Is the net closing in on dopers of the tennis world?

On the 18th March the International Tennis Federation announced that American professional, Wayne Odesnik, had been suspended from participation in the sport for a period of 15 years after he provided a urine sample which tested positive for Prohibited Substances under the 2014 and 2015 WADA List of Prohibited Substances.

This is not the first time Odesnik has shown up on the Federation’s radar. The player was also found guilty of violating the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme in 2010 for possession of a human growth hormone. His name was later revealed in the records of Biogenesis of America, a former Miami sports clinic linked to performance enhancing drugs.

It seems Odesnik is not alone in being caught in the Federation’s net. It only takes a look down the ‘latest news’ page on the International Tennis Federation’s website to see that the number of players caught testing positive for Prohibited Substances by the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme has snowballed over recent months. Between Odesnik’s ban on the 18th March and the 9th April, five players were handed suspensions of varying lengths, including French wheelchair player Francois Trawalter and Romanian youngster Elena Madalina Capraru.

So has the programme become more committed to catching dopers or are suspensions just being better publicised?

The Tennis Anti-Doping programme is a drug testing initiative that applies to all players competing at Grand Slam tournaments and events governed by the International Tennis Federation, Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women’s Tennis Association. Players are tested for substances prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency throughout the year both during competitions and out of season.

The current position, when looking at the numbers, suggests that testing has in fact become much more prevalent. Between 2012 and 2013 the overall number of samples collected increased by 4.1%.

In particular a significant rise in the number of blood tests was reported increasing from just 166 taken in 2012 to 657 taken in 2013. Such increases in the number of tests carried out have increased the chance of catching dopers, something which the latest bout of suspensions supports. The Tennis Anti-Doping programme also plans to increase their investment in drug testing by $1.3 million by 2016 suggesting a commitment to catching those seeking to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.

However the increase in commitment to test more players by the Tennis Anti-Doping Agency is not without its flaws. This commitment coincidentally comes in the wake of a number of controversial incidents which make the motives behind these initiatives questionable. For instance in 2013, world number five Rafael Nadal took a seven month break from top flight competitive tennis after complaining of a serious knee injury. Sceptics on Social Media and other platforms intimated that this break was in fact the result of a deal with the Association of Tennis Professionals to cover up doping offences the player was suspected of. Could this recent investment therefore be an attempt to clear the Agency’s name in light of innuendos and rumours like those in Nadal’s case?

It is not just the Tennis Anti-Doping Agency whose commitment to catching dopers has come under scrutiny. As has been demonstrated in the recent case of Welsh athletes Rhys Williams and Gareth Warburton, an increase in the number of positive results does not necessarily mean that more dopers intending to cheat are caught red handed.

In this instance, the two athletes were suspended for four and six months respectively after urine samples tested positive for Prohibited Substances under the WADA List of Prohibited Substances. In both cases the National Anti-Doping Panel agreed that the source of the Prohibited Substances was an energy drink called Mountain Fuel. Notably the Prohibited Substances in dispute were not listed as being contained in the drink. The drink was therefore considered a contaminated product, namely a product that contains a Prohibited Substance not disclosed on the packaging or in information which would be reasonably attainable through an internet search. As the regulations governing anti-doping in sport operate by way of strict liability, it was not necessary to show intent, knowing use, fault or negligence and the athletes were banned from competing in the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow in 2014.

Although this was a case UK Anti-Doping rather than the International Tennis Federation, it shows that with an increase in testing has come a perceived increase in the prevalence of doping in sport.

The problem lies in that it is not necessarily those with the intention to get ahead of their competitions that are being caught. So again the question of whether the governing bodies are really committed to ensuring their sports are clean and fair comes to the fore. It does however highlight that athletes across all sports need to be extremely vigilant about what they ingest as ultimately they are responsible for ensuring that they do not contain prohibited substances, whether they intend to ingest them or not.

Does the recent ban of Wayne Odesnik therefore show that the world of sport, and in particular the world of Tennis are already on the back burner when it comes to catching dopers? Odesnik was only handed a weighty ban for doping after his second offence showing that the proposed investment in increased testing is too little too late. This combined with rumours like the one involving Nadal’s break from top flight tennis in 2013 do little to support the International Tennis Federation’s attempts to promote their commitment to increase the number of dopers caught who are genuinely attempting to get ahead of their competitors. In fact these incidents support critics’ claims that the federation’s recent proposals are purely a vehicle to show increased suspensions giving the impression more dopers are being caught when in reality all they are doing is assisting in covering up potential scandals and making examples of those committing arguably less severe offences.

So to know more about the potential effects and pitfalls regarding the issue of drugs in sport, feel free to contact the Choix Team.



This Guest Blog produced with grateful thanks by: Danielle Pawson and Kate MacKenzie, LLM LPC Students at the University of Law Leeds Centre.


Branded About; Professors Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox to trademark their own names

Following the box office sensation “The Theory of Everything”, which was released in cinemas at the end of last year depicting the life of Professor Stephen Hawking, the famous scientist has sought to trade mark his own name.

Andy Boyde

Hawking, along with fellow scientist Brian Cox, have both applied to the Intellectual Property Office to have their respective names formally registered. Hawking’s primary motivation for trade marking his name is for charitable purposes and will likely see the scientist set up a foundation to further research into motor neurone disease, the crippling condition that left him paralysed at just 21 years of age.

Hawkins and Cox are not the first celebrities seeking to protect their own image rights. The world of sport led the way in a major change to the image rights of celebrities when in 2002 motor racing ace, Eddie Irvine, won a case against Talk Radio for manipulating a photograph of him to make it look like he endorsed the service.  The ruling earned Irvine £25,000 compensation at the time but the case has proved to be a landmark ruling for other sports stars enjoying much greater financial gains as a consequence.  This forced legal system of England and Wales to confirm the rights of all well known people to control the use of their image and hence, recognise their right to payment for the endorsement of products and services.

The ‘Godfather’ of registering his name as a trademark is our very own, David Beckham, who has done so in almost every territory across the globe. Perhaps the greatest catalyst for his move from European giants Real Madrid to the United States’ LA Galaxy centred around the former club’s policy of dividing their ‘Galacticos’ endorsements relating to image rights 50:50 between the club and the player. Negotiations broke down between Real Madrid and Beckham as he sought to gain complete control of his commercial income.  Real Madrid’s fan base at that time was estimated to be in the region of 0.5 Billion worldwide, with Beckham ‘23’ replica shirts the must have item. Beckham instead took his brand to America where his guaranteed salary of $32.5 million over 5 years was eclipsed by the $217.5 million which was amassed through his intellectual property earnings in a total deal reported to be worth $250 million.

Another ‘Galactico’ that succeeded in registering an approved trademark with the Intellectual Property Office was Gareth Bale. His infamous ‘Eleven of Hearts’ goal celebration which he now uses as a logo on clothing, footwear, and head gear brings in over a reported £3 million a year from the ‘love heart’ trademark.

It is clear that celebrities are eager to prevent others exploiting their fame and notoriety by controlling the use and commercial value of their names and images. There is no doubt that Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane will be seeking to protect his image rights such as registering ‘Kane 18’ in the same fashion as the player he is being most compared to Alan Shearer (‘Shearer 9’) who was one of the first footballers to register their name and number as a trademark.

If you need any advice on registering trademarks or protecting your image rights please do not hesitate to contact the Choix team.

Andy Boyde – Sports Consultant



Photo by

The Power and Pitfalls of Personal Branding

There is growing recognition that being ‘good at what you do’ is not enough and that a strong personal brand can be the differentiator that sets you apart from the competition.

Deborah Ogden

Jeff Bezos of Amazon summed it up when he said; ‘everyone has a personal brand; it’s what people say about you when you leave the room’. The question therefore is not whether you have a personal brand, but how effectively you manage it?

Consciously managing both image and reputation on and off-line will greatly improve relationships, profile and success. When we are authentic, communicate effectively and are consistent in our behaviours, our personal brand is a powerful tool, maximising profile and presence.

But what happens if we leave personal brand to chance, or commit brand blunders that detract from the brand value rather than building it?

Here are five faux pas to avoid when it comes to building a powerful personal brand.

1 All style, no substance

Personal branding is not about style over substance. Whilst great first impressions are the necessary foundations of any relationship, to create a credible brand and reputation it is crucial to back up the initial impact with the delivery of a quality product or service.

2 Be fake

It’s about being authentic and being YOU. That is the best version of you. People will spot a fake. We talk about a ‘gut’ reaction when we meet someone for the first time. If we like them the chances are they are congruent in their communication – their verbal and non-verbal communications are consistent. To fake this, for example, imitating something you are not is exhausting and in the long run impossible.

3 Be vanilla

You can’t be everything to everybody – try and please all the people you can end up pleasing none. Accept that a strong brand will resonate with some but repel others. Stick to your principles and express yourself. Be clear on your message and communicate that consistently, online and in person.

4 It’s all about me!

To build a successful brand it is not about you, it’s about serving others. Being generous is a great personal branding strategy. Develop a reputation as a giver and a great connector. Sharing your expertise let’s people experience what you excel at.

5 Online only

Social media has been instrumental in increasing awareness around personal branding. Having a clear, consistent message across different platforms online is important but should not be exclusive. People may google and get to know you virtually before you meet face to face, however your impact in person is paramount. A strong handshake, professional image and ability to connect and converse effortlessly are crucial.

Now is the time to evaluate where you are with your personal brand – make it a priority and don’t leave it to chance any longer. Remember, if you don’t decide how to brand yourself, others will, and it will be you that faces the consequences. If you would like one to one management of your personal brand, then do not hesitate to contact the Choix team.

Deborah Ogden – Brand and Media Consultant