14 Responses

  1. Matt Zemek
    Matt Zemek November 16, 2012 at 10:55 am |

    Sport is supposed to be the ultimate in reality TV.

    If chemical cocktails are scripting the action, so much of the spectacle – like the effort invested in creating it – is wasted.

    Great piece, Linz!

  2. andrea
    andrea November 16, 2012 at 6:15 pm |

    I agree with you. Tennis is my favourite sport and I’d like to believe that the top players are clean, but I can’t. I’m not that naive.
    And, as you said, I’d like to know: What exactly happened in the Wayne Odesnik case?

  3. Nicole
    Nicole November 16, 2012 at 6:24 pm |

    This is truly wonderful writing. I sincerely hope the heads of both tours read this piece and get it through their thick skulls just how much they’re risking by NOT extending testing a heck of a lot more. Great work, Lindsay!

  4. Erik G.
    Erik G. November 16, 2012 at 8:11 pm |

    Hey Lindsay,

    Great piece! I still feel like the sport’s biggest issue, not just in testing but in many other areas, is the fact that there are still too many moving parts and too many individual and corporate interests that are always trying to have their way. The ATP has their own interests. So does the WTA. So does the ITF. So does each tournament. Not to mention all the players who basically work as independent contractors. Yes they have to follow the rules in order to compete at events, but as in the Odesnik case, if someone does get busted for a infraction or worse, it’s still not clear to many fans who do they ultimately have to answer to – the ITF, WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) or even local, state or national authorities as was the case with Odesnik who is an American citizen but was caught carrying illegal substances in Australia.

    Odesnik’s case, whether someone does or doesn’t think it was fair or not that he was allowed to play again, should have served as the bigger wake-up call to the sport at large. But it didn’t and so we are at where we are now. I have feeling that a bigger scandal is only a matter of time. Hopefully it won’t come to pass, but we may all have to run into a panic room to ride it out when it does.


  5. morrigan blane
    morrigan blane November 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm |

    It’s so great that people are finally talking about doping in tennis. Thank you for writing this because I feel the same.

    I’ve read several times already that a big scandal is about to come out… I hope it’s true. I’m not scared about it, I don’t care who has to fall down. For me it just gets to a point where I don’t trust anyone’s achievements 100% anymore. I get such an impression that tennis is a farce that I’m just hoping there’s a massive raid and we can start over, honestly. Let tennis lose sponsors, let myths and incredible stamina and epic 6 hour grinding marathons go down if that’s what is needed to have a cleaner, fairer sport.
    Worst thing for tennis is not losing money but letting fair players be robbed of their careeers by cheaters.

    English is not my first language so sorry if I made any mistakes 😉

  6. Jewell
    Jewell November 17, 2012 at 3:34 am |

    One has to do a kind of double-think – assume that anyone, and I do mean *anyone*, could be doping; but also assume innocence until something more than rumour, weak circumstance, and agenda appears.

    Given what’s happened in men’s cycling over the years, Linz, and given the detailed revelations in Lance Armstrong’s case, do you really think that increased testing will bring that safe space back? Is there really a testing scheme that we can ever completely trust? Once you’ve started thinking about ways things can be taken, the way the best sportsmen can afford, if they want to, tailor-made, undetectable, doping schemes, and the money to be made, there is no way back to innocence anyway.

    Back to cycling, there were signs of doping in performance, and how, for example, Armstrong moved up levels, leading to coded references in some journalists’ pieces, and finally, whistle-blowing to lift the lid on some of his activities. Are there similar performance indicators in tennis? (and no, I don’t mean “he doesn’t look breathless after a long point and the opponent does! He’s a doper!” type indicators.) Throughout tennis history we’ve seen players improve their fitness and take their tennis to a new level – is this normal, are the improvements made realistically within the bounds of possibility? Tennis has a history of marathon matches across all surfaces and styles of play, and including many players. (yeah, I know the latest marathon is always the Mostest, but I tend to put a lot of that down to recency bias.)

    So how do we know what’s normal and what’s not? Should we be looking at the whole of tennis history with a more suspicious eye? Because if testing is weak now, just think how weak it must’ve been in previous eras.

    Cycling testing tackles the performance aspects with a biological passport. Tennis at the moment seems to rely on deterrent effects such as the whereabouts rule, and keeping players uncertain about when they will be tested out-of-competition. (something that doesn’t get mentioned as a factor when we talk about the number of tests. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but I assume that’s the aim of the system.) More resources so that tennis could run the passport system would be wonderful – the sport can afford it. Cycling’s scheme last year was apparently $4.7 million worth of testing. Larry Ellison could add $3 million to the ITF’s budget all by himself and never notice.

    The comments about the many authorities in tennis possibly leaving gaps and leading to corruption are very interesting to me as perhaps men’s cycling’s worst problem was having one authority in charge, UCI, that was complicit in widespread doping in the peloton. It was the national drug authority, USADA, that finally brought Armstrong crashing down. So which is really likely to be worse – too many authorities, or too few? I would’ve said too few was *far* more likely to lead to problems than too many. UCI once accepted money directly from Armstrong and did not appear to notice that this could be seen as a clear conflict of interest – even without any of the more sinister implications. One team sponsor walked away from cycling entirely, with the clear implication that they did not trust UCI as a governing body.

    Another question, one that I rarely see talked about, is the role of sponsors. One of the things I read about in the Armstrong case was one of UCI’s people accepting a payment directly from Nike to cover up a test – an accusation made under sworn testimony IIRC – and Nike initially stood by Armstrong after USADA’s report came out. That surely raises some interesting questions for any sport in which Nike is involved, and yet I’ve seen no-one in tennis, blogger or journalist, look at it from this angle.

  7. Gustavo
    Gustavo November 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm |

    It’s not that the ATP doesn’t have money to pay for more testing. They don’t want to. They know top players are dopers. The organisation is doing everything they can to cater to their wishes and desires – they’ve changed the courts, the format, the calendar. They won’t finance the health department that’s going to put away their golden cows.

    Anyone who isn’t utterly naïve knows there’s no way a guy with Ferrer’s technical skills can occupy the top 10 for years. That Djokovic’s improvement has nothing to do with his diet. That Nadal’s speed and endurance have never been natural (not to mention is long breaks every year and his predictable slumps, always around the same part of the season). Check out how many Spaniards have broken the top 100, top 50. Has Spain discovered a magical formula to propel all their athletes (not just tennis players – their football team, for instance, went from being mediocre at best to winning the world cup) to the top of the world? Maybe their doctors did?

    I think it’s about time we stop being naïve and hypocritical.

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