June 12, 2024

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Brooksby suspension for whereabouts infractions: 18 months

Jenson Brooksby’s provisional suspension for three infractions of the “whereabouts” rule has gone under the radar, because the young American has undergone surgery and has been out of action anyway.

But on Tuesday, the ITIA handed down his final suspension: 18 months.

Brooksby has 21 days to appeal it to the Court of Arbitration for sport.

The players must give the ITIA an hour every day when they know they will be in a certain location, in case the drug testers want to show up announced.

They are allowed two misses. Once there is a third, it’s an automatic infraction.

Infraction of the “whereabouts rule” does not mean the players has tested positive for any banned substance.

The independant tribunal met on Oct. 10 in London, with Brooksby testifying as well as the doping control officer who was involved in the second missed test.

That was the one disputed by Brooksby and his representatives; he only needed to gain favour on one to have the entire suspension dismissed. According to the ITIA, Brooksby did not dispute the first and third missed tests.

Brooksby’s original contention on that second test was that he was indeed in his hotel, at the time and place specified.

Pending a gander at the full report, it appears the independant tribunal did not buy his version of events.

All three missed meetings occurred in the period between April 2022 and April 2023. The maximum suspension for this is two years.

“All reasonable steps to locate the player”

The tribunal found that Brooksby had a high degree of fault for the missed test, that the doping officer “took all reasonable steps to locate the player” and the player “was negligent by not making themself available for testing during the identified time slot.”

Later Tuesday, Brooksby’s Instagram post clarified the situation. Until the day of the test, the room he was staying in (and presumably paying for) was in his physio’s name (he writes the ATP Tour didn’t get him a [comped] room until that day). The hotel desk told the doping control officer he hadn’t checked in yet, which was technically true.

In the end, the officer called his cell phone a few minutes before the end of the window. But Brooksby had his phone on … silent.

It’s unclear why Brooksby didn’t just put that room in his own name, even though he said he asked the front desk to add his name to it.

The suspension is backdated to July 5, 2023, when Brooksby was advised of the infraction and chose to take the voluntary provisional suspension while he was out of action. But the 18-month timeframe means that the 2024 season will be a complete washout; the suspension will expire on Jan. 4, 2025.

Full report of finding

Howard Jacobs, the same lawyer who represented Marin Cilic in the past and currently represents Simona Halep in her quest for a reduced suspension with the CAS, is representing Brooksby.

(If you want to read the full report, click here)

A few notables:

-The officer’s duty is to identify themself at the hotel reception, specifically not ask for the player’s room number but ask the receptionist to call the player’s room, and have the player speak directly to the receptionist before the officer is in contact. They should also call every 10-15 minutes during that time slot. As well, the player’s mobile phone should only be called in the last five minutes of the time slot (which appears to have happened in this case).

-Brooksby testified that he didn’t really read the ITIA letter and documentation in any detail, and had never logged into the system to update his whereabouts, as he left his “anti-doping obligations” mostly to his agent. He also didn’t attend the seminars or other informational sessions.

-The first missed test came when the officer called Brooksby, and eventually reached his agent. His original location was a court where he regularly practiced, but he “had changed his training location at the last minute and forgotten to update his whereabouts”. He said he “assumed his coach would have communicated the change in location to the agent”. But it didn’t happen.

The third missed test came in early February. Brooksby was to be in Dallas for his whereabouts. But Brooksby had fired his long time coach, and flew to Los Angeles to interview another coach. He was supposed to return to Dallas that evening, but “changed his mind”. He told his agent, he testified, but the information wasn’t updated.

The contentious second test

-For the second test, the doping control officer arrived at the hotel at 6 a.m. – which was the start of the window. He told the hearing the staff understood the request, and even contacted the manager to assist. The officer was told that Brooksby hadn’t checked in yet and wasn’t there – that he was supposed to check in later, because the first night of his registered stay was that night. The manager even showed them the information in their reservation system, which the officer (a man with 25 years’ experience) said no hotel had ever done. There didn’t appear to have been a “call every 10-15 minutes” to the room, as the guidelines indicate, because there was no evidence that Brooksby was even there.

-When (after getting no response to their original letter notifying him of the missed test) Brooksby responded to a letter saying he could request an administrative review, he did respond. In that review request, Brooksby said they missed it because “they didn’t look to see who my roommate was. I was rooming with my physio, and the room was under his name. We did an external booking and he used his (points) status to get a better deal.” In other words, they got a better rate booking outside the ATP system. The physio booked two rooms with his status, one for the coach, and another for the two of them, before Brooksby’s ATP reservation kicked in. Because they already had a reservation for Brooksby for later in the week, the hotel cancelled the former reservation. When he checked in, the physio didn’t ask them to add Brooksby’s name. He could have, but it “didn’t occur to him”. He told Brooksby’s agent of the change 4-5 days before the missed test.

-During the hearing, even though Brooksby wrote on social media he had given the front desk his passport, he told the panel the opposite – that “he was told it was not needed”. When he lost his key and went to the front desk to get a new one, he testified that he asked to have his name added to the reservation, which the staff told him could not be done electronically. So they “wrote it on a piece of paper that was left on the desk”. Brooksby testified (the report notes this is the first time in the process he had mentioned this despite having been asked on several occasions to provide details) that he told them this was very important, in case the dope testers came to call. Of course, there are multiple front-desk employees and multiple shift changes every day, so that was not exactly diligent, in the panel’s consideration.

-Brooksby contends that the fact that his room was identified as a “twin” instead of a “king” meant the officer should have … asked more questions. But the Tribunal found that since the officer was told the player had not yet checked in, the officer had no obligation to make further enquiries.

Ultimately, the tribunal found that Brooksby’s “degree of fault” was high.

Brooksby on the shelf anyway

Brooksby had surgery on both his wrists in May.

During the suspension period, Brooksby cannot even show his face (never mind play or coach) at any event sanctioned by ITIA members: the ATP, WTA, ITF and all four Grand Slams.

Brooksby has been “around” tennis events in recent months, although not at the events.

Before the US Open, he appeared at the “Taste of Tennis” event in New York.

At the end of September, before going to London for his hearing, he was at a Little Mo kids’ event in Florida.

Halep appeals suspension to CAS

In other news, Simona Halep, whose turn at the tribunal resulted in a four-year suspension, has officially appealed to the ultimate arbiter in her case, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

According to the CAS release, Halep asks that the decision be set aside and that her sanction be reduced.

The arbitration proceedings have begun, with the parties exchanging written submissions. The panel of arbitrators that will decide the case is being constituted, per the CAS.

It said it cannot give a time frame for the issuance of the decision, which will be final and binding “with the exception of the parties’ rights to file an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal within 30 days on limited grounds”.

Here’s the CAS release.

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