Yannick Noah Interview : Davis Cup, drugs, personalities and role models - MensTennisForums.com

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post #1 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 11:38 AM Thread Starter
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Yannick Noah Interview : Davis Cup, drugs, personalities and role models

This is an old Yannick Noah interview from May 2001, which still does have some relevant points, mostly about drugs in tennis at that time and some other things as well.

Before some Federer fans get up in arms as to why he doesn't mention Federer at the end, the timeline is important to this.

As this interview is long I am going to paste in parts.

In this startling interview former Roland Garros champion Yannick Noah claims that drug cheating is commonplace on the professional tour. At precisely the same time that the ITF has maintained that tennis is virtually drug free, the charismatic one-time French Davis and Fed Cup Captain, who now competes on the Champions Tour, has told Aus Tennis Magazine correspondent Paul Fein that the system actively protects tennis players who take drugs. He also has strong opinions on what makes Lleyton Hewitt tick, why Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras are wrong about Davis Cup and predicts that Sampras will never win Roland Garros.

John McEnroe recently said that in the 1980s cocaine was the popular drug and he experimented with it. In 1991 you said: “But for the good of the sport they [drug users] should be caught and stopped. The ATP should test at every tournament.” How prevalent were drugs on the men’s tour then, and how prevalent are they now?

There is a big difference between using drugs to enhance performance or just a social drug. Cocaine has never helped someone win a match or have a better life. But I also know that plenty of people, especially in America, freely take performance enhancing drugs and are protected by the system. And nobody says anything about it. I don’t believe you can be happy when you have cheated and won. Your conscience won’t let you. But now drug cheating has become so strong and powerful that some players are protected, depending on where they come from.

What do you mean by protected?

They are protected. We know for a fact that it’s better to come from America than from France. It has nothing to do with the ATP. It has to do with the whole sports system. If you are French, you are tested no matter what sport you play because it’s part of our culture. Nobody really tackles this problem and tries to catch violators. Each sport has its own rules. In America, you find over-the-counter in pharmacies things that are totally forbidden in France and in Europe.

In 1996 you admitted that you smoked marijuana during the 1983 French Open. Did that help you win the title?

Well, I said I smoked marijuana during 1983. But I didn’t smoke during the tournament. I never smoke during a tournament, never. I smoked a lot after the tournament. It’s funny how people made into such a big deal. It’s a recreational drug as opposed to a performance enhancing drug. If you are just talking about recreational drugs, then you have people tell you how you are supposed to be a role model.

Aren’t famous athletes supposed to be role models?

I believe the best role models are the father and the mother. If somebody can be influenced by what he sees on TV, then there is a problem with his education. Yeah, I smoked, yeah! If my children are smoking, I hope they will be able to talk to me about it. It’s not that I am going to judge them. And I also know the majority of people have tried marijuana. So why would we hide? Hiding is not attacking the problem. And I really believe it is a problem for young kids. And the way to deal with it is to talk about it. Let’s not just say, “This sports star smoked,” and that’s it. I haven’t smoked in ten years.

“Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion,” wrote German philosopher Hegel. Do today’s players have the passion of McEnroe, Connors or Gerulaitis and you displayed?

I believe they had the passion. But after you are on this tour for a few months, the new Code of Conduct rules kill your passion because you can’t express yourself. Basically what the rules say is: “Play and shut up”. So you have a new generation of guys… I believe these guys don’t lack passion, but it just doesn’t show.

Does Lleyton Hewitt, for example, show passion?

There is so much anger there. I’d be interested in talking to a psychiatrist about him. There is also something lively about him. But I’m not excited and about to go, “Wow, I’m going to see Hewitt play”, I don’t want to sound too negative, but after five minutes of seeing him excited, excited, excited, jumping up and down, I’m tired. Where is Ilie Nastase? Where are the Adriano Panattas? Yes, Hewitt has life, fire, definitely something. But something crazy is going on.

Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation, said “I know a lot of agents tell their clients to be careful, to stay away from controversy. As for role models, like it or not, that’s the worst mistake they could make. In the long run, you can only win by speaking out against social injustice.” Do you agree with Lopiano?

I really believe the best thing to do is tell the truth. No matter where you are, no matter what level you are. Just because some people are on TV or some people have the opportunity to write, all of a sudden they are bigger and have more responsibility. But, as I said before, the first role models are Dad and Mum. These family values I cherish very much. Yes, I’ve had sports heroes. They’ve influenced me only to a minimal degree. Whoever says that because this sports star and said this on TV changed someone, I really believe is wrong.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1

Last edited by Action Jackson; 09-29-2008 at 03:23 AM.
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post #2 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 11:40 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

In 1988 Arthur Ashe predicted: “Given the same chances as others have had, blacks would dominate our sport as they have done in other sports,” Do you agree?

If you give a racquet and a coach to an inner-city kid who doesn’t have much, he’s going to do more with it than a kid who has racquets and a court in his backyard.

They’re not going to take for granted the opportunity. A lot of athletes, including blacks, Hispanic minorities, in Africa, or in Asia, don’t have these opportunities. In Paris, we have programs and when you give tennis to poor people, 95 per cent of the kids are from North Africa. Yes, they will ultimately dominate the game, if they get the chance. Any sport where they get the chance, blacks dominate, including in France where we have been world champions in football with a team that is mostly of immigrants.

Tell us about Les Enfants de la Terre (Children of the Earth), which you and your mother, Marie-Claire, co-founded.

We started that 14 years ago in northern Cameroon. Slowly we became bigger and bigger and wanted to be more socially active. So we started to buy homes and build houses to help orphans and others who don’t have parents around and need to regroup and recuperate physically. We’ve helped about 3, 000 kids so far.

You are also involved with a project called” Fete le Mur” (“Celebrate the Wall”) in collaboration with the French Tennis Federation. What does this project do?

We provide courts, racquets, and coaches to kids from the inner city. And we open up what we call our centres, which are places with at least two courts and a wall. We started that four years ago and now there are 19 centres all over France. It’s really blossoming very fast. It’s working well because the kids are really interested.

Can you produce a champion from these kids?

I definitely would love to.

What are your other main activities and interests these days?

Music is what I am doing most, besides my social activities and being a Dad. I just had a fourth album titled [“Yannick Noah”] come out. It’s doing very well in France, and we’re doing concerts. We do about 40 to 50 concerts.

What is the connection between tennis and popular music?

I don’t know. A few guys have tried it. John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Jim Courier, well-known guys. People assume all players want to be musicians. When we are out on the road, to call Mats or John and say, “Let’s meet in this room and jam together,” was a way to throw the competition aside and just do something together.

As a pro athlete, playing an individual sport, music gave an opportunity to share, to find a team spirit and melt into a group, which I really love. I love being a Davis Cup captain just because I had missed the idea of a group, a community. Tennis is sometimes too individualistic and egotistic.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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post #3 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 11:42 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

In 1991 you said, “I don’t believe it hurts me to have many affairs. In Africa, where my roots lie, the men have many wives. To put it simply, I love women,” Do you still feel that way? And what do you love most about women?

It’s only normal for you to repeat what’s in your youth. Yes, I do like women. I’m like anyone else.

Am I correct in thinking you are married to Heather White, a British model?

I was.

Are you not married now?

No.

Are you dating anyone special?

No.

You once had sex in the locker room just before a match, and you occasionally had a cognac before you played. Did they help you play better?

About the sex before the match, I was kind of relaxed and got tired by the end of the game. But it wasn’t an important match. As for the cognac and cigarettes before playing, I enjoyed doing that once in a while at the end of my career when I was playing indoors. That definitely helped me. It was really fun. I did that in the Players Lounge before the game when everybody was getting all tense and nervous. Some people take life so seriously sometimes. I thought I was just going to take a step back and relax about this whole thing.

You had lots of fun during your playing days and were something of a Renaissance man. But in retrospect, did you squander some talent with your less than ambitious training program and a lack of single-mindedness?

Well, probably. I look at all these guys who were in front of me. And there is nothing that I really miss that they have.

In 1984 you said: “Winning is not my goal. Beauty is.”

Did I say that quote that long ago? I really believe that winning is overrated. Definitely, in everyday life, it’s so overrated.

During your pro career you had to overcome bouts of depression on occasion. Were they caused by the tremendous pressure caused by the high expectations the French public and media burdened you with?

I was searching for a balance. I had my period of sadness. Most athletes start their soul searching after their careers. I was doing it while I was playing. When I stopped, it was actually a good time. I went through this period in a very smooth, easy way.

When a lot of my friends stopped, it was a shock to them. I went through some tough, lonely times in my career, and a lot of people thought I couldn’t deal with the star system, the pressures of being recognised. But that was not the case, I was just trying to cope with what other humans going through. And, yes coming from Africa, I’ve had a lot of changes throughout my life to deal with.

So it’s difficult to be an African in the tennis world?

It’s pretty lonely, that’s for sure. That’s the way I would put it.

You once said: “What I love about Davis Cup it is not about contracts, schedules and business. This tradition is much bigger than dollars. What you do in Davis Cup is sacrifice for others.” Sampras and Agassi complain that the Davis Cup format is too demanding and that it should be played every other year is there anything you’d change?

No! I wouldn’t change anything. Every Davis Cup weekend, you have players playing for their lives, whether it’s in Zimbabwe or in Germany or in Korea or in Brazil – all the different geographical zones, all the different divisions. Davis Cup is the most beautiful event in tennis. Now you have two spoilt guys who want to change the whole thing because they are powerful. This is the most selfish thing. I’ve never heard them talk about the beautiful qualities of Davis Cup. Therefore, I hope these two guys are not going to break up the Davis Cup.

Was France’s winning the Davis Cup in 1991 for the first time in 59 years, the highlight of your career? And what do you remember about it?

The joy. Being able to hug my best friends at this particular occasion. Just crying. It’s unusual to cry in happiness with your best friends. And I’m glad I experienced it with Guy Forget, Henri Leconte and Patrice Hagelauer, who used to be my coach and was coach of the team.

To be able to share this experience was very special because we were already true friends. That made our friendship special.

Is Sampras the greatest player of all time?

In my mind, it’s between Sampras, Borg and Laver. I believe Borg would have won a few more major titles, if he didn’t retire at 26. Laver won two Grand Slams. He was an unbelievable player and beautiful to watch. We were lucky to have him. Being a player of the 80s, I really believe Sampras is the best ever.

Could Sampras win Roland Garros if he attacked the net relentlessly the way you did?

The only thing I regret is that he never did attack the net at Roland Garros. I don’t think he’s ever going to do it. It’s finished for him there.

What do you think the next great rivalry in men’s tennis will be?

After Sampras-Agassi, which was really good, nobody dominates now. Depending on how Marat Safin deals with the pressure of being up there, I believe he could be one of them. And Guga could be there too. It could be between these two.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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post #4 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 12:07 PM
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Thank you for that GWH!
Yannick!
This quote is the best: In 1984 you said: “Winning is not my goal. Beauty is.”

Did I say that quote that long ago? I really believe that winning is overrated. Definitely, in everyday life, it’s so overrated."


That's why he and Guy Forget had a go at the FFT and new methods in development and how the spend their money etc...

How true. Hard to believe for many ppl. Despised attitude and way of seing things by many ppl even. The word "looser" the way it is used in English to qualify someone doesn't even exists in French. You can only use it to make a passive version of "he lost against..." etc...

That's sad if what he affirms is true about tennis and doping... I hope it's not the case now...

If you are French, you are tested no matter what sport you play because it’s part of our culture. Nobody really tackles this problem and tries to catch violators. Each sport has its own rules. In America, you find over-the-counter in pharmacies things that are totally forbidden in France and in Europe.

Yep. That's why they'll never have a winner in cycling... But it isn't true about all sports though...He's exagerating.

Last edited by delsa; 10-08-2005 at 12:30 PM.
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post #5 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 12:17 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Quote:
Originally Posted by delsa
If you are French, you are tested no matter what sport you play[/B] because it’s part of our culture. Nobody really tackles this problem and tries to catch violators. Each sport has its own rules. In America, you find over-the-counter in pharmacies things that are totally forbidden in France and in Europe.
[/I]
Yep. That's why they'll never have a winner in cycling... But it isn't true about all sports though...He's exagerating.
He isn't exaggerating too much, they do have high standards for internal doping control in France and unlike Argentina for example, there seems to be good communication between the groups when it comes to this, though to be fair the French have more money, but the will is there.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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post #6 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 12:25 PM
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Thank you very much GWH. Great interview
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post #7 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 01:00 PM
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Thank, GWH. Adds a wonderful perspective!

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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Thanks GWH...great interview...I wish there was a way to see Noah at his best play Roger Federer maybe too much beuty for the human eye! So lovely what he said about crying amonst friends at DC win...
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post #9 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 01:28 PM
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

I wonder which American players get protected. I really don't see how that could happen because eventually somebody pissed at the ATP/ ITF would tell something.
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post #10 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 01:31 PM
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Nice Interview



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post #11 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 01:51 PM
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Thanks for posting this interview. Should be required reading in today's atmosphere.

How prescient was he about Sampras? And his comments on the Davis Cup and Agassi and Sampras are still relevant based on the US attitude towards DC.

Wonder what Hewy would say if he read this interview today?
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeWHitler
Aren’t famous athletes supposed to be role models?

I believe the best role models are the father and the mother. If somebody can be influenced by what he sees on TV, then there is a problem with his education. Yeah, I smoked, yeah! If my children are smoking, I hope they will be able to talk to me about it. It’s not that I am going to judge them. And I also know the majority of people have tried marijuana. So why would we hide? Hiding is not attacking the problem. And I really believe it is a problem for young kids. And the way to deal with it is to talk about it. Let’s not just say, “This sports star smoked,” and that’s it. I haven’t smoked in ten years.
Best part of the interview, it always boggles my mind that athletes or actors are expected to be role models. Thanks for the interview GWH

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post #13 of 65 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 02:07 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Quote:
Originally Posted by amierin
Thanks for posting this interview. Should be required reading in today's atmosphere.

How prescient was he about Sampras? And his comments on the Davis Cup and Agassi and Sampras are still relevant based on the US attitude towards DC.

Wonder what Hewy would say if he read this interview today?
Lots of it is still relevant in many ways, it just depends on how someone wants to take it. He makes a good point, about the lack of passion out there, not true, just expressed differently.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dirk
I wonder which American players get protected. I really don't see how that could happen because eventually somebody pissed at the ATP/ ITF would tell something.
Inside their own system i think he meant maybe not by the ATP or ITF and it's an old interview too... And maybe he spoke of the continent too not the US specifically?
Because the FFT takes care about their players being tested that's what he meant. And many other federations do that.

But i insist: It's not done in every sports for sure... But their sports minister has given means for it to be increased, more money.
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Re: Yannick Noah on Performance Enhancing Drugs and Lack of Personalities Interview

Quote:
Originally Posted by delsa
Inside their own system i think he meant maybe not by the ATP or ITF and it's an old interview too... And maybe he spoke of the continent too not the US specifically?
Because the FFT takes care about their players being tested that's what he meant. And many other federations do that.

But i insist: It's not done in every sports for sure... But their sports minister has given means for it to be increased, more money.
Delsa there is a lot of speculation about Agassi's "miraculous" performance this summer after he limped off the court during the FO. Could it be that he didn't do anything to make himself feel better in France because of the anti doping stance of the tennis powers there? Didn't a former player just write a book insinuating that Agassi has been involved in making himself feel better for a long time?
I believe there's a thread on MTF about this subject.
In view of all the talk about this years FO and Argentina Noah's comments are all the more relevant.
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