Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Rally: Rochus Pocus
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The Rally: Rochus Pocus 11/03/2010 - 5:47 PM

2 Today we debut The Rally, a new feature that will hopefully continue every other Wednesday. It's a pretty simple concept: Freelance tennis writer and former Tennis.com editor Kamakshi Tandon and I will bat around a tennis topic of the moment. This week: you know who.

***

Kamakshi,

Christophe Rochus hasn’t gone out quietly, which actually isn’t all that surprising. There was some talk at one point in the past about how the Rochus brothers—Christophe and Olivier—were considering going public with their suspicions that a certain player or players had pulled out of an important event to avoid having to take drug tests. Nothing came of it, but it does seem like Christophe has been stewing about this subject for a while. He says he was once warned by the ATP for bringing it up.

What do you make of his comments? He states that doping is rampant in tennis and basically an open secret, but doesn’t assert much more than that he’s suspicious of guys who can play for five hours one day and then come back “like a rabbit” the next. He says that yes, there are tests, but they can be evaded, and that one opponent of his came back from a bathroom break transformed, before ending up with a nosebleed. And then he responds to the frankly surprising question from the interviewer about rumors that their countrywoman Justine Henin’s 18-month retirement had really been a doping suspension in disguise. I hadn’t realized that this had gone from random, musing speculation to a full-fledged “rumor” (if there is a difference).

I’ll leave those last elements for later and start with Rochus’s more general comments. Do you think he’s totally out of line here, making statements any observer could make without offering evidence? Is that just an irresponsible way of hurting the sport? Or do you think the more attention that’s paid to doping in tennis the better? To me there’s some of both in this. Rochus is whining—and there’s the taste of a sour grape or two in that whine—but he does make a good point in saying that no matter how many times players are tested per year, it’s still possible to beat the system. A cyclist who recently came up positive admitted that he’d been tested something like 100 times when he’d been doped, but had passed every one of those tests anyway.

Tennis players are tested frequently, but any expert will tell you that the only ones that matter are the out of competition tests, and when you look at the ITF’s doping stats from 2009, you do see holes there. As of last year, there was no blood testing out of competition, which means HGH couldn’t be tested for; something like a quarter of the tests were missed (the records of them have been eliminated from the list on the ITF's site); a top player like Novak Djokovic wasn’t tested at all out of competition; and there were no EPO tests done until the French Open. Rochus isn’t the final word on anything, but it would be willfully naïve to think that tennis is by nature cleaner than any other sport.

Or should he have just kept his mouth shut?

Steve

 

***

 

Steve,
 
Should Rochus have just kept his mouth shut and should we just ignore him? Exactly what I was asking myself on Saturday evening, trying to decide whether to spend part of it translating his comments (whee).
 
We've heard very similar things from other rank-and-file players a couple of times before, like Andrew Illie and Nicholas Escude. Once again, the comments are largely unsubstantiated. And as always, it's bound to create some over-the-top headlines about tennis being rife with doping.
 
At the same time, it does seem there's at least a small fringe of players who do hold this view, which is perhaps worth acknowledging in itself. And given that his comments seem pretty sincere and reflective (see the "noble cause" remark referenced below), it's not illegitimate for people to be interested in knowing what he said.
 
What always surprises me is that these players are in the best position to actually get evidence of their suspicions. Yet they never bring anything more incriminating to the table than some story about how they got beaten by some player who played five sets the day before.
 
Players should be free to say what they think, but need to hold themselves to a high standard of responsibility on topics like these.
 
Before we get all technical, I did linger on Rochus' philosophical remark that players who dope know they're taking risks with their health, but they're taking them so their families can be financially set for life. Their cause is "almost noble," he said.
 
The irony, of course, is that Rochus is sometimes tagged as a suspected match-fixer (scandalously, he once lost to a British journeyman on grass). Would he extend that thinking? And what does it tell us about the nature of these problems and how to combat them?
 
Touching quickly on the Henin issue, the reason there was a question specifically about her is because it was Belgian newspaper. He answered the question, by all appearances honestly. Personally, I think it's a wild idea -- unlike league sports that write their own rules, this is strictly forbidden for Olympic sports and what are the chances the ITF would risk their entire eligibility and reputation for one Justine Henin? The timing also doesn't add up.
 
Anyway, the real question in the room at times like these is always -- is there doping in tennis, and how much? Let's take a crack at that one.


Kamakshi

***


Kamakshi,

Maybe the Belgian journalists heard more than I did about any Justine rumors. But even for a Belgian paper, it does seem like a leap to publish speculation about it. There are 50 rumors about various other players I could bring up right now, which would only prove that there lots of rumors. Is there a rumor going yet about why Dementieva decided to retire so suddenly?

One other element of Rochus’s comments that was interesting was the opponent who came out after a bathroom break transformed, and ended up with a nosebleed. Is Rochus saying the guy took an amphetamine or other pill to energize himself? There was a lot of talk about that kind of thing in the early 80s, especially in Short Circuit by Michael Mewshaw, and the bathroom break has become more common lately. They’re going to become a topic of conversation again now.

As far as the most important subject, steroids in tennis, I keep looking back at baseball, cycling, and track and field. In general, where there was smoke, the fire was eventually discovered—Marion Jones, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Floyd Landis, likely Lance Armstrong. As with baseball 10 years ago, tennis players on both tours are more muscular than ever, and their endurance levels seem higher than ever. On the one hand, this doesn’t prove anything by itself. You could even say it was inevitable that once the game became a power-baseline war, it would take a different body type to slug from the backcourt for hours than it did to make quick serve and volley bursts. But, if you keep in mind the three sports I mentioned above, you’d be more likely to say that this evolution has been sped up because some tennis players have been taking steroids.

The one difference I hang onto between tennis and cycling is the culture of the sport. Landis said he knew that all the top guys in cycling doped, and he decided that if he wanted to compete with them, he had to join them. Too much of his life had been devoted to it to give it up. Bonds, according to reports, had largely the same attitude; he couldn’t stand seeing McGwire break home-run records when he was so obviously juiced. Unless tennis is also completely dirty like cycling, the psychology for top tennis players would be different. They wouldn’t be joining everyone else, they’d be robbing everyone else.

Pro athletes obviously will do anything when it comes to their performance; even, in the case of Roger Clemens, volunteer to lie to Congress. Do you think a tennis player would be deterred by anything?

Steve

 

***

 

Steve,

Of course there's a rumor going around about why Dementieva retired; it's that she's pregnant. :)
 
The Justine question just sounds like a flyer: 'let's see what he says.' In a non-Belgian publication, it might well have been about another player. It's there, it's at the bottom, it got a non-answer—and that's about all the attention it deserves.
 
The way Rochus tells the nosebleed story, I keep imagining some sort of Popeye-spinach effect. But yes, he seems to be referring to some sort of suspected stimulant use, though I reserve judgment on the significance of the story given his limited description of what happened.
 
Let's be clear: it's possible to avoid the system and there's probably significant benefit to doing so. But any useful discussion on this topic has to start with some understanding of practical realities involved.
Let's broadly divide performance-enhancing drugs into three types:
 
1. Stimulants—things that give you a temporary boost, from the cup of coffee you had this morning to the cocaine Player X snorted from his wristband. Only banned in-competition.
2. Old-fashioned steroids—I mean the type that stay in your system and show up on drug tests for a long time after you've taken them, nandrolone being the classic example.
3. The high-end methods—either undetectable or goes out of your system very quickly, so it's very hard, expensive and invasive to test effectively for it. Designer steroids, EPO, HGH, blood-doping, the spectre of genetic-engineering, etc.
 
I think there's enough testing at the tour level to keep 1. and 2. under control. There's a good chance of getting caught, and the punishments are pretty severe unless you come up with a really good story. (Apparently 'micro-dosing' is now the thing for steroids, but let's put that into Type 3.)

Type 3 is where we just don't know. Is it zero? No. This was always unlikely, and after the Wayne Odesnik bust for HGH, there's really no way to make that claim. But do a lot of players lie awake at night thinking their opponents aren't playing clean? No, I don't think so either.
 
And that's pretty much what I rely on. It may not seem like much, but in practice it's not a bad approach.

You're spot on that culture is the vital factor—once everyone's doing it, and no one cares anymore, it's very hard to root out. And it just doesn't seem like that's happened.

As we've seen in other sports, the players always know. And it's hard to keep things secret for long in a highly insular community like tennis. Based on current knowledge, I think it would be a shock to most people if the problem turned out to be systematic.

Everyday experience is a part of this. Most players seem to have only a vague understanding of doping and the rules in general—until Gasquet, for example, a lot seemed to think all positive tests are created equal. Few grasped the details of Agassi's story about testing positive for crystal meth, and how things would (and would not) be different under today's system. And there was a lot of confusion during the nandrolone crisis, which has since given a lot of fake fodder to the conspiracy theorists.
 
Unlike cyclists and the like, tennis players aren't part of sophisticated, well-funded teams, sleeping in high-altitude tents and training with scientific precision. They don't even get basics like nutrition and schedule planning right, and they're going to carry out some highly complex procedure to artificially enhance their performance? And what's more, those procedures often need medical personnel and equipment that can't be brought along on the road.
 
That still leaves room for a few exceptions, but at least it puts the focus where it should be: what can be done to plug the gaps?
 
Ultimately, what the debate and speculation speaks to is uncertainty. It's up to the policing system to give us better confidence. That's been very difficult for a number of reasons, but it's also the only thing we have control over.

Kamakshi


 
171
Comments
 
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Posted by Pierric Bross 11/03/2010 at 06:37 PM

First (i know they aren't allowed but I want to feel special)

Posted by D Blaze 11/03/2010 at 06:49 PM

I think Rochus' claims about stimulants are very interesting. He's talking about a guy with a nose bleed (presumably from snorting a line of something) and guys who can be fresh after exhausting their muscles the day before. No one is saying "How can Andy Roddick serve so fast? He must be doping!" They are saying how is this guy's cardio still OK? Why isn't he tired yet? As a competitive college player, who has witnessed plenty of doping playing football in high school, and has never heard of a peer tennis player taking anything, I don't think steroids or HGH are likely to be big in the culture of tennis. Stimulants though? Definitely. Hell, I've poured an energy drink in my Gatorade when I had to play a tournament after teaching lessons all day to pay for college. Should stimulants be a different PED debate than steroids and HGH? I leave that to others to debate.

Posted by Jamaica Karen (dem a go tired fi see mi face - Bob Marley) 11/03/2010 at 06:50 PM

"tennis players aren't part of sophisticated, well-funded teams". They may be individual players but a lot of players these days, especially those who are sponsored by Adidas are part of a sophisticated, well funded team. To be a part of Adidas players get access to some of the best coaching around. They also get access to clothes as well as being able to train with legendary trainer, Gil Reyes.

I am sure that Nike as part of its sponsorship deal with its stars also provides training etc for some of its big names.

We have seen that people like Federer, the Williams Sisters, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray etc travel with a complete entourage, some of which includes, personal trainers, physiotherapists, etc.

The rank and file journeyman maybe unable to afford this on their own, but what about those Federations that have oodles of money to help their players. The Brits we know provide housing, coaching and a stipend to their athletes. Can you imagine what the USTA does for theirs as well as the French.

Posted by Pierric Bross 11/03/2010 at 06:51 PM

"there was no blood testing out of competition" ('09)

Now that's bad. :(

Posted by pogiako 11/03/2010 at 06:55 PM

A certain muscled msn who does not spend a lot of time in the gym because of heavy schedule must be nervouse on this.

Posted by Liwa 11/03/2010 at 06:56 PM

Excellent points both. I think it is a good thing that you are addressing the issue of doping, as one would have to be fantastically naïve to believe it isn't an issue in most professional sports.

One thing though, about the culture in tennis not allowing doping to become endemic, Kamakshi pointed out that Rochus is not alone in making these sorts of claims. It is possible that Ilie, Escudé and Rochus represent a significant number of journeymen who hold these views, and I was struck by the bitterness in Rochus's comments about how it is those at the top who are cheating. If you believe that it isn't a fair playing field and that those above you are cheating, then it is less of a step to dope yourself. You are being cheated if you don't dope, rather than cheating others if you do.

Posted by tennis muse 11/03/2010 at 06:57 PM

It amazes me that Peter Bodo's head-in-the-sand piece got so many more comments when this one is so vastly more thoughtful and balanced. Personally, I would bet my left kidney that some of the top players dope, and factors like wild swings in performance and games based more on power and endurance than shot-making could give you a pretty good idea of who are the most likely culprits.

Posted by observer 11/03/2010 at 06:58 PM

Steve and Kamakshi,

This is the best article I've read on Tennis.com. The discussion format is perfect--people learn a lot more and are forced to form and articulate clearer beliefs when they are in a back-and-forth discussion. It also prevents the writer from getting carried away.

It was entirely substantive, topical, and not at all based on any flight desire to go beyond sports journalism / discussion into some kind of literary moment. Those literary moments are necessary and important at important points in the sport's history, but not every week.

Very well done. (By the way, the things I pointed out here are not meant to suggest that your writing is usually non-substantive, non-informative, etc.)

For the discussion, I obviously have no inside knowledge and will not add any speculation.

Posted by noleisthebest 11/03/2010 at 07:19 PM

Pete,
show us some guts and name some obvious name.....
It's safe to pull Novak's name (even for argument's sake) out of the bag...

How about Rafael Nadal?

Who's the bunny rabbit who plays a 5 setter against Verdasco (AO 09) and another five against Roger the next day.

Does the word NIKE spell with invisible ink on your paper?

NO, I'm not a tetchy nationalistic raw-nerv touched little saddo.....just doing the barking for you (free!) that's all ;)

Posted by Michele 11/03/2010 at 07:20 PM

Agree with most here. A much more thoughtful piece than what Bodo posted. His was the equivalent of a child asking a parent "why" and being told "because I said so." This is a topic that deserves discussion.

Part of the issue here, too, is that tennis is so insular that nobody wants to be the one to dig up the dirt. I mean, as two journalists in the sport, do you really want to be the guy who outed Nadal or Federer for doping? And just to be clear I don't think they are but I'm using them as an exaggerated example to make a point!

Calling out anyone without proof isn't fair but then again, turning a blind eye over and over again because it's just makes us so uncomfortable isn't helpful either.

Posted by YodaSD 11/03/2010 at 07:22 PM

Nice format guys - great idea.

Posted by adicecream 11/03/2010 at 07:23 PM

Great format. I'll pass on substantive comments bc this is one issue about which I have nothing worthwhile to add.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/03/2010 at 07:32 PM

"As of last year, there was no blood testing out of competition, which means HGH couldn’t be tested for; something like a quarter of the tests were missed (the records of them have been eliminated from the list on the ITF's site); a top player like Novak Djokovic wasn’t tested at all out of competition; and there were no EPO tests done until the French Open."

Its appalling.

Posted by Philip 11/03/2010 at 07:33 PM

First of all, It may be hard to sweat out the dopers from the system because the science behind fitness and nutrition programs have made everyone stronger and increased stamina in all sports, or maybe all of those dopers are at the top because they have found a way to evade detection.

Second, as a Canadian following the progress, or lack thereof, of Canadian tennis players, still hoping for a long and sustained breakthrough from one of them, we can see that breaking onto the main tour is very difficult and requires a lot of physical training and rehab because a lot of these players have to go through qualies on a weekly basis for most of the tournaments they enter for little money and points, even in the latter stages of small tournaments.
And when they do make it it is very briefly sustained for the most part because they easily get burned out or injured, see Aleksandra Wozniak's record over the last two years for example. Who could blame players from countries where their players do not receive a lot of main draw wildcards or who have to travel away from home for most of the season chasing points and cash for not doping?
And as a sidenote to this point, how are countries with smaller or similar sized funding as Canada producing top level athletes in sports such as tennis unless they are doping -because we have seen repeated offences from players coming out of countries like Argentina? And don't give me that excuse about them being hungrier for it. Just look at our olympic performances, especially winter; we are very hungry and competitive across the board.

Posted by I Come From Anon 11/03/2010 at 07:41 PM

It's good that you don't flat out deny this possibility. I think it could be good or bad for the sport, but I'd want it out in the open because it's pretty silly for people to keep denying that there is abuse in this sport on the basis that it hasn't been revealed yet.

Anyway, just wanted to point out, there aren't teams like other sports, yes. There are, however, tennis associations (France and Spain have really well regulated associations that regularly churn out tennis pros.. right?) which could very well take the place that teams in other sports have, ie. provide the drugs and stuff.

Posted by Yolita 11/03/2010 at 07:53 PM

I would feel much more respect for Rochus if he had written a document, with all the facts known to him, anything that might be considered reasonable evidence and presented it to the ATP and to the media.

But this speculation full of innuendos and with absolutely no evidence really makes me sick. It's so low it left me speechless.

As far as I could tell, the strongest evidence was a player who took a break and came back to take a set off Christophe Rochus. Clearly he must have been on drugs! But of course! What other explanation can there be?

Unbelievable.

Posted by Syd 11/03/2010 at 07:53 PM

Interesting discussion!

I don't agree that any of the sophisticated designer drugs require medical personnel to administer though. :) They come in a vial, liquid form, and anyone that can stick a hypo into a muscle is able to deliver a drug, and that means just about anyone. They can be self-administered for that matter. EPO (blood doping) a trainer can hook up, it's not rocket science.

The sport is not lily white, it would be ludicrous to expect that with tens of thousands, in some cases, millions of dollars at stake, that people would not be looking to gain an edge; And with so many professional sports rife with doping, including table tennis, why would tennis be the exception?

Why the ITF did not perform any blood tests out of competition in 2009 is beyond comprehension. Some suggest that the powers that be do not want to catch big time tennis players, and it's easy to see why. The industry is built around the big stars and everyone's paychecks are tied to these men and women maintaining "clean" images.

Posted by Eurotour 11/03/2010 at 07:58 PM

Go Rafa, hide! No, wait. If you are a suspect then they also have to take down Serena, right? Never mind, go hide Rafa! You don't need the WTF trophy just yet.

Posted by Legoboy 11/03/2010 at 08:02 PM

The funny thing is...almost all type 1, as we've classified them, stimulatns will show up in a urine test, and are only good if taken during the time of perfomance, meaning they should test positive in a simple urine test.

Even Andre tested positive, his story for testing so was just accepted.

If Rochus knows his drugs, what he described was stimulant abuse, and that person should have tested positive...sounds a bit sketch to me.

Posted by crazycaro21 11/03/2010 at 08:06 PM

Very interesting format. Enjoyable to read and well-documented, which really facilitate the reading and, at the same time, it really made me think about that doping issue.

I must say that Rochus opened a big can of worms there and that instead of implying his loss to, I can only assume, Donald Young (if the loss he mentioned was from this year, it's the only one possible) on the fact that said player uses substances, then there's a problem, because not only said player isn't seen much outside of Challenger events, but said player really wouldn't be performing to the standards he alleged taken substances should logically put him, as they are supposed to enhance performance. So to me, what he says seems like a lot of rubbish when there are free accusations like that that are made.

Philip: Wait until next year. Rebecca Marino (who won her 17th match in a row today on ITF level) and Milos Raonic will progress some more. As for Wozniak, sorry to disagree with you: I think she played well over her head last year. Then again, if you're so longing for something good coming out of the Canadian front, don't disregard Daniel Nestor, please. He might be, as some would say, "only playing doubles" (which is an expression I really dislike and with which I totally disagree), but he's still to this date the best we've seen in Canadian tennis history, with no disrecpect to Roland Godin, Sébastien Lareau, Martin Laurendeau, etc. After all, Nestor does have a Career Golden Slam, in doubles, but it still counts.

However, I must say, as one who's been a keen fan of Argentinian tennis for many years, that no, the Argentines are NOT all doping themselves. Two individuals (to my recollection) convinced of doping don't make a country.

Posted by crazycaro21 11/03/2010 at 08:10 PM

Correction: It can also imply either Lukas Dlouhy (in a Davis Cup dead rubber, which would make it even mor far-fetched) or Marsel Ilhan, which also seems rather far-fetched).

Posted by Carrie - Thanks for the memories Elena! 11/03/2010 at 08:17 PM

*Why the ITF did not perform any blood tests out of competition in 2009 is beyond comprehension. Some suggest that the powers that be do not want to catch big time tennis players, and it's easy to see why.*

If that's the case then the ITF made that bed and needs to like in whatever mess that comes out when they start to blood test. And they must- using only urine tests is so antiquated for today's PEDs that it is like using Word Perfect to write your dissertation on. Outdated and not up to the task needed.

crazycaro- Rochus has lost to several players after leading 1-6, so it is highly possible that he is not talking about Young.


From Jackie:

Rochus went 6-1 3-5 then 6-1 5-5:
L Marsel Ilhan 28/04/2010 1-6 7-5 6-2

Rochus went 6-1 5-5, but unable to check 2nd set order:
W Roko Karanusic 05/04/2008 6-1 7-5
W Frank Dancevic 14/06/2004 6-1 7-5

Rochus went 6-1 5-5, but not 6-1 3-5:
L Lukas Dlouhy 07/03/2010 1-6 7-6(3) 7-5
L Donald Young 19/01/2010 1-6 7-5 6-2 6-4
W Albert Ramos-Vinolas 01/11/2009 6-1 7-5
W Stefan Koubek 29/09/2008 6-1 7-5
L Jaroslav Pospisil 26/09/2008 1-6 7-6(4) 6-3
W Arnaud Clement 28/05/2009 6-1 7-5 4-6 6-3
W Richard Gasquet 22/04/2009 6-1 6-7(2) 6-3


Posted by crazycaro21 11/03/2010 at 08:35 PM

Carrie: Thanks a lot for the details. Then again, it seems quite far-fetched to just imply what he implied, no matter who it was, as I wrote.

How many times have we seen a player come back from a deficit, with or without a washroom break? We've also seen some nosebleeding,which can also mean that the weather was dry, that the player has sinus issues, etc. It gives one something to think about and ponder, fuels those who constantly have doubts and believe that all pro sports are corrupted, etc.

But either you say it or you don't and in this case, Rochus just seems to assume and doesn't speak. Now that he's retired, though, he should. Or, like Fabrice Santoro did in a TV interview last year, imply clearly. ;-)

Posted by Yolita 11/03/2010 at 08:38 PM

Why are you trying to guess who he's talking about when he doesn't even have the courage to explicitly say what he means and back it up? Whay is he getting all this attention?

He was a mediocre player and he is a mediocre bitter person. No surprises there.

The sport should be clean and if people involved in the sport feel that not everything is being done to ensure that, they should express their concerns in writing to the proper authorities, with facts backing up either the accusations or the concerns.

To validate such obnoxious behaviour is beyond me. He took a swipe at everything and everybody. Let's forget about him!

Posted by PJ 11/03/2010 at 08:39 PM

While I do believe some small amount of tennis players do some sort of doping, these comments for Rochus reek of a sore loser who had a "small man" complex. He sounds bitter that others on the tour were better athletes than he was. His example about the nose bleed guy was so weak. When I was in my teens and 20s I could play tennis all day every day and not tire, and I was certainly not at a professional world class athlete's fitness level. It is no big suprize that someone like a Rafa could play 2 five set matches over the course of 3 days (AO 2009) and win those matches - he is in his early 20s and works out daily on his fitness. If he couldn't play those types of matches something would be very wrong.

Posted by Carrie - Thanks for the memories Elena! 11/03/2010 at 08:42 PM

Philip- before you smear Argentina- please be sure to look more carefully at the cases of Coria and Canas- both who were ruled to have no intent. Coria because of a supplement that was improperly labeled by a company (he actually received a settlement in court) and Canas because of an error by a tournament doctor of pharmasist. Mariano Hood got banned because he used Rogaine. Stupid- yes- but wanting to grow hair does not equate to using a PED in my opinion.

Puerta and Chela - fine - but please don't paint all Argies as cheaters.

But this does bring up a point- I think with the current lack of transparency in testing it may be easy to go after the Coria's or Volandri's. Argentina's national tennis federation is a bit more fragmented than say the US, Spain, France or heck even the UK. So it may be easier to go after player from a county like Argentina to show that the ITF is keepeing the sport clean. In otherwords- it may be easier to target certain countries than others. That may sound paranoid but there you go. If things were more tranparent- it may make it eaiser to have accurate and fair testing and no matter what country the player is from or how big their name is.

Posted by Texastennis 11/03/2010 at 08:56 PM

Good discussion, you two. Starts to grasp the substance of the debate without defaming individuals without evidence - see it can be done!
Glad to see it.

Posted by crazycaro21 11/03/2010 at 08:56 PM

Carrie: Wasn't Willy Cañas in the top 10 when he got suspended? Then again, not a big name as we have it, but I totally agree with your point. And that's also why I take what Rochus said with a grain of salt: because the one player he named was Cañas and, as you pointed out, he was proved to have had no intent. (Which also adds to the reason I think a lot of what he said was rubbish.)

Posted by Hart 11/03/2010 at 08:58 PM

Excellent discussion, Steve and Kamakshi. Definitely a topic that needs to be discussed in a careful and educated way. Throwing out assumptions about guilt or innocence diverts the conversation into accusations, which doesn't help determine what needs to be done.

I'm not sure I have a point to make, I'm just typing as I think (always dangerous). But a couple points I want to bring up, as someone who, while not involved in PED drug testing, does a lot of work with developmental drugs and medical drug testing.

1) Why are so few effective drug tests for your Category 3 being performed? For some drugs, there aren't effective tests. But I am wondering about the $$ aspect. Drug testing is prohibitively expensive--especially for the Cat 3 drugs. Testing a handful of samples for ONLY a single agent can run in the neighborhood of $80,000. the testing machinery is ridiculously expensive--hundreds of thousands of dollars. And it requires expensive substrates to use it, and expensive maintenance, and expensive staff to run it. And the machines so far can't do mass production--one sample at a time, and samples take time to run. But cheaper equipment isn't an option, because in this industry a false positive test cannot be allowed. PED testing also requires things that ordinary drug testing does not--anonymity, exactingly rigorous chain-of-authority documentation, clean storage rooms/machine rooms/lab rooms to prevent contamination, and high security. Also very expensive.

Take all these costs and then add to them the costs and concerns of out of competition testing. You have to pay at least two people--at least one of whom must be an RN or MA, I believe--to travel to wherever the subject is (airfare, hotel, travel expenses). And then you have to get the sample--securely!! in chain-of-authority!!--to a (rare) PED drug testing lab. Requirements of PED testing means local university/research labs can't be used. A urine sample can be kept comfortably on dry ice for a couple days without damaging the integrity. But whole blood samples deteriorate much more rapidly. I'm assuming that chain of authority does not allow you to FedEx these samples. So either private courier or the testers return immediately with the sample? To a place, most likely thousands of miles away? $$$$. And this is before the actual testing.

So for out of competition--high manpower quotient per test (multiple testers per sample, and in all likelihood on each trip, testers will only get samples from a single athlete). Far scope of potential test sights (worldwide). Expensive logistics to get back. It would be cheaper to combine testing multiple athletes in the same day, if multiple individuals lived in the same area, but these logistics would compromise testers ability to test at identified ideal times.

By contrast in-competition testing is cheaper, logistically easier (manpower can be concentrated, and supply logistics pre-established). Add in the fact that urine testing--testing for Categories 1 and 2--is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper and logistically easier--and you can see where, if you ahve a limited budget, drug testing skews towards in-competition urine tests rather than out of competition blood tests. You get more hits for your $. But these days, those hits are not as good hits.

I guess what I'm saying is, current out of competition testing in tennis is shambolic. Its a joke. But instead of seeing conspiracy theories, as some seem wont to do, I'm wondering how much of testing limitations is due to economic constraints. And if this is the case, why doesn't the ATP/ITF say so, and set out a definite 5-year or whatever plan to increase the $$ allocated for testing?

2) How can we develop more effective testing? Do you know what drug/testing development costs? We are talking hundreds of millions of dollars, easily, for novel testing methodologies. Reality is, these tests won't be developed for PED testing--there isn't the $$ for it. PED testing must wait for developments on the medical side, and hope to adapt existing technology. But what about testing patterns? The problem is, the drug testing platform was developed in the urine test-steroids and recreational drug world. It's insufficient for today's situation. WADA oversees things, but WADA has all of 65 employees. That's not sufficient, so I'm a little confused how this works. So WADA farms things out to the IOC, which farms things out to national OCs and individual federations, none of whom are scientific organizations, so things get farmed out to private contractors, etc, etc, etc??? Is it any wonder testing is a mess? We need strong central body that is directly responsible for all aspects--from regulation to judgment to--most importantly--the testing labs. Drug testing is like trying to build a skyscraper on a foundation intended for a duplex. Is it any wonder it's falling down? But--who would pay for this organization? The individuals OCs? The ATP/ITF? National federations? Player dues????

I have more thoughts, but I've already written an epic, so I'll stop with that.

Posted by JumpinJack 11/03/2010 at 09:00 PM

If Rochus was to name a player without having photo evidence or recorded conversations etc he could be sued for defamation.
Do those who suggest he should have shut up if he didnt have hard proof think he should have lurked around the pro circuit like a private eye attempting to catch someone red handed and take a photo or secretly record some player teling him about using drugs?
Maybe he knows what he knows and is saying so in the only way he can, at a time when he is leaving the tour so he feels more free to express his opinion.
We just dont know if doping is a problem. Their are arguments for and against the idea that doping is rife in tennis. But some of the rebuttals are much stupider then others.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/03/2010 at 09:02 PM

Steve and Kamakshi,

Over at Pete's thread, a poster called Nalby fan linked an article to an interview with Micheal Anderson, a scientist who develops tests to detect doping. It has some interesting features.

From http://tinyurl.com/d64d7u:

"Something that sits at the forefront of my mind, a discussion that I had with a group of cyclists, I'm not going to say who they were, and I said to them, "Look, guys, if you tell me what you're doing, I don't need names, so I can go away, develop that test, and come back here and remove that particular doping problem once and for all."

And their response is still a guiding light to me. They said, "If you can come back to us with a test that captures everyone so that we can all stop, you can expect us to support it. But if you come back with a test that only captures a quarter of the people, and those quarter are punished but then they're replaced by another quarter and the problem keeps going, don't expect us to support it. Because you're destroying careers and families and livelihoods, and you're not getting rid of the problem." And I've always held that as an ultimate goal.

That's why I was particularly proud of our homologous test, because there is no way you can get away with homologous doping now if you're tested. It's as simple as that. I believe that the incidence of homologous doping is virtually zero. I think the only time an athlete would get caught now is if they've made a mistake and put someone else's blood in them when they thought they were putting their own.

And that's the sort of strategy that I think if the scientific world can come to athletes and say, "Here, this is a test that will stop doping," I think the athletes will support it 100% and I'd expect them to. And until the scientists can come to the athletes with that argument, we're forever in this grey area where "We'll get some of ya, and we sort of wish you'd help us catch some of ya", and on a personal level I can see that's just not...it doesn't comply with human nature. We're asking the athletes to do something which, I don't think if I were in their position I would do either.

Which is to say, you talk about the Simeoni's and people who speak out, overnight they virtually, well they do jeopardize their career, and perhaps they even destroy it. And what has it achieved? Some could say it has raised awareness, but has it changed anything? And that's an incredibly hard choice for us to foist upon an athlete, to say, "We want you to be brave, stand up in the media, tell us that you doped, tell us who else doped, and we'll publicize that story." Now, the athlete could do that, next day, particularly with this omerta in cycling, the guy's going to be out of a job, he's gonna be ostracized from his friends and his peers, and a week later that newspaper is fish wrappings, and nothing's changed. That's the sort of humane perspective that I always try to keep with me, and as I've said before, it doesn't show usually, because I'm being drawn into these polar arguments of yes and no, right or wrong."

Posted by Hart 11/03/2010 at 09:05 PM

oof, that was long. Sorry folks. Feel free to ignore, Steve. :)

Posted by PJ 11/03/2010 at 09:12 PM

He also owes a huge apology to Justine Henin. Saying she MUST have been doping because she didn't do a year long "retirement tour" is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. I am sure Dementieva suddenly retired last week because she was doing.... whatever! Most pros retire at an injury or the end of a season without some long protracted farewell tour.

Posted by JumpinJack 11/03/2010 at 09:56 PM

@ PJ

where does it say he said "she MUST have been doping"????

he says he heard the rumours like everyone else and thought that suddenly retiring was unusual...

you intepret that as him saying she MUST be doping?

Posted by JoeDef 11/03/2010 at 10:02 PM

Dayum! White folks done gone crazy.

Posted by Nalby Fan 11/03/2010 at 10:04 PM

Steve,

I loved your questions. Thank you for asking the hard ones and I enjoyed the excellent discussion, even I have a belief the problem is more widespread. I'd like to leave you with an article on "Game Theory and the Nash Equilibrium" as first printed in the LA Times during the most recent Tour de France. It basically explains what you alluded to when you wrote:

"The one difference I hang onto between tennis and cycling is the culture of the sport. Landis said he knew that all the top guys in cycling doped, and he decided that if he wanted to compete with them, he had to join them."

Nash Equilibrium, the Omerta Rule, and Doping in Cycling
by Michael Shermer, Jul 13 2010

http://skepticblog.org/2010/07/13/doping-in-cycling/

The whole article is excellent, but this part in particular because it offers some solutions that Kamakshi might agree with (let us put away the blame, the past is the past, and focus on a better future):

Why did Landis break the code of silence? The answer to this question, along with the larger question of why athletes dope, comes from game theory and something called Nash equilibrium, discovered by the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash (of Beautiful Mind fame), in which two or more players in a contest reach an equilibrium where neither one has anything to gain by unilaterally changing strategies. If each player has selected a tactic such that no player can benefit by changing tactics while the other players hold to their plans, then that particular arrangement of strategy choices is said to have reached a point of equilibrium.

Here’s how it works in sports. The point of an athletic contest is to win, and players will do whatever they can to achieve victory, which is why well-defined and strictly enforced rules are the sine qua non of all sports. The rules clearly prohibit the use of PEDs, but because the drugs are extremely effective and the payoffs for success are so high, and because most of the drugs are difficult if not impossible to detect, or the tests can be beat with countermeasures, or the governing body of the sport itself doesn’t fully support a comprehensive anti-doping testing program (as in the case of Major League Baseball and the National Football League), the incentive to dope is powerful. Once a few elite athletes in a sport defect to gain an advantage over their competitors, they too must defect (even if they only think others are doping), leading to a cascade of defection down through the ranks.

If everyone is doping there is equilibrium if and only if everyone has something to lose by violating the tacit omerta agreement. Disequilibriums can arise when not everyone is doping, or when the drug testers begin to catch up with the drug takers, or when some cheaters have nothing to lose and possibly something to gain by turning state’s evidence.

Which brings us back to Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong, who for a decade have been in a state of relative Nash equilibrium. But when Landis lost his savings, his home, his marriage, and his livelihood, he reached a state of disequilibrium, and when he was turned down from even riding in the Tour of California after, according to Armstrong, making threats to the race organizers to let him in “or else,” he apparently decided to make good on his threat.

There is nothing more important for a sporting organization to do than to enforce the rules. If you don’t, athletes will cheat. Anyone who believes otherwise does not understand sports or human nature. As Landis explained in his confessional: “I don’t feel guilty at all about having doped. I did what I did because that’s what we [cyclists] did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there, and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step. My choices were, do it and see if I can win, or don’t do it and I tell people I just don’t want to do that, and I decided to do it.”

Solutions
The only hope of salvaging professional sports is to change the game matrix. To that end I have five recommendations:

-Immunity for all athletes pre-2010. Since the entire system is corrupt and most competitors have been doping, it accomplishes nothing to strip the winner of his title after the fact when it is almost certain that the runners’ up were also doping. Immunity will enable retired athletes to work with governing bodies and anti-doping agencies for improving the anti-doping system.

-Increase the number of competitors tested, in competition, out-of-competition, and especially immediately before or after a race to prevent counter-measures from being employed. Sport sanctioning bodies should create a baseline biological profile on each athlete before the season begins to allow for proper comparison of unusual spikes in performance in competition.

-An X-Prize type reward to increase the incentive of anti-doping scientists to develop new tests for presently undetectable doping agents, in order to equalize the incentive for drug testers to that of drug takers.

-Increase substantially the penalty for getting caught. A 50-game ban on Manny Ramirez last year was a joke. No Major League player will take that seriously as a deterrent. Professional cycling has a two-year ban, which is a good start. But it’s not enough.

-A return of all salary paid and prize monies earned by the convicted athlete to the team and/or its sponsors and investors, and extensive team testing of their own athletes."


Posted by awwo 11/03/2010 at 10:44 PM

a very good discussion going on here.

i'm not entirely sure how they decide when and where to test players, but wouldn't a monthly test be acceptable? with maybe 3 or 4 additional random checks throughout the year?

i think one issue is that tennis is *not* a team sport, and its popularity is very much proportional to the popularity of its top players. Do the powers-that-be really have an interest in taking down the superstars, if in fact there is doping at that level? Look at Agassi, after all. His reputation would have definitely been altered had the allegations about his meth use come out at the time of his failed test, instead of years later in a tell-all book.


Posted by Account Deleted 11/03/2010 at 10:54 PM

"Thanks to Christophe for the equivalent of passing gas just before hopping out of the car and closing the door with us still inside."

-Rafael Nadal (or James LaRosa)

Posted by Texastennis 11/03/2010 at 10:56 PM

Awwro - I don't agree about Agassi. He would have only been suspended for three months at that time for a rec drug, and he most likely would moved right on to concentrate on tennis and sort out his life (as he did in any event) so that when he retired eight years later, that would have been an asterisk and all part of "the fall" as it were. I don't even think people would have been as surprised at the time to learn he was doing rec drugs as they were when he admitted it because he was clearly in an off course phase at the time as everyone knew from his results ... I think the long term impact would have been entirely minimal. (PED might have been different but maybe not - look at Rodriguez.)

The powers in be in ALL sports have been very reluctant to deal with peds (which have nothing to do with the Agassi case anyway, nor the Gasquet, Hingis, Wilander or other rec drug case). I don't see anything in the tennis authorities that is any different - look at the cycling authorities with the Conatdor case this summer after everything that's come out in cycling.

By the by, the tennis steroids website guy has posted on Pete's blog the link to the ITF list of tests for 2009 that was pulled the day it was posted from the ITF site. It's worth a look.

Posted by Sherlock 11/03/2010 at 11:05 PM

Hart, can we just have you sit down for a few hours and talk with us here? You have nothing better to do, right? :)

Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing all that.

Posted by dr,no 11/03/2010 at 11:20 PM

its so easy to see nadal,s on steroids. test this guy in person,he also cheats a lot of other ways......lets have a even playing field....

Posted by Carrie 11/03/2010 at 11:27 PM

Hart- thanks for the info re testing. Very informative.

caro- yep- Willy was in the top ten or thereabouts when the test came out and he got banned. That is why I said lower name player OR players from certain countries may be more easily picked off. And neither Willy or Coria at the time of the banning were say as globally liked outside of Argentina as the other top players at the time - although Willy was widely liked in the locker room (like Kuznetsava for example.) Of course my whole theory could be tosh anyway....

Posted by Hart 11/03/2010 at 11:41 PM

Hey Sherlock!

I've been completely MIA recently, I've had tons to do...but nothing seems to draw me out like a chance to be a nerd. :)

Sure, I can chat for a while some day...I seem to be back in part because, as of right now, I have nothing going on.... :D

Hi Carrie!

Posted by awwo 11/03/2010 at 11:46 PM

Texastennis- we don't actually disagree on this - I said agassi's reputation would have been altered, and i think that's a fair statement. whether or not it would have ultimately played out in a more profound "redemption" storyline is also an reasonable assumption, but i would have thought differently of him *at the time*. My larger point is basically that if a player fails a test it should be made public when it happens.

Posted by michael 11/03/2010 at 11:48 PM

Opening a can of worms is always easy.

Particularly so after making - according to Wiki - $2.3m in prize money over the last 14 years. That's grossing $160k per year, starting at age 18, playing a game, and not putting in a single day of work. I don't recall Mr. Rochus winning anything of note in all that time... money for nothin', chicks for free... then again, Mr. Agassi has shown with his book how to piss in the drinking water and get away with it.

Sour grapes from Mr. Rochus should have nothing to do with the structure of anti-doping regimen in the sport.

Posted by awwo 11/03/2010 at 11:48 PM

...that would be "a" reasonable assumption... must click preview from now on...

Posted by Kamakshi 11/04/2010 at 12:21 AM

Thanks all -- interesting comments. Just to clarify, of course some players have the ability and money to get access to the know-how they need for the advanced doping, it's just that out have to go outside to get it. (I don't think any national associations or sports companies would authorize such things internally.)

A word on some of the questions about testing procedures... it would be too expensive and invasive to test as frequently enough to be sure of picking up some of the sophisticaed forms of doping (e.g. blood tests every day). Instead, the testing system creates a constant threat of getting caught -- requiring players to submit their whereabouts for each day and potentially being able ot test anywhere at any time. Over the course of five or ten years, who knows, maybe that's a risk significant enough to be a decent deterrent. Maybe not. It's a big challenge.

Having said that, the system could be made more effective on both policing athletes and protecting them, from something as simple as smarter timing of out-of-competition tests (and more of them) to something as complicated as co-operating with law enforcement agencies (Odesnik was caught with a luggage search during travel, after all). Some of this the ITF can do on its own but others require a centralized initiative from WADA itself.

Posted by Carrie 11/04/2010 at 12:28 AM

Kamakshi- thanks for your additional thoughts after an excellent column.

If you are still around- in your remark about policing and protecting players- do you mean both in terms of ease of test / whereabouts and also protecting players reps after they get banned for something without intent such as the Coria situation or because of a cold medicine, etc.

Also- do you think there are any sports that tennis could model themselves after in terms of testing- perhaps one that also falls under the WADA umbrella such as swimming?

Posted by sfr 11/04/2010 at 12:31 AM

its so easy to see federer,s on steroids. test this guy in person, he also cheats a lot of other ways.....lets have a even playing field.....

What about this dr,no? do you like it?

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/04/2010 at 12:32 AM

Thanks Kamakshi for a very informative article. And now I understand better this whereabouts rule. It's the constant threat that they can be tested at any time. In your professional opinion, do you think doping is being used more by the top flight players, the guys already winning titles and endorsements, or the lower ranked players who need an edge to get out of the doldrums of the challengers and into the main draw?

I think, if doping is commonplace in tennis at all, it's the lesser ranked players looking for an edge. But I seem to be one of the few who don't think there is a systemic problem in tennis. Unlike cycling or track and field where endurance and strength have to be sustained over a long period without rest, tennis is a game with frequent breaks and rest periods. I just don't understand how these PED's benefit a tennis player.

Next are we going to hear there's doping in golf so the players can hit longer drives?

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 11/04/2010 at 01:01 AM

Another idea about nailing the culprits, if that's in fact what the ATP/ITF want to do, would be to set up an anonymous tip line where someone who has real evidence can leave the information but do it anonymously. Then the authorities can search the suspected dopers locker and gear and even their hotel room. Or if the tipster says I overheard player x talking about his dealer, then they can go interview player x. That way the person ratting is never known but at least we might find some of the folks doing it.

Posted by Valevapor 11/04/2010 at 01:10 AM

If doping is common in pro tennis culture, other high-profile players with a keen respect for the sport would have spoken out already. Of course I am mainly thinking of Federer here in his role as president of the Player's Council, but you'd also have to believe that someone like Agassi - who threw himself under the bus by admitting to meth use - would have said SOMETHING about the subject in his "Open" autobiography.

I think tennis is more rigorously tested than other sports and that the short-life, undetectable drugs are not of great benefit to the particular demands of pro tennis. These drugs may help to build muscle mass and increase stamina, but they do not enhance fine motor skills and tennis acumen. Rochus is an under-sized, under-powered player who is trying to rationalize his own mediocrity.

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 01:15 AM

I don't understand how people can't see the problems going on today in Spain.

1) Spain's performance on the world stage. This summer alone, Spanish athletes won - Roland Garros, Wimbledon, USO, World Cup, Tour de France, as well as swimming and triathlon championships.

2) How do they win - In most cases with superman like speed, strength, and endurance (the types of things that PEDs improve upon).

3) Numerous Doctors that specialize in "sports medicine". (ie. like Dr Fuentes of "El Peurto" fame). Fuentes wife (an athlete from the 92 games) has admitted that the 02 olympic team from Spain was doped to the gills.

4) National authorities in Spain that have been covering up for Spanish cheaters (Lissavezky lying about only cyclists being involved with "El peurto", when Fuentes has repeated numerous times that cyclists were less than half of his clients. ALL of the names released by the Spanish authorities from the El Peurto investigation were Non-Spaniards (although it is likely that most of his clients were Spanish).

5) VERY many cyclists have been caught doping this summer (as well as their top two cyclists - Valverde, Contador). As well a top swimmer (holds the 50 mtr butterfly world record) missed three out of competition tests in the last 18 months. I believe the first athlete caught doping in Bejing was a Spaniard.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 11/04/2010 at 01:26 AM

The game may have changed, but in the 1980s endurance, to the extent that you would actually consider risking anything to enhance such endurance, was a complete non issue.

Why anyone would think that playing three or four hours of tennis would disqualify an extremely fit player from playing the next day strikes me as odd.

Of course, anyone could come back mentally flat, but there is no drug for that.

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 01:28 AM

I wonder who the favorite players are of the commenters that are expressing disdain for Rochus are ?

Are they showing that THEY have suspicions about their favorite ?

Posted by A_gallivant 11/04/2010 at 01:30 AM

I think the notion that one player would speak out in the sport is very odd and untrue. I think the persons most likely to speak out are the ones on the fringe because they DO have less to lose and for them it's blatantly unfair until they can get to the top and do the same thing! Your examples in baseball and cycling were mostly of the top athletes in their sport who in fact just colluded in trying to out match each other with their drug usage.

Dismiss Rochus all you want (he encourages it by refusing to be explicit) but I'm sure in a few years, we'll be recalling his comments and how quickly he was trashed/dismissed for hinting at what we all suspected. Still in the end, what's a sport to do.

Posted by Lin 11/04/2010 at 02:01 AM

You can try and attack Rochus all you want... but you'll have to try to shoot down all the other messengers while you are at it. You can try to pretend it's one dodgy petty man if that makes you feel better.
And when this thing really hits the fan big time, don't you dare pretend that there was no smoke to warn about the fire.


JOHN MCENROE 1992:
“You can tell when someone has been on steroids,” he said… “A guy bulks up, has a new body and never gets tired.”
He said athletes on steroids heal more quickly after an injury, recover faster after grueling matches and work much harder during training.

“You see these guys or girls who come onto the tour talking about their new training programs and their diets where they eat this or that new thing…but they’ll never tell you about the drugs they took."


MAHESH BHUPATI:
“The tennis players themselves have brought it (anti-doping rules) upon themselves. A lot of players have been cheating. The players have to cooperate to weed out instances of cheating from sports,”


ANDRE ILIE:
"The problem is so bad that you might as well just let them use it and when players see people dying on court and exploding, then it's going to change their minds.

The sport has become so competitive and powerful it is just a matter of fitness and who will outlast who out there.

People are just happy to sacrifice their health for three years of fame."


JOHN MENDOZA
The chief executive of the Australian Sports Drug Agency, John Mendoza
said tennis was approaching a similar crisis that swimming faced at the farcical 1994 Rome world championships and that cycling encountered before the Tour de France drug busts in 1997.

"Players can use short-acting steroids in combination with human growth hormone which will produce muscle mass and enormous power, and while they can stop just before a competition and test clean, they still get the performance benefit of the drugs," Mendoza said.

......

"The signs of substance abuse among leading players are self evident. The dynamics of the game have changed. Tennis officials are refusing to accept they have a problem."
......

2009:
"I didn't say it (in 2002) just because I felt like a bit of notoriety. I said it because there was so much evidence from within the sport that things were right off the rails. "I had been hearing from 1997 that they (ITF and ATP) were burying results, and the WTA wasn't testing at all."


NICOLAS ESCUDE:
"To say that tennis today is clean you have to be living in a dream world.

When you're playing on clay and after 50 shots the guy on the other side of the net is fresh and waiting for you to serve, while you're in agony, it's mind-blowing."

Escude slammed Miles for his passive attitude towards doping, and branded measures taken against those caught as ridiculous.

"What I don't understand is that, if a company's accounts show bad results, the boss is always the first one to get fired," he said.

"So when I hear today that Mark Miles is untouchable, I begin to wonder."

And he claimed that the top tennis players were keeping a lid on the problem because the ATP has dossiers on them.

"The problem is that the ATP is lead by Americans, while 85 percent of players are Europeans and the money comes from Europe," he said.

"It's a mafia that's in place. If these dossiers were exposed, tennis would be in a bad state for six months. But out of the bad would come some good."


NATHALIE TAUZIAT:
"I won't name individuals," she said, "but it's clear that doping exists in tennis and needs to be stopped. I have no hard evidence, but all I will say is that you don't have to have a degree in medicine to see that some of the players have transformed themselves almost overnight. It's time people stopped taking us for a bunch of fools. I don't care how much training or gym work you do, there is no way anyone can suddenly become stronger and faster in the space of a couple of months. How is it that some girls disappear for a few weeks, and then return looking totally different?"

"We also need more blood- testing if we are to get to the bottom of this growing problem. I'm particularly concerned for the younger players. They're often the victims of unscrupulous people, who try to sell products which allow them to recuperate more quickly. It must stop."


JIM COURIER:
"EPO is the problem," Jim Courier told Newsweek in 1999, referring to erythropoietin, a blood-boosting drug that became ubiquitous in cycling in the 1990s. "I have pretty strong suspicions that guys are using it on the tour. I see guys who are out there week in and week out without taking rests. EPO can help you when it's the fifth set and you've been playing for four-and-a-half hours."


FABRICE SANTORO:
Of course some are. Like in every sport where there's much money at stake. It's obvious and very unpleasant to see a doper facing you and you think I trained 3 or 4 hours a day, I made the maximum to prepare my match and he seems to have 4 lungs, he doesn't even breathe and eventually defeats me but you can't say anything because you don't have proof.

Posted by jackson 11/04/2010 at 02:02 AM

Don't you just love these people that come on a forum and claim every athlete from Spain should be under suspicion? Doesn't it then follow that because of Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire and Marion Jones and Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong all Americans should be assumed to be offenders too?

Posted by ** 11/04/2010 at 02:06 AM

The Spanish have themselves to blame. Why try to bury Puerto if there's nothing to hide?

Posted by Favour 11/04/2010 at 02:21 AM

Steve, can you please ask the ITF why they don't re-test those that miss out of competition tests straight after they miss it?

Can you also ask why they only do 150 out of competition tests? And why they don't do blood or epo tests out of competition? And why so many out of competition tests are done at hotels right before a tournament and not at their traning bases in the blocks off training before slams?

They will repsond to you. They won't respond to general fans asking these questions. Please use your position to get some answers.

Posted by Favour 11/04/2010 at 02:30 AM

Fans are powerless. We rely on journalists like you to actually care and explore and ask for some answers on our behalf. Pieces like Bodo's today just make my heart sink with frustration.

Posted by Helios 11/04/2010 at 02:37 AM

Why not start from other end? - and see where it goes. Rochus said as much one without hidden camera can, and said essential same as Forge and many other. One of best tennis matches ever, Nadal-Verdasco AO semifinal, is described by Fabrice Santoro, ending his 20 years carrier, as "best advert one pharmaceutical company ever had". Is he in the know, more than any of us here, or is he just another whining underachiever?
To be fully qualified for Conspiracy Theory one must have good internet connection with AllSeeingEye. I have it not, even worse and to totally destruct my credibility - destiny born me as serbian. My ironic views have long history. As we real sportsmen, volleyball players, had to neighbor silly creatures playing tennis we made non-stop fun of them. Eventually I asked locally respected trainer: Why is Boba Zivojinovic (BumBum Bobo) our only acclaimed player when there are few here obviously better or more talented? And why he cannot beat silly McEnroe and host of other. His answer was that Bobo has the serve, and so occasionally he can beat anyone. Therefore he can be a tour player even without large money behind him. But he has no real chance not because he (really) is full of weaknesses but because foreign guys have high-end doctors and chemistry. Then, ages ago!!! Much later, I become earliest Federer fan, while he was just one of possible good juniors. I liked both silly behaving and potential of complete player opposed to other that seemed acromegalyc. As he, to general surprise, burst on top and everyone jumped on band-wagon, I noticed something that no one seems to observe and discuss. His thermodynamic is unbelievable - he does not sweat and he never ever breath heavily. This is physically and biologically abnormal. Then I formed my theory about 2 niche types of doping-player combination. First I labeled "cocaine" as they would have fast and rather thin musculature. They would be like Davydenko or Stepanek and benefit from speed and sweet-spot accuracy. Other I call "steroid" and they would have some voluminous repetitive shot as main thing. If forehand then Courier or Gonzales. If so, everything else would be simple elimination procedure. Some would be little more talented. But most would be either self-destructive or would not tolerate prolonged doping use. After that final selection would be by marketability, that being combination of individual advertise-potential multiplied by region-money-importance factor.
Smart readers will easily figure out that I am on evil agenda. I must have nationalistic motifs to proclaim frequently tired Novak Djokovic as ACTUAL world best tennis player, because I cannot take his failures as a man. Any attempt to deny would make me even less convincing, so I won't. Few questions instead. How come DelPotro and how come not anymore? How could Henin pull all this from that body? Is her self-demise smarter way of downplay instead of other world 1. Hingis + cocaine event. How do you like definition of last RGaross winner or volumes of her opponent? Sudden absence of Dementieva or regular absence of Williams? I honestly like Rodick at least for noise factor and he did a lot on 3-sets Slams. But comparable croat Ljubicic never did anything, which is statistically impossible for his 30 slams on fast surface? Why unmarketable players like Vawrinka always have bad draw and worse schedule? No one can fast drive few hundred kilometers TourDFrance and repeat same tomorrow - except all TourDFrance cyclist. They are all tested, all pass, all deny, except they ALL later say that them and all else doped. Who is the first tennis player with this unnatural fitness that comes to your mind? Is it all just massive example of Art-Of-Not-Seeing?

Posted by Isa 11/04/2010 at 02:40 AM

Steve,why is here the name of Novak Djokovic? Have you a problem with him? Listen to me,Novak played last year a lot of matches and didn't pulled out of any tournament like other top players.For him the time spent out off the competition was very,very short... If they wanted to test him they would have all the time.Why don't you mention here the name of Nadal who improved his service just before US Open with just "a grip change" , Federer, who is never tired(take a look at McEnroe words),Del Potro who , like Henin, is punished for almost the whole year and so on...And about Olivier Rochus,for me was incredible his performance when he played against Djokovic,for example, and beat him. At the age of 31...
Is very easy to write here the name of a player who has nothing to do with doping and create him in reader's mind a bad reputation...Even if you hate him,you have to be objective,Steve.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne has 2 more days in jail,Vamos Wayne! 11/04/2010 at 02:51 AM

Steve I am all for keeping the sport of tennis clean

Though I feel some of these allegations are based on people and their visual observations.

In this day and age the use of steriods or other performance enhancing drugs have been well disguised and not as easy as say in the past to pick up.Of course that comes down to the testing of athletes we have also seen the same thing in other codes of sport right across the board.Athletics and cylycling and weight lifting in particular where the common use of these banned substances seem to be the order of the day.

I refuse any allegations unless they can be proven in a scientific way

Innocent until proved Guilty is all I have to say on this subject.

Posted by garb0 11/04/2010 at 03:08 AM

Kudos to you guys, whow at least bring the subject up (and doesn't ignore it which seems to be the standard procedure otherwise).

Posted by Isa 11/04/2010 at 03:35 AM

@Helios
Steve ,like all the American journalists, is polliticaly corect...If you are serb,you can't be a top tennis player if you aren't under steroids.

Posted by Account Deleted 11/04/2010 at 04:25 AM

As an example. In Vienna, lucky looser Haider-Maurer during the match against Berrer went to the locker-room between the sets and returned very re-energized, and he was obviosly under the effect of some strong stimulants throughout the tournament. As for Djokovic, he doesn't seem like using more doping than the other top players such as Nadal, Federer and so on.. Why Rochus mentioned only his name? Is it a way to involve Djokovic in a scandal?

Posted by Carol 11/04/2010 at 04:44 AM

Wow, great post Hart at 8:58!!

Your expert post about the technical hurdles with out-of-competition testing + "the records of them have been eliminated from the list on the ITF's site" = Doping in Tennis.

Posted by FM 11/04/2010 at 05:06 AM

The point about what's easier financially and logistically is important. That is why so many of the tests that they put under "Out of Competition" are actually not. They go to where a tournament is about to be played, rock up at ONE hotel, and test multiple players who are all staying there a few days before the tournament starts.
It's cheaper, it's easier, it can be put under OOC testing to make the stats look great for the public, and it's also highly unlikely to ever find anything, because players aren't stupid enough to rock up with anything still in their system.
It may not be a conspiracy, it may be to save money, but it's crap.

Posted by Account Deleted 11/04/2010 at 05:07 AM

On the other hand, there are many other sorts of cheating on the tour like draw-making and time-tabling. Whe don't we discuss that? For example, Valencia open 2010. Why Monako had two days off the court before the encounter with Murray while Murray had two encounters on the eve of this match? isn't it clear that murray was the favourite of the encounter and many people bet on him. and so on.. So why Monaco was the only main draw player who played his 1st round match on Sunday 31d? :-)

Posted by FM 11/04/2010 at 05:08 AM

Because if it's too expensive to fund a proper drug testing program in tennis, they should TAKE THE MONEY FROM SOMETHING ELSE. You can't tell me they couldn't cut some rubbish expenditure if they needed to. I mean what's drug testing, only about the integrity of the sport.

Posted by cami 11/04/2010 at 05:52 AM

Love the format, great idea!

As for the topic, I would be very disappointed and sad if legends like Rafa or Roger would be proved to have taken illegal substances.

Which brings me to another question: how and to what extent can drugs enhance tennis playing? I mean, cycling and track, I get it, you need lots of stamina and that is pretty much it. But in tennis stamina is not the only thing you need. How would drugs enhance or impact your shot selection and tactics and emotional balance during a match? I would like to hear some informed opinions on that.

It is true that I was surprised to see some women tennis players ranked below 50 and how muscular they looked, almost terrifyingly fit. But I must say, their tennis was not extraordinary and they lost the matches I happened to watch...

Posted by VuVuzela 11/04/2010 at 06:23 AM

You dont need tactics or proper technique if you have the power to blast your opponent off the court. Epo helps tremendously with stamina( an obvious benefit in tennis). HGH helps in recovery , either from injury or exertion( another huge benefit in tennis). Steroids help with speed( explosive speed like sprinters, a great benefit in tennis) , strength, and correct me if I am wrong, but Ive also heard that the testosterone boost from certain steroids helps with hand eye coordination( which is why Im guessing table tennis players use it). Now if hand eye coordination can help table tennis players....

Posted by Vincent 11/04/2010 at 06:51 AM

PED can be very useful for recuperation, fitness, and power.

Recuperation : Pro tennis players have a very short off-season, and play on average more than a match per week. Add to this travel time and jet lag. As a result, tennis is extremely hard on the body, perhaps even more for challenger-level players than for top pros like Federer who can afford to take three-weeks long breaks in the middle of the season. It's all fine and dandy to claim that, when you were in your teens, you could play tennis all day. I could, too. But playing and training for competition, year-round, is a wholly different ball game. Even Jim Courier in 99 said that he found it very hard to play the whole season, he was on the decline, but still. Pro tennis is no walk in the park.

Fitness : You can never be rich, thin, or fit enough. In tennis fitness has a direct impact on your ability to execute.

Power : PED can give you more power, and that for me explains in part why the WTA has changed so much in the space of a decade. The emergence of the ball-basher on the WTA side is just too sudden and too massive to be attributed only to environmental-, diet- or training-related factors.

Otherwise the post by Hart is top quality, but a bit depressing. I still believe the ITF could do a better job though. It can not be that, year after year, prize money at the big tournaments breaks new records, while OOC testing is in such a primitive state.

Posted by d 11/04/2010 at 07:21 AM

thanks Steve and Kamakshi. a breath of fresh air.

Posted by Ruth 11/04/2010 at 07:34 AM

Kamakshi's mention of the needed cooperation between the ATP/WTA and outside agencies like the police, customs departments etc reminded me of how shocked I was that Odesnik was allowed to continue playing (much to the annoyance of opponents like Querrey) even after he'd been caught with he illegal substance and admitted to authorities that it was his.

After my own 30+ years as an activist faculty union member,I'd be a major hypocrite if I didn't have great respect for the right of organizations like the ATP to follow their own due process and do their own investigations before determining penalties; but the failure of the ATP to immediatly suspend Odesnik under those particular circumstances was appalling IMO.

Posted by fedfan 11/04/2010 at 08:21 AM

Thanks Hart for your highly informative post. All of us who worry about doping problems should read it.

Posted by Just another lurker 11/04/2010 at 08:28 AM

Very nice discussion Steve and Kamakshi.
Coming from medical profession and having to prescribe some of the drugs mentioned above as medications (esp steroids and Epo) on a routine basis, just wanted to add a few comments.
All the above mentioned drugs have devastating effects on human body in the long run and so in a competitive and intense sport like tennis, tough to have consistent performance at the top level for years if someone is taking them routinely. It might help them for 1-2 years but not more than that, esp in tennis. Remember that body building or base ball are different from tennis where a player is left alone on court for hours to play and without proper conditioning or training, most of them would collapse on the court if taking those drugs.
One of the major side effect of all the drugs that Kamakshi mentioned is high BP and Diabetes and just for discussion sake, high BP is one of the many reasons that can cause nose bleeds.
As one of the readers mentioned, drug testing is very difficult/cumbersome and there is no test that will give you accurate results each and every time and there are no:of conditions that can cause a false positive or negative results.
Doping might be there in tennis like in any other sport but the demanding nature of the game would not allow the person to do it for a prolonged period of time and get consistent results each time they play.

Posted by Mary Lennon1980 11/04/2010 at 08:39 AM

Fasinating discussion. Well done. Articulate and very thought provoking. Thank you. It appears to me that the measuring tools and processes for "dope detection" are woefully short. The powers that be must take these allegations seriously and investigate and/or improve the testing. It does not matter to me who first brought this to our attention. If the allegations are wrong, then the whistle blowers will be villified as they should be. Rochus might be an ass, but he is not the only one to speak about it. We are naive to think that this does not happen in "our" sport, but the depth may be bigger that we think. Time to take action.

Posted by crazycaro21 11/04/2010 at 08:43 AM

Hart: That long post of yours was really awesome.

Carrie: Thanks for the confirmation about Willy. I also heard about how much he was liked in the locker room. And now that he has his tennis academy, he's still very much liked, especially by his fellow countrymen.

Ruth: The non-immediate suspension of Odesnik is something that is quite beyond me as well. That he was found with HGH in his luggage, then played and even won matches before being suspended, it's rather enraging, especially when you think of the guys he's beaten during that period of time.

Posted by Colette 11/04/2010 at 08:44 AM

I've always wondered why Odesnik didn't have "criminal" repercussions. Apart from the PED aspect vis-a-vis tennis, wasn't he basically caught "smuggling" an illegal substance into a country?

Posted by Twi 11/04/2010 at 08:47 AM

http://www.tennisworlditalia.com/blog/?p=156

What about Nadal...

Posted by Philip 11/04/2010 at 08:52 AM

With all of our observations I have come to the conclusion that doping in tennis at the highest levels of the sport is rampant because some players have so much more stamina than ever before playing mainly a baseline style of tennis that would have been impossible over a decade ago and it is a style that has come around that we mistakenly give credit to better technology for creating.

Again, another example from Canadian tennis. In 2008 Frank Dancevic defeated Del Potro twice, then the next year del Potro is the winner of the US open and a solid top ten player while Dancevic is injured and falling out of the top 100 because he is abusing his body always qualifying to get in the main draws of big tournaments and Del Potro is coasting through until he himself is injured severely except when he comes back he will have a protected ranking in the top ten and Dancevic is stuck in the qualifying rounds with a protected ranking of 119 after having a back operation.

I'm not trying to focus on Argentine players as dopers but why is there always a glut of top players from certain countries and players from certain countries are mainly on the challenger and futures circuit. Shouldn't we be seeing a lot of players coming out of Africa by now? Why are Canadian, Australian and British players not represented in the top 100 rankings anymore? Is it because we have more stringent national testing standards? I'm sure these players are just as hungry to win and succeed as Spanish, Argentine and Serbian players because they are making this sport their life or else they wouldn't be there at all.

Posted by Philip 11/04/2010 at 09:06 AM

Solution 1: have each player submit hair, blood and and tissue samples once or twice a year to detect foreign and illegal substances. If they don't want to comply they are suspended from the tour.

Solution 2: have each player do endurance tests and have a physical diagnostics to measure their lung and muscle capacities once or twice a year and compare the results to the previous tests to see if they are becoming abnormally stronger and faster than believed possible.

Solution 3: like the UN inspecting nuclear capabilities of certain countries, have independent bodies of inspectors installed at national training camps all over the world to observe and inspect training sessions and facilities where athletes could be receiving chemical enhancements from medical staff or physical trainers.

Solution 4: Limit player entourages to player and coach; some of those hitting partners and physical trainers look juiced.

Posted by JAMES 11/04/2010 at 09:09 AM

What about Federer. We've always noticed when he comes back from a bathroom break, he suddenly has a different demeanor.

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 09:36 AM

You hear the same excuses over and over from fans who don't want to see the reality.


- Tennis has a very tough testing regime.
We have seen the tennis authorities cover up the identity of testing falures on at least two occasions (Aggasi, 2002 Nadralone).
The reality is tennis has a FAR less vigorous testing regime than cycling, yet Landis has detailed how even cycling's testing can be fooled.

- Tennis is a skilled sport, therefore it won't lend itself to PED use.
Traditionally that may have been true (although there are rumours going back to the 70's that some players indulged in mostly recreational drugs), but the game today is MUCH more about speed, strength and endurance than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Much of this is due to the use of polyester strings.

- You can't critisize players from one country, just because there have been an explosion of athletes from that country who have been caught cheating.
Since we have heard from some former dopers that they didn't get caught until AFTER they had been doping for years, we know that for each player caught, there are MANY more who are not. The likely number of cheats from these countries that have many athletes that are caught DOES bring suspicion on EVERY athlete from these countries.
If the authorities from these countries show any lack of commitment to catching their own cheats, you can be assured that the problem will grow.

- They haven't tested positive, therefore they are innocent until proven guilty.
If the authorities do little to catch the cheats, and even cover up for some of the top cheats (like the ICU was about to do with Contador, until it leaked out that he had faled a test - Contador admits he was about to get a "silent ban" in cycling's offseason), it casts suspicion on EVERYBODY. It is normal for people to become suspicious when they see apparent corruption.


It is obvious to me that PEDs are running rampant in tennis today. I would guesstimate that about 40% of the top males, and 60% of the top females are or have used PEDs in their careers.

I believe that there are a LOT of fans that are delusional that PEDs can be in so many other sports, but not tennis. The gains in prestige, and money, and the testing is too weak for it not to be.

Posted by Hank Naib 11/04/2010 at 09:39 AM

Steve and Kamakshi,

One question, the Rochus story broke on Sunday. The two of posted this piece on Wednesday. However, in none of your writings do I see any evidence that either of you called the ITF or ATP to get an official response to the Rochus allegations. Nor do I see any evidence of either of you asking players to comment on the allegation. Why is this the case? I would think that picking up the phone or emailing insiders would be one of the first things a journalist would do.

When the Wayne Odesnik got busted we had all types of comments from the ITF and players. This time, nada.

What happened? Have either of you contacted the ITF or players for comment?

Posted by cmac 11/04/2010 at 09:41 AM

I do not believe that Rafa Nadal is guilty of doping but I understand why people are suspicious of all our sports heroes these days. We've been disappointed too many times.

At least three things backup my belief of Nadal's innocence for those who suspect him: 1. My understanding is that he gets tested a ridiculous number of times (surprise tests, year round); 2. If anything, he has gotten thinner with less muscle mass than when he first came on the scene in 2005 and 2006; and 3. I believe he is an honorable person. I know that last one is just a perception but it is my perception of him after watching and listening to him closely for the last 5 years.

Posted by rafadoc...Waka Waka...Its Stanzi time! 11/04/2010 at 09:42 AM

I love the format Steve! Looking foward to what you have on the plate in 2 weeks. :)

Great discussion here.

Hart! Good to see you and thanks for your comments. Very helpful in more clearly understanding the issue.

Posted by Carrie 11/04/2010 at 09:45 AM

Geeze Philip- now Del Potro is a doper? Any Argie will do I guess. How long did you follow Del Potro's career? Was he doping when he won the Orange Bowl at 13? He always had buzz about him as a potential top player when he was young. He went through a period of a lack of confidence and also porblems as he was growing into his tall body. (Problems such as back issues that are not connected with doping). He got better because he got a new coach- who really helped changed his attitude- and shockingly - got better on using his gifts and taking advantage of his height for his serve. Which believe it or not can happen when someone goes from 18-20. Now you are saying he is curising through when he has been out for almost the whole year. Is it possible that perhaps Del Potro is a better player than Dancevic.

I do find it troubling that you are using Rochus' remarks to completely slam Del Potro as a doper. What evidence do you have besides he started to play better and reach the potential that a number of tennis insiders were predicting for him way back when he was 15 or 16. Dont' be so quick to slam a player as a doper as you are doing just because he has an Argentine passport. And don't worry his ranking will be at the highest in the low 60s when he comes back.

Btw- while you are damning Argentina as a nation for whom all the players must be dopers- did you read my earlier remarks about Canas?

Yes- there is likely doping in tennis. But geeze- nothing about Del Potro to me says he is doping. Just that he is a young player who had a lot of buzz as a youth who finally grew into his gifts through work and a coaching change, who is out for a year and whose main crime in the claims that he is doping seems to be that he is Argentine. Oh shades of 2005 here when folks were saying that Nalby must be a doper cause gosh darn he is an Argie.

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 09:47 AM

If you want to know who you should be suspicious of, just ask "Whose game is built primarily on physicality (speed, strength endurance), rather than tennis specific skill ?".

You see women tennis players who have HORRIBLE ball striking form (if you have played the game for a while, you WILL know what I mean), yet they hit their opponents off the court.

You see male players who despite playing from a defensive position (VERY long rallys from well behind the baseline = running MUCH farther than their opponent), who don't even breathe hard. This IS NOT NORMAL. It's like Contador cycling uphill, he doesn't slow down, no matter how gruelling the challenge.


The superhuman physicality of the game is what allerted the likelyhood of PEDs in the game today.

Posted by JB (FOOPs unite!!!) 11/04/2010 at 09:51 AM

Very interesting discussion, i have nothing to add other than kudos, and thanks for the information on testing hart!

hopefully this won't degenerate into tossing mudpies at various players with even less grounds to do so than the Rochi who started this all...

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 09:56 AM

I agree with Hank, tennis journalists SHOULD be asking a LOT more questions of the tennis authorities, and the players. Otherwise you are just part of the Omerta (apparent corruption).

If it is obvious to outsiders like me that doping is rampant in pro tennis today, some of you "insiders" HAVE to be suspicious of it as well. If you are suspicious of it, and do nothing, the corruption WILL spread over time.

Posted by edberg91 11/04/2010 at 10:19 AM

Carrie, I don't usually post here but I have to reply to your remarks regarding Del Potro.

For starters, I personally love the guy. I love his game, his attitude, and I believe he has a lot more potential that hasn't even been realized yet. But to say nothing suggests he is doping shows that you're either naiive or ignorant. Naive I get, I would never want to believe the guy is doping. It would break my heart. But the ignorant part is an easy fix. All you have to do is look at the ITF document that has "all" the testing information from 2009. Let's look back, real quick, at Del Potro's summer that year. He wins in Washington, in the fairly extreme heat, playing several 3 setters including one in the final. He makes the final in Montreal, playing a few more grueling 3-setters, again including the final in which he ran out of gas. It seemed inevitable that he'd pull out of Cincy with fatigue. Then he went on to win the US Open, playing incredibly well and then outlasting Federer in a 5-set final. Honestly, doesn't sound like anything suspicious. He was clearly the inform player of the summer. However, the document shows that he missed an "out of competition" test right before the US Open. Looking at it cynically, he skipped Cincy to cycle in time for the US Open. Maybe.

Point is, there is something, albeit small, to suggest Del Potro doped, maybe even just once.

Posted by Krakondack 11/04/2010 at 10:19 AM

HGH is a peptide hormone, not a steroid, and can't be detected beyond a few minutes after injection, so good luck with that one...

Ask yourself this: If it made a difference in your performance, and therefore income, would you not also take it? If you could go from your present salary to many millions per year with an injection, could you resist that temptation? Honestly? I will admit I could not. I don't think Babe Ruth would have either. Or any other sports hero from the time when these things did not exist.

For my part, I assume that every elite athlete uses whatever edge they can, and testing programs are simply PR efforts. I try to enjoy the sport anyway.

Posted by Carrie 11/04/2010 at 10:46 AM

edberg- but wasn't he also tested at the USO?

Maybe he is cycling- whatever. But I seem to recall with the missed test that it is possible that it was just missed from error or as a result of him pulling out not cause he was roiding up. But who iknows. But I can't agree with Philip that his rise vis a vis Dancevic is proof that he is doping. I agree that the missed test is a point of suspicion. But- and a big but- there are also a number of other factors that can account for his win and his rise through 2008-9 other than doping which is what Philip was suggesting- doping could be the only reason.. Even Federer missed a test last year.

This is why I want good solid testing with a better whereabouts rule than what they currently have.

Because now- which is understandable- it seems any good result in tennis (unless it is for Federer- this is not to slam or throw shade- just an observation) is now seen as an example that they were doping. If there are fears that there is doping in tennis- second guessing is natural. That is why I want the best testing and transparancy as possible. Throw out the cheaters and let players who succeed on their own merits get their just rewards.

Call me naive or ignorant- but I do feel DelPo was clean and did not agree with Phillip acting like it was obvious he was successful because he doped.

For the record- I do not think DelPo doped his way to the title- again- call me ignorant or naive if you want.

Posted by Philip 11/04/2010 at 10:51 AM

Every player has been considered a potential success at some point or they wouldn't have national programs investing time and resources in them. Not just Del Potro. Yes, he is a good player, obviously, but regardless of this fact, one year he is losing confidence, then the next he is winning a slam. Sounds like an improbable turnaround in such a short amount of time.

I am not saying that he is a doper but just that there is a reason to be suspicious regarding any player's exceptional movement in the rankings or a rapid improvement in one's record against top players when they couldn't even beat a journeyman like Dancevic the year before they win a slam. Players like Dancevic have paid their dues, occasionally beating top players after a long road of gaining experience on the tour. A short stint of doping can improve a player's ranking to the point where they are at the top of the game and riding on their laurels for the rest of their careers with endorsements, wildcards if they need them, bonus money and incentive money to enter a weak draw if they are a name that can sell tickets. Del Potro has reached that status while Dancevic is still stuck in the qualification rounds.

Del Potro may come back with a ranking of sixty but he can enter any draw he wants to because his protected ranking is top 5. Dancevic's PR is 119 although now he is ranked about 295. That PR gets him nothing in terms of a main draw position on the main tour. He is stuck playing qualies or main draw challenger circuit for his previous efforts of taking the long slow road to the limited success he has had, where his prize money barely covers the expenses he incurs.

Posted by Carrie 11/04/2010 at 11:02 AM

Phillip- again- perhaps is it possible that Del Po was realizing his talent after a time of frustrated youth. In football- Jaiver "Chicharito" Hernandez was thinking about quitting the game two years ago and focusing on school full time (as Delpo was in early 2008). Now he is a bright young propect for Manchester United after maturing and regaining confidence. Is he cheating too. Now are all young players who struggle with confidence and figuring out if they want to be in tennis for the long haul before a coaching change cheaters? You call his turnaround improbable and say it is likely a result of drugs and doping- while many who watched him in early 2008 were worried that he would be a talent unrealized when he was thinking of quitting. When he started to play well- it was not for a number of folks out of the blue but a happy realization that his talent was finally coming to fruition. But dismiss it as doping all you want.

Do you feel that Dancevic is as talented as Delpo- that seems to be what you are saying. I am just trying to get your point of contention regarding- Delpo as a young 18/19 year old going through a rough year lost to Dancevic- now Dancevic is struggling and therefore Delpo must be a doper arguement comes in.

Posted by @work 11/04/2010 at 11:31 AM

Hart,
Don't apologize! That was some really interesting reading.

At Pete's post I was saying in my very absolutely non-scientific way that I figure it's very difficult to determine if a player/athlete is clean or not based purely on the results of current tests.
Some of the points you make seem to back up my belief that this is a much more complicated issue than many wish to believe.

Posted by crazycaro21 11/04/2010 at 12:02 PM

Philip: I really can't believe that you're putting the recent and not so recent performances and injuries to Frank Dancevic, and his losses to JMDP after 2007 on the fact that Delpo was/is doping! I first saw JMDP play against Frank (incidentally), some 3 years ago in Montréal and believe me, Delpo had that potential in him even then. Yes, he lost, but he was then a youth of 18 and not very experiences, whereas Frank had the crowd on his side. They were then 2 very good prospects, even though the Argentine was definitely the most promising one.

Then, in 2008, Frank started being injured A LOT and Delpo started winning tournaments. He had gained experience, but I don't think it had anything to do with dpoing. No. If he won 4 titles in a row, it's because all the top players were in China. LOL (Kidding) He was there in his development, that's all, whereas Frank, as I mentioned, was constantly injured.

Implying that Delpo is doped just because he was "fortunate" enough to get injured while no 4 in the world, and that consequently, his protected ranking will get him into main draws, as opposed to the fact that Frank has is to get into qualies and almost only qualies is also very irrelevant. Delpo is the most talented of the two. He deserved to be where he was and because he ended his season 2 weeks ago, he will drop to something like below the 200th position in the rankings. The protected ranking will help him get into the main draws, yes, but that's because he was better ranked than Frank Dancevic when he got injured. The same applied to David Nalbandian, BTW. Does this mean you also believe that Nalby was doped? (I hope not.)

So please, before implying very grave things about players, do verify your match facts, K?

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