Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Discuss

The intro from Jon Wertheim's latest column:
We’ll start this week with a story. A few years ago, I was at an event when a player grabbed me by the wrist. “I want to show you something,” she said. She took me to a wall displaying photos of the event’s previous winners. One player had won the event multiple times. Her photos revealed a remarkably -- how to put this? -- evolved physique over the years, the equivalent of before-and-after images of a toning program.
“There,” the player said. “Now go write about it.”  
The implication, of course, was that the past champion had been doping, and these complementary images were unimpeachable proof...

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..."
Update

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.

***


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's all in the game...

Irish sports journalist Ewan MacKenna has something interesting to say about doping and tennis. A couple of excerpts:
"...The reality is this is a cosy little club where media get access and everyone else gets rich. As one prominent tennis writer says, “For some reason most tennis journalists don’t want to know about drugs in their game”."

"...Tennis players have the same motives of wealth and fame and the same opportunities through a weak testing regime, so to think they’ve fortified morals because they’re likeable is to be blind."

"...do you believe doctors doped athletes in other sports but not their tennis clientele?"

"...Does quantity equal quality, why no figures to show if testing has switched to winner-targeted, where are key statistics once readily available? For all the talk, we aren’t allowed see the walk."
Indeed.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Happy 3rd Anniversary!

On November 2, 2011, TMZ reported that Serena Williams locked herself in her panic room when out-of-competition anti-doping officers arrived at her house to collect a sample.

No sample was collected.

Serena has never spoken publicly about the incident, or faced a question on it during a press conference.

The only tennis writer that has publicly reported on the event is Simon Cambers, who questioned the ITF's anti-doping manager about the incident.

This is tennis.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wertheim on Troicki

Jon Wertheim dispenses some wisdom:
"....I feel a bit about Troicki the way I feel about Marin Cilic. The circumstances were murky -- aren’t they always? -- but in a world of strict liability, the athlete is on the hook for a positive result. (Or, in this case, declining to submit to testing.) Troicki did the time, a penalty that may end up amounting 10 percent of his career. (Comparing this to other sports for a first offense, it certainly ends up on the harsh side.) Though he did not retain his ranking, the player was allowed to re-enter tennis and, in essence, earn his job back. And Troicki, now 28, has done just that, playing himself back into form in short order.

"This was an intensely unpleasant and regrettable situation..."
This is tennis.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

USADA Anti-Doping Statistics: Q2 2014

The USADA's anti-doping statistics through Q2 (June 30) 2014 have been posted.

In Q2 2014:

9 Athletes Selected
15 Total Tests
Athlete NameTest Count
Michael C Bryan1
Robert C Bryan1
Jamie Hampton1
Christina M McHale1
Wayne Odesnik3
Sam Querrey1
Sloane Stephens1
Serena J Williams3
Venus E Williams3

Total for 2014 through Q2:

12 Athletes Selected
37 Total Tests
Athlete NameTest Count
Michael C Bryan1
Robert C Bryan4
Jamie Hampton2
John Isner3
Madison Keys1
Bethanie Mattek-Sands1
Christina M McHale2
Wayne Odesnik5
Sam Querrey2
Sloane Stephens4
Serena J Williams6
Venus E Williams6

Total for all of 2013:

10 Athletes Selected
61 Total Tests
Athlete NameTest Count
Michael C Bryan7
Robert C Bryan8
Mardy S Fish4
Liezel Huber2
John Isner10
Wayne Odesnik14
Sam Querrey2
Sloane Stephens1
Serena J Williams5
Venus E Williams8

 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wertheim on Cilic

Jon Wertheim weighs in on Marin Cilic's US Open win (I'm guessing he didn't read this US Open interview with Cilic). Some excerpts:
"I risk being lampooned here, but I consider Cilic to be a triumph -- not an indictment -- of tennis’ anti-doping apparatus. In a strict liability world -- which, necessarily, anti-doping must be -- Cilic was guilty. Alibis and explanation can minimize damage in the court of public opinion; but ultimately you are responsible for what you put in your body...
"...He was given a chance, though, to author a new chapter, to do something so that “drug suspension” would not top-line his Wikipedia entry. And, to his credit, he did.
"I don’t think anyone is scrubbing this from the Cilic record. It’s an unfortunate stain that he’ll always have to counter. But he did the crime, he did the time and now he’s playing again. This doesn’t sound like a procedural breakdown. The system worked as it should."



Ricci Bitti on the Tennis Anti-doping Programme

An interview with the President of the International Tennis Federation from yesterday:
This time last year, you were about to introduce the biological passport to counter doping. Do you think it’s been effective and do you think you’re doing enough in terms of anti-doping measures?
"Doping is a very difficult matter to discuss because in doping, normally the authorities who test for it are in a lose-lose situation. Because if you have a positive test, it means that you have a problem in the sport. If you don’t have any positive tests, people say you aren’t doing enough.
"What we believe is that the tennis programme is very good, especially at the top. We have now introduced a lot more blood tests.
"We believe that in terms of quality we are very high. Having said that, we have to be vigilant. In terms of quantity, we depend also on the national agencies but they aren’t targeting tennis much. They focus more on cycling and other sports. We need them to do more."
 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bitti and Tignor on Cilic

ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti on Marin Cilic's US Open win:
Cilic triumphed at Flushing Meadows having returned to tennis last October after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) cut his ban for doping to four months from the nine month suspension the ITF originally imposed.
"In a system of justice, the first rule is to respect the sentence," said Bitti. "If the sanction has been reduced it means they have recognised some mitigating factor that the first level didn't consider."
Bitti said he was "very happy" to see Cilic win: "Cilic was always a good player. It's more that he has done the last steps - he was missing something, now perhaps he has found his balance in tennis."
He said tennis had introduced more blood tests and the quality of anti-doping measures was high.
"In terms of quantity, we also depend on the national agencies, which are not so much targeting tennis," said Bitti. "We are trying to convince them to do more on tennis. They are really focusing on cycling and other sports."

Across town at tennis.com, Steve Tignor has this to say in response to a reader's question:

You keep saying [Marin] Cilic is such a “nice guy.” Shouldn’t you be mentioning that he was suspended for a positive doping test last year?—Dan
Yes, we can't forget or ignore that. Certainly, seeing a guy who has never won a 500-level event, let alone a Masters or a major, suddenly play the best tennis of his life to win nine straight sets for the U.S. Open title, one year after being banned from the same tournament because of a positive drug test, is rightfully going to arouse suspicion. And last year I found it interesting that in 2012 the ITF tested Cilic “4-6” times out of competition; that was more than the 1-3 norm for most top players that year. Were the testing authorities suspicious even before he came up positive?
But before anyone offers an opinion on Cilic’s specific case, I'd recommend reading the summary of his ITF tribunal hearing from last fall—pretend it’s a short story by Kafka and it actually makes for some good, agonizing reading. I came away from it believing that Cilic was guilty of carelessness and bad luck—as well as a tragic reliance on his mother’s language skills—but not of deliberately trying to dope. That’s essentially what Roger Federer said when he was asked about Cilic’s suspension at the Open. He said the Croat was “stupid,” but that he felt like he knew him well enough to believe he wouldn't intentionally cheat.
 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Federer on Cilic

From the US Open....

Q. You have been outspoken person about antidoping. Are you at all uncomfortable losing to somebody who only last year was convicted of an antidoping violation?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I'm fine with it. I truly believed he didn't do anything wrong in the sense that he did it on purpose. Was he stupid maybe? Maybe. You know, yeah. But I feel like I know him well enough, and I don't think he would ever do it. I don't quite remember what the circumstances were, but I feel more bad for him than anything else. So for me, when I see him it doesn't cross my mind in any way. And, no, I think he was becoming the player he is already way before that, so from that standpoint no problem for me.

Marin Cilic

From the US Open...

Q. Have you spoken to Viktor, and do you think there is a drug problem in our sport?

CILIC: I mean, I have spoke with Viktor in April. I have seen him, but I haven't seen him since he started to play. He was in Europe. I mean, he also had extremely difficult period. I mean, he wasn't positive on a test and got suspended for a year. That's, I mean, difficult to understand. But, I mean, I don't think there is drugs in our sport. I feel that it's pretty safe...

Q. Going back to your previous answer, you said the process was unfair. Could you explain in what way it was unfair or how you weren't treated properly? 

CILIC: Well, I mean, first, a notification letter what they have sent me they sent me that I was positive to a substance which I wasn't. That proved to be one of the main things that were talked about in the hearing and that, you know, I was released basically. On the day of the decision it was already four months past, so it was basically like they were giving me zero. That was difficult to understand, why it happened like that and why. I haven't gotten any explanation for that. I mean, for me there was nothing much I could do because they played with the rules and they used it for their advantage.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Miles to go....

An interesting piece in Newsday:
"STATS, a technology and data company using a system it calls SportVU, has done motion tracking of athletes in primary professional sports and concluded that only soccer players log more mileage in competition than tennis players.

"According to SportVU, a soccer player runs as far as 9.5 miles during a game. Tennis players cover from three to five miles in a five-set match, NBA players almost three miles, football players about 1.25 miles and baseball players around 100 yards."
That's a pretty interesting finding. What makes it more interesting is that Stuart Miller, the anti-doping manager for the International Tennis Federation, had this to say about tennis and stamina in 2009:
"It may be that tennis is not conducive to EPO. Maybe tennis is not a sport that is driven by a need to maximize stamina, which is what EPO essentially does."
Hmmm....


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tennis anti-doping budget on the rise

The ITF's agenda for it's 2014 annual general meeting has been posted.

There are a couple of interesting bits of information. First, there is a significant ramp in the anti-doping budget from 2013 through 2016. In 2013, the actual spend was $2 million. In 2014, the anti-doping budget is planned at $2.6. It hits $3 million in 2015 and $3.1 by 2016. This planned spending represents an increase of over 50 percent. (See the budget tables on page 12.)

Hopefully, the increase in budget is spent on designing and executing an effective and intelligent anti-doping program.

The other bits from anti-doping are the following (on page 152):
The number of samples collected under the Programme in 2013 rose by 26% compared to 2012, and a further increase is anticipated in 2014. (See figure 1). Following its introduction into the Programme in 2013, around 350 Athlete Biological Passport blood samples have been collected in 2014 at the time of writing. The total of 2,185 samples collected under the TADP in 2013 represents about two thirds of all samples collected from tennis players by all anti-doping agencies...

A total of 48 Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) were granted under the TADP in 2013. The average time from receipt of a complete TUE application to a decision by the TUE Committee was again under 3 days, which is believed to be the shortest of any anti-doping organisation.

The 2014 Programme is fully compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. Testing under the 2014 TADP is ongoing, and at the time of writing, over 1,000 samples have been collected from around 40 events, including Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Grand Slams, ATP Tour and WTA Tour and Professional Circuits.
I have to say that I'm not sure having the shortest time for TUE decisions is something to be proud of. How closely is the ITF looking at the applications?

Addendum:

An additional point I'd make is that the ITF came in $208,000 over-budget for anti-doping spending for 2013 (budget of $1,848M v. actual $2,056). The extra-expenditure is described as being caused by "legal costs required for the cases which came up in the year." (page 7) This result is significantly different from the four previous years of underspend, where costs were typically stated to be "lower than expected due to fewer positive cases."

So, what exactly happened on legals costs in 2013 that was so different from previous years?

2012: $180K under
Budget: 1,597M
Actual: 1,417M

2011: $288K under
Budget: $1,601M
Actual: $1,313M

2010: $301K under
Budget: $1,578M
Actual: $1,277M

2009: $122K under
Budget: $1,548M
Actual: $1,426M