Thursday, October 29, 2009

Not So Idle Chit Chat

by Savannah

A lot has come out since I last posted about the Agassi situation. It seems that a lot people spoke out in 2003/2004 about the drug situation in men's tennis. You have to give it to tennis fans. They know how to find the dirt.

7 Players Exonerated in 2004

ATP trainers provided electrolyte supplements

Seven top male tennis players who tested positive for nandrolone were exonerated by the ATP on "clearly unsustainable grounds", the World Anti-Doping Agency said on Friday.

WADA said in a statement that more positives had come to light despite the ruling body of men's tennis (ATP) withdrawing contaminated electrolyte supplements which it believed were the source of the banned anabolic steroid.

Testing of the suspect electrolytes failed to show up traces of nandrolone-related products, WADA said.

The ATP announced last July that players might have taken banned substances in supplements handed out by ATP trainers. It asked WADA to set up an investigation of the seven positive dope tests involving players between August 2002 and May 2003.

In its report WADA was scornful of the ATP's inconsistent disciplinary process covering the seven cases.

The allegation that an ATP-supplied electrolyte might be responsible for the positive test was made by just one of the players, the fifth charged, WADA said.

An ATP investigation "found through questioning ... that most of the 43 players with positive or elevated tests claimed (in retrospect) that they had used the electrolyte replacement product provided by trainers," WADA said.

WADA said the independent tribunals which exonerated the players made an "extraordinary series of findings" founded on two principles - shifting the onus of proof to the ATP to show it was not the source of the positive tests, and precluding the ATP from sanctioning players based on positive tests because it might have been responsible for those positives.

Briton Greg Rusedski was cleared of doping offences in March after an ATP-appointed tribunal found the ATP could have been responsible for his positive nandrolone test.

Rusedski admitted in January he had tested positive in a test taken in July 2003. The WADA review did not cover his case.

It should be noted that Guillermo Canas was banned for the same thing Rusedski was given a pass on.

Circling the Wagons - It Wasn't Me

Charles Bricker posts this in defense of the ATP.

If you're upset about the way the ATP handled the Andre Agassi drug case back in 1997, don't even try to hang this one on former CEO Mark Miles.

I just got off the phone with Mark and he explained that all decisions about drug violations is the 100 percent province of an independent, ITF-appointed panel of certified experts who have no direct connection whatever with the ATP, and that neither Miles nor any other ranking ATP executive has the power to override or amend that panel's decision. In any way.

That is a fact and it was reinforced today by a statement from the ATP, which reads:

“It has always been ATP policy not to comment on anti-doping test results unless and until an anti-doping violation has occurred. Under the tennis anti-doping program it is, and has always been, an independent panel that makes a decision on whether a doping violation has been found. The ATP has always followed this rule and no executive at the ATP has therefore had the authority or ability to decide the outcome of an anti-doping matter.”
Miles, who left the ATP in 2005 after 15 years as its No. 1 official, was as candid as he felt he could be, but he is honoring retroactive commitments not to comment on specific drug cases that came up during his tenure at the men's tour.

"I can't comment on any case. I can't even confirm that there was a case involving Andre. And I'm not going to comment on Andre's book. But I can amplify. I've seen the ATP statement and the statement is true. The ATP program was set up to ensure that any decision on any case was decided by a panel, a tribunal. And there were no exceptions to that.

"I don't know if Andre says anything in his book that is incongruous with that," he said, and then made what I thought was a very interesting remark. "Panels have made decisions that have left some people scratching their heads," said Miles.

Agassi in 2003...

World number two Andre Agassi has rejected claims by Australia's Andrew Ilie that illegal drug use is rife in professional tennis.
Ilie's claims cut little ice with Agassi, a strong supporter of drug testing.

"The one thing that I'd like to stick to is what we do know," said Agassi after his victory over South Korean Lee Hyung-Taik.

"What we know is, while there's been a minimal amount of players caught over the last 10 years, we are probably the leading sport in reference to how often we test, how professional our tests are and how strict our penalties are.

"The talk of who might be or might not be taking drugs is irresponsible," said Agassi.

The Gag Rule

Bill Simon and the Agassi book.

I had no choice. Word was out. Andre Agassi had a new autobiography that was about to hit and it promised to be a barnburner. After all, if any athlete could write a riveting, what’s-it-all-about volume, it was Andre.

But just to get an advance copy, I had to (for the first time in 29 years) sign a non-divulgence (”squeal and you die”) contract; a seven-clause gag rule saying I would not reveal the contents of the curiously titled book, “Open,” until early November. I agreed, and on Aug. 17, Andre’s four-pound 437-page baby arrived.

For weeks I devoured every detail. Then I waited and waited some more.

Certainly, the book’s explosive details would be leaked in the media. After all, deep within the book, Andre offers up the most explosive confession in sports history, candidly detailing his first experience with crystal meth.

Note: There are also Spanish language sources that provide more information. When I have the translations I'll post them.

In Other News...

L'Equipe reports that Richard Gasquet has withdrawn from Bercy to focus on his upcoming hearing before the CAS on November 10.

Serena Williams will be the year end WTA Number 1. Dinara Safina's withdrawal from Doha guarantees Serena will be ranked Number 1 until the end of December.

It is never easy to watch someone unravel in front of the world. Once again I'm writing about the system and how it affects players. If anyone needs a time out it's Dinara. I can only imagine the pressure put on this young woman by the powers that be. She looked absolutely terrified to take the court the last time I saw her. There are a lot of people calling on her to fire her coach. Dinara said in the past that he is the coach she needs, the one who understands her temperament. I'm just saying.

I finally have Tennis Channel. And I can finally hear Lindsay Davenport commentate. She raked the players over the coals for playing so much this year before someone reminded her that Roadkill is the reason players like Safina made the Asian swing regardless of their physical condition. When the players have no control over their schedules bad things happen. She is honest and straight forward in her commentary. Good times.


Maru said...

here is a rough translation from the Rafa Marca news I posted on twitter:

Ask about the unexpected (surprising) statements made by André Agassi, where the American confessed using drugs: “I think it’s awful” (terrible), said Nadal, who said didn’t understand “why he confesses that right now when he’s retired; it’s a way to hurt the game that doesn’t make any sense. If back then the ATP covered Agassi and did sanction other players I think it’s disrespectful to the other players and I hope, want to believe that none of that it’s happening right now. I think we have a clean sport and I’m the first who wants (it to be that way) even when I don’t agree with the norms. The cheaters must be sanctioned and if Agassi was a cheater in his day he should have been sanctioned.”

Savannah said...

Maru thank you! This is not going away is it?

I haven't read anything from the South Americans who were hit very hard by the drug testing policies. Petr Korda and I think Wilander have been thrown under a bus though...

cp said...

Safina said her lower back is starting to fracture so she won't be playing AO. If this is true, too bad for her.

Karen said...

I bet you any money that this is not the reaction that he would have wanted. I think he felt that it would have shown how remarkable it was for him to rise from the ashes of drug addiction. Unfortunately, right thinking people do not think like this. Abominable. Right now Agassi is coming across even worse than MacKenzie Phillips. You have a beautiful wife, 2 wonderful children and you are held up as a philantropist etc., and then you go and try to get even more exposure by airing your skeletons. Steffi must be mortified. Dont these people ever think about the ones that they may be hurting

Savannah said...

CP I'm hoping her use of the word "fracture" is a translation issue and doesn't mean what we both take it to mean.

I've been hard on her but in the end it's Roadkill, and agenda's she probably doesn't subscribe to that have made her the focus of so much ire and rancor.

Athlete's know their bodies. If they need rest they need rest. It was said that all the time the Williams Women's spent away from tennis has contributed to their longevity. I'm afraid the new generation is not going to be able to do what they did and give themselves time to heal.

Savannah said...

Karen I think the embargo was designed to do just what you said. The PR machine would've controlled the leaks and had time to pimp the "from tweaker to philanthropist" thing. Now we see the ATP under tremendous pressure - no matter how they spin it the tour was in charge of drug testing back then - and unfortunately we know what has happened recently. I don't think Gasquet would've pulled out of Bercy to attend to his upcoming appeal if the Agassi revelation hadn't happened. I also think his slap on the wrist would never have happened no matter what the FFT did to help him.

This is truly a hot mess for the ATP.

Maru said...

I must *shamefully* confess that I haven't read much about the Agassi thing in spanish, most news I'm getting these days are from what twitter people write or retweet, yes I am that lazy.
That being said, I must quote this quote:

He may not be a tennis super-star, but I like this reaction from CBS columnist Ray Ratto:

“Hope it’s very therapeutic for him. Hope it causes someone else to walk away from meth, or coke, or Peruvian poisonous toad extract, or whatever else is out there now. We’re not here to kick a guy now that he’s back up, although in fairness we’ve always found honesty to be more refreshing when it doesn’t come at $31.99 a copy.“

Read more:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution No Derivatives

And I think this person is right.
He wants to sell a book, I'm sure his wife must have been in the know about what he was *revealing* and I'm sorry if I come across as mean but I do not feel bad for him, her or the ATP in general.
This was happening and those in the know must have seen it and let it pass because some of the tour stars were involved.
Is tennis a sport or a show? make sure you know what it is or what you want it to be and let the players act accordingly.

cp said...

Anyone catch the new drama queen Wozniaki? The 'I'm-in-excruciating-pain face.'

I loved Vera's face at the end when she shook her hand like 'whatever beeyoch your not that hurt, you won'

The female annoited one and her PR machine is moving fast and furious. Murray's should be back in force soon.

Helen W said...

Karen I'm with you 110%. I also suspect Agassi expected a lot of sympathy for his "coming clean." Hey, maybe if he had done it way back when he was caught, I'd have more sympathy for him. Now it just seems like more self-indulgence -- he may feel better, but what about everyone else? Do they? Do we?

And it's not just his loved ones that are hurt by this -- it's every kid who ever looked up to him and trusted him; it's every tennis fan who cheered him on, not knowing the ugly secrets. In fact it's all of us -- we all are hurt when an icon falls, in such a venal manner.

I know, I know -- I'm desperately out of fashion, actually expecting people to be honourable.

Helen W said...

From Fox sports:

Two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin said Agassi should have spoken up at the time of the positive test or kept his mouth shut.

"One should know how to be silent, but if you are so smart you should have spoken up earlier," Safin said of Agassi after reaching the quarterfinals at the St. Petersburg Open on Thursday


Kia said...

There has been so much "this changes nothing, I still love Andre" stuff on my regular tennis boards that I had to pop over to breathe & comment.

I don't really care if this doesn't change a thing for you re:AA, that is wholly your prerogative. But how this doesn't alter your perception (or in my case substantiate a lot of my beliefs re: the WTA &ATP) about of what goes on behind the scenes is beyond me.

I listen to entirely too much sports radio and once heard a man speak for the better part of 10 minutes about Barry Bonds alleged steroid use. When asked if he thought Roger Clemens & Mark McGuire were also guilty he said no, b/c they didn't seem like the type.

I just wish all of the South American ""types" who were railroaded, steamrolled and tarred forever by the rigorous & infallible tests would get heavy advances to promote books about their careers...

Savannah said...

I'm so glad I wasn't the only one who wondered how you could be on the ground writhing in pain and still manage to win the next two points.

They are working really hard to try and erase her father's telling her to throw a match aren't they?

I thought Bepa's reaction was appropriate.

vw said...

It was cramps and not even the bum leg. Her creepy father was urging her to get the paycheck. LOL

By the way, where was that heart and gut when she retired at 5-0 up in Luxembourg?

vw said...

I hope JJ takes her out tomorrow but if not, Serena or someone else will. LOL

BTW a miracle happened again- "I'm fine"

Craig Hickman said...

Maru said...

Is tennis a sport or a show?


Question of the year.

Craig Hickman said...

I have a sneaking suspicion Wozniacki is a much better actress than a tennis player.

cp said...

Craig, no power, just a retriever, she may go the way of Hingis.