sport news Fears tennis has gone soft on drugs with stars allowed to pick their own times ... trends now

sport news Fears tennis has gone soft on drugs with stars allowed to pick their own times ... trends now
sport news Fears tennis has gone soft on drugs with stars allowed to pick their own times ... trends now

sport news Fears tennis has gone soft on drugs with stars allowed to pick their own times ... trends now

Tennis' ruling body has been accused of going soft on doping, after a Mail on Sunday investigation found the International Tennis Federation lets the world's best players book their own drug tests.

Players were invited to secure time slots for blood-doping tests before this year's Miami Open, a method anti-doping experts say makes a 'huge difference' to cheats seeking to escape detection.

Players were also given notice that blood samples would be taken before the 2019 French Open and last year's US Open. The former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) compared tennis's approach with cycling's much-criticised failure to expose Lance Armstrong's years of drug-taking.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has also been accused of inflating the number of drug tests it conducts, after this newspaper found that it had published 'misleading' data.

'I don't believe that the ITF should announce when they are going to drug test athletes,' said Luis Horta, the former head of Portugal's antidoping agency. 'It's the same thing as in the past in cycling, when they announced that they would test all athletes on the eve of the Tour de France. It's not good.'

Nicole Sapstead is the former chief executive of UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) who is now the director of the ITF's anti-doping programme. The Mail on Sunday has obtained evidence that Sapstead wrote to players informing them that they would be tested in the days prior to this year's Miami Open, which began in March.

Tennis' ruling body has been accused of going soft on doping after a Mail on Sunday investigation found the International Tennis Federation lets players book their own drug tests

Tennis' ruling body has been accused of going soft on doping after a Mail on Sunday investigation found the International Tennis Federation lets players book their own drug tests

Nicole Sapstead, director of the ITF's anti-doping programme, wrote to players informing them they would be tested in the days prior to this year's Miami Open, which began in March

Nicole Sapstead, director of the ITF's anti-doping programme, wrote to players informing them they would be tested in the days prior to this year's Miami Open, which began in March

The ITF also warned players before the 2019 French Open and the 2021 US Open that they would have to submit a blood sample as part of the ITF's athlete biological passport (ABP) programme. 

Before the US and Miami Opens, players were invited to book time slots to undergo these tests through the online 'Tennis Anti-Doping Portal'.

One message sent by Sapstead before the Miami Open read: 'Appointments to provide your ABP sample will be between 09:00 and 18:00 on each day (between 19-22nd March 2022) and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis'. This gave players as much as four days' notice of their test.

As part of the ABP, the ITF collects blood samples from players throughout the year to monitor how their blood parameters change over time. Blood doping can be detected by abnormalities in a player's biomarkers.

The ITF has also been accused of inflating the number of drug tests it conducts, it is believed

The ITF has also been accused of inflating the number of drug tests it conducts, it is believed

Athletes can blood dope by taking Erythropoietin (EPO), which increases red blood cell production, or by undergoing blood transfusions. According to the WADA code, athletes should not be warned about up-coming doping tests. The code states that 'save in exceptional and justifiable circumstances, all testing shall be No Advance Notice testing'. 

WADA did not clarify what would constitute such circumstances when asked by The Mail on Sunday.

Professor Roger Pielke is the founder of the sports governance centre at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a consultant on sports ethics to international sports bodies. Asked about players being notified of their tests, Prof Pielke said: 'It would seem to be a violation of the "spirit", if not the letter, of the WADA code. It certainly gives an impression of anti-doping theatre.'

The ITF's anti-doping programme has been run by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), an independent body, since January this year.

According to the WADA code, athletes should not be warned about up-coming doping tests

According to the WADA code, athletes should not be warned about up-coming doping tests

The ITIA said it warns players of ABP tests before some competitions because it allows them to carry out more tests. Regularly tested players are part of the ITF's registered testing pool and have to provide their location for an hour every day of the year when they can be subject to testing.

'The aim is to

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