I woke up and just read this article.
Compared to other sports, tennis is soft on drugs
Many are disturbed by what must have been either a substantial cover-up at worst, or at best a colossal case of incompetence
Thursday March 11, 2004
Greg Rusedski is a fortunate man. Had he been a track and field athlete he would certainly have been banned for two years yesterday under that sport's
zero-tolerance code, as happened to Dwain Chambers. Luckily for Rusedski he belongs to a body, the ATP, which must be regarded as the most inept in world sport.
It was always likely, because of what happened previously, that Rusedski would be exonerated, for last year the ATP admitted that its own employees may have been handing out contaminated substances. Or in other words, the ATP doped its own players. Would you believe it? Well, clearly the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is far from convinced, more of which later.
There were those of a firm opinion that because Rusedski's failed test had come two months or so after the ATP had apparently told its trainers to hold fast on the supplements, he would have difficulty clearing his name. But this was to underestimate the incompetence of the ATP.
It was so afraid of the general public and, more particularly, the sport's sponsors finding out what had been going on last year (or at least its version of that) that, despite talking to its trainers in May, it did not come clean - not exactly the most appropriate word in this instance - until July, the month of Rusedski's test.
Yes, it had issued cursory warnings to the players, but had never thought to inform every player individually of the dangers. It was therefore a relatively simple process for the lawyers to convince Rusedski's tribunal that he was in the same boat as Bohdan Ulihrach et al.
Given that the ATP believed its own trainers were at fault, or that it could not be proved they were not, the governing body should have gone to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the first place to sort the matter out. Instead it had to be pushed into involving Wada by this newspaper. Now it is busily attempting to close the stable door long after the horse has bolted with its all-encompassing investigation which has "PR
exercise" written all over it.
To date, nobody has been able to prove where the nandrolone came from, only where it got to. As David Howman of Wada has pointed out since the whole sorry episode first surfaced, the problem may have nothing to do with the ATP trainers and their supplements.
Small wonder that Wada repeated its warning yesterday that yet another case, this time Rusedski's, has been settled on the basis that the ATP trainers were probably responsible. All the time, or so it seems, a blind eye is being turned to the possibility that drug taking in men's tennis may be endemic. There is no doubt that tennis has changed hugely over the past decade. It is no longer a game of delicate skills but a fully-fledged endurance sport. And in this respect it is perfectly possible that steroids have been and are being used.
And even if they are not, then the question of supplements, and the danger of them being contaminated, has been aired for so long and with such regularity that male tennis players should have stopped taking them long ago, as their women counterparts have.
The IAAF, along with many other sporting bodies, has never flinched from its pursuit of drug cheats. Chambers tried to claim his coach had given him a steroid, THG, without him knowing, and received short shrift.
By comparison, men's tennis appears to be soft on drugs, and it is time that its drug-testing programme was completely removed from the ATP's control. Even before this scandal there were too many "special circumstances" surrounding previous positive tests, and the rumour of cover-ups over leading players has continuously bubbled under the surface.
Wada's overview of what Howman has described as "a rash of nandrolone cases" is due to be published within the next few weeks. And it is being keenly anticipated by those who have been seriously disturbed by what must have been either a substantial cover-up at worst, or at best a colossal case of incompetence.