Table Tennis: Off-court habit comes unstuck

A REPORT on the dangers of glue-sniffing and of passive inhaling of toxic substances has brought an immediate ban by the International Table Tennis Federation on harmful adhesives used by competitors on their bats, writes James Leigh.

The ITTF's action, which carries with it a penalty of disqualification and a minimum three months' suspension, is a response to a growing health hazard in the game. This is created by players who sit courtside, attaching rubbers to wooden blades with vulcanising fluids and other adhesives. If done immediately before competing, it significantly increases the speed of ball off bat.

Though the ban should therefore have a considerable tactical effect upon top table tennis, increasing the chances of success for defensive players who enhance the game as a spectacle, the importance is far broader than that.

'I used to tell parents there was more to life than table tennis,' David Fairholm, Director of Coaching for Scotland, said. 'I used to advise children to keep away from glue, even though that didn't help their play. We have had cases of glue sniffing in the game and there is also the danger of sitting in the company of players glueing up. There can be a cancerous side.'

Jill Parker, the former European champion who now coaches England's women and whose son Adam (9) and daughter Katy (8) play the game, said: 'I don't want my children in an environment where they could do something like that. I won't go near anyone glueing up because it makes me dizzy. I'm glad it's banned.'