Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Good reads

A couple of good pieces by Roger Pielke Jr.:

1. Gather data to reveal true extent of doping in sport

"In my opinion, anti-doping agencies suffer from a sort of institutionalized blindness that has been characterized by Steve Rayner, who studies science and civilization at the University of Oxford, UK, as the “social construction of ignorance”. This is a strategy that organizations use necessarily to make their way in a complicated world. Organizations also create zones of ignorance to ‘manage uncomfortable knowledge’, and this can sometimes lead to dysfunction.

"In the case of doping in sport, uncomfortable knowledge includes the possibility that doping among athletes is much more prevalent than is recognized and that anti-doping programmes are not very effective." 

2. Anti-doping agencies are failing in assessing the scale of the drugs problem

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Offered Without Comment

January 15, 2015
Viktor Troicki

Q.  You were sort of punished for something you didn't deliberately try to do.  Did you ever think, You know what, I'm just going to walk away because I was treated unjustly?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015: Storylines to Ignore

It's been mostly quiet on the anti-doping front in tennis. In fact, the ITF's 2014 anti-doping programme, so far, hasn't triggered any violations or adverse results (publicly, that is), although there was a high profile junior violation caught by Australian testing.

That said, here are the stories that the mainstream tennis media will continue to either ignore and/or downplay and/or fail to do any in-depth investigation:

1. The ITF's investigation of Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral (ex-doctor for Lance Armstrong) and his more than decade long involvement with tennis players. Read here and here.

2. The ITF's investigation into Biogenesis.

3. Operation Puerto and Dr. Fuentes.

4. The allegations of former Spanish tennis federation president Pedro Munoz.

5. Abnormal blood values of top player players.

6. Wayne Odesnik.

7. Panic Room (no sample was collected).

There are other issues, of course. For example, whether the ITF has ever retested a stored sample, and how long they store samples. Or, how many players have faked injuries or concocted other stories to cover-up a provisional suspension.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 8, 2014

USADA Q3 Statistics

USADA's Q3 (September 30), 2014 anti-doping stats are posted. Below are the per athlete tests for tennis for Q3 and the total for 2014 so far. All tests are out of competition. There's a 3-way tie for most tested player.

USADA is on pace to shatter it 2013 mark of just over 60 total tests for tennis.

Q3 2014

11 Athletes Selected
19 Total Tests
Athlete NameTest Count
Michael C Bryan2
Robert C Bryan3
Jamie Hampton1
John Isner2
Madison Keys1
Bethanie Mattek-Sands1
Wayne Odesnik3
Sam Querrey1
Sloane Stephens1
Serena J Williams2
Venus E Williams2

Totals for 2014

12 Athletes Selected
56 Total Tests
Athlete NameTest Count
Michael C Bryan3
Robert C Bryan7
Jamie Hampton3
John Isner5
Madison Keys2
Bethanie Mattek-Sands2
Christina M McHale2
Wayne Odesnik8
Sam Querrey3
Sloane Stephens5
Serena J Williams8
Venus E Williams8

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


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..."

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."

" 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."

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."