Tennis has "bowed to pressure from its leading lights" by agreeing to introduce a biological passport program this year in "a bid to step up its anti-doping controls," according to Sam Munnery of the LONDON TIMES. The announcement was made by the Int'l Tennis Federation, which "manages and administers the sport's anti-doping programme." The tide of player opinion has "shifted towards stricter controls and the adoption of more blood-doping tests in and out of competition." Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal "have called for tennis’s governing body to do more to rid the sport of the stain of doping innuendo." In a meeting this week of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme Working Group, which comprises the ITF, ATP, WTA and Grand-Slam tournaments, there was "unanimous support for the the introduction of the passport." The passport is "an electronic document containing test results collated over time that can be used to detect changes that might indicate doping" (LONDON TIMES, 3/7).
OBTAINING A PASSPORT: In London, Eleanor Crooks reported the introduction of the passport "will be coupled with an increase in the number of blood tests." The working group "also recommended an overall increase in testing, especially out of competition." Existing funding for the program has been around $2M a year, which "all bodies have agreed to increase, with the new level to be determined by the number and type of tests carried out." ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti said, "The implementation of the Athlete Biological Passport is an important step in the evolution of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme as it provides us with a great tool in the fight against doping in our sport" (INDEPENDENT, 3/7). REUTERS' Toby Davis reported figures on the ITF website said that the governing body "carried out only 21 out-of-competition blood tests" in the professional game in '11. The Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) "carried out more than 3,314 out-of-competition blood tests in the same year" (REUTERS, 3/7).
ITF CLAIMS SUPPORT: The BBC reported world No. 1 Novak Djokovic "recently described how the number of blood tests he undergoes has declined." Djokovic said, "I wasn't tested with blood for last six, seven months. It was more regularly in last two, three years ago. I don't know the reason why they stopped it" (BBC, 3/7). XINHUA reported the ITF said that "there was unanimous support for the introduction of the passport." ATP Exec Chair & President Brad Drewett said, "The ATP has always rigorously supported the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme and believes that the move toward the Athlete Biological Passport is the appropriate step for tennis at this time" (XINHUA, 3/7).
FIFA's former advisors have criticized the governing body for "a lack of transparency over investigations into the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups," according to Martyn Ziegler of the PA. Anti-corruption campaign group Transparency Int'l has "also questioned why so few details have emerged" about the reasons for the lifetime ban imposed on former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam. FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke has defended the organization, "insisting it is down to the independent ethics committee -- which has said it is looking into the World Cup bidding -- to publicise any investigations." Transparency Int'l's senior advisor on sport Sylvia Schenk, who had worked with FIFA until cutting ties in '11, said that FIFA's credibility "was at stake." Schenk said, "We are back to square one -- we asked one and a half years ago for an independent investigation into all the allegations about the World Cup bidding, and we still do not know what is going on." FIFA last year appointed U.S. attorney Michael J. Garcia as head of the investigations arm of the ethics committee, and German Judge Hans-Joachim Eckert chairman of the adjudicatory arm. Schenk claimed that Garcia "could not be viewed as totally independent" as he is paid by FIFA. Schenk added, "We wanted an independent committee looking into the whole World Cup process -- Garcia is paid by FIFA so is he all that independent?" (PA, 3/7).
The founder of the company behind the upcoming Caribbean Premier League said that it "must be able to capture the imagination of a global audience for it to become a financial success," according to the JAMAICA OBSERVER. Verus Capital Founder Ajmal Khan said that the eight million people living in small Caribbean economies "are not enough to make the CPL a lucrative venture." Khan, who is attempting to fashion the CPL to rival the T20 leagues of India and Australia, said that Virus Capital is "targeting global partners and audiences to ensure the tournament makes money." Khan said, "The only way that this is going to be successful and be sustainable is if we can put together, basically, a global partnership, where the world will see this as a product not made for one market" (JAMAICA OBSERVER, 3/7).
National Rugby League Cronulla Sharks players have been offered automatic one-year contract extensions "as part of an incentive package to voluntarily stand down for six months," according to Massoud & Ritchie of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. Sources last night confirmed 47 past and present players across the code "are in the sights of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority." Cronulla's offer to 14 players, made on Tuesday, includes: an automatic "one-year extension on their current contracts to compensate sitting out this season." The value of the extension "would also reflect future increases in the salary cap;" automatic "remuneration of any representative payments or bonuses earned in 2012," based on the assumption those players would achieve the same honors this year; full pay while suspended; and a "waiving of all rights to sue the club and its board" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/8).
PLAYERS 'STUNNED': In Sydney, Andrew Webster wrote "Stunned Sharks players are, for now, rejecting the ultimatum from former ASADA legal counsel Richard Redman to accept a six-month suspension with full pay." Sources close to several players said that "they are angry as they feel that they are being 'blackmailed' into accepting a suspension when they have not been charged or interviewed by ASADA investigators" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/8). Also in Sydney, Paul Kent wrote, "Blame it on Trent Elkin, blame it on ignorance, blame it on the boogie, if you like, but when the Cronulla players sit down with ASADA and begin to offer their case, it will all mean squat." Under the formidable laws of the World Anti-Doping Agency, "the players are solely responsible for what they put in their body. It is not up for contest." It is now "considered a given that at least some Sharks have problems," with Paul Gallen, Ben Pomeroy and John Morris confronting Elkin after their meeting with their legal advisor, former ASADA prosecutor Richard Redman. And they "won't be able to plead ignorance" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/8).
NAVIGATING THE CRISIS: In Melbourne, Adrien Proszenko wrote, "Cronulla players and officials believe former head trainer Trent Elkin" has informed ASADA about the supplements program that was in place during his time at the NRL club. The development comes as the Sharks engaged the services of "spin doctor to the stars," renowned media consultant Sue Cato, to help them navigate through the crisis. (THE AGE, 3/8). NEWS LIMITED NETWORK's Scott Gullan wrote, Australian Football League Collingwood rugby player Dane Swan "has revealed he doesn't have a strike under the AFL's illicit drugs policy." The Brownlow medallist also denied he had a drug problem and "was perplexed why he was regularly the focus of rumour and innuendo regarding his social life" (NEWS LIMITED NETWORK, 3/7).
Chinese tennis is "in a boom period" and WTA CEO & Chair Stacey Allaster, "couldn't be happier," according to Sun Xiaochen of the CHINA DAILY. Boasting "huge market potential and government support," China has become an ideal host for prestigious tennis events and the WTA has slated five high-level tournaments in the country in '14 -- "with one more big one possibly to come." However, the sport, which draws massive participation throughout the world, "remains in its infancy here." Allaster said, "Eight or nine (including lower-level events) is not that many. We have nine tournaments in the U.S., which has a much smaller population base. I think we have seen an incredible commitment by the CTA [Chinese Tennis Association] and local government to invest in infrastructure. It gives the WTA an incredible opportunity to have the China Open as our foundation and to then build around that event with Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Hong Kong, combined with the WTA 125 (lower-tier events)" (CHINA DAILY, 3/7).