Tennis anti-doping rules ‘are draconian’

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta

Richard Gasquet Tennis Drugs

Back in March, French tennis player Richard Gasquet tested positive for cocaine and was immediately suspended from the tour.

Three months later he was cleared after it emerged that the 23-year-old had inadvertently consumed the drug after kissing a woman at a nightclub.

But despite such incidents being few and far between in tennis, the ITF’s stance on the issue is extremely strict – so much so that some players are questioning whether some procedures infringe privacy laws.

It is the out-of-competition testing system, run by the World Anti-Doping Agency, that has caused the most controversy.

New world number two Andy Murray has previously expressed his dislike for extremity of the rules, branding them ‘ridiculous’.

“These new rules are so draconian that it makes it almost impossible to live a normal life,” Murray told the Times. “I got a visit at 7am one morning at my home right after I had travelled home from Australia. I woke up not really knowing where I was and suffering badly from jet lag. It seemed ridiculous to me as I’d been tested just four days earlier, straight after the match I had lost in the Australian Open.”

“The official who came to my home wanted me to produce identification to prove who I was. He insisted on watching me provide a sample, literally with my trousers round my ankles, and then insisted that I wrote down my own address, even though he was at my private home at 7am.”

Players are told to expect visits by officials at any time, 365 days a year. The International Tennis Federation’s Whereabouts Directive requires every player to complete a form stating where he or she will be for every single day of the forthcoming year.

Where will you be? An extract from the ITF Whereabouts Directive:

You are required to notify the ITF of where you will be for every day of the forthcoming year. (i.e. from January 1 to December 31 2009. On a quarterly basis, you must provide us with the following information:

– The full address of the place where you will be residing (e.g. home, hotel, etc.);
– The name and address of each location where you will train, compete, work or conduct any other regular activity (e.g. school), as well as the usual time-frames.

This Whereabouts Filing must also include one specific 60-minute time slot and specific location between 6am and 11pm every day where you will be available and accessible for testing. You are also required to provide whereabouts information for those times when you are competing, including the specific 60-min time slot and specific location where you will be available and accessible for testing.

Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal recently also expressed his dislike for the way in which the rules are enforced and hinted he thought they were bordering on the illegal. “I don’t know if from the legal point of view it’s correct.”

“To know where you are every single moment of your life, it’s crazy. Of course I want tennis to be as clean as possible, but there’s room for maneuvering. There is some leeway.”

So whilst Murray and Nadal are both agreed on keeping tennis drug-free, it is also clear that the extremity of way in which the out-of-competition testing is carried out does not go down well with many of the players.

The WADA moved to defend it’s practice earlier this year. “As the ambassadors of their sport, elite athletes know that accurate whereabouts information is crucial to ensure efficiency of the anti-doping programs which are designed to protect the integrity of their sport and to protect clean athletes.”

“Because out-of-competition tests can be conducted without notice to athletes, they are one of the most powerful means of deterrence and detection of doping and are an important step in strengthening athlete and public confidence in doping-free sport.”

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