Friday, October 30, 2009

The ATP And Doping

Bohdan Ulihrach of Czech Republic returns the ball to Richard Gasquet of France during the first round of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, in south London, 26 June 2007...

Bohdan Ulihrach of Czech Republic returns the ball to Richard Gasquet of France during the first round of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, in south London, 26 June 2007.


Savannah is on this like (fill in your favorite simile). From Reuters, July 16, 2004:

Seven top male tennis players who tested positive for nandrolone were exonerated by the ATP on "clearly unsustainable grounds", the World Anti-Doping Agency said on Friday.

WADA said in a statement that more positives had come to light despite the ruling body of men's tennis (ATP) withdrawing contaminated electrolyte supplements which it believed were the source of the banned anabolic steroid.

Testing of the suspect electrolytes failed to show up traces of nandrolone-related products, WADA said.

"Now it is clearly established that the source of contamination is not the electrolyte, the legal analysis behind the seven cases ... is not sustainable," WADA said.

"The consequence and the problem arising from this situation is that there are now seven cases where exonerations were granted on what are now clearly unsustainable grounds and the exonerations may not be able to be revisited.

"The ATP has informed WADA that this (analytical) fingerprint continues to be found in samples collected from male tennis players," said WADA.

The ATP announced last July that players might have taken banned substances in supplements handed out by ATP trainers. It asked WADA to set up an investigation of the seven positive dope tests involving players between August 2002 and May 2003.

In its report WADA was scornful of the ATP's inconsistent disciplinary process covering the seven cases.

The allegation that an ATP-supplied electrolyte might be responsible for the positive test was made by just one of the players, the fifth charged, WADA said.

An ATP investigation "found through questioning ... that most of the 43 players with positive or elevated tests claimed (in retrospect) that they had used the electrolyte replacement product provided by trainers," WADA said.

WADA said the independent tribunals which exonerated the players made an "extraordinary series of findings" founded on two principles - shifting the onus of proof to the ATP to show it was not the source of the positive tests, and precluding the ATP from sanctioning players based on positive tests because it might have been responsible for those positives.

The name of only one of the seven players, Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic, was made public. He was banned for two years by the ATP but exonerated at a second hearing.

Under WADA's anti-doping code, which the ATP has not fully signed up to*, athletes are responsible for any substance in their bodies under the "strict liability" principle.

Briton Greg Rusedski was cleared of doping offences in March after an ATP-appointed tribunal found the ATP could have been responsible for his positive nandrolone test.

Rusedski admitted in January he had tested positive in a test taken in July 2003. The WADA review did not cover his case.

Emphasis mine.

This is what I'm talking about, people.

If the ATP wasn't responsible for the failed tests then what was? Why was only one name made public? Did anybody in the tennis media press for the other names? If not, why not? How convenient that "unsustainable grounds" would be enough cause to keep the exonerations of the other six players from being revisited?

Earlier in 2004, Marcelo Rios had this to say (translated from an article in a Chilean paper):

Rios thinks that the ATP protects Agassi of doping "I know that if nandrolona were found on Agassi, they would not disclose it. He is a very prominent, very popular player and if he were to fall, the world of tennis would fall with him. The ATP would not say it. They are such a large dependent organization that it would be a problem if Agassi or Sampras tested positive", attacked the Chilean, ex- Nº1 of the world. The Marcelo Chilean Rios, ex- Nº1 of the world, accused the organization of the ATP of never openly disclosing certified drug tests on Andre Agassi. When commenting on the situation of dopajes of the Argentinean Mariano Puerta and, specifically, of the Englishman Greg Rusedski, whom respectively tested positive of clenbuterol and nandrolona, the Chilean not only lamented the incidents but accused the ATP of favortism. In his third radial commentary since the 2 of January on the microphones of Chilean Radio, Rios directly blamed the Association of Professional Tennis players (ATP) of not wanting to surface similar cases of doping of the more famous players, focusing instead on the "lesser" players of the tour. "[We]the South Americans have discussed it repeatedly. It is a complicated subject. I do not have problem in saying it: we always said (we asked ourselves) who publicly certifies the doping tests of Agassi or Sampras ?". The Chilean left-handed person remembered a case in Australia 2002 "where there was a control and Agassi disappeared, saying that they were going to kidnap his son..."

"I would love to be able to see and certify Agassi's doping tests because now I currently have no idea who is doing the test, and who decides who gets it and who doesn't."

"I know that if they were to find nandrolona on Agassi, they wouldnt say it to anybody. It would taint his reputation and bring tennis down dramatically. ATP would not say it. It is such a large organization that it would be a problem if Agassi tested positive," he charged.

Sure, Rios could simply have been a disgruntled player jealous of Agassi's and Sampras' popularity and success and/or bitter about the back injury that would prematurely end his career at the age of 27 a few months later. But Rios doesn't actually accuse either star of doping. He simply alleges that the ATP would cover it up if either was. Now, one might think that a former No. 1 would know the ATP better than most onlookers, but I suppose his allegations against the ATP are spurious because he can't prove it.

I wonder what Guillermo Cañas is thinking right about now.


*Coincidentally, the ATP didn't fully sign up to WADA until 2006, the year Agassi retired. The WTA didn't fully sign until 2007, the year.... Nevermind.


edma1022 said...

Folks, whose laundry is more dirty? ATP or WADA?

Shall we fork over $40 (for a new book) to find out MORE laundry still to be hung out to dry?

Stay tuned. :-)

Craig Hickman said...

It's a good question, ed.

Pamela said...

The book is of no interest to me.

I'm hard pressed for the words to articulate my thoughts. You want to believe that all things are above board, you really do - but how can you? The ATP and the WTA for that matter, are a business. If anything puts their bottom line in jeopardy, they'll cover it up to protect it.

Whether it's a failed drug test, an admission of drug use or questionable marketing and scheduling of it's players - the bottom line is all that matters.

I'm sure there are bitter parties (or insiders in the know) out there wanting to come forward with knowledge but won't because their name isn't big enough.

I'm a little disgruntled with the ATP right now.

Graf_sampras said...

Craighickman' thread statement said it so clearly:

the issue really goes beyond a particular is about how the ATP and ITF pick and choose.

and that's wrong, regardless of which player it is , great or not.