The International Tennis Federation has made a long-overdue amendment to its Anti-Doping Programme, announcing on Monday that effective Sept. 1, it will publicly identify all players who receive provisional suspensions for violating the the program.
The sport's governing body made clear that it will continue protecting the identities of those who test positive or who are alleged to have violated the program, "unless and until a Provisional Suspension has been imposed or accepted or an Independent Tribunal has determined that an Anti-Doping Rule Violation has been committed, and/or the Anti-Doping Rule Violation has been admitted."
Maria Sharapova, for example, was able to keep her failed drug test and provisional suspension - which began on Jan. 26 - under wraps until she admitted the violation at a press conference on March 7. Under the current rules, she wouldn't have been publicly outed (by the ITF, anyway) until an independent tribunal handed down an official two-year suspension on June 8.
The forthcoming amendment eliminates the possibility of suppression for any period of time once the provisional suspension has been imposed. In Sharapova's case, the public would've known about the violation on Jan. 26.
The ITF's explanation for the rule change, though, was oddly opaque:
The reputation of the Programme and, consequently, the image of tennis, have been damaged by accusations that players have been allowed to serve bans without those bans being made public (so-called 'silent bans'). This rule change will prevent any further similar accusations and so protect our sport.
Rather than explaining the optical issues with the current rule, the ITF focuses on the damage done by accusations of silent bans - a neat little way of skirting the question about how prevalent those silent bans actually are.
Interestingly enough, Sharapova herself shed light on the issue in the wake of her admission in March.
"I have been honest and upfront," she wrote in a Facebook post. "I won't pretend to be injured so I can hide the truth about my testing."