Category Archives: Performance Enhancing Drugs

Are athletes receiving fair treatment at the hands of anti-doping agencies?

Gambling is the raging subject in the tennis world today and steroids are on the back burner. I’ll get back to gambling soon enough but in light of the recent decision in the Floyd Landis case, I want to look at the process of handing out drug suspensions to athletes.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is currently 35-0 in cases brought against athletes suspected of using banned substances. In other words they’ve haven’t lost a case yet. If the athlete never wins, is the process fair?

One way to answer the question is to compare an illegal drug case in a court of law to a case brought by an anti-doping agency against an athlete. Since the USADA is based in the U.S., I’m going to use the U.S. judicial system for my example.

Let’s say a police officer finds you holding a bag of cocaine before you can flush it down the toilet or, heaven forbid, swallow it. The police officer arrests you but he trips over his drug-sniffing dog and sprains his ankle then forgets to give you the Miranda warning (“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”)

When you get to court, the judge throws the case out because the police officer forgot to read you your rights. Now let’s look at the Landis case.

Landis tested positive for an abnormally high testosterone to epitestosterone ratio after stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. Landis had given urine samples in previous stages of the Tour but the samples hadn’t tested positive for any banned substances. After Landis’ positive test, the USADA went back to those previous samples and ran more sophisticated tests which showed the presence of synthetic testosterone.

Three weeks ago, the USADA ruled against Landis and stripped him of his Tour de France title. In the decision, the USADA threw out the results of the initial positive test because the test wasn’t done correctly but accepted the second set of tests for synthetic testosterone.

Was Landis guilty of using performance enhancing drugs when he won the Tour de France? Yes, he probably was but so was the guy with the bag of cocaine. If correct procedures were not followed, the case would have been thrown out in a U.S. court of law.

Let’s look at another case involving Argentinean tennis player Guillermo Canas and the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) which is based in Switzerland.

Canas tested positive for the diuretic Rofucal in February 2005. The Association for Tennis Professionals (ATP) suspended him for two years. Canas appealed the decision to the CAS. At the CAS hearing, Canas presented witnesses to show that he had been mistakenly given a prescription that was meant for a tennis coach who’d been at the same tournament.

The CAS believed Canas’ witnesses but didn’t give Canas the maximum reduction in his suspension because he didn’t present those same witnesses at his initial hearing with the ATP. Think about that. Let’s say you were convicted of a crime but you later found evidence that exonerated you. I can’t imagine an Argentinean or Swiss court sending you back to jail because you didn’t come up with the evidence soon enough.

I’m still suspicious of Canas’ evidence and I wonder why he didn’t come up with it earlier too, but he should have gotten the maximum reduction if the CAS believed him.

Anti-doping agencies can’t possibly satisfy the laws of every country represented by the athletes it passes judgment on, but the process is currently weighed in favor of the anti-doping agencies. If an athlete’s career can be taken away, that balance needs to be adjusted to give the athlete a fairer decision.


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The grass court season is here, so is ATP fantasy tennis, and Guillermo Coria is suing someone about those steroids.

Fantasies and Grass

The grass court season started this week with London/Queen’s Club and Halle. I was exhausted from getting up at 6am on Sunday morning to watch Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play the French Open final so I didn’t have time to do picks this week. I’d better get on it though because the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season is finally here. My fantasy tennis obsession can begin!

The first tournament in the fantasy season will be Wimbledon and I’ll be posting an ATP Fantasy Tennis Guide next week to help you out but first, do as I say. Go to the ATP fantasy site, sign up, pick a team – it doesn’t matter who you pick because you can change your picks up to the beginning of Wimbledon, then click on Sub-leagues. Click on the letter T in the alphabet and find our subleague – tennisdiary.com – and click on Join This Sub-league. I send out weekly emails to sub-league members and we give a prize to our sub-league winner.

Rear View Mirror

This is where we look at my picks for the last week’s tournament. I picked four of the eight quarterfinalists at the French Open and that ain’t bad considering that half the seeds were gone by the third round. There are two bits of disturbing news left over. The first is that Tommy Haas is out until after Wimbledon. He re-injured his surgically repaired shoulder. I was beginning to really appreciate Tommy, I hope it’s not a career-ending injury.

Disturbed might describe Federer. He pulled out of Halle and that might indicate his state of mind. Losing the French Open final was a huge disappointment for him and now he has to either play the week before Wimbledon or play Wimbledon without any grass court match play. In either case, it’s not his usual preparation and that’s not a good start to his grass court season.

Speaking of Halle, Richard Gasquet lost in the first round to a qualifier named Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, a journeyman out of Pakistan with a ranking of 304. Out of the three grass court tournaments Gasquet played last year, he lost to Federer in two of them and won the other one, so this is a shocking result.

Over in London, Lleyton Hewitt is already gone and he won this tournament last year. He was beaten by Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga who’s been tearing up the minor leagues. He won three of the last four challengers he entered and beat Ivo Karlovic on grass last week in Surbiton. I saw him at the French Open in 2005 and dismissed him because he lumbered about the court but I’d better take another look.

The big matchup here is a possible semifinal meeting between Nadal and Novak Djokovic. That would be their fifth meeting this year and the season isn’t even half over. That has to be a record of some sort. Nadal won three of those previous four meetings but you know what, I’m taking Djokovic. By the way, mosey on over to the sidebar and take a vote in our poll: Can Rafael Nadal reach the finals of Wimbledon again this year? I have him at 50/50 because Andy Roddick wasn’t himself last year and Djokovic is an excellent grass court player.

If Roddick doesn’t win this thing, I’ll be disappointed. For him, not me.

Steroids

Guillermo Coria is suing Universal Nutrition of New Brunswick, New Jersey, for over $10 million dollars for putting the steroid nandrolone in one of its multivitamins. According to an AP report, Coria was taking the multivitamin in 2001 when he tested positive for the steroid. After his family had the multivitamin tested by a lab, Coria’s two year suspension was reduced to the seven months he’d already served.

In 2003, the ATP published a report titled Strengthens Practices to Combat Threat of Supplement Contamination. The paper explained that players were testing positive for nandrolone from an electrolyte replacement tablet being handed out by ATP trainers. As a result, players who tested positive avoided suspensions.

I can understand why Coria’s fellow Argentinean Guillermo Canas received a suspension. He took a prescription drug, the contents were clearly marked on the bottle, and there was a drug control officer available to him at the tournament. But I don’t see the difference between Coria’s case and the players who took the electrolyte replacement tablets. How was Coria supposed to know that nandrolone was in the multivitamin? Also, in 2001, when Coria initially tested positive, supplement companies had not yet started verifying that their products were free of banned substances.

Coria should have had his entire suspension rescinded.

APROPOS OF NOTHING DEPARTMENT

Little Jaggers

Lindsay Davenport retired from tennis so she could start a family. On Sunday she gave birth to a baby boy and named him Jagger Jonathan Leach. Okay now, you cannot name your child Jagger without knowing full well that it brings to mind one thing and only one thing: Mick Jagger. What else could it possibly mean?

Someone who watches the defunct television show JAG? Unlikely, it wasn’t that good. Someone who goes off on a jag – a drunken spree? I’m sure Lindsay didn’t mean that. Of course you can also go off on a shopping jag. If so, the little guy is well-prepared for our consumer society.

Nah, it has to be Mick and I like that. A little rocker in the family.

What the Hell is the Difference Between the ATP Race and the ATP Rankings?

If you look on the ATP rankings page, you’ll see that there are two sets of rankings: ATP Rankings and the ATP 2007 Race. After much confusion and years of wondering why anyone would care about the ATP Race, I’ve decided that no one should care about the ATP Race.

With the help of Hank Moravec, the organizer of that 6am French Open gathering and a former pro himself, I finally figured out that what ATP Race is: an opportunity to sell naming rights.

The ATP Race tracks ranking points for the current year only while the ATP Rankings track the last 12 months. By the end of the year, though, it doesn’t matter because the ATP Race points are exactly 1/5 of the ATP Rankings points so what’s the difference? One is just a multiple of the other. But it does make one more set of rankings and that’s one more opportunity to sell naming rights.

Pretty soon we’ll see one baseline sold to Nike and the other to Puma. There’ll be a big Nike swoosh at one end of the court and a big cat at the other. Kind of like the idea actually, reminds me of football fields and basketball courts.

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