PtG Article 06.10.2005

New book: Professional tennis in doping scandal

ATP, the governing body of the men's professional tennis circuit, has covered up a major doping scandal involving seven positive doping tests, claim Swedish tennis journalists, Jonas Arnesen and Patrik Cederlund, and former tennis star, Magnus Norman, in a new book "Tennis off the record". The book also gives other examples of how professional tennis pays only lipservice to its own doping policy.

Excerpts from the book have been published in the Swedish daily newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, with details of the doping cover-up.

The case started in Spring 2003 when ATP received seven reports of positive doping tests from the Swedish company, International Doping Tests and Management. The tests had been taken between August 2002 and May 2003, and normally it would take about a year for the ATP's Anti-Doping Tribunal to reach a decision on the cases.

However, in this instance it only took ATP five weeks of investigation to arrive at a theory about the positive tests which would excuse the players in question. The theory was that ATP's own staff had caused the positive tests by handing out some vitamin supplements and nutrient substances which had been contaminated during production by an illegal substance that causes nandrolon doping.

ATP found the theory validated by the fact that 36 other doping tests had showed nandrolon values just below the permitted levels and it would be unlikely that so many players would deliberately take such a risk of being detected.

On the basis of the theory, ATP dropped the cases but according to the Swedish authors the theory was wrong:

"All leftover tablets and drinks of the type ATP claimed had been contaminated with illegal substances during production were later analyzed. Not one of them showed signs of being contaminated. However, by this stage ATP had already closed the case."

Out of the seven positive doping cases, one player, Bohdan Ulihrach, was found guilty of doping offenses but were later excused and the other six cases were buried.

Other examples of disregard for anti-doping policy

The book provides other examples of how ATP flagrantly disregards its own anti-doping policy.

For instance the case of Argentine Guillermo Coria who in 2002 was barred for seven months because he tested positive for anabolic steroids. According to ATP's anti-doping code no player who has been declared ineligible can participate in any capacity in events authorised or organised by the ATP. Yet, Coria was able to play a show match during the ATP tournament in Buenos Aires that year. Several players complained about Coria's participation but ATP decided not to act.

Another Argentine player, Guillermo Canas, was tested positive for doping during the ATP tournament in Acapulco in February 2005. Yet he was allowed to play a further nine tournaments and climb to number eight in the world rankings before a two year ban was issued in August 2005.

ITF takes over doping control

From 2006 the International Tennis Federation will take over the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme at ATP-sanctioned events.

In a press statement, ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti said that it had become evident that the Anti-Doping Programme would work more efficiently and effectively if it was centralised under one authority.

This will avoid the duplication of anti-doping efforts as well as any confusion in the minds of the players or the public.



Jonas Arnesen, Patrik Cederlund and Magnus Norman

“Tennis off the record” (In Swedish) 

2005, Sportsförlaget, Sweden