Thomaz Bellucci Busted For Doping, Suspended Until February
by Staff | January 4th, 2018, 8:45 pm
  • 12 Comments

Where has Thomaz Bellucci been? Serving a “silent ban” that’s where. The former Brazilian No. 1 tested positive for the masking agent hydrochlorothiazide while in Bastad on July 18 and hasn’t hit a ball on tour since the US Open, the ITF announced today.

Bellucci had his sentence reduced from up to four years down to five months by successfully arguing the prescription vitamins he was taking over the summer were unknowingly contaminated with the prohibited substance. Since he didn’t play after the US Open, his suspension is backdated to September 1 and his ban will expire on January 31.

The ruling:

On 18 September 2017, Mr. Bellucci was charged with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Programme (presence of a Prohibited Substance in a Player’s Sample). Mr. Bellucci promptly admitted his violation, but refused to accept a voluntary provisional suspension and, therefore, remained free to compete pending resolution of his case. (Note: under the Programme, only cases involving mandatory or voluntary provisional suspensions are announced prior to the issuance of a final decision).

Mr. Bellucci’s account of how the hydrochlorothiazide got into his system was accepted and that he bears No Significant Fault or Negligence for the violation. The Programme provides for the start date of the period of ineligibility of five months to be backdated due to the prompt admission and for delays not attributable to Mr. Bellucci. Therefore, the start of the ban is back-dated by two and a half months pursuant to Programme Article 10.10.3(b) and by a further six weeks pursuant to Programme Article 10.10.3(c). As a result, the ban is deemed to have started on 1 September 2017, and so will expire at midnight on 31 January 2018.

This is Mr. Bellucci’s first Anti-Doping Rule Violation. The decision determines that (1) Mr. Bellucci has committed a violation of the Programme; (2) he must serve a period of ineligibility of five months; and (3) that period of ineligibility is back-dated to start on 1 September 2017 and so ending at midnight on 31 January 2018. In accordance with Programme article 9.1, the points and prize money obtained by Mr. Bellucci at the Båstad event are disqualified. The full decision can be found at www.itftennis.com/media/277960.pdf.

So why wasn’t this made public earlier? Why the “silent ban”? Per the decision, Bellucci declined a provisional suspension, which allowed him to keep playing (he didn’t) and avoided announcement before the decision.

Ranked No. 112 this week, The 30-year-old Bellucci has been as high as No. 21. The lefty has 199 career wins and 4 career titles.


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12 Comments for Thomaz Bellucci Busted For Doping, Suspended Until February

gonzalowski Says:

yes, IMO this silent ban does not help the credibility of tennis, when there have been players accused of precisely this.


Ruby Says:

It was not a silent ban, though. The ITF’s decision was dated yesterday and today the news is public. It was simply backdated to September when he stopped playing, but that has nothing to do with it being “silent.” There was no attempt to keep the final result secret whatsoever … which is why the whole world now knows about it.

Under the rules, a ban is provisional and kept private until the full investigative process is completed, which is exactly what happened here. There’s nothing fishy about it and it doesn’t suggest anything fishy has happened before either. The rule simply protects players who might be found innocent. Once the provisional period ends and a player is officially suspended, the ban is publicly announced. It’s not silent if there is a guilty verdict. It is only silent if the player is found innocent.

BTW, Bellucci’s “vitamins” were tested in a WADA lab and found to have been accidentally tainted during manufacturing. There was little evidence he was using the HCZ to mask another substance, though one cannot say for sure in this instance. That’s why his suspension was reduced.


gonzalowski Says:

well but, in the end, it’s been public domain after 4 months silent.
In cycling, as far as I know, as soon as there is a positive, the press is communicated, and the cyclist usually stops running until further analysis.

Ruby, you talk like you’re an ATP spokesperson ;)


Madmax Says:

UGH,

What an idiot.

What is meant by a ‘silent ban?’

Ruby, where is your evidence? Or is this just your opinion? Back it up please. It has been announced today, so where is all your past evidence, good if you can show this.


BBB Says:

He chose to sit out without actually invoking the provisional suspension option, which allowed the whole thing to be kept quiet.

This does seem like a loophole. I’m not sure why the decisionmakers gave him credit for not playing when he was rejecting the voluntary suspension option. Given this outcome, who would use the voluntary suspension option?


Ruby Says:

It’s all written up folks FOR THE PUBLIC. Has nothing to do with my opinion, which doesn’t count to the ITF, I am sure. Here is the file that details everything, but you may need some medical knowledge to understand it fully.

http://www.itftennis.com/media/277960/277960.pdf


Ruby Says:

Also, I have nothing to do with the ATF. They have clearcut rules that anyone can read … and I have. The rules were followed in this case. The rules were made to balance protecting the players and providing the public with accurate information. That balance does seem fair to me, but YMMV. That said, if you don’t like the rules, then write to the ITF. There’s no grand conspiracy. Bellucci failed a test, the reason was determined and you know about it …


BBB Says:

This will seem like hair-splitting, but hey, I’m a lawyer.

It was not a silent ban.

However, it does seem that Bellucci used a procedural maneuver to delay disclosure of the investigation.

Ruby, according to the excerpt Tennis-X posted ( “(Note: under the Programme, only cases involving mandatory or voluntary provisional suspensions are announced prior to the issuance of a final decision).”), it doesn’t seem that procedures aren’t announced until the provisional period ends – the investigation is announced if there has been a provisional suspension, whether voluntary or mandatory. As I understand it, Bellucci avoided that by not agreeing to a suspension while the investigation was pending.


skeezer Says:

Ruby & BBB,
Thank you for the explanations.


Ruby Says:

BBB,

Agreed that he did that, although again the rules are such so as to protect a player who believes he is innocent from unfair rumors being circulated. Had Bellucci agreed to let his failed test be made public before the completion of the investigation, his protestations that it was an accident would likely not have been believed by many (of course, they still aren’t by some, but at least now the facts is the facts!) What was somewhat unusual was the backdating of his ban to when he last played as opposed to when the investigation was announced. I assume this was done because they really didn’t want to punish him, just to publicize the issue of tainted supplements and to suggest there will be a zero tolerance … at least to some degree.

But bottom line, as you say it’s not a silent ban, which is my main beef. Mostly people want to believe in silent bans so that any time player X [insert the GS winner you dislike most here] is off for a few months for an injury they can start the rumor mill going. But there’s no evidence so far that there is any silent ban system and this case doesn’t change that.

A more interesting conversation can be had about tainted supplements. They are a reality, but the question is whether they are a reality that can also be exploited by athletes. Possibly yes, but the facts in this case APPEARED to support an accidental exposure.


BBB Says:

I completely agree with you that if it had been made public, he would have been condemned as an intentional doper. But I don’t really have a problem with keeping these things quiet during the investigative phase. If that’s the case, then it should be equally true for suspended players, not just people who are lucky enough to test positive at the end of the season. Effectively, Bellucci didn’t serve much of a ban – for a sport that claims to have strict liability.

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