applying - and getting - his own TUE in 2009.

    4. Players who are doped can get injured. Players who are clean can also go most of their careers without injury problems. Doping is not something that precludes one from injury.

      Federer is 33 years old. Doping or not a nagging back issue should not be a surprise with how physical the game is these days.

    5. I cannot see why Federer declining to play the final can be related to doping at all if he does play the Davis Cup. It seems is more to do with the fact that he could not see himself competing at the same level with Djokovic after a gruelling very late match in SF, and a bad loss would have affected him, and if he has a nagging back, really could have finished his chances for the Davis.

      Federer has been incredibly lucky with injuries over the years, and that is, at the very least, very unusual at the level that tennis is played nowadays. This does not necessarily mean doping, but it could.

      The clearer indicator for doping, in my opinion, is the fact that he has remained so competitive for so many years. He would have won 3 or 4 RG if Nadal would have not been there, and his already illustrious/unbelievable career would be something even more unbelievable. The same goes for Nadal and Djokovic. The competition between the three is just fascinating, but if what is written in this blog about a tennis doping era is true, I find it very hard to believe that any of the 3 is excluded from strong suspicion.

    6. "Federer has had recurring back problems for a while now, not just since the biological passport. I recall the end of 2008 when he was massaged during a match against Murray at the World Tour Finals."
      Yeah, but the recurring back issues never pushed him out of the top 10 until 2013. It fits with the passport.

    7. Or with aging. But it's weird, he played more matches this year than 2007-2011.

    8. "Yeah, but the recurring back issues never pushed him out of the top 10 until 2013. It fits with the passport."

      Federer fell to #8 in the rankings, never out of the top 10.

    9. Sorry, I don't know why I didn't write 'nearly'.

    10. "Sorry, I don't know why I didn't write 'nearly'."

      Probably because you're a doper.

    11. No, just Fed and Nadal are.

      *waiting for the crying*

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  12. Has Wertheim addressed the issue yet?