On comeback night, Serena asked about drugs


INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The first match of the next phase of Serena Williams’ career – the one that includes a husband and baby – began Thursday night at the BNP Paribas Open.

The victory over Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, while a straight-set, 7-5, 6-3 win, had its solid moments and its rocky moments.

But the ice is broken now. And 14 months after her last match, the Australian Open women’s singles final against sister Venus, the 36-year-old is back.

The questions during her press conference were mostly the expected ones, and Williams seemed in particularly expansive form in answering them.

But one member of the credentialed media chose this night to ask Williams about the backdated therapeutic-use exemption she was granted nearly three years ago, at the 2015 French Open.

The TUE was part of the batch of documents leaked by the Fancy Bear hacker group shortly after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

Williams answered firmly, passionately about her belief in competing clean – especially now that she’s a mother, but also before that.

Listen here:

Williams said that she needed the TUE to be able to take a decongestant because without it, there was no way she would be able to play the French Open final.

She was indeed, very sick at the time – constantly hacking. The TUE was for prednisolone; the leaked document dated June 8, 2015 for a six-day exemption between June 5 and June 10.

June 8, 2015 – it should be noted – was a Monday. It’s more than likely, given the way these organizations operate, that they wouldn’t have officially issued the document over the weekend. But they may well have issued a verbal or official consent for Williams to take the medication.

At any rate, Williams used the inopportune opportunity to give a clear, strong statement about how she feels about competing clean.

Alizé Cornet nailed on “whereabouts” rule


MELBOURNE, Australia – French player Alizé Cornet says she was dope-tested some 20 times during the 2017 season.

Unfortunately, on three occasions when the doping control folks went to her home for an unannounced test, she wasn’t there.

Three strikes on the “whereabouts” rule, and you’re out. And so after the third one, in October, Cornet may be out for a while pending a hearing in March.

The ITF rushed out a press release after Cornet announced the news on her social media Wednesday.

But it provided little additional information. The ITF confirmed Cornet had failed to be available three times during the 12-month period. And it confirmed it charger her with the violation on Jan. 11, shortly before the Australian Open began.

“In accordance with the TADP rules, no further comment will be made pending determination of the case, except as may be necessary to respond to public comment by Ms. Cornet or her representatives.”

In her note, Cornet said that she missed all three test for “valuable (sic) reasons that the ITF didn’t want to hear.”

(Cornet translated “valable” to “valuable”; in fact, she meant “valid”).

In response to that, the ITF’s press release denied that Cornet’s stated reasons for missing the three testing opportunities went unheard. They wrote that the process, including “the right for the player to request an independent assessment of whether the requirements for such failures were met, was followed in all three instances.”

(They may have misinterpreted Cornet’s statement, or taken her literally. The original expression in French is more likely to mean that while the ITF technically “heard” the reasons, they didn’t accept them as valid. Her French statement also adds “for the moment” to the ITF’s stance).

The immediate consequence of this is that Cornet cannot represent France at the upcoming Fed Cup tie against Belgium at home (the Fed Cup is under the ITF umbrella). She can, however, continue to play WTA Tour events until the matter is heard.

She’s not the only no-show; Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia also won’t play.

Not the first time for Cornet

You’d think, based on her history, that Cornet would never get to the point where she’d have three strikes on the whereabouts charts.

Back in 2013, she had two strikes and talked in a TennisMag interview about feeling as though she had the “sword of Damocles” pointed at her.

“I choose the 6 a.m. morning slot every day, even during tournament periods. That way, I’m sure I’ll be in my bed,” she said. “I refresh the software every day and I try to be very rigorous about this … And yet, I already have two “no shows” hanging over me this year.”

Tennis precedent in Belgium

A failure on the “whereabouts” rule is rare. But it does happen.

The most notorious instances both involved Belgians.

Back in 2009, both Yanina Wickmayer and countryman Xavier Malisse were suspended a year by their national federation for failing the whereabouts rule. 

The case dragged on for a long time. And it got complicated. First, a Belgian court suspended the bans so they could resume competing. Then, WADA was set to appeal the suspension – wanting two years, rather than one.

Two years later, they appealed to a higher court in Belgium to have the ongoing investigation suspended. There was an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but it was never heard.

Bellucci banned 5 months for diuretic


Brazilian lefthander Thomaz Bellucci hasn’t played since September, ostensibly because of an Achilles tendon injury.

But it turns out that the former top-25 player was serving a doping suspension, and no one knew it.

And because of that, not only did Bellucci have to claim injury throughout his absence, he also will miss the Australian Open.

It was revealed in the Brazilian media Thursday (the quotes here are from the website Esportes Mais) that the 31-year-old tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide and its metabolite, chloraminophenamide, during the Bastad Open in Sweden back in July.

As a result, he was given a five-month suspension, which was only revealed Thursday through an official statement from the player.

It’s a five-month ban, beginning Sept. 1, 2017 and expiring Jan. 31, 2018.

Bellucci claims the positive test comes from a contaminated supplement. 

Hydrochlorothiazide is a diuretic often used as a masking agent, which is why it’s on the banned list.

No appeal, lawyer says

His lawyer, Pedro Fida, said the two parties agreed on Dec. 31 (the day after Bellucci’s 31st birthday) that the Brazilian wouldn’t appeal the suspension.

Fida said that the ITF was preparing a statement to be issued Friday (they like to drop on Fridays, to clear their desks off for the weekend). But he jumped ahead of the story, much like Maria Sharapova did for her positive test back in 2016., and Brit Dan Evans after his positive test for cocaine last summer.

Bellucci found out about the positive test after he had travelled to Shenzhen, China in mid-September.  

“After a long review of the facts by the ITF, the entity opted for a soft sentence of five months, the minimum possible in a case like this, which could be up to four years, having taken into account the diligence and the reputation of Thomaz, as well as all medical and scientific evidence presented, together with the unintentional consumption of the substance and the lack of performance improvement,” Fida wrote in a statement.

“The ITF warned Thomaz with this (minimum) sanction because he understood that he should have checked the origin of the multivitamin, verified whether the dispensing pharmacy complied with regulatory standards and whether it was reliable.”

Account accepted, minimum suspension imposed

As a result of the news coming out, the ITF issued a statement Thursday e-mailed at nearly 11 p.m., London time.

“Mr. Bellucci’s account of how the hydrochlorothiazide got into his system was accepted and that he bears No Significant Fault or Negligence for the violation. The Programme provides for the start date of the period of ineligibility of five months to be backdated due to the prompt admission and for delays not attributable to Mr. Bellucci,” the ITF statement reads.

“Therefore, the start of the ban is back-dated by two and a half months …  and by a further six weeks… As a result, the ban is deemed to have started on 1 September 2017, and so will expire at midnight on 31 January 2018.”

In the Esporto Mais piece, Bellucci says he would never take a diuretic, pointing out that he has trouble keeping weight on, not the reverse.

(The Brazilian is one of the heaviest sweaters on Tour; there is some evidence that hydrochlorothiazid can cause excessive sweating).

But, of course, that’s not the reason athletes in the past have misused hydrochlorothiazide; they’ve used it to cover up the use of more serious banned substances, like steroids.

Bespoke supplement to combat sweating

According to the ITF’s report on the case, a Brazilian biochemist custom-designed the supplement, one of three Bellucci took to try to combat the excessive sweating issue.

(It’s more than a wringing-wet shirt issue; the loss of vitamins and minerals through perspiration is a crusher in terms of stamina for long matches).

“I proved that it was not my fault. I never took any kind of supplement or any other substance that would favor me or that would violate the fair play rules of the sport. You could never imagine that a multivitamin made by a drug store could suffer cross-contamination in minimal doses. I have always been careful and respected the rules of the sport,” Bellucci said in the statement, per Esportes Mais

“It was precisely at a time when I was recovering from injuries and making a major transition in my career, from moving to Florida, setting up a training base there to reach my maximum potential on the circuit in the next few years.”

Per the ITF’s report, Bellucci personally brought the remaining supplement capsules from one of the prescriptions, along with another supplement he bought on Amazon, to a lab in Los Angeles for testing. 

(Kids, don’t buy your supplements on Amazon if you’re subject to dope testing.)

He also submitted hair samples in order to produce a negative test for steroids.

Interestingly, Bellucci had not disclosed any of the supplements on the standard form players fill out. Players are supposed to lost every single thing they ingest on those forms.

Bellucci told the ITF he mistakenly thought that “his daily consumption of vitamin pills” did not need to be on the form. (Kids, have you learned NOTHING from the Sharapova case?)

Nonetheless, the ITF believed that he’d taken the supplements that week in Bastad.

Interestingly, the biochemist in question had been involved in a similar case in 2016 involving another athlete (the details are redacted in the ITF’s report) who tested positive for the same reason.

 “Silent Ban”

In a letter received by the ITF dated Oct. 11, Bellucci waived “any right to challenge any part of the sample collection procedure or laboratory analysis in relation to sample number 3089061, instead accepted that the laboratory had accurately detected HCTZ and its metabolite in his sample, and therefore accepted that he had committed an anti-doping rule violation.”


But … Bellucci did not accept a “voluntary provisional suspension” when he first received the news, in order to leave the options open in terms of appealing it.

In the wake of other so-called “silent bans” where the player flat-out had to lie about an injury to explain their lengthy absences, the ITF changed its procedure.

It now announces such voluntary provisional suspensions (or mandatory suspensions) before the case itself is resolved.

That change was made for cases arising after Sept. 1, 2016.

At the time, the ITF gave this rationale:

“The reputation of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme and, consequently, of tennis, have been damaged by accusations that players have been allowed to serve bans without those bans being made public (so-called ‘silent bans’). This rule change will prevent any further similar accusations.”

Given that many players would opt to retain the right to fight a doping suspension in court, and therefore not accept a “voluntary provisional suspension”, the Bellucci case reveals that the announced change remains more cosmetic than practical.

Then again, there are so few positive tests announced that it only occasionally comes into play.

When Bellucci announced on his website that he was pulling out of Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai, he cited his ongoing Achilles tendon injury. But he had travelled to Asia and was practicing there. And he didn’t play the rest of the season.

The Brazilian’s ranking has dropped considerably in the last couple of years. He could well have finished out the season on the South American clay-court Challenger swing, near home. That’s his favorite surface. And that would have given him a shot at raising his ranking to ensure he could make the Australian Open main draw by direct entry.

Small concentration, big consequences

The concentration of hydrochlorothiazide found, 30 ng/ml, is quite small.

As a comparison, it’s almost exactly the same concentration found in the fourth test administered to American Varvara Lepchenko that was found to contain meldonium, the same substance that cost Sharapova 15 months of her career. 

Lepchenko did serve a sort of “silent ban” through the first few months of 2016. She wouldn’t discuss it when the news leaked out, either. (The ITF only announced the positive test in Sept. 2016).

The American tested positive for meldonium in a concentration of 12,630 ng/ml the first time, on Jan. 7. By the fourth time she was tested, the sample found was so small (29 ng/ml) that the ITF accepted Lepchenko’s claim that she had stopped taking it before it officially became a banned substance on Jan. 1, 2016.

Bellucci’s doubles partner not affected

Bellucci forfeits a total of €8,575 in prize money from Basted, along with 90 doubles ranking points. His doubles partner, countryman Andre Sa, did not have his points and prize-money forfeited, because the ITF considered that Sa would be able to show that “he was not implicated in Mr Bellucci’s ADRV and that their results in the doubles competition were not likely to have been affected by the ADRV.”

Bellucci will return for the South American clay-court swing, beginning with the Quito Open in Ecuador in early February.

(ADRV – Anti-Doping Rules Violation)

The full decision is here, if you want to read it.


More minor doping suspensions


The International Tennis Federation is still swimming with the guppies as far as catching drug cheats.

An appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a two-year suspension assessed to unknown 17-year-old Kazakh player Arsan Arashov, who tested positive for meldonium in June 2016.

Last week, the ITF imposed a provisional suspension on American Spencer Furman, who tested positive for D-amphetamine at the Challenger in Cary, NC in September.

It was the only pro match Furman, 20, had played all season.

He’s a sophomore at Duke University, and has no ranking.

Adrian Barbu gets provisional suspension


Who is Adrian Barbu, you ask?

Well, he’s a 34-year-old Romanian currently ranked No. 505 in doubles.

His career high of No. 265 came all the way back in 2005. He has no singles ranking; his best of No. 752 also came back in 2005.

And the ITF has announced that he has received a provisional suspension for a positive doping test.

It’s for the serious stuff: nandrolone metabolite (19-norandrosterone) and methenolone (metenolone) metabolites. 

It’s been about a year since the ITF began announcing provisional suspensions, to combat the perception that some players were serving so-called “silent bans”.

They apply only to mandatory provisional suspensions, and those that are accepted voluntarily.

Per the ITF, Barbu chose not to exercise his right to appeal the provisional suspension. As little prize money as he has earned in 2017 (about $3,500 US), hiring a lawyer seems impractical.

The suspension went into effect Oct. 22, pending a full hearing which likely would determine the length of the official suspension.

Challenger level led to dope testing

Barbu’s positive sample came on Aug. 16, 2017, at the Challenger in Meerbusch, Germany.

At that tournament, he was given a solid by his much higher-ranked countryman Florin Mergea, as they got direct entry into the draw.

They lost in the first round.

Mergea is ranked in the top 50 on the ATP Tour in doubles, and was in the top 10 just two years ago.

He also partnered his countryman for a series of four Futures events in Romania over the summer. They won two and reached another final, which allowed Barbu to raise his ranking from outside the top 800.

Barbu would have to forfeit about $1,200 in earnings and, more importantly, 28 precious ATP Tour ranking points. That would drop him out of the top 600, assuming it’s an issue on the back end of the potential suspension.

The announcement continues the ITF’s trend of catching only guppies in the professional tennis pond. But it does offer a window into where the players are being tested.

Barbu played 10 Futures events between May and early August. And nothing positive came up, assuming there was even any drug testing going on. But in his first tournament at the Challenger level, the Romanian got dinged.

He had basically been retired for more than a decade. Between July, 2006 and this past May, Barbu had played just one Futures event – all the way back in 2011.

Marino comeback delayed indefinitely


SAGUENAY, Québec – Canadian Rebecca Marino was all ready to start the second chapter of her tennis career.

She traveled to Montreal from her home in Vancouver, practiced for a few days, and made the five-hour drive to Saguenay Friday.

The plan was to arrive at the $60,000 ITF Pro Circuit tournament there before the 6 p.m. deadline to sign in for the qualifying and prepare for a first-round match on Saturday.

But the 26-year-old forgot one detail.

It was a crucial, significant detail.

Marino never told the International Tennis Federation, the Canadian anti-doping program and Tennis Canada that she was coming back to play. In fact, she didn’t notify them at all.

And that means Marino can’t play – for at least six months.

Retiring easier than un-retiring

The official retirement form is filed with the WTA. It’s a simple form – eight lines including name, last tournament played, official retirement date, e-mail and so on.

The retirement then is on-passed to the ITF, which runs the anti-doping program. And then the player is placed on the federation’s retirement list.

It’s not mandatory. But by not making it official, players subject themselves to all of the restrictions and rules – and tests – of the anti-doping program.

Marino was added to the list, effective Feb. 20, 2013.  


If a player wants to “un-retire”, they have to reverse the process. And that includes alerting all of the proper authorities.

The ITF spells out the criteria for a player returning from retirement. And there needs to be six months of active duty in the anti-doping program.

The reinstatement form isn’t that much more complex than the retirement form.

The rules for reinstatement are fairly clearly spelled out.

Marino can appeal it. But the only stated reason for waiving the six-month period is “where the strict application of that requirement would be manifestly unfair to a Player,” per the ITF rules.

It doesn’t spell out what it considers “manifestly unfair”. But in other areas, such as provisional doping suspensions, it indicates that such exceptions are rare.

No exceptions – not even a former No. 1

The reasons for that pre-return testing period are obvious, and so need not be stated here.

It’s a rule that got retired American player Andy Roddick a few years ago, when he wanted to play doubles with his great friend Mardy Fish to help him say goodbye to pro tennis at the US Open.

As it happens, Roddick officially retired four days before Marino did, on Feb. 16, 2013. In his case, a three-month period on the anti-doping program was required, and there wasn’t enough time.

Eventually, Roddick did apply for reinstatement, which became effective July 16, 2015.

Why Marino didn’t know about this or didn’t make sure she completed whatever paperwork was required is a question mark. Tennis Canada would not make her available to answer a few questions, not even on site. 

The Vancouver native only began training again with an eye towards coming back to the game at the beginning of September. Even had she looked into all the details on the very first day she stepped on the court for real, she still would have been more than four months short.

Tennis.Life had contacted both the ITF and the WTA Tour this morning just to ensure that Marino had, indeed, completed the reinstatement process (sometimes you have an intuition …).

But with the WTA Tour having basically shifted operations to Singapore for the Tour finals, no immediate response was forthcoming. As for the ITF, well, it was … Friday afternoon. If either provides additional information, we’ll update the story.

Here’s the ITF’s 2018 Prohibited List


The International Tennis Federation has released the list of prohibited substances for 2018.

The changes go into effect as of Jan. 1, 2018

Says the ITF:

“All players are responsible for acquainting themselves, and ensuring that each Person from whom they take advice (including medical personnel) is acquainted, with all of the requirements of the Programme, including knowing what constitutes an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under the Programme and what substances and methods are prohibited, and ensuring that anything they ingest or use, as well as any medical treatment they receive, does not give rise to an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.”

Click here to see the full list.

More crucial of course, is the document that lists the changes from the 2017 list to next year’s list.

That’s here.

Here are a few highlights.

Alcohol no longer prohibited

“After careful consideration and extensive consultation, Alcohol was excluded from the Prohibited List. The intent of this change is not to compromise the integrity or safety of any sport where alcohol use is a concern, but rather to endorse a different means of enforcing bans on alcohol use in these sports. The four International Federations (IF) affected by this change have been alerted sufficiently in advance in order to amend their rules and to put in place protocols to test for alcohol use and appropriately sanction athletes who do not abide by the rules of their sport,” the ITF writes.

“Control of the process will allow IF more flexibility in applying rules or thresholds as they see fit. The National Anti-Doping Organizations are no longer obliged to conduct tests but may assist IF and National Federations where appropriate.”

Monitored List changes

Two substances that had been on the list of monitored substances (as meldonium was in 2016) have been removed “because the required information on prevalence was obtained.

Those are Mitragynine and telmisartan (brand name Micardis, typically used to treat high blood pressure).

Two more were added, “to evaluate misuse in sport:  2-ethylsulfanyl-1H-benzimidazole (bemitil) in- and out-of-competition and Hydrocodone in-competition.  

Bemitil (also known as Metaprot and AntiHot) appears to be another of those substances that got on the watch list because of its extensive use by Russian and East European athletes. It was first developed in the 1970s. 

According to this site, its main purpose is “increasing the physical and mental performance in people exposed to stressful conditions, and accelerating the recovery process after physical exertion. That makes it useful for athletes, especially for bodybuilders and runners. What is important is that Bemitil can be taken by healthy individuals.”

It’s available at the “Dr. Doping” site, among many other sites, which probably doesn’t help its case.

As for hydrocodone, an addictive pain killer, it is a nearly exclusively American product. The statistics a few years ago were that Americans consume 99 per cent of the hydrocodone produced. It’s the opioid contained in Vicodin.

For now, that doesn’t mean either of these substances are banned. They are just being monitored.

Removal of Glycerol

In consideration of the information published in scientific articles since 2012 that particularly addresses the ability of glycerol to influence the athlete‘s plasma volume and parameters of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), the magnitude of glycerol-derived effects is regarded as minimal. Therefore, glycerol has been removed from the Prohibited List.

Changes on the cannabis side

The category Cannabimimetics, e.g. “Spice, JWH-018, JWH-073, HU210” was changed to “synthetic cannabinoids, e.g. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabimimetics”. The synthetic cannabinoids are one of the main classes of novel psychoactive substances that have constantly emerging new drugs and changing availability. The previous list of examples continues to be prohibited, but are currently used less commonly. “Other cannabimimetics” replaced these examples.

• Cannabidiol is no longer prohibited. Synthetic cannabidiol is not a cannabimimetic; however, cannabidiol extracted from cannabis plants may also contain varying concentrations of THC, which remains a prohibited substance.

One-year suspension for Dan Evans


The International Tennis Federation has finally ruled on the length of the suspension for British player Dan Evans.

Evans, 27, will serve a one-year suspension, backdated to April 24, 2017.

A urine sample the British player provided on that date at the Barcelona Open was found to contain cocaine and its metabolite.

Normally, we probably wouldn’t have even heard of this before today, when all of the protocols and the process have been completed. (See the case of Dimitar Kutrovsky below, which took two years to navigate the system)

But Evans got out front of the case, much like Maria Sharapova did when she announced in March, 2016 that she had tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open that year.

Evans was charged with the anti-doping rule violation on June 16. He read out a statement at a nearby hotel during the Queen’s Club tournament on June 22, a few weeks before Wimbledon, in which he admitted he had failed a doping test.

Evans explains

According to the decision, Evans admitted he ingested a small amount of cocaine on April 20, while out of competition. Evans then put the leftover first in his pocket, and then in a pocket of his laundry bag. He got rid of it the next day.

The facts of the case worked in Evans’ favour, downgrading a potential four-year suspension to one year.

Except … In that same laundry bag pocket, he stored some medication that he was legally allowed to take. He took those pills for five days. And on the fifth day, he tested positive for cocaine and its metabolite. 

His expert testified, and the ITF’s expert agreed, that the small amount he tested positive for had to have been taken “no more than 24 hours” before his test, “an  amount inconsistent with knowing ingestion and  consistent instead with inadvertent  contamination.”

In other words, Evans didn’t come up with a positive test because he took cocaine April 20. He tested positive because his legal medication had been stored with the leftover cocaine, and thus contaminated. So, in disposing of the remainder of the cocaine and then taking his pills on that April 24 test day, he ended up with a positive test.

The entire decision is here, if you want to read more.

From four years, to two, to one

The anti-doping rules state that a positive test “shall not be considered intentional “if the Substance is not a Specified Substance and the Player can establish that it was Used Out‐of-Competition in a context unrelated to sport performance.”

Evans could not establish that he bore “no Fault or Negligence”, because the evidence was that he was, well, sloppy. But they did allow that he “bore no Significant Fault or Negligence”, which allowed for a discretionary reduction of the two-year initial period by up to 12 months.

The ITF determined that for several reasons, a 12-month reduction was “within the range of reasonable outcomes”. Those reasons included “the time and expenses saved by reaching an agreed outcome rather than having a disputed hearing,” and Evans’s “prompt admission” of his transgression.

He can return on April 24, 2018. 

Evans forfeits more than $120,000 in prize money and 95 ranking points earned in Barcelona and afterwards,  

Kutrovsky gets two years

In another decision, the ITF imposed a two-year suspension on Bulgarian player Dimitar Kutrovsky.

(ATP file shot)

It’s a case that ran more to form in terms of procedure, as Kutrovsky’s positive test occurred almost exactly two years ago, at the Tiburon Challenger on Sept. 28, 2015.

Kutrovsky’s sample contained D-methamphetamine, which was on the WADA list as a stimulant.

He was charged November 4, and provisionally spended from Nov. 14, 2015. It was his second violation; Kutrovsky had already served a 15-month ban after testing positive for methylhexaneamine back in 2012.

Since Kutrovsky’s suspension is backdated, he has served nearly all of it. Now 30, he will be eligible to return at midnight on Nov. 13, 2017.

At this point, it seems fairly moot. Kutrovsky, who was a standout collegiate player at the University of Texas and also represented Bulgaria in Davis Cup, announced his retirement in Jan. 2016 – less than two months after he was suspended. Long established in Austin, Texas, he is in his second season as an assistant coach with the University of Texas at San Antonio’s men’s program.

“No Significant Fault or Negligence”

It’s interesting in light of the emphasis put by Maria Sharapova and her representatives relative to her own suspension that in both these cases, the ITF wrote in the decision that the player bore “No Significant Fault or Negligence for the violation.” It puts the exact significance of that terminology into context.

The fruit-flavoured tobacco Kutrovsky smoked was contaminated, costing him two years of his career)

In Kutrovsky’s case, he said the positive test came from smoking shisha (a fruit-flavored tobacco) through water pipes (also known as hookah pipes) at two bars in Sofia, Bulgaria on the night of Sept. 20.

He provided evidence to support his contention that the pipes were contaminated with D‐methamphetamine.

Had it been his first offence, Kutrovsky would have gotten a year’s suspension. Because it was his second, that was increased to two years. He also forfeited about $4,500 in prize money and 37 singles ranking points (and five doubles ranking points).

His best singles ranking of No. 293 came earlier in 2015, in May.

That decision is here, if you want to read more.

Errani suspended 2 months for positive test


TORONTO – The report first surfaced in Italy, in the Corriere della Sera.

And the International Tennis Federation confirmed later Monday that Sara Errani of Italy, 30, failed a doping test earlier this year.

She will be suspended for a period of two months, backdated to Thursday, Aug. 3. Errani, who continued to play through this – almost every week, in fact – can appeal.

She was in Washington, D.C. last week, losing in the second round. Just a day before the suspension officially took effect, she was around the grounds at the Citi Open. Tennis.Life spotted her in the players’ lounge, playing cards with her team, as if none of this was hanging over her head.

Long hearing with testimony

The hearing, which lasted 8 1/2 hours, took place on July 19 in London. Both Errani’s parents and her brother David appeared to testify. The independent tribunal found that she had committed an anti-doping rule violation under Article 2.1

The substance was reported to be letrozole, which is an aromatase inhibitor. The concentration was 65 ng/mL

The sample was provided Feb. 16, in an out-of-competition test. She was charged on April 18 and according to the ITF, admitted that she had taken it. She did not have a therapeutic-use exemption for the drug, which is generally used to treat breast cancer in post-menopausal women (neither of which seems to apply to Errani).

This was the first positive doping test of Errani’s career. She has had 23 urine tests since January, 2014, and 21 blood tests since 2012. All were negative.

Banned since 2001

Years ago, WADA found evidence that body builders, in particular, were using it to help build lean muscle mass.

The substance has been banned for men since 2001 and for everyone since 2005. The ITF has found no evidence that it “would enhance the performance of an elite level tennis playe.

Her results from Feb. 16 through June 7 (the date of another test, which was negative) are disqualified, and she forfeits both the prize money and ranking points earned in that period.

That’s a total of 373 points. Errani, whose career-high singles ranking of No. 5 came in 2013, has found her ranking dipping outside the top 100 this season.

With the forfeiture of those ranking points (which comprise nearly 60 per cent of the total points she has on the computer at the moment), it will drop to outside the top 200.

And yes – that’s nearly four months without a doping test, during which time Errani played 10 tournaments. That’s just poor.

Errani retired at the Australian Open with a leg injury and after playing Fed Cup (she lost both her matches), returned to her parents home in Italy from Feb. 11-12 through to Feb. 28. That’s where the out-of-competition test took place.

Mother battling cancer

During the hearing, Errani’s attorney posited that the Errani “more likely than not”, the player ingested the banned substance by accidentally consuming the anti-cancer medication taken by her mother, a product called “Femara”. 

Fulvia Errani has been battling cancer since 2005, and has had two surgeries and two relapses, the most recent in 2012. Mrs. Errani has been taking Femara (the commercial name for letrozole) since 2012.

Errani doesn’t live with her parents; she is usually in Spain (her coach is Spanish), the U.S., or on the road. She did move back to Italy on a permanent basis last November.

The testimony was that Mrs. Errani keeps the medication on a worktop space in her kitchen, so she wouldn’t forget to take it. She was making tortellini broth on the day in question – Feb. 14 or 15 – and testified as to how in the past, she has accidentally dropped pills onto the counter or the floor in the kitchen.

She testified that on occasion, she had accidentally pushed two pills out of the dispenser rather than one, and created an obvious risk of contamination by having the medication so close to the food she was preparing.

Mrs. Errani said she didn’t tell her daughter she was still taking the medication.

Among the medicines Errani said she was taking were homeopathic products to treat a case of mononucleosis. Those were tested, and none came up positive for the letrozole.

The testimony of Dr. Christiane Ayotte from the Montreal WADA lab was that it wasn’t possible to determine from the level of concentration of the product whether it was indicative of “deliberate use”. She couldn’t conclude for certain that the testimony of Errani’s mother was not credible.

Light degree of fault

The tribunal ruled that the evidence provided by Errani passed the “threshold” test for inadvertent ingestion – but only just.

Here’s the entire report on the hearing. It doesn’t appear as though Errani’s lawyers quite grasped what the criteria were in terms of the defense of this case, to get the lightest suspension possible. They seemed to use the “throw everything up on the wall and see what sticks” defence, while the ITF clearly states that a specific theory about how the substance got into a player’s system must be laid out.

The “no fault or negligence” plea was rejected on the basis that Mrs. Errani’s medication was in close proximity to the food preparation area and even though Errani might not have known what it was, she should have “identified and addressed” the issue herself. In blaming the mother, the fact that Mrs. Errani is a pharmacist and “should have realized the dangers involved”, made that a non-starter.

The tribunal did accept the threshold of “no significant fault.” Within that, there are three levels, the least significant of them being “Light degree of fault”. That carries a suspension of zero to eight months, with a standard ban four months.

Errani’s unblemished doping test record, and her evidence that she had been meticulous in complying with the anti-doing program, led the tribunal to assess that her degree of fault was at the lowest end of the scale – i.e., two months.

Brit Evans announces positive cocaine test (updated)


When Dan Evans, the No. 50 player on the ATP Tour and the No. 3 Brit behind Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund, announced a press conference for Friday afternoon, the first thought was that he was pulling out of Wimbledon.

That’s not normally grist for a full press conference. But a week before the big event, in London, it made sense. He had already pulled out of Queen’s Club this week and next week’s tournament in Eastbourne, allegedly due to injury.

But Evans had far bigger news to announce. 

He was found positive for cocaine during an anti-doping test back in April, at the Barcelona ATP Tour event.

He read from a statement at the Novotel Hammersmith, a hotel near where the Queen’s Club tournament is going on this week (via the Daily Mail)

‘This is a very difficult day for me and I wanted to come here in person and tell you face-to-face I was notified a few days ago that I failed a drugs test in April, where I tested positive for cocaine.

“It is really important that you know this was taken out of competition and the context completely unrelated to tennis. I made a mistake and I must face up to it. And I do not condone for one second to anyone that this was acceptable behaviour. I have let a lot of people down – my family, my coach, my team, sponsors, British tennis and my fans.

“I can only deeply apologize from the bottom of my heart. It is a sad and humbling experience. I hope you understand I will not be taking any questions and I thank you for your support of my career to date.”

Here is the statement from the ITF:


So Evans is only suspended as of Monday – which may well have been when the ITF planned to announce it. But, like Maria Sharapova before him, the Brit decided to get ahead of the curve and announce it himself.

Evans is only the second well-known player to test positive for cocaine and get the book thrown at him. He follows in the infamous tracks of Martina Hingis, the former No. 1 who, a year into a comeback as a singles player in 2007, also announced a positive test for a small amount of the illegal substance. The test occurred, as it happened, during Wimbledon. She was issued a two-year ban.

That seems to be the standard time frame. So it’s likely what Evans is looking at.

France’s Richard Gasquet failed a test for cocaine in 2009. But he was able to convince the independent tribunal of the “unique circumstances” (it’s a good story) and ended up being suspended just 2 1/2 months.

Hingis insisted she was innocent.

“I have tested positive but I have never taken drugs and I feel 100 per cent innocent. The reason I have come out with this is because I do not want to have a fight with anti-doping authorities,” she said at the time. “Because of my age and my health problems I have also decided to retire from professional tennis. … I have no desire to spend the next seven years fighting doping officials. I’m frustrated and angry. Accusations such as these don’t provide me with the motivation to continue.”

Hingis, of course, returned and later became No. 1 in doubles.

Evans did not deny it. And he does have some history

Early patterns changed – until …

Nearly a decade ago, he and fellow Brit Daniel Smethurst were caught out partying at a club at 3 a.m., the night (morning?) before their junior doubles match at Wimbledon. The censure wasn’t all that serious – a four-month suspension of his funding from the British Lawn Tennis Association. Although that was a record. It probably wasn’t the smartest move to hang at a club in the centre of Wimbledon village – where the population of tennis people swells to gigantic proportions during the Championships, and where he was sure to be seen by someone.

Then again, Evans made plenty of bonehead moves in his youth. But after years of seeming not to take his tennis seriously enough, he has come on and reached a career best singles ranking of No. 41 back in March.

The 27-year-old reached the fourth round at the Australian Open after reaching the final of the Sydney tuneup event the week before. Since then, he has won more than one match at an ATP Tour-level event only once.

Ironically, that came in Barcelona, where he failed the doping test.