Monday 23 July 2018

Serena Williams embroiled in controversy over doping test at her home

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - May 29, 2018 Serena Williams of the U.S in action during her first round match against Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova REUTERS/Christian Hartmann TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - May 29, 2018 Serena Williams of the U.S in action during her first round match against Czech Republic's Kristyna Pliskova REUTERS/Christian Hartmann TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Simon Briggs

Serena Williams has become embroiled in a controversy over a doping test at her home in Florida.

According to a report on the website Deadspin, a USADA doping control officer came to her house at 8.30am on June 14 but went away without a sample.

Rather than complying with the request, Williams is understood to have complained that she is being unfairly targeted by USADA. She had already been tested five times by the organisation in 2018, whereas most other American players had been tested once, or not at all.

A spokeswoman for Williams gave Deadspin the following statement.

"Over her 23-year career in tennis, Serena Williams has never tested positive for any illegal substance despite being tested significantly more than other professional tennis players, both male and female – in fact, four times more frequently than her peers. She has vocally supported, respected and complied with USADA testing throughout her entire career. While she willingly continues to submit to testing, there is absolutely no reason for this kind of invasive and targeted treatment."

The debate would not have reached the public domain were it not for the carelessness of Steve Simon, the head of the Women’s Tennis Association, who was overheard discussing the case on his mobile phone in a public area of San Francisco Airport.

Simon told Deadspin, "I received a text from Serena and called her back and left a message. She shared with me some concerns and questions she had about an out-of-competition drug test … I spoke with Travis [Tygart, head of USADA] and said ‘I think you should give her a call.’ And he said he would."

According to USADA, the fact that Williams did not give a sample does not make this an official “missed test”, because it was an off-the-cuff visit from the tester, and did not fall within the 60-minute "whereabouts" window that every athlete has to fill out for each day.

Shortly before her latest comeback at last month’s French Open, Williams had complained on Twitter about being tested again.

But while Williams’ frustration is understandable, it should also be pointed out that athletes returning from a long absence are often the subject of repeated drug tests, as they are seen as part of a higher-risk category than athletes in the flow of regular competition.

In 2016, the “Fancy Bears” hack of WADA data showed that Williams had used a backdated Therapeutic Use Exemption to authorise her use of prednisolone – a banned corticosteroid – during the 2015 French Open. But given that Williams was visibly affected by flu during that tournament, and prednisolone can be used as a decongestant, her case for the application looked sound.

Telegraph.co.uk

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