Wednesday, April 2, 2014

USADA Tennis Statistics: 2013

The USADA's 2013 anti-doping statistics are now up (all tests were out-of-competition):

10 Athletes Selected 
61 Total Tests

Athlete Name
Test Count

Michael C Bryan

Robert C Bryan

Mardy S Fish

Liezel Huber

John Isner

Wayne Odesnik

Sam Querrey

Sloane Stephens

Serena J Williams

Venus E Williams

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"There are always going to be outliers"

The ITF has posted their per player anti-doping statistics for 2013. I will not be providing an analysis because I don't think it is necessary? Why do I feel this way? Well, for the very first time, the mainstream press has taken a good look at the statistics and written about them...

Douglas Robson at USA Today: "Analysis: Tennis drug-testing more stringent, but holes remain"

Ben Rumsby at The Telegraph: "Many players left out of ITF's random drug-testing programme last year"

Simon Cambers at The Tennis Space: "Anomalies abound in 2013 drug-testing figures"
This is a quantum leap from previous years.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Greetings from Miami

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"10-1,000 times more sensitive than anything else recorded..."

Matt McGrath of the BBC Reports...
"US researchers have developed a new way to detect performance-enhancing drugs that they say is 1,000 times more sensitive than current tests.
"In the laboratory, the new screen detected stimulants and steroids in minute concentrations.
"The method is inexpensive and works with existing equipment, the scientists claim.
"If validated, the test would significantly extend the time in which cheating athletes could be caught...."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Not necessarily a trend...

A very thorough piece by Doug Robson on the ITF's latest anti-doping statistics. Some of his observations sound familiar...
...Out-of-competition urine tests actually dropped 47% from 2012. Urine tests are often, but not exclusively, used to screen for prohibited substances such as the blood-booster Erythropoietin (EPO) and testosterone.

[Stuart] Miller said that the decline in urine tests was not necessarily a trend and "reflects the balance of the type of analysis that we feel we wanted to focus on in 2013."

[Don] Catlin, who heads the Catlin Consortium and is best known for uncovering the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative ring (BALCO), remained skeptical that athletes were not somehow tipped off to out-of-competition testing.

"These data are interesting but they do not provide the key data," he wrote. "Were the athletes informed when the test would take place? Of course they say 'no.' "

Thursday, February 20, 2014

No Comment

Simon Cambers interviewed Chris Kermode, the new CEO of the ATP Tour. Here's the money shot:
How big a danger is match-fixing, doping etc?Is our sport clean? Absolutely. We’ve got to make sure that we are all over this. I think it’s a messaging issue, because I don’t see it as an issue. When you actually talk to players…some of those top guys, the rivalry at the World Tour Finals this year, they’re not playing for the money, they’re so naturally competitive.
But isn’t the problem more at the lower levels, where money is scarce?
I would say that filters down. We’ve got to make sure (players get) education, players coming through, about their responsibility, what the issues are, how to avoid them, reporting any contact. We’re working with the Tennis Integrity Unit. Am I going to be focusing on making sure doping and gambling are a major priority? Yes, absolutely, because we have to ensure the sport is clean, which I wholeheartedly think it is.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Not going to comment on that."

Simon Cambers has posted Part 2 of his interview with ITF anti-doping boss Stuart Miller.

As usual, Dr. Miller sheds plenty of light on the ITF's pro-active approach to investigating potential anti-doping violations like the Biogenesis case...
The Biogenesis case in the US is still going on, reportedly with links to tennis. Are you still monitoring the case?
We’re monitoring proceedings in the US.

Are you actively investigating any players as a result of it?
Not going to comment on that.

Did the Biogenesis case take you by surprise?
There have been precedents, Balco, and similar, so the fact that there appears to be a rogue supply of prohibited substances through a type of black market is not without some kind of historical equivalent. So from that point of view, no.
That is amazing candor from Dr. Miller, no?

In Part 1 of the interview, Dr. Miller answered questions about off-testing at Grand Slam events:
I understand you now test players on their days off in grand slams. When did that start?
That’s been permitted under the rules for as long as I can remember. I can’t talk about before my time but it’s been an option for many years.

Has it been stepped up recently?
There is more, around the programme in general, not just in single events, there is more sample collection when players are not competing than there used to be.
I'm pretty sure Dr. Miller didn't actually answer the question...He also answered a question regarding the storing of samples, but his response is so convoluted and unclear that I won't bother posting it.

Once again the ITF's anti-doping unit has distinguished itself as a beacon of anti-doping prowess. Tennis should be proud.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ITF's 2013 Testing Summary

Update: Simon Cambers has posted a new interview with ITF anti-doping manager Stuart Miller on freezing and retesting samples, testing on slam off-days, and the biological passport.

Original Post:

2013 Testing Summary
A summary of testing conducted under the 2013 ITF Tennis Anti-Doping Programme is now available.

My thoughts:

The 2013 statistics (below) show both improvement (the increase in blood tests) and a big cause for concern (the decrease in out-of-competition urine tests).

1. Overall, 2013's 2752 total samples was a 26% increase from 2012 (2185 total).

2. The good news is that blood tests were way up in 2013. The 362 in-competition blood tests were a 194% increase over 2012 (124). The 449 out-of-competition blood tests were a 613% increase over 2012 (63). However, we don't know how many blood samples were for testing versus biological passport samples.

3. The troubling aspect of 2013 is the significant decrease in out-of-competition urine testing. There were 144 samples collected in 2013, representing a 47% decrease from 2012 (271). Urine sample are needed to test for EPO and synthetic testosterone. The only rational I can see for this decrease is that the ITF is betting the farm on the biological passport. I don't consider this a prudent course of action and neither does anti-doping expert Don Catlin, who last year stated that ITF would be better off  "Doubling or tripling urine tests would be of more value than starting a passport because you need such a long lead-in. You need data over four or five years."

Maybe Don Catlin and Stuart Miller need to talk.

In-Competition testing - (Urine)

Total specimensMale specimensFemale specimens

In-Competition testing - (Blood)

Total specimensMale specimensFemale specimens

Out-of-Competition testing - (Urine)

Total specimensMale specimensFemale specimens

Out-of-Competition testing - (Blood)

Total specimensMale specimensFemale specimens

Total testing (in and out of competition, for urine and blood)

Total specimensMale specimensFemale specimens

Notes: figures do not include samples collected by other Anti-Doping Organisations.
Tests per player will be posted below in due course.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Decision in the case of Manel Pérez Esteve

London, England, 4 February 2014 - The International Tennis Federation announced today that Manel Pérez Esteve has been found to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (presence of a Prohibited Substance in a player’s sample).
Mr Pérez Esteve, a 19-year-old tennis player from Spain, provided a sample on 14 October 2013 at the F35 Futures event held in El Prat, Spain. That sample was sent to the WADA-accredited laboratory in Montreal, Canada for analysis, and was found to contain terbutaline, a beta-2 agonist. Terbutaline is a Prohibited Substance under the 2013 WADA List of Prohibited Substances and Prohibited Methods, and is therefore also prohibited under the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme. Mr Pérez Esteve was therefore charged with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Programme.
Mr Pérez Esteve did not have a valid TUE for the use of terbutaline, but presented evidence that he had been prescribed terbutaline to treat a medical condition. The ITF accepted that Mr Pérez Esteve did not intend to enhance his performance through the use of terbutaline. It is a player’s strict personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his/her body, however as terbutaline is a ‘Specified Substance’ under the 2013 Prohibited List, there is discretion as to the sanction that is applied.
The ITF therefore confirmed Mr Pérez Esteve’s commission of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme, and determined that he be given a reprimand and no period of ineligibility. The ITF also determined that Mr Pérez Esteve’s results achieved at the F35 Futures Event should be disqualified.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

" of the pillars to protect the game."

Simon Cambers continues to distinguish himself as one of the few tennis journalists willing to cover anti-doping issues in the sport on a regular basis. His latest piece provides an update on biological passport implementation.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Stuart Miller: “You are always exposed to criticism..."

Christopher Clarey at the New York Times has a piece on anti-doping in tennis, featuring comments from ITF anti-doping manager Stuart Miller.

A couple of quotes from Miller:
"You are always exposed to criticism from several directions. We can’t behave solely based on that criticism, because you’d effectively end up being paralyzed. You have got to do what you think is the right thing, and you treat everybody the same..."

"The fact that two fairly high-ranked players in 2013 were sanctioned, to me, should be at least some indication that there is no discrimination whether you are ranked No. 1 or No. 1,000 in the program..."

"It’s not just about testing numbers. It’s about testing the right people at the right time, and there’s more of an emphasis on intelligent testing than there is just on testing numbers." 

My one comment on Miller's statements is that, in order to end potential doubts about "discrimination," the ITF would need to publish all anti-doping decisions regardless of the verdict. It's unfortunate that they refuse to do so.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 ITF Anti-doping Rules

Without any fanfare the ITF has posted its 2014 anti-doping programme rules. Unfortunately, they have not provided a description or comparison version that identifies the differences between the 2013 and 2014 rules.

The ITF has also published a note outlining "Players’ Rights and Responsibilities."

The one major change I've identified in the 2014 programme is section 4.6 which deals with the athlete biological passport (ABP).

4.6 ABP Testing:

4.6.1 The ITF will designate one or more person(s) to administer and manage the ABP Programme within and on behalf of the ITF (the "Athlete Passport Management Unit", or "APMU"). The ITF will also appoint suitably qualified, independent experts to form the Expert Panel for purposes of the ABP Programme.

4.6.2 The ITF will decide, in its sole discretion, which Players will be selected for ABP Testing. The ITF will  also decide, consulting as appropriate with the Expert Panel (via the APMU), on the timing of such Testing. The ITF will also coordinate as necessary with other competent Anti-Doping Organisations carrying out ABP Testing in relation to any Player(s).

4.6.3 Samples that are intended to be part of the ABP Programme will be collected, transported and  analysed in accordance with the International Standard for Testing, the International Standard for Laboratories, and the mandatory protocols set out in Annexes A to C of the ABP Guidelines.

4.6.4 The data arising from such analysis will be processed and reviewed in accordance with the ABP Guidelines to identify atypical values/profiles that warrant referral to a single expert from the Expert Panel, and thereafter (if appropriate) to a group of three experts from the Expert Panel, for consideration in accordance with Appendix D of the ABP Guidelines.

4.6.5 Where the three experts from the Expert Panel unanimously conclude that, subject to any explanation provided by the Player, the atypical value(s)/profile is inconsistent with a normal physiological condition or known pathology, and compatible with the use of a Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method, that finding (an "Adverse Passport Finding") shall be dealt with as set out in Article 7.4.
 No word on who leads the "APMU", or who has been selected to be on the "Expert Panel".

Monday, December 2, 2013

Year In Review: Loose Ends

There was a great deal of attention paid to doping in the sport this year by both players and the media, but the real story of 2013 was loose ends from the past that cast a shadow over the sport...

The first loose end emerged in February with an article by Jacquelin Magnay of the Telegraph titled "International Tennis Federation to increase testing on players linked to Dr Luis García del Moral." Magnay wrote that "anti-doping bodies remain concerned that some players may be continuing to work with Del Moral despite the warning and have therefore increased the level of testing undergone by those under suspicion." The ITF claimed to have investigated the TenisVal-Del Moral connection in 2012, but no details about that investigation have been disclosed, beyond the fact the ITF interviewed some players. It remains to be seen if the ITF stepped up testing on former clients of Dr. Del Moral.

The second loose end dominating 2013 was Wayne Odesnik. In June, Nick Harris at Sporting Intelligence published transcripts that revealed Odesnik provided the ITF with information related to both matching fixing and doping. However, to date, no anti-doping violation has been linked to information provided by Odesnik. Additionally, Odesnik was tied to the Biogenesis/doping clinic scandal that enveloped Major League Baseball. The ITF claimed they were investigating the Biogenesis situation, but, similar to the case of Del Moral, neither details nor anti-doping violations have emerged.

Also, Alex Duff of Bloomberg reported that a "former Spanish [Tennis] federation president, said in an interview in Madrid last week that “many times” tennis authorities have kept cases secret." Unfortunately, these allegations do not appear to have been investigated any further.

One loose end that 2013 resolved was provisional suspensions. The Marin Cilic decision revealed publicly for the very first time that a player could fabricate an excuse to withdraw from a tournament when they were in fact serving a provisional suspension due to an alleged anti-doping violation. Many in the tennis media seemed surprised that this could occur, which served to highlight the widespread lack of understanding about anti-doping rules.

One good news story of 2013 was the increased interest in anti-doping issues by the tennis media, especially those in the United Kingdom. Simon Cambers has continued to impress with his interviews (like this one with Don Catlin). Nick Harris's Odesnik piece was also strong and represented a rare piece of investigative journalism in tennis.

For 2014, the ITF's test distribution plan, transparency and, more importantly, the quality and rigor of their approach to investigating potential anti-doping rule violations must continue to be questioned and probed. One area of particular interest is the storing and retesting of samples. For example, it is unknown whether the ITF has retested any stored samples of former clients of Dr. Del Moral (or whether the ITF even possesses stored samples to retest). The details on how the ITF intends to analyze biological passport data is also unknown.

Thanks for your continued support,


Friday, November 22, 2013

Robin Haase

An interesting story...
'An anti-doping test carried out in 2006 revealed abnormally high levels of testosterone in Dutch tennis player Robin Haase, press reports in the Netherlands revealed on Friday.

'Haase, 26, explained in the daily Volkskrant that, after undergoing the test, he received a letter from the ATP advising him "to get a lawyer" and indicating that he would have to undergo three more tests in the following two weeks.

'However, according to Haase, the letter also indicated that "the abnormal level could very well be natural"'
My one comment is that the headline writer gets it wrong, what occurred would be classified as an Atypical Finding based on a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio (T/E ratio) screening. This is in contrast to, for example, the IRMS test that found baseball player Ryan Braun had synthetic (exogenous) testostorone in his system.

The original Haase stories (in Dutch) are here and here.