World Anti-Doping Agency is Happy with Tennis Anti-Steroid Policy

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David Howman, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), expressed his satisfaction with the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) compliance to the WADA Code. He recently told Douglas Robson of USA Today that the most effective anti-doping programs make the best use of money when determining how frequently to test athletes.

“Nobody has come up with a formula that says it’s enough,” said Howman. “You have to be economical and wise in the way that you use your money.”

By contrast, Howman wasn’t very happy with the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) compliance with the WADA code. Howman criticized basketball for dismissing the possibility that “their” sport has a steroid doping problem.

Tennis does a better job according to Howman. Francesco Ricci Bitti, who conveniently is a member of the WADA executive board, promoted tennis’ anti-doping program as one of the best examples in professional sports. He highlighted the quality of testing over the quantity of steroid tests administered.

Nonetheless, tennis has been criticized for the very low number of steroid tests given to athletes outside of competition. Over two thousand athletes were tested for steroids and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) last year. But the vast majority of urine and blood tests were taken during competition. Only twenty-one blood tests were taken out-of-competition.

Bitti admitted that ITF’s anti-doping program isn’t perfect but maintains it was adequate to make a difference.

Stuart Miller, who runs the ITF anti-doping program, agreed that it is “naive” to think they can eliminate all steroids from tennis. But, at the same time, it is unreasonable to assume that tennis has a widespread or pervasive problem with PEDs.

“To think there is no doping is tennis is naïve,” according to Miller. “At the other end of the spectrum, is it reasonable to assume that doping is endemic within tennis? We have no evidence.”

Miller points out that tennis has been increasing the number of tests for human growth hormone (hGH) and synthetic testosterone as recommended by WADA. This is something that other sports leagues, like the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) as well as the NBA, have not been eager to implement.

Few tennis players have been caught using anabolic steroids or human growth hormone. The only tennis player to have been banned for hGH was busted by Australian customs. Wayne Odesnik, an American tennis player, was caught entering the country with hGH in his possession prior to the 2010 Brisbane International.

Currently, the so-called “steroid problem” in tennis is one of suspicion. Yannick Noah, the retired former French Open champion, has been accusing Spanish athletes of doping in recent months. He recently cited the Lance Armstrong doping scandal as evidence that widespread doping in tennis may be going on undetected by the ITF. According to Noah, if Armstrong could get away with doping for so many years with the rigorous testing conducted in cycling then tennis’s less stringent testing should make it easy for tennis players to dope.

The Armstrong scandal also implicated a doping doctor that happened to have several prominent professional tennis players as clients. Luis Garcia del Moral, a Spanish physician who works at the Instituto de Medicina del Deporte in Valencia, had clients that included Sara Errani, Dinara Safina, David Ferrer and Igor Adreev.

“In tennis I’m sure there are guys who are doing it, getting away with it, and getting ahead of the testers,” American veteran James Blake said during the U.S. Open. “But I also am realistic with this much money involved, $1.9 million for the winner of the U.S. Open, people will try to find a way to get ahead.”

Robson, D. (October 18, 2012). Is tennis doing enough on doping? Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/tennis/2012/10/18/is-tennis-doing-enough-on-doping/1639911/