As the head of the ITF tennis anti-doping programme, Dr Stuart Miller leads a programme designed to catch cheats. But it’s also a programme designed to deter players from making stupid mistakes. In the second part of our interview, Miller explains why he experiences differing emotions when a player fails a test and discusses other elements of the programme.
In a situation like the case concerning Marin Cilic (who was banned for a prohibited substance that he took inadvertently) are you happy? Are you pleased to catch someone or disappointed that things got that far?
I’ll use the term frustration, because there’s a frustration that the efforts we’ve gone to provide players with the means of avoiding that have been avoided or not used. Secondly by virtue of it being an avoidable violation, we’ve wasted significant resources, and I mean significant resources, taking that possibly through not only a first instance hearing but a second appeal and that costs a lot of money. That money could have been used elsewhere. That’s why it is frustrating.
I take it you are firm believer in there being a deterrent, though?
Deterrence is a very important part of a programme; if there isn’t a deterrent then you’re limited to detection as your sole means of effectiveness of a progamme and that’s not enough. You’re trying to find it once it’s already happened while with deterrence you’re trying to stop it before it happens, hopefully. So yes, deterrence is really important. Trying to avoid avoidable cases by putting in place yet another safeguard to try to save people from themselves appears to be necessary in some cases We felt it appropriate to add in a safeguard that in the event when some is mistakenly thinking for example they have permission not to provide a test, we’re doing everything we can, even though it’s not our responsibility under the rules, to prevent them from falling foul of the rules. At some point you’ve got to say, the player needs to take responsibility. We’ll go as far as we can but at some point in time it’s the player’s responsibility, and in the case of players inadvertent use of supplements, or refusing to provide a sample, there’s a balance between the responsibility of the anti-doping organisation to provide information and minimise the chances of that happening and the player to use that information and act accordingly and professionally under the circumstances.
In a circumstances like when Novak Djokovic defended Viktor Troicki (who was banned for refusing to take a blood test), do you speak to Djokovic to explain it?
Where my responsibility has its limits is when players breach the rules of the anti-doping programme. Although the comments you refer to suggested that there was either a lack of confidence in the programme or some falsifications on behalf of some parties, there was nothing that specifically breached the rules. My response in that situation is always if you want to understand the facts as far as they have been presented on the basis of everybody’s input, not just the anti-doping authority, but the player, their coach, and anyone else, it’s there in black and white. In the case of Troicki, it’s there twice in the hearing and the CAS appeal. I encourage people to read that and make their own mind up.
The Biogenesis case in the US is still going on, reportedly with links to tennis. Are you still monitoring the case?
We’re monitoring proceedings in the US.
Are you actively investigating any players as a result of it?
Not going to comment on that.
Did the Biogenesis case take you by surprise?
There have been precedents, Balco, and similar, so the fact that there appears to be a rogue supply of prohibited substances through a type of black market is not without some kind of historical equivalent. So from that point of view, no.
Are you hopeful that the blood bags in Operacion Puerto may see the light of day, despite the original judge decision to ban them?
I think every anti-doping agency is hopeful the identity of the people who provided the blood in there will come to light. That includes Wada and the Spanish anti-doping agency downwards. It doesn’t help that there is rumour and speculation about the types of athletes that allegedly own or produce the blood in those bags. Whether it will happen or not is clearly anybody’s guess but I would argue that is in the best of interest of sport in the long term to end the speculation and come out into the public domain.
Is it stuck in the courts?
That’s my understanding – there was a decision in the case that they should be destroyed, that was appeal, and it’s pending that appeal.
Wayne Odesnik had half of his two-year ban suspended after he gave “substantial assistance”. Has that led to anyone being investigated?
The assistance that was provided satisfied the requirements of the rules, which are clearly set out in the anti-doping programme and the code – they were in effect supported by Wada because they have the right of appeal over any changes or suspensions of sanctions. The suspension of half the period of ineligibility remains just that, suspended. In the event that any of the information provided is found to be incomplete, inaccurate, incorrect – in which case the year that was suspended can be reinstated. As far as we’re concerned, at the moment there is no reason to reinstate that suspended year. In the event that there is, that’s what will happen, but at the moment there isn’t.