The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has pretty straightforward rules regarding drug testing for professional tennis players. Athletes are required to let the agency know their whereabouts for a one-hour period of their choosing every day, even if they aren’t competing. Test providers also reserve the right to make unannounced visits outside the one-hour window. The player may or not be at home, and if they aren’t available, it doesn’t count against them.
For Serena Williams, the rules apply. However, it would appear that she is being treated different when it comes to how often she is tested versus other tennis players. On May 21st, the powerhouse tennis star expressed her increasing awareness of her testing situation via Twitter.
And this seems to be a fair assessment. So far this year, Serena has been tested five times. Williams is ranked 183rd in the world. Kelly Bush Novak, Serena’s publicist, stated to Deadspin: “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…”
The irony of this situation is Williams was tested more than Maria Sharapova, Italian tennis player Sara Erran and Dan Evans, all of whom failed their drug tests and were temporarily banned from playing the sport. And if that wasn’t enough, the latest incident described Williams wasn’t home and the tester showed up to test her yet again. Upon realizing Williams wasn’t there, he demanded to wait for her. Another interesting tidbit is Williams just stopped breastfeeding her eight-month-old daughter. Most of the drugs on the prohibited list aren’t recommended for breastfeeding mothers. There is no protocol for the number of times an athlete can be tested but it does raise the question: is Williams being targeted Given the fact that she will probably test clean, she deserves an answer.
USADA’s response didn’t center the controversy but instead the organization spoke to the importance of their athlete’s privacy and suggested that divulging this information broke confidentiality protocol.