The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced its decision on Wednesday afternoon to ban South African wheelchair tennis athlete, Lucas Sithole, from all forms of competition for two years, as a result of an anti-doping rule violation under Article 2.4 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme.
The two-time Grand Slam champion was charged with missing three drug tests in a 12-month period (on February 12, May 22 and June 25, 2019). Under Tennis Anti-Doping Programme rules, players are required to be available for one hour every day for out-of-competition tests. Sithole admitted to the charge and stated that family emergencies were the reasons for his unavailability.
The triple-amputee’s suspension took effect from September 30, 2019, the date on which he last competed. Sithole will be eligible to return to competition on September 30, 2021.
The ITF has also confirmed in its announcement that Sithole’s results between June 25 and September 30, 2019 are not disqualified, as there is no suggestion that his results during that period were affected by any doping practices.
Commenting on behalf of the Federation, Richard Glover, CEO of TSA, said: “We take a zero-tolerance policy towards such matters and so we fully support the ITF’s decision. That being said there is a human element to this and we acknowledge our responsibilities in this area. As such, we will be providing Lucas with a support programme during the period of his suspension.
“We are also in the process of implementing a more rigorous management structure for our high-performance athletes – including our wheelchair tennis athletes – to ensure they fully understand and adhere to all aspects of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme.”
Sithole, who at the age of 12 had a serious accident that left him a triple amputee, became the first man from Africa to win a singles US Open title of any kind when he lifted the Grand slam trophy in 2013 in New York. He continued to write his name in the history books when he won the Australian Open doubles title in 2016, partnering American David Wagner.
TSA is the governing body for tennis in South Africa and formally took over the operation of Wheelchair Tennis in South Africa on the 1 st July 2019. About Whereabouts Failures Players who are included in the ITF’s International Registered Testing Pool (IRTP) are required to provide certain specified information about their whereabouts so that they can be found for testing.
Article 2.4 of the Programme makes the following an Anti-Doping Rule Violation for such IRTP Players: Failing three times in any 12-month period (a) to file whereabouts information in accordance with Article I.3 of the International Standard for Testing and Investigations (a “Filing Failure”); and/or (b) to be available for Testing at the declared whereabouts in accordance with Article I.4 of the International Standard for Testing and Investigations (a “Missed Test”).
As set out in the above provision, the whereabouts filing requirements are set out in Article I.3 of the International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI), a copy of which is included as an appendix to the Programme. ISTI Article I.3 requires each IRTP Player to make a ‘Whereabouts Filing’ four times per year that includes various specified information about his/her whereabouts during the following quarter, including, for each day of the following quarter, (1) the full address of the place where he/she will be staying overnight; (2) the name and address of each location where he/she will train, work or conduct any other regular activity, and the usual time-frames for such activities; and (3) one specific 60-minute time slot between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. each day where he/she will be available and accessible for testing at a specific location.
ISTI Articles I.3.6 and I.4.3 provide respectively that a Filing Failure and Missed Test may be declared against a Player where (1) he/she has been duly notified that he/she has been designated for inclusion in the IRTP, of the consequent requirement to make Whereabouts filings, and of the consequences of any failure to comply with that requirement, (2) he/she has failed to comply with the requirement to make a Whereabouts Filing by the applicable deadline; (3) in the case of a second or third Filing Failure or Missed Test, that he/she was given notice of the previous Filing Failure or Missed Test, and; (4) that failure was at least negligent (which is presumed upon such failure and would have to be rebutted by the Player).