A Daily Mail investigation reveals that the International Tennis Federation allows the best players in the world to book their own doping tests on certain occasions.
The world of tennis appears to have violated the spirit, if not the rule, of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, according to a Daily Mail investigation. This reveals that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has allowed players to organize their own doping controls for several years. In the viewfinder of journalists: Nicole Sapstead, the former director general of the British anti-doping agency (UKAD), which she left in 2021 to take over the management of the ITF’s anti-doping program, managed by the International Agency for Tennis Integrity (ITIA), an independent body.
The Daily Mail has obtained evidence that Sapstead wrote to players informing them that they would be tested in the days leading up to the Masters 1000 in Miami. Players were thus invited to reserve time slots for drug tests before the start of the tournament. Players could thus be notified up to four days in advance of their test. “Appointments to provide your ABP sample will take place between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day (between March 19 and 22, 2022) and will be assigned on a first-come, first-come basis. served”, indicates an email revealed by the Daily Mail.
The ITF accused of inflating the figures of the checks carried out
According to the Daily Mail, the ITF would have done the same before Roland Garros in 2019 and the US Open in 2022, warning players that they should submit a blood sample as part of the athlete’s biological passport. . “Except in exceptional and justifiable circumstances, no notice will be given for the collection of samples”, however specifies the WADA code, the last update of which was carried out in 2021. The aim being to not allow potential cheaters to evade detection by warning them that they will have to provide a sample. Hence the spot checks.
Accused of laxity, the ITIA defends its permissive policy by explaining that this allows it to carry out more tests. The aim is to “collect data from as many players as possible in order to have the widest possible data set”, the ITIA said in a statement sent to the Daily Mail. If the scandals are less frequent there than in other sports, tennis does not escape all suspicion, because of the opacity of the subject and the low number of controls carried out each year.
The Daily Mail rightly accuses the ITF of inflating its test figures, after finding that the international federation counts each sample taken during a check as if it were a single test each time. Jean-Pierre Verdy, former head of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD), between 2006 and 2015, describes very well in his book Doping, my war against cheatersthe balance of power behind the scenes in the world of tennis.
“Working with the Association of Professional Tennis Players (ATP) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has always been very complicated,” he confirms in his book. He tells how the AFLD drew the wrath of the ITF and Rafael Nadal for wanting to carry out unannounced checks before the Bercy tournament: “It was the only and last time that we were able to carry out unannounced checks, and targeted by us, on these major tennis tournaments in France.”