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Martina and The Snowballs (Watercooler) 01/04/2008 - 1:10 PM

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Housekeeping note: Make sure you tune in tomorrow morning for an important, happy announcement that is sure to bring a smile to many of your faces! - Pete

As most of you already know, the ITF independent Anti-Doping Tribunal handed down its decision in the case against Martina Hingis yesterday. The Tribunal categorically rejected Hingis's appeal. Hingis, the 3,456th consecutive athlete who, after testing positive, vociferously denied the charge and proclaimed her innocence, has been suspended for two years - which has become a moot point given that Hingis also announced her retirement shortly after the original doping charge was made public.

I urge you to read the entire report of the Tribunal. I found that some parts of it read like the script of a Monty Python movie. There's this whole thing about the doping control officer being "Mr Snowball" (his wife, Mrs. Snowball, was the one who actually supervised the urine-sample delivery process). And how about that bit (paragraph 36) about how Mr. Snowball thought it "strange" when the Firekitten gave Mrs. Bosanquet a kiss. Anyway. . .

I'd be the last person to advocate lynching people who have used or even just tried cocaine (among other things it would make me a horrible hypocrite, wink-wink), but the recreational drug is a prohibited substance and, at the end of the day, either you have rules or you don't. (Excuse me, I need to run to the men's for a moment!). Many people will think it a shame that this positive drug test will become part of the Hingis legacy, but something that came up while Pete Sampras and I were working on his book has led me to re-consider that (Back in a sec, where the hail is that danged Kleenex?).

You may remember that Petr Korda won the 1998 Australian Open (it was his only Grand Slam singles title, and in winning it he prevented Marcelo Rios from taking one) and rose as high as No. 2 in the world rankings.  Months thereafter, after a drug test administered at Wimbledon, he became the first high-profile tennis player busted under doping rules that finally acquired teeth when tennis became an Olympic sport again (in order to be an Olympic sport, tennis must embrace the stringent drug-testing policies of the International Olympic Committee). Korda tested positive for nandrolone, which is to dopers what a Big Mac is to fans of fast food. Banned for a year, Korda (like Hingis) basically said "To hail with it", and left the tour.Korda

Now here's the funny part. In 1997, Korda hung a surprising loss on Sampras at the US Open of 1997. This was one of the strangest matches in Pete's career, and it played out under ugly conditions, including at least one rain delay. Korda hung in there to win the match in a fifth-set tiebreaker - it was one of the few times in Pete's career that he had a match under control and let a guy come back to win. But in light of the Korda bust of a few months later, its perfectly acceptable to speculate on what role doping might have played in that win by Korda. After all, one of the things doping can increase your strength and stamina - two critical areas for the human pencil,  Korda.

Pete will re-visit this issue in his book, and it wouldn't be right of me to publish his thoughts here. But here are mine:  Korda was a player who gave Pete fits on more than one occasion. The guy was a brilliant shotmaker who seemed to play his best when he had nothing to lose. He was also a weird dude - he defaulted from the US Open after beating Pete that year, on the grounds that he was "sick" (it was an incident reminiscent of the Gasquet default at the US Open; in fact, there are a number of similarities between Korda and Gasquet). Still, if you connect the dots, even Korda's upset of Sampras is tainted.

The funny thing, now, is that nobody made that big a deal out of the Korda suspension and fine back when it happened. And while Korda lost all his appeals and had to return over half-a-million dollars in prize-money, it's fair to ask if that was sufficient punishment for a guy who won over $10 million in his career - plus earned hefty sums in appearance feels, exhibitions and endorsement fees.

I'm not sure that's sufficient punishment, and it isn't because of how I feel about Petr Korda. It's because how I feel about Marcelo Rios.

Rios was denied his one and only major, and it may have been because his opponent had the benefit of doping. I wonder how Rios felt after Wimbledon in '98, seeing that the guy who beat him in Melbourne had been found guilty of doping. I think that the ITF should have stripped Korda of his Australian Open title and awarded it to Rios.

Of course, the ITF has no such protocol in place. So I would suggest that the ITF adopt a policy of awarding all the matches won by a convicted doper for a specific interval (three months? six months? a year?). I mean, dopers presumably benefit from their illicit actions, at least in some cases (nandrolone, as opposed to cocaine) for some time before they're busted. So why not let the record show that?

Here's something else to consider, if you don't think that a doper here or a doper there can really influence the game very much. The record that may very well be the foundation of Pete Sampras's legacy is his six consecutive years as the year-end No. 1 player. Pete sealed that record in 1999, tying Jimmy Connors in '98. Guess who was really pushing him, near the end of the year, and threatening to actually make Pete have to play him in the year-end championships in order to secure the top spot?

Correctamundo. Marcelo Rios.

Now, imagine if Rios had the added benefit of winner's ranking points at the Australian Open. That could have given him enough of a cushion to finish as the year-end No. 1, with a major to boot. This become critically important because Rios pulled out of some events at the end of the year, which helped enable Sampras to catch and surpass him in the rankings.

Personally, I'm not sure you could re-adjust things like ranking points in order to mete out justice to dopers. That gets awfully complicated. And who knows what Sampras himself would have done, if Rios had won in Melbourne? You certainly can't take Pete's No. 1 ranking away, because Korda was a doper and you had to make restitution to Rios.

To me, the key thing is the titles anyway. So I would urge the ITF and other Lords of Tennis to agree that in addition to the usual punishment,  dopers be stripped of any victories or titles they won for a specified time before their positive test. Give the Ws, if not the ranking points, to the guys they beat. In my mind, Rios is the 1998 Australian Open champion and Petr Korda is the doper who never won a major legitimately.

This rant began as a speculation on Hingis's legacy, so let's bring it full circle. Korda, who to my mind committed a far worse offense than Hingis, is happily playing on the senior tour, acknowledged as a Grand Slam champ, and (presumably) livin' large. Even Pete Sampras bears him no ill will, which speaks well for Sampras. I've always felt that it's much easier to forgive than to forget, but in tennis, people seem to forget with equal facility.


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Posted by Jenn 01/05/2008 at 01:04 PM

"Chez Foo" - I love it.

Posted by Snoo Foo 01/05/2008 at 01:06 PM

um no beth, it's the 2008 award, so I guess they give it every year. although they may be implying that he's not coming back in 2008. Which seems extremely likely.

Man I love how the spanish announcer is saying "Moo-RYE" Oh dude it's cracking me up, he inserts a lilt of delighted surprise every time. MooRYE! Moo-RYE! Moo-RYE!

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 01:07 PM

murray just won his 4th title and should enter top 10 on monday (I mean I think).

Posted by jbradhunter 01/05/2008 at 01:07 PM

congrats Andy! great start to the year-- boy he excels in indoor tournaments

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 01:08 PM

Murray impressive in the end.

Well, the top 10 beckoned, he had his girlfriend watching, and much to prove to his critics after parting with Brad Gilbert. Plenty to motivate him.

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 01:09 PM

i dunno - just giving the award doesn't mean carlos won't be back...does it?

*furrows brow anxiously*

Posted by jbradhunter 01/05/2008 at 01:10 PM

snoo- please use the word "lilt" as much as you can thru the course of the year-- for some reason it's just funny reading it from you :)

oh- thanks jb! I read upstream before I caught your answer :)

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 01:16 PM

anyone know when the final is tomorrow? i couldn't find the time on the site....

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 01:18 PM

ahhh - watching cute boys in shorts is thoroughly exhausing - i'm taking a nap. *yawn*

nite all!

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 01:19 PM

brad: I focused on Rafa-Carlos on screen, the scoreboard well ahead of the action, so finding out how everything happened after I had seen the scores. But had no sound for Rafa-Carlos, so listened to the TV commentary on Murray-Wawrinka, looking round whenever there was a break. I will watch back the Murray-Wawrinka match for what I missed. Murray certainly has his forehand back now.

Both he and Rafa have added points to their totals today. I think Andy's points go to 1830, so he knocks Gasquet out of the number 8 spot. And Robredo out of the top 10.

Posted by kingandre 01/05/2008 at 01:26 PM

i just saw the best ever tennis match . Coming back from the Rafa-Moya semi. Sheer brilliance. 4 hrs of inside out forehands and memorable groundstrokes played by 2 of my favourites.Have an exam tomorrow.Got to go and sleep . Will try and write a more detailed report tomorrow.Totally spent mentally.

Posted by abbey 01/05/2008 at 01:36 PM

jb, i think it's 5pm their time, 8am tw time.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 01:41 PM

here is the link for Sydney (guys)
http://www.medibankinternational.com/ arg? there's no direct link to the pdf?? well nervermind.

The girls are there too.that's definitely an event I woudn't mind attending: in the middle of beautiful Sydney (bondi beach!!!!!), during the summer men & women' s tennis, at the same time!!! what a treat!!

Anyway, I'm here in santa claus' country where it's minus 7 degree celcius. My lips are all chapped because of the ambient frost, it's dark and in certain streets there's this lugubrious schwoooosh noise made by the wind before it crushes your bones...

Ok, back to tennis:

gasquet,berdych,moya,blake,hewitt,santoro,verdasco = all there in sydney,
for the girls Justine, Amélie (in the same quarter !), Ivanovic, Kuznetsova, Vaidisova, Chakvetadze, Janko, Bartoli

No Americans, the Williams, Davenport and Sharapova are all AWOL.

In New Zealand, the draw http://www.atptennis.com/en/common/TrackIt.asp?file=http://www.atptennis.com/1/posting/2008/301/mds.pdf

only ferrer, ancic & a less bulky monaco are the highlights.

the fed, roddick, gonzo, safin, murray, haas are all at the Kooyong exhibition that starts wednesday.
http://www.kooyong.com.au/

mmmm, the 2008 season is really on now. My lips hurts.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 01/05/2008 at 01:45 PM

thanks for the time of the final tomorrow I was also wondering when it would be!

Posted by zola 01/05/2008 at 02:03 PM

The Rafa-Moya match was just such a thriller. what an exciting match and what a heart in both men to fight like that.

did you see that little girl who started crying when RAfa seemed to be losing in the second tie break? I saw her and i knew rafa would win.

Oh, what a match. I still have the hangover!

Posted by Jenn 01/05/2008 at 02:04 PM

5 a.m. wake up call tomorrow. UGH! I feel like we are back at clay court season.

Posted by anna 01/05/2008 at 03:27 PM

Interesting comments on Hingis.We'll never know whether she is innocent or guilty.But i do know that London is a hotbed of cocaine.My 27 year old daughter lives there,actually in Wimbledon and apparently its normal practice amongst well-off 20's folk to do cocaine.She was blown away no pun intended,although not a saint she certainly thinks its crazy amongst all the health pros she hangs out with.Interesting to see that some people on this board also think its fine/funny.
Robbyfan; I also am concerned about your being belittled;I'm hoping that kind of behaviour towards posters simply expressing an opinion politely is going to stop.

Posted by Samantha 01/05/2008 at 03:48 PM

"We'll never know if she's innocent or guilty" Hingis no longer stands accused, she stands convicted by the ITF. They rejected her argument. Innocent until found guilty. She has been found guilty. Case closed.

Posted by Backhand blaster 01/05/2008 at 03:52 PM

Tari: Happy Birthday!

Posted by jb 01/05/2008 at 04:14 PM

Thanks for the time of the final tomorrow. i was sort of dreading a 6 or 7 oclock start - but I can handle 8!

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2008 at 04:55 PM

anna: I lived in Wimbledon for many years until recently, including most of my 20s. Cocaine use may be normal practice for some people who live there, but it's far from true that everybody of a certain age who lives there and can afford it will be using it. I never did, and nor did my friends.

That isn't to say that I didn't meet people who used it.

In Hingis' case, to be clear, I am not saying that recreational drug use is a good thing, or fine. My main argument has been all along that it wouldn't have been performance-enhancing. I don't like drug cheats in sport in the slightest, but I don't think she's that. So, I think it's fair to ask whether the severity of the ban that was imposed on her, and the damage to her good name, is proportionate to what she did - which is, after all, something that would never have helped her win a tennis match.

It's as though she's being punished for not being a role model. I don't happen to think of tennis players as needing to be role models, even if some of them are.

Oh, sure, she knew the rules, but the ban seems long compared to the bans given to some players who have been caught in situations where what they may have taken WAS performance-enhancing.

That she was caught out seems not to be in doubt from what I did manage to read of the documents about the case.

Posted by Schwab 01/05/2008 at 05:12 PM

Sounds like I need to be up one hour before the match so I can make sure I give the live streams to the match.

Posted by Samantha 01/05/2008 at 05:13 PM

Ros, I would agree that those who take performance drugs should be given a more severe penalty. I believe Hingis used coke for recreation. A sentence of one year would have been good. Also, I don't buy the argument, a lot of people do it.

Posted by Tari 01/05/2008 at 06:49 PM

Thanks for the additional birthday wishes! You guys are sweet.

Ros: I'm in total agreement with your last post. 2 years? Even one year is substantial, right? I think there have been bans of only a few months for banned substances. Seems like the guidelines are a little out of whack for the length of suspension.

I wonder, and no, not because I'm defending her, for those of you out there that think making comments other than approval of all of this is doing that...if she had been giving a lighter suspension, would she have retired for good?

Posted by Samantha 01/05/2008 at 08:06 PM

Although I think Hingis is 1OO% guilty, it would have been compassionate for the ITF to stop their investigation. If you think about it, her retirement gave them the punishment they wanted. She was out of tennis. Allowing her to keep her good name would have been the nice thing to do. I think the greatest loss for Hingis isn't the ban, she was already retired. I think her greatest pain is the damaged done to her name and her legacy. She can never get that back. The only problem with this is how do you choose which cases the rules should be change for. Sesil was only 15, should she have been given a break to?

Posted by Sherlock 01/05/2008 at 10:06 PM

Tari, good question. I'm not sure if she would have retired or not. My guess would be yes, the way her injuries and results were progressing. It would have been nice if she could have gotten a proper send off, though. A 2-year ban for a first time recreational offense is more than ridiculous.

Samantha, I really don't think her legacy has taken a big hit at all. Do you or anyone else look at Wilander's career differently? I know I don't. He was great regardless. I don't condone it, but it happens. Pffft.

Posted by Backhand blaster 01/05/2008 at 11:46 PM

Martina made a mistake. She initially did not want to fight this decision and now we know why. We all make mistakes, but we made more when we were Martina's age. So on that score, I feel bad for her. But this was a perfect opportunity for the WTA to look tough without really hurting Martina much. They could have banned her from Tennis for 10 years or 50 and it really wouldn't matter. She had already retired for a second time before the decision came down and her reputation for the moment is not made better by a lighter penalty. A lot of fans here on this blog really sympathize with "their" players. And to a lesser degree, so do I. But the thing we should really be pulling for here is Tennis itself. Gambling and drug use go right to the heart of the integrity of the sport. Tennis needs to be out in front on these issues in a serious manner before the sport goes the way of Cycling.

Posted by Samantha 01/06/2008 at 12:20 AM

Sorry Sherlock have to disagree, being accused and found guilty damages the reputation of anyone's career. Why do you think Hingis hired such an expensive lawyer, she was out to protect her name and preserve her legacy. She had already retired, so her interests couldn't have been to stay in the game. Also, go on to any tennis board and read the things people are saying and then tell me no damaged has been done. At an athlete, the last thing you want is your name connected to drugs. Look at how hard Bonds is fighting. Backhand Blaster, I completely agree that we now know why she initially said she wasn't going to fight. Her chances of winning were slim and none and she knew it. In order for the ITF to find Hingis not guilty, they would have to reject the objectivity and accuracy of science(coke in her urine)in favor of someone's word. If we accept someone's word over science then we might as well open the prisons door because most of the people in prison will tell you they're innocent. But science tells us different. Science is greater than someone's word for the simple fact that people will lie to get out of trouble and that is what Hingis did from the start. Go Justine!

Posted by Snoo Foo 01/06/2008 at 01:04 AM

Chuckie's banned for 2 years, meanwhile Marcelo Melo who was caught with a stimulant in his pee the same time chuckie was busted just won the doubles at Adelaide after serving a 2 month suspension. Congratulations!

http://tinyurl.com/2jhwch

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 01/06/2008 at 01:10 AM

Samantha,

I don't think this development tarnishes her Grand Slam victories. It certainly disappoints a lot of fans and may alter the way they view her as a person, but her stellar accomplishments during her "first career" are undeniable.

Posted by AussieAnge 01/06/2008 at 02:52 AM

I really must get my own computer instead on relying on friends as I sent a couple yesterday about Hingis cocaine ban (apparently they didn't go through) which I am bit upset. Two years is a long time you don't even get that much if you have it on you.

I sent through a post yesterday in regards to an Aussie Rules footballer who is allegedly a cocaine user. I did mention his names but in hindsight maybe its better the post didn't go through. He has been tested on a number of occasions and always came up clean he won a Brownlow Medal which is the highest award you can win for his sport and premiership with his club. He is regarded as a nice guy and a great footballer. He has been suspended from the league for 12 months for bringing the game into disrepute.
Does this mean that Hingis cannot attend any matches or commentate. If I have already sent this post I do apologise.

Posted by 01/06/2008 at 03:24 AM

The case is indeed closed, but it does not prove absolutely that she took cocaine. Experts have challenged the accuracy of finger print science that have convicted people (See 60 Minutes archive). TLC or Discovery presented a documentary about a mother who had an epic battle to clear her name and get back her children, after valid DNA test concluded that her children could not be hers. Welfare agency had accused her of fraud.

Posted by Samantha 01/06/2008 at 09:04 AM

I think the people who say that the punishment was too harsh and that others have received a lesser punishment are making a good point. I think the people who continue to proclaim her innocence are in denial. From the start, there was tremendous evidences to support guilt, both A and B samples testing positive, a medical doctor stating she "absolutely" tested positive and then her reaction to run and retire revealed a consciousness of guilt. There was never any evidence to support innocence accept her word. When this story first came out, a lot of people on this board criticized and ridicule people who held the minority opinion that she was guilty. Well, it turns out they had it right.

Posted by creig bryan 01/06/2008 at 09:40 AM

Samantha:

Could she have been set up? Could someone have spiked her food or drink? Not "Did," but "Could." Yes or No?

Keep Smiling

Posted by Samantha 01/06/2008 at 10:05 AM

CB, I read the entire report and no where in it doesn't Hingis claim that she went to a party and felt funny, nor did she claim that she passed out after taking a drink from someone. If that was a defense, don't you think her lawyers would have used it? Also, CB, who do you think set her up and for what purpose?

Posted by creig bryan 01/06/2008 at 10:17 AM

The question remains unanswered, Samantha.

Could she have been set up, yes or no?

Whether or not she admitted it, (or even realized it had happened at all) does not impact the question asked.

Keep Smiling

Posted by Samantha 01/06/2008 at 10:50 AM

CB, fairy tale can come true, if you only believe.

Posted by creig bryan 01/06/2008 at 11:17 AM

Samantha:

I see that you're practicing for your future in politics.
I appreciate your sophisticated candor, in that regard.
Excellente!

Keep Smiling

Posted by Jai 01/07/2008 at 04:01 AM

This is the first problem I saw with your little plan of giving the "W"s to players who lost to dopers. How do you know that the player in the final (in this case Rios) is more deserving of the title than the player who lost to the doper in the semi-final (in this case, Karol Kucera, but that's not important)

A better example is a hypothetical, say the Australian Open 2005. Imagine that we find out that Safin was doping during the tournament. Does it make sense to give Hewitt the win over Federer, just because he happened to be on the other side of the draw?

I think that there's no way to go back and fix history with dopers. You can punish them (strip titles) but rewarding second place doesn't work in a single-elimination sport like tennis. Its not Olympic Gymnastics or Skiing. Unless you redo the tournament, the results can't be changed.

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