Drug testing in tennis increases, but not evenly for all players

by: Kamakshi Tandon | April 03, 2014

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Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Serena Williams were tested 11 or more times by the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme last year, according to figures released by the ITF.

Seven or more of the tests for Nadal and Federer were “out-of-competition,” while 4-6 were for Djokovic and Williams. The other tests were administered “in-competition.” Andy Murray, who had back surgery and did not play part of the 2013 season, was tested 8-12 times in total. Victoria Azarenka was tested at least 14 times altogether.

Juan Martin del Potro and Jelena Jankovic were not tested out of competition last year, despite finishing in the Top 10.

The figures show whether players were tested in or out of competition 1-3 times, 4-6 times, seven or more times, or not at all. Top-ranked players were generally tested more often, both in and out of competition.

Previously released figures show that testing went up last year, to 2,752 tests from 2,185 tests in 2012.

Out-of-competition blood testing increased to 449 tests from 63 in 2012, prompted by the implementation of the biological 'passport' program. Out-of-competition urine testing decreased to 144 tests from 271 tests. (See here and here.)

There were significant differences in the amount of testing players received. Dr. Stuart Miller, head of the anti-doping program, told USA Today and the Daily Telegraph that the organization may consider the amount of testing a player receives from national associations, or any other information relating to a player, when deciding whether to test.

He also pointed out that if an out-of-competition test is attempted but the player is not located, it is not shown as a test.

While any player can be selected for out-of-competition testing, Top 50 singles players and Top 10 doubles players are required to give their whereabouts so they can be found for testing, and tend to be tested most often. Three missed tests from such players in 18 months can result in a suspension.

Other observations from the figures:

—Some players now in the Top 50, like Ernests Gulbis, Tommy Robredo, Vasek Pospisil, Eugenie Bouchard, and Madison Keys, were not in the Top 50 last year and did not receive an out-of-competition test.

—Most players who were inside the Top 50 in 2013 received an out-of-competition at least once, though a few did not, including Jankovic, Marcos Baghdatis, Vavara Lepchenko, and Su-Wei Hsieh.

—Wayne Odesnik, also outside the Top 50 but who has previously served a suspension for trying to import HGH, received 1-3 tests out of competition and none in competition.

—Players from some nations seemed to be tested more than others. Three Chinese players who finished in the Top 55 the previous year—Li Na, Peng Shuai, and Zheng Jie—were tested seven or more times both for in- and out-of-competition tests. Zhang Shuai, who finished No. 52, was tested 4-6 times in competition and not tested out of competition.

—Italians Sara Errani, Roberta Vinci, Francesca Schiavone, and Andreas Seppi all received seven or more out-of-competition tests; Flavia Pennetta had 1-3 such tests while Fabio Fognini had none, but he was tested seven or more times in competition. Errani was once associated with Dr. Luis del Moral, who has been banned for doping activity in cycling, but denies working with him for that purpose.

—Among the Czechs, Tomas Berdych, Petra Kvitova, and Lucie Safarova all had seven or more in- and out-of-competition tests.

—Top Spanish and French players also frequently received seven or more out-of-competition tests. Nadal, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro, Feliciano Lopez, Carla Suarez Navarro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon, and Alize Cornet all received seven or more out-of-competition tests, with Gael Monfils and Pablo Andujar received 4-6 such tests.

—Some breakout players like Milos Raonic and Jerzy Janowicz also had seven or more tests both in and out of competition. John Isner also received seven or more in- and out-of-competition tests, on top of the six he received from USADA through the third quarter of last year.

Writing on Twitter, Andy Murray suggested he would like to see the testing done on players by both the tennis anti-doping program and national associations.

In 2012, Murray and Federer called for the amount of testing done in tennis to be increased following the rampant doping scandals in cycling.

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