Thursday, February 05, 2009

On Parole

I'm happy to see the top players speaking out against this nonsense:

Top tennis players including Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal are in open revolt at what they consider to be intrusive new anti-doping rules that demand testers know their location every day.

Players jeered representatives of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) when details of the stringent regulations were announced at a stormy meeting at the Australian Open in Melbourne last month. One player walked out and others questioned ITF officials on the mandatory requirement of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

Under Wada’s ruling, athletes must report where they are for one hour of each day for the whole year so that investigators can call at any time, unannounced. Anyone who misses three tests in an 18-month period could be suspended for up to two years.


“These new rules are so draconian that it makes it almost impossible to live a normal life,” the British No 1 said. “I got a visit at 7am one morning at my home right after I had travelled home from Australia. I woke up not really knowing where I was and suffering badly from jet lag. It seemed ridiculous to me as I’d been tested just four days earlier, straight after the match I had lost in the Australian Open.

“The official who came to my home wanted me to produce identification to prove who I was. He insisted on watching me provide a sample, literally with my trousers round my ankles, and then insisted that I wrote down my own address, even though he was at my private home at 7am.”

Athletes need not be treated like (worse than?) criminals on parole just to keep the sport clean. Dopers will dope no matter how stringent the rules. Undetectable performance enhancing drugs will continue to be invented.

The Bryan Brothers spoke at length about the new rules in Melbourne.

Q. Could you talk about the challenges of the new drug testing regime.

BOB BRYAN: Yeah, it's pretty strict. We got tested a few times when we were home. The tough thing is you got to be worried to go to breakfast at 8 in the morning. You got to wait it out and stay until 9. If you're clear, you can go eat breakfast. You always got to kind of be on‑call. I guess it's the responsibility of a professional athlete.

It's a little bit brutal. They can't call you. I guess that's the rule now. We have one or two missed tests, so we got to be really aware of what we're doing and make sure.

MIKE BRYAN: Yeah, you got to communicate with whoever it is, the ITF, where you're going to be at all times. They even want to know when you're flying in, the day you arrive, if you're going to be at the hotel for an hour.

We missed a couple. Just weren't thinking. Just down in L.A. One time I got a flat tire. But, yeah, you just got to be ready for anything.

Q. They just knock on the door?

MIKE BRYAN: Yeah, they just knock on the door.

BOB BRYAN: Knock on the door. If you're not there... They used to call you, and you have one hour. That's usually enough time to get to the house. But now they don't call you.

Mike missed a test. He was just at breakfast. Just had an extra long breakfast.

MIKE BRYAN: Every time we're home, they're usually there, one of the days. I think we got tested 15 to 20 times last year. It's either USADA or the ITF. Yeah, you just got to be home.

Q. Can you not miss another test?

MIKE BRYAN: I think I have ‑‑ April ‑‑

BOB BRYAN: Until April he's got to be clean.

MIKE BRYAN: But I'm sure I can appeal because this body doesn't look like a 'roided‑out body.

Q. Rafa described it in Spanish as intolerable harassment, and Roger says it's a necessary evil. Where do you come down on that?

BOB BRYAN: I don't know. I think once someone gets banned for missing a few tests, then you hear the stories and they're kind of ridiculous stories, then I think we'll probably have a problem with it. If it's one of our friends that goes out, if Mike gets banned...

MIKE BRYAN: I think it has to be done, though. It's fair across the board. You don't want doping in tennis. The fans definitely don't want anyone playing that's ‑‑

BOB BRYAN: ‑‑ cheating.

MIKE BRYAN: It's good. I think we just got to get used to the strictness.

BOB BRYAN: The strictness.

Q. Was it really a flat tire?

MIKE BRYAN: I missed a couple. One of them, I think I got a flat tire. I was trying to make my way back up from L.A. One I decided to take my girlfriend to San Francisco for a day. I wasn't thinking. I didn't call my agent or the ITF.

Q. Do you feel targeted by the drug testing or is it everyone?

BOB BRYAN: It's everyone.

MIKE BRYAN: They're not coming after any one individual player. I'm pretty sure it's fair across the board.

What brought this on? There haven't been any high-profile doping scandals in tennis, so why the need for even more stringency?


Helen W said...

Roger, OTOH, supports it:

"Roger Federer, the 13-times grand-slam tournament winner who was beaten by Nadal in the final in Melbourne, is one of a handful of stars who have spoken in support of the new rules. They were necessary to prove the sport is clean, the Swiss said, but he, too, was suspicious of their demanding nature."

Craig Hickman said...

If he's suspicious of their demanding nature, then his support isn't without reservation.

Beth said...

My husband has been a competitive cyclist for 20+ years and has followed professional cycling for the same amount of time. He says this same level of testing/scrutiny takes place in cycling and that other sports are just, now, upping the bar to the level of scrutiny that an international support such as cycling has been under for some time.

Helen W said...

Beth I too am a fan of professional cycling, and watch the tour on OLN every year. Alas, the amount of doping infractions in cycling is huge compared to tennis. No one who follows cycling can forget the demise of "The Chicken", nor riders being hauled off as soon as they struggle to the top of L'Alpe de Huez in order to fail their tests.

Even with that, I don't think the rules in cycling have been as intrusive & draconian as what is now being proposed for tennis. I believe they need to strike a better balance between the rights of professional players and the need for strict testing.

Beth said...

My husband read this blog piece and said it is, indeed, as bad for cyclists. And, yes, they do have a lot more problems with doping in cycling and it gets near constant airtime during major tours (France, the Giro, Paris Roubaix, etc). I guess I see both sides of the testing issue. If you have nothing to hide then I guess you have to accept the inconvenience and realize that you are among the throngs being held to the same standard. At the same time I also see the argument that if someone is going to get past testing (through using more 'sophisticated' performance enchancers) they are going to get by no matter how often they are tested or, how unprepared they are. It's a really tough issue and I don't envy the athletes being subjected to such stringent testing nor the officials trying to straddle this issue and maintain a sense of respect for the athletes while trying to keep their sport clean.

Craig Hickman said...

Beth, what you write about cycling proves my point.

And that's why I value freedom over stringency.

Athletes are free and they need to be treated as such.

Lance Zambezi said...

Couldn't they just get GPS trackers? Carry a phone around at all times . . . That seems a lot better than having to call the ITF every ten minutes, tell them you're going to breakfast. What a pain.