Table Tennis: Glue ban poses problem for administrators

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The Independent Online
THE OFFICIALS' powers of detection will be stretched to the limit if one of the most controversial new rules in table tennis history is to have any hope of being administered effectively this weekend.

Glue will be banned for health reasons for the first time in a tournament anywhere in the world during the English junior trial finals at Hereford today and tomorrow, a 'nightmare' for the administrators.

Unless there are some unexpected sleuths in the English Table Tennis Association, or players decide to expose their fellow-competitors, it is hard to see how the dramatic, unexpected ban, initiated two weeks ago by the International Table Tennis Federation, can be monitored or implemented.

The ITTF, worried by a report by the Scottish chemist, Keith Powell, which claimed that glue-sniffing by table-tennis players has occurred in a number of countries and that the medical hazards from passive inhalation are considerable, took the unprecedented step of acting immediately and in the middle of a season.

This left national associations with the almost impossible problem of how to implement it, and the ETTA has responded by asking competitors to sign documents saying that the glueing of rubbers to the blades of bats has not taken place in the previous 24 hours. Bats which have had the rubbers recently glued impart more speed to the ball than those that have not.

'It could be a nightmare administratively and it could have to be modified,' Tony Chatwin, the ETTA deputy chairman, admitted.

Sharp ears can hear a recently glued bat and clever fingers can sometimes tell it by peeling the rubber back. However, only the most insensitive of noses could ever fail to smell the stuff if it was in the arena.

This means that if in future the ETTA decides to follow an ITTF recommendation that glueing up at tournaments is done in one area, the possibility exists of seeing officials masked against the dangers of inhalation.