China Open: Tour rejects reports of title sponsor’s withdrawal

Image copyright Chris Brown/Empics Sport Image caption The game’s governing body said one of its communications officers had been taken “off the tour” The management committee of the WTA has rejected reports that the…

China Open: Tour rejects reports of title sponsor's withdrawal

Image copyright Chris Brown/Empics Sport Image caption The game’s governing body said one of its communications officers had been taken “off the tour”

The management committee of the WTA has rejected reports that the China Open has been stripped of its title sponsor and is being forced to turn away players.

The head of the WTA’s world ranking committee, Arnaud Gabas, has been reported to have said the tournament – which starts this week – is close to its limit of players competing.

Chinese media have also reported that third seed Peng Shuai is being tested for drug cheats.

WTA officials said it was “untrue” to describe this as a threat to the tournament’s status.

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Global service provider TimesTen Sports reported on Sunday that China’s HNA will not renew its title sponsorship in October as the company explores sales and reorganisation plans.

A WTA official has reportedly told the official China Daily that the contest is likely to be cut down to a third of its current number of players, which would put a cut in prize money – but a place in the WTA’s elite four events.

Peng became the tournament’s first Chinese seed at number four, ahead of Evgeniya Rodina.

However, the English language China Daily reports she has admitted to using a banned substance, despite having her ban lifted last month.

Peng says she has used WADA-accredited product xantham gum because of fatigue and dizziness following a marathon battle.

How strict are drugs tests?

The WTA’s code of conduct has been amended to include how testing can be informed of banned substances. In this instance, it has been added that if testers find an illicit substance during an out-of-competition test, they must notify the Tour of their findings.

In a statement, the WTA noted that WADA has “retained all necessary rights” to sanction athletes for their role in an adverse analytical finding and that “newly concluded full and detailed agreements, whether with athletes or through their managers, are issued by WADA to adequately protect the interests of the players”.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Wada said that players are subject to a standardised programme of random testing.

“Athletes are not required to allow (their) whereabouts to be made public for testing or to allow their testing, or testing sample, to be accessed by Wada. For these reasons, it is generally not practicable for a player to provide their location during off-season testing.”

Chinese sports fans – and organisers – respond

China’s Tennis Association issued a statement, saying the situation was “unfortunate”.

“We put the safety of players and the WTA at the forefront of all operations,” the statement said.

“But we need to properly assess current plans and reasons and review how we conduct our pre-seeding, which allows matches to better accommodate players.”

The WTA has yet to issue a statement.

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