The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is allowed to test any athlete in the testing pool whenever it deems appropriate – this is unequivocally true. But a recent report indicates that the organization has tested Serena Williams twice as often as the next most tested Women’s Tennis Association players this year (one of which happens to be her sister, Venus), and has attempted to test her even more often.
According to a Deadspin report, on June 14, a USADA agent arrived at Williams’ Florida home when she wasn’t there, and an assistant let him in. He said he would not leave until Williams was tested, but she refused. Williams called WTA CEO Steve Simon to discuss what she believes to be unfair targeting, and he connected her to USADA CEO Travis Tygart.
Simon said it was “not uncommon” for him to receive communications from athletes regarding drug testing:
“I’m not going to say its an everyday occurrence, but it does happen. There’s always a question about the rules, and it’s a constant education process with the athletes. We try to facilitate that,” Simon told Deadspin.
USADA communications director Brad Horn said that those discussions went well, and that Williams remains in good standing with the organization. However, he confirmed that she has been tested five times out of competition this year.
Williams tested more than twice as often as other American women
No other American female player has been tested out of competition more than twice in 2018. Venus Williams has been tested twice; Coco Vandeweghe twice; Sloane Stephens once; Madison Keys once; Danielle Collins zero times; Alison Riske zero times; Bernarda Pera zero times; and Taylor Townsend zero times.
Williams has also been tested more than the top five male players.
Deadspin presented this information to Williams’ team and USADA. A spokeswoman for Williams confirmed that there is definite suspicion of targeting from her camp:
“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.”
In response to Deadspin, USADA reiterated its policy that it can test athletes whenever it deems appropriate, and Horn responded that there is no reason to believe that Williams is doping.
It’s unclear at this time, then, why she is being tested such an inordinate amount – unless an involved party is not being transparent.
Williams returned to majors competition in May after taking more than a year off to have her first child. Despite entering unseeded, she won her first three matches of the French Open before withdrawing with a pectoral injury. She is the No. 25 seed for next week’s Wimbledon tournament, and has recently been outspoken about the need for a maternity leave policy for professional players.
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