Positive Changes Are Coming

by Savannah

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) made announcements on March 30 that will affect tennis in two ways: how it’s governed and how the tours will be organized.

Let’s look at organization first.

One of the problems often cited by those who are deeply into the sport is the fact that many people play at a “pro” level but rarely, if ever, make any money doing so. Some say it’s because of this that match fixing is rampant at the Challenger and Futures levels. Yes those are terms usually used to refer to the lower levels of mens tennis. In women’s tennis you have various levels based on the amount of prize money an event pays out. The ITF, in a press release, said the following:

In order to address..issues, the Board has approved the implementation in 2019 of a new ITF Transition Tour, featuring a new category of interim tournament at entry-level that will better aid the transition from junior to professional tennis and ensure a continued opportunity for players from any nation to join the player pathway. These tournaments will be held within a localised circuit structure that reduces costs and increases opportunity for players, and reduces staging costs for organisers.

Transition Tour tournaments will be created through the repositioning of the existing $15,000 (Level I) tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit that will no longer be held as part of the Pro Circuit in 2019.

Transition Tour tournaments will offer ITF Entry Points instead of ATP/WTA ranking points, with the two systems linked to ensure that the more successful players are able to use their ITF Entry Points to gain acceptance into ITF Pro Circuit tournaments.

The ITF’s proposed restructuring will radically reduce the number of professional players competing for ATP and WTA ranking points. The ITF’s extensive modeling work has led to a recommended professional player group of no more than 750 men and 750 women players. This new approach will
introduce a clearer and more effective professional pathway and ensure that prize money levels at ITF Pro Circuit events are better targeted to ensure that more players can make a living from the professional game.

Some say this is just shuffling deck chairs while others say it’ll make a somewhat chaotic process better. It’s hard to say. The ITF is giving itself, and the tours, two years to implement this new system. I think it’s a good idea. The tours have been unable to regulate themselves around the issue of Challenger/ITF events so it fell to the ITF to try and impose order. All people can offer now is opinions. 2019 will be here soon enough.

Another issue the ITF chose to address at it’s upcoming meeting has to do with the granting of Wild Cards (WC’s) when a player comes back from a drug suspension.

You have to be naïve to think current events have nothing to do with them deciding to look at putting in writing what would in any other sport be common sense. A WC is a reward for a job well done. A player can be given one if they’ve worked hard and achieved certain milestones in his or her career in terms of wins. It’s also given to a player who had achieved a high rank and due to injury or pregnancy had to take time off from the tour. It perverts the meaning of a WC when it’s given to a player coming off of a drug suspension no matter how long the suspension was for.

Needless to say the news didn’t break in the US. It was reported in Danish sports media and quoted Thomas Kønigsfeldt, one of the sixteen members of the ITF Board of Directors who is quoted as saying the following:

He said that current rules allow wildcards to be decided by tournaments without consideration to what caused the players’ absence or loss of ranking. Instead, a period of one year without wildcards should be enforced for players returning from bans for anti-doping rule violations, so that they are not viewed as being treated favorably by the tennis system.

“We need clear rules, and it is clear that this is not the case here. I have a clear sense that the ITF Board of Directors has agreed that we must do everything possible to combat doping.”

He goes on to say players and other board members feel the same way he does.
Good. I don’t understand how tennis can say it’s anti doping then turn around and reward dopers. It’s really not a good look.

At any rate the ITF seems to be stepping up and taking the sport in needed directions. Let’s see what happens going forward.

© 2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved

The Verdict Part 2

by Savannah

There’s a reason long legal documents should be read over a period of time. For a non legally trained mind the task becomes tedious – either you fall asleep or you get distracted by the latest foible of a favorite actor or singer, or immersed in a new television show.

Yes I’m copping a plea. I totally missed the tidbit of information buried in Paragraph 93 Section C of the CAS Report on one Maria Sharapova. I’m opting to post the whole of Paragraph 93.

93. In addition, the Panel notes that:
a. There had been no significantly publicized case of a Meldonium positive in
Olympic sports and no prior case at all in tennis;
b. The Player took a public position acknowledging that she took Meldonium
and that she accepted responsibility therefor, and she did so in a very public
way, calling a press conference, on her own, that brought worldwide
publicity to her case and to the use of Meldonium going forward;
c. The Panel gives no weight to the fact that the ITF later rejected her
application for a TUE to use Mildronate; that action in part precipitated her
appeal of the charges in this case, and so it could not be used as a basis to
justify a longer sanction as requested by the ITF.

Interesting isn’t it? Section C seems to say that Ms Sharapova tried to get what would be a post dated TUE for the ailments she claimed to be suffering from and the ITF wasn’t having it. It was after that rejection that the decision was taken by Sharapova and her team to appeal the ITF’s final decision.

I’ve also noticed that the CAS reached it’s decision based what can only be called bold faced lies. To the ITF Sharapova said that she failed to read the emails, the cards, or the notifications by RUSADA, her tennis federation. According to the CAS report no one tried to notify her leaving she and her agent (who was allegedly in charge of keeping her anti doping regimen up to date) in the dark. She’s now taking the position that she is a victim of an ITF vendetta aimed not only at her but all Eastern Europeans.

So where do we go from here? Despite the PR blitz by her and her fans she is still suspended and will have to serve out the remaining months of her now 15 month suspension. Will she be able to go back to using meldonium? If she does it’s my understanding that to do so would subject her to a second doping violation since the drug is still banned by WADA. Will she find a doctor to confirm her need of angina medication in the States and apply for a TUE based on his or her diagnosis of her health? Or will she compete PED free to avoid another ADRV?

There are more questions. Will the WTA fight to get her favorable draws? I think that’s a given. Will the ITF be intimidated by Sharapova’s threat to sue the organization?

There’s no doubt that the WTA still thinks of her as the face of women’s tennis. The fact that the WTA almost immediately issued a statement that basically said “order restored” while it still hasn’t let fans know where women’s tennis will be streamed in 2017? Talk about priorities.

It’s just amazing to me that an athlete, currently under suspension for a doping offense, is being treated like a queen by tennis media. Tennis, and the thousands of clean athletes who play at the pro level, deserve better.