Governing body now under scrutiny

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The Independent Online

The governing body of the men's tour, the Association of Tennis Professionals, has now taken Greg Rusedski's place in the dock.

The governing body of the men's tour, the Association of Tennis Professionals, has now taken Greg Rusedski's place in the dock.

Rusedski's successful defence after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone last July has fuelled criticism of the ATP's anti-doping procedures. The World Anti-Doping Authority are in the final stages of an investigation into the cases of seven players who were let off before Rusedski tested positive.

Their samples showed the same "analytical fingerprint" as Rusedski's, but the sport's anti-doping programme tribunals dismissed the cases in the summer of 2003 after they determined that the ATP was estopped from enforcing its anti-doping rules due to the ATPs practice, halted in May 2003, of distributing nutritional supplements to players.

Yesterday, an eighth tribunal rendered a similar judgement, dismissing the charges against Rusedski using the legal principle of estoppel. "The tribunal ruling underscores the problem of nandrolone contamination that we identified last year and still face today," Mark Miles, the ATP's chief executive, said.

Last week the ATP announced the formation of a "Task Force" of current and former players, administrators and pharmaceutical scientists to address the problem. Tim Henman, the British No 1, and Andre Agassi, the former world No 1, are members of the panel, whose first meeting is scheduled for 23 March in Miami.

"On the one hand," said Miles, "it is clear that dietary and nutritional supplements pose real risks of testing positive under anti-doping rules. On the other hand, élite athletes have special dietary and nutritional needs, and often are advised to take vitamins, minerals and supplements to prevent heat exhaustion, cramping and other ailments."

Yesterday the ATP announced "an expansion" of its efforts to identify the cause of the low levels of nandrolone or its precursors in anti-doping test samples. Two new experts - Dr Peter Hemmersbach, who heads the doping analysis section at the Hormone Lab of the Aker University Hospital in Norway, and the Hon Robert J Ellicott, the former Australian Solicitor General and Attorney General - have agreed to join the ATP investigation, and the ATP will also ask Wada to name a third member of the group.

To date, the investigation has included interviews with more than 100 individuals, including players, officials and experts, along with thorough examination and analysis of all available data.

The ATP said that although there have been no new positive nandrolone samples since Rusedski's case, 16 low-level trace readings of nandrolone or its precursors, which are not doping violations, have been identified in tests during tournaments this year.