Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Rally: Rochus Pocus
Home       About Steve Tignor       Contact        RSS        Follow on Twitter Categories       Archive
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 editor Kamakshi Tandon and I will bat around a tennis topic of the moment. This week: you know who.



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?





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.




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?






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.


<<      1 2

Posted by Charlie Mueller 11/04/2010 at 12:06 PM

Depressing. About 4 years ago, whenever it was exactly when Rafa sat out the AO due to an ankle, an editor or Tennis at the time told me the rumor was that Rafa had been waived off the tour by the ATP in some manner to protect him from a doping scandal. Not good for the tour to have its new star in big time hot water. Rafa has always vehemently denied doping.

You never know and this news is depressing. I gave credibility to it at the time since Spanish athletes were big abusers in other sports.

Posted by Hank Naib 11/04/2010 at 12:11 PM

Steve and Kamakshi,

Another thing, why no mention of the comments by Mardy Fish or Mahesh Bhupathi on doping?

Mardy Fish (April 6, 2010): “This is my 11th year. I've seen a few guys come and go who have cheated and he [Wayne Odesnik] seems to be no different."

Mahesh Bhupathi (Feb 14, 2009): “The tennis players themselves have brought it (anti-doping rules) upon themselves. A lot of players have been cheating."

These were active when they said and are active today. They need to be interviewed.

Posted by Hank Naib 11/04/2010 at 12:15 PM

Also, don't forgot the comments by Daniel Nestor (a guy who has won multiple grand slams for doubles).

Nestor (September 9, 2009): “We suspect that there’s always stuff going on. I mean, we watch some of these matches, the guys play five hours and come back the next day and do it again.”

He should be interviewed, too.

Posted by Philip 11/04/2010 at 12:26 PM

I am only speaking hypothetically; I am not a verified journalist although I am educated and a good writer as far as I have been told. I don't have to offer any hard proof but can make a conjecture or hypothesis based on what I have observed to make a point in this discussion. I am not in a position to get hard proof; I am sitting at home reading and wondering about the inequalities of the tour. Maybe the way the tour is set up; ie. rankings points, wildcards and appearance fees is contributing to the problem. I am just using del Potro and Dancevic as examples. There are hundreds of players with talent; some succeed and others don't and the ones who may have been told they are going to be champions and have spent their early playing years toiling on the challenger circuit rather than on the main tour where all the money is to be made may have come to the conclusion that the only way they are going to be seen as a success in their own eyes or the eyes of anyone who gave them attention in the past is to dope it up. Nobody has to get angry or defensive about their favorite players because everything is conjecture.

Posted by Vie 11/04/2010 at 12:28 PM

Hart, very informative post. Hope you continue with more thoughts.

Posted by crazycaro21 11/04/2010 at 12:49 PM

Philip: I'm also educated, don't worry, and I learned throughout all those days on the school benches never to make assumptions without proofs.

For all you know, and using your twisted logic Dancevic could've been the one doping, not JMDP, no? It's possible. I don't have hard proof on this either, but hey, after all, wasn't Simon Larose tested positive on Rec drugs? So because of that, some other Canadian players might've done something similar or worse, and just cover it up with bad injuries, don't you think?

Of course, the last paragraph was written in all possible sarcasm. I'm Canadian, and also a fan of Argentinian tennis. And frankly, Philip, leave the Argentines alone. Why don't you look at Spain, for a change? Or at Ivo Minar, who was convicted last year, and at the other Czechs? After all, Berdych (Czech) is in quite a slump right now, don't you think? Maybe it's because he stopped using something he was using at RG and Wimbly, who knows?

(And everyone, please do NOT take my last paragraph seriously. Again, I'm sarcastic.)

Posted by crazycaro21 11/04/2010 at 12:50 PM

Last paragraph, I should say last sentence (the part on Berdych). Because that's where the sarcasm is.

Posted by Carrie 11/04/2010 at 01:01 PM

Philip- despite my spelling defincines- believe it or not- I am also educated. My disagreement with you in terms of you strongly and repeatedly implying that Del Potro must be a doper because he has a different career trajectory than your fellow Canadian Dancevic has nothing to do with my level of education.

There can be inequalities of the tour sure- there can also be differences in talent. There can also be countries where tennis has been a bigger sport for a longer period of time so there is a bigger cut of the athletic talent pool going into tennis. There can be a larger talent pool to play with with the players are up and comers. There can be players who grew up in an area with a fantastic youth coach (as was the coach in Tandil- home city of Monaco and Zabaleta as well as Delpo). So therefore- I did have an issue with you stating and repeatedly implying that Del Potro's success is because of doping because he lost to Dancevic in 2008 when he was a younger player. And by the way- there are a lot of Argentines on the challenger and qualifier tour as well. Are they doping as well? As caro said- you can twist things any way you want to say that someome is doping. It could just as easily be done for Frank if one wanted to. But I think there is another explanation. As I do think there is for Delpo.

We can agree to disagree- but I don't think differences of opinion have anything to do with who is more educated. I understand that there can be suspicsion. But my big area of disagreement with you is that you said that Delpo's rise seemed to have no explanation than he was doping- when if you look at his history there are many other plausible explanations- and that you seem to feel that because he lost to a player who is now struggling that is further grist for your claim that he is doping when there are many other possiblites.

I am pretty sure that doping exists in tennis. But I am not quite ready to start a witch hunt and accusing folks of doping left and right.

Posted by Eugene. 11/04/2010 at 01:02 PM

Nadal hates dope control.

Posted by Eugene. 11/04/2010 at 01:03 PM

Nadal called the revised rules “intolerable harassment.”

Posted by Mike Romeling 11/04/2010 at 01:10 PM

Tennis could take a cue from baseball and simply wait until certain players necks get wider than their freakin' heads.

Posted by Philip 11/04/2010 at 01:25 PM

I wasn't directly accusing anyone and you are right to say that Dancevic COULD HAVE been doping if you think that his ranking belies his talent or style of game. I was only speaking CONDITIONALLY and using those players as an example. I am not disagreeing with anyone. I was just wondering why some countries are crowding the rankings at the top and others are struggling to put their players on the map. Gasquet is a very talented player if you consider the beauty of his game and his classic technique which is powerful in itself yet it is a struggle for him and other classic attacking players to play against a player who is just crushing the ball from the baseline. It COULD BE a result of the equipment but it COULD BE that these stronger players, short or tall, are doping somehow. Why isn't there more players winning slams other than Federer or Nadal? Something just doesn't feel right about it. Sampras had the slam record by the end of his career but there was never the sense that he was going to blow someone off the court in each and every final the way these two players are capable of. And please don't come back and say that I am accusing Federer or Nadal of cheating. I am allowed to wonder aloud about the state of the game and to question the reality we are living in today.

Posted by Disenchanted in kali yuga 11/04/2010 at 01:29 PM

In the next links there were several (WMD) mass destruction weapons for my innocent mind: (if you speak spanish) (if you speak English).
Quoting Mr Comte:
A little less-than-subtle threat there, huh? More Conte principles:

"Eighty per cent of the testing should be out of competition and not at meets," Conte says, "Number two, focus on the top-20 athletes. Instead of testing the top-50 twice, test the top-20 five times.

"They are the only athletes who get the lanes, win the medals and make the money. Throw your hook into the pond where you know the fish are biting. At competitions that's more IQ testing than drug testing because you have got to be pretty dumb to test positive at a competition."

That makes sense, going to where the money is (Sutton's Law..Willie not Eddie). However those elite athletes often receive breaks from testers. How to beat a test? Here is one way:

Conte explained to how some elite athletes evade out of competition testing..."They fill out a whereabouts form and say they are going to place X and they go to place Y. Then if the tester shows up the worst consequence is they get a missed test," says Conte. "But they have also got a short cycle of steroids under them. It's like strike one in baseball, you are still up to bat. Then you change and instead of Y you go to X next time. I have calculated the odds of them coming to test you when you give misinformation on your form. It's about 25 to 1. Those are pretty good odds...

"They fill up their own cell phones so that when the testers call it says. 'Sorry, the mailbox is full, you can't leave a message.' Then the testers call other numbers. By the time they show up the athletes are clear, and they test negative. What's the worst consequence? It's a missed test."
My 2 cents (if there are any value on them)go with : Krakondack 11/04/2010 at 10:19 AM
"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 crazycaro21 11/04/2010 at 01:47 PM

Carrie: In your listing of Tandil natives, there is also the up-and-coming Maximo Gonzalez. ;-) I think he'll be pretty good, too, although not top 20 material, IMHO.

And while you mention the deficiencies, in Canada, I can tell you that most of what goes to sport doesn't go to tennis when it comes to public funding. Most of it goes to hockey and football and the other football too, if I'm not mistaken about the last 2. So of course our tennis players's development isn't as good as it is in other countries (like Spain and Argentina, for instance) and that consequently, our "local talents" take a lot more time to develop and so on and so forth. But as you rightfully pointed out (and as I did, too), it's wrong to imply that because some players in other countries are coached-trained-developped-etc. through better programs, they are doing so because they dope.

Eugene: Murray hates the new rules too. And so does Mike Bryan (who missed 2 controls last year for valid reasons - missed a flight and car issue - and still risks being suspended). Doesn't mean anything.

Posted by Disenchanted in kali yuga 11/04/2010 at 01:49 PM

To Steve and Kamakshi,congrats for the format of The Rally.
and for the courage in hardtalk

Posted by Hank Naib 11/04/2010 at 01:53 PM

Let's not forget to mention Jim Courier in 1999:

"EPO is the problem, 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.''

Also, here is an excellent article by Bill Gifford from July 1, 2009:

"While the rest of the sporting world morphs into something resembling pro wrestling, tennis upholds the gentlemanly image of a game untouched by the steroids, blood-boosters, stimulants, and other doping practices that have become almost universal in athletics. How has tennis maintained its pristine reputation? Because the sport's anti-doping program is a joke."

Posted by zenggi 11/04/2010 at 02:04 PM

Steve and Kamakshi,
Thank you for your excellent "mise-en-scène" about Christophe Rochus' farewell to tennis and doping allegations. Nice to see that you both aren't prejudiced against Belgians just for the sake of champagne or dog breed as other journalists are. Ehem

Hart and just a lurker,
Thank you for your insightful contributions in the world of drugs with medical facts.

Has anybody thought about the fact that Christophe hasn't dare to make his suspicions public until he retired? Why? Follow the money!

Aren't the ITF/ATP responsible for the use of drugs because of their demands on tennis players? If they enforce a mandatory tournaments calendar with attached penalties for people who are really their own enterprise/company, they are asking for the system to be met at any cost.

Furthermore, the smaller tournaments are now obliged to offer huge appearence fees if they want to fill the stands because they have to meet the ITF/ATP greedy demands as well or they would lose their status.
Meanwhile the lesser players struggle to make a living of a sport they've dedicated more than half their lives to. What was first, the chicken or the egg?

Posted by Kombo 11/04/2010 at 02:20 PM

The juicing in tennis is probably most similar to cycling (intravenous suped up blood) than any sport. The juicing is probably to aid between-match recovery more than anything else. If folks want to get serious about it, they should apply similar testing to what goes on in cycling.

Posted by Jay 11/04/2010 at 02:22 PM

Lurker seems to be a medical professional, and I appreciated his explanation/analysis. Most of the tennis players that we discuss have been at or near the top for a good number of years, which, if Lurker is correct, would be near impossible if they consistently doped.

If you give any credence to Rochus' remarks, then most of the top players who have either earned astronomical (by my standards) amounts on court and/or through endorsements would have little reason to dope up. They and their families are taken care of financially, and in the case of someone like Nadal, the family was doing quite well without his tennis money.

Since Nadal has been slandered so often on this subject, I would point out that, if you listen to him and his uncle with respect to tennis in general, they would never put his health before more victories on tour. If anything, those close to Nadal have tried to play down the importance of his career in the bigger scheme of things. His uncle does not even accept a salary from him, so what would be the purpose in encouraging or allowing doping. He's from a wealthy family with a distinguished sports name in his country--would he risk tarnishing that to make his mark in tennis?

I was glad that JK pointed out that most of the top players travel and work with family/trainers/sponsors so closely that if they were doping, it would be almost impossible to keep it a secret. Someone amongst their ranks would probably become either disgusted at the practice, or (considering how often many players have changed their entourage) disgruntled enough to spill the beans. Any parent/coach/trainer that encourages doping should be locked-up!

According to Agassi, his drug use was enabled by a member of his entourage, however, that person was not a family member, coach or trainer as is the case with most top players today. Had Gil Reyes been around earlier, I doubt that that chapter would be in Agassi's book.

Most of the players who have been caught doping or with dope, like Odesnik, have been more marginal in terms of their success, and as Rochus points out, you might imagine them being at a point financially where they could be willing to take a chance with doping in order to win more matches, earning more money, funding their retirement and their families' fortunes. They probably do not have (and probably cannot afford) the type of support system that would discourage them from hurting themselves for short-term gain.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 11/04/2010 at 02:49 PM

I will say nly this: if it is proved that several of the top players have been or are doping, I will stop watching (and by implication, supporting) the professional game. Then the only posts you'll get from me here on this forum are about the amateur game or the "game of old" -- before it became so corrupted.

Posted by Philip 11/04/2010 at 02:50 PM

Well, Jay, most persons of a players entourage -only the most well off players have one -are in it for the money and anyone can say what they want about the player they represent regarding how they care about them and would never let them be endangered by using doping products but those products are being administered by professionals who understand what it takes to do this discreetly and with minimal risk in regards to a players health -we are not talking about Schwarzenegger-type bodies here -in order to be part of something that can make them a lot of money and then they slink away to their respective piece of heaven they carved out for themselves with the money they made if they get caught and disappear from the public eye (again, once they have made a lot of money). I know this is the most cynical way of looking at it but so much of the world revolves around money, not a passion for the game and the glory of owning a title. Take the money away from the game and see what happens: 'Oh, where did all the people go?' -they went to follow the money somewhere else. If there was a lot of money to be made in being a balance beam expert we would be seeing
Nadal and Federer in leotards doing backflips and pirouettes on the beam in order to be rich and famous. Let's be realistic, if there was no money in tennis they would have left the sport in their teens to be gymnasts if that is where there was a substantial amount of prize money to be made.

Posted by Jay 11/04/2010 at 03:05 PM

Philip--I just hope that you are wrong. Believe me, I know the importance of money, especially when you don't have it. But, once you have it, if winning more money or just winning itself is so important that you'd dope or encourage doping, then you should be put out of the game.

That does not excuse doping for those who aren't rich, either.

Like Slice, I'd probably lose all interest in the sport if it was proven that doping was prevalent in tennis. I'm not talking about too much cough syrup, or kissing the coke girl.

Absent verifiable proof, which might not become evident until a player's career is over and they succumb to some dope-related illness, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by Philip 11/04/2010 at 03:14 PM

And the sad fact about money is that in today's economy and perhaps some economic periods in the past one can never have enough money and feel secure enough to know that what they have will last them for the rest of their lives. A lot of rich people have recently lost millions of dollars because of the current economic meltdown so, as people say, they got to grab it when the grabbing is good.

Posted by Eugene. 11/04/2010 at 03:21 PM

"Nadal called the revised rules “intolerable harassment.”


PS: Why would this post be removed ? What's the point ?

Posted by magritte 11/04/2010 at 03:33 PM

It's fruitless to indulge in this sort of speculation. Yes, it's true that HGH and EPO are very difficult to detect and can enhance strength and endurance respectively, so some players could (and probably do) use it. But which ones? There's so much variability in people's natural bodies. Charles Atlas was obviously not a steroids, and while he's nowhere near the (frankly repulsive) size of modern pro body builders, he was still pretty huge, even by the standards of steroid-ridden major league baseball.

I tend to be more suspicious of players who make a big late career surge. Baseball, in particular, has seen a whole raft of players performing at peak levels way into their thirties and even forties, which was practically unprecedented. There's nothing unusual about a young player like Del Potro going up a couple levels very quickly, and if Rafa was using either substance, he must have been using them from a very early age, because he was always an extraordinary physical specimen.

Posted by Texastennis 11/04/2010 at 03:40 PM

Agassi's REC drug was provided by a hanger on. In almost all cases of athletes using a ped in other sports, the coaches/trainers etc have been parties to the ped use. (See cycling, track and field etc) "Successful" ped use requires very careful management and hence the "team" is involved.
Rec drug use is a different story. So the Agassi example isn't relevant to this case. I'd dare to say rec drugs are usually provided to players these days by hangers on:-)

Eugene - your previous post of that link is still there. It wasn't moderated. (I'm glad to see it wasn't because that would be alarming!)

Players in other sports have doped for years - there's plenty of examples of that. To the long term detriment of their health no doubt, but their careers indicate it's groundless to say a player couldn't possibly use peds more than short term.

I'm depressed by Pete's repeat of the same stance in today's post - he spoke to an ITF person but apparently did not ask of the pertinent questions of the kind raised by Steve at the top here or by some posters eg Jamaica Karen about basic transparency issues. Then he says you're defaming individual players with no evidence which isn't fair (it isn't) and so uses that as an excuse to move on rather than acknowledging the need for a discussion as here of the systemic issues.

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 03:43 PM

Posted by Slice_N_Dice :

"I will say nly this: if it is proved that several of the top players have been or are doping, I will stop watching (and by implication, supporting) the professional game. Then the only posts you'll get from me here on this forum are about the amateur game or the "game of old" -- before it became so corrupted."

Why do you think the ITF, Tennis journalists, and national testing authorities are going out of their way to NOT catch the cheats ?

A lot of people would stop watching, and the money would dry up for a lot of people (not just the players).

When the "El Puerto" story broke, the Spanish authorities refused to admit that ANY Spanish athletes were clients of the SPANISH DOPING DOCTOR. We have later learned that Spain's two top cyclists WERE clients of Fuentes (Valverde, and Contador). No other athletes, other than a few cyclists have been named, but we KNOW that there were tennis players on that list. Why did the tennis authorities take the word of Jaime Lissavetzy that there aren't tennis players on the Fuentes list, and why aren't the tennis journalists pressuring them ?

There IS a VERY strong Omerta in tennis today. The problem is that the longer the silence is held, the more pressure on the clean players will become. Over time the problem becomes worse. Eventually someone gets so sloppy, that the problem gets exposed. Then all heck breaks loose.

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 03:52 PM

From magritte :

"and if Rafa was using either substance, he must have been using them from a very early age, because he was always an extraordinary physical specimen."

Actually, Uncle Toni said that Rafa "exploded" just before turning pro (some time after his 17th birthday). His game has transformed from a predominately defensive style when he first became pro, to now having a huge serve, and groundstrokes that are hit deeper than they were earlier in his career.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/04/2010 at 04:06 PM

Hart I read your comments and thanks again good to see you posting if just on a medical point of view.You have raised points and I think everyone appreciates the time you took to post them

Thanks again.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 11/04/2010 at 04:06 PM

Once again, I'm looking for PROOF before I make a decision to stop watching the best practitioners of the sport I love. That said, I am ALL FOR independently funded investigations and investigativee journalism to see if there is a problem and if it can be rooted out. Until that day, I will reserve judgment on all but the few who have beeen caught cheating. To me, it's the oppposite of the old saw: one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. No, one bad apple is one bad apple. Remove it from the bushel and you've got some fine apples left.

Posted by Jay 11/04/2010 at 04:16 PM

TT: I believe that Agassi is relevant to this discussion b/c he is the only player to admit to having failed a drug test in which the result was kept from the public by the authorities. Although rec drug use is obviously different from PED use, are'nt players' samples tested for both?

Posted by Mr Rick 11/04/2010 at 04:32 PM

A lot of very helpful information and discussion in this thread - thanks Steve aand everyone - it is about time.

I especially appreciated the comments from Just Another Lurker. Thank you. As I have been hoping and praying, someone with an actual medical background finally came on this site to speak knowledgeablely about doping substances and their affects on tennis players. This poster explained that in general doping is useful to a tennis player only for short periods of time and that it has a pretty devastating effect on a player over the long term. By definition then, a player like Rafa should be a total wreck by now if he doped the way the Rafa haters are always claiming. He has been playing tennis since he was five, professional tennis for 10 years, since he was 15, and has been the #1 or #2 player for six of those years. He has been an extremely consistent player, rarely crashing out early in tournaments or having wildly fluctuating results from tournament to tournment or year to year. He is also one of the most calm and focused players on court, famously never having broken a racquet. Instead of falling apart, he is only getting better, completing a career Grand Slam this year on all surfaces. He also seems to have gotten a grip on the various orthopedic problems that have plagued him since 2004. These hardly are signs of someone falling apart. If you look at a recent picture of Rafa with a group of young disadvantaged kids in India, Rafa is not a 'roided up hulk, he is one of the thinnest persons in the picture.

But, carry on with the accusations if it makes you feel better...

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/04/2010 at 04:42 PM

Slice I agree with your post and one bad apple dosent make the rest of the apples bad.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/04/2010 at 04:45 PM

slice If you have time Pete has raised a interesting post regarding the f/hand in the womens game and the players with good and say bad f/hand and the technicque.If you have time I would love your thoughts.

Posted by Nam1 11/04/2010 at 04:52 PM

Can I just say that this ridiculous slander of the Number 1 tennis player in the world is outrageous?

Do people actually think that if Nadal was doping for the last 8 years , SOMEONE would not have caught on and spoken out? He is one of the most tested players in the world; always has a bandaid on his arm at pressers after his matches from the blood tests;

Why would ATP, other players, the press all band together to protect him? He was not always number 1 or 2 in the game, he could have been busted when he was number 50 or number 12?

If his endurance is questioned then why not John Isner and Nicolas Mahut's? Were they doping too?

If you question why he calls the ATP rules about posting your whereabouts an invasion of privacy then why not Murray, who spoke out very strongly against the way he was treated when he was tested after he returned from Australia? is he doping too?

I am all for testing athletes stringently, but if the current tests dont reveal misuse then we can demand better tests but should not malign someone when there is no legitimate evidence that he or she is doping.

In the real world, that's called libel.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 11/04/2010 at 04:53 PM

I'll check it out now, Aussiemarg. And thanks for your thoughts, too! I hope you're getting your mixed doubs game together; we could be a force! But I really want the ad side. ;-)))

Posted by Texastennis 11/04/2010 at 04:54 PM

Jay, there's apparently mass confusion about the Agassi test as Kamakshi refers to above. Certainly players' samples are tested for both and certainly he's the only one to fess up. However the result "was not kept from the public" in any kind of coverup - the case was handled differently than say Gasquet because of the change in procedures when tennis joined the WADA group.
Before that (ie the time Agassi tested positive - and also when the nandrolene postives occurred five years later) - positive tests were kept confidential until review panel the investigation reached it conclusion.
If the panel decided the player was guilty (eg Wilander for rec drug or Korda for peds), the test and penalty were announced. (Recall in the nandrolene case, only Rusedski's name became public and that was a leak - those involved were never publicly named.) Probably I think other positive tests at that time ended in the players being exonerated by the panel and hence never became public.
Post WADA - following WADA practice, positive tests are announced (see other sports as well as tennis now) before the investigation. Gasquet of course is an eg of this as was Hingis (both also rec drugs) and various players accused of ped violations. The investigation may confirm and announce a penalty or exonerate the player and throw the case out.

This change in procedure is a really important one. There was no "coverup" by the ATP in the Agassi case - the (independent) review panel accepted his excuse, and so there was never any announcement. Now there would be an announcement right away and I do believe (although I know others don't - and surely the cycling association did not rush to announce the Contador results but they did do so) regardless of the player who tested positive.

Separate issues - are the independent review panels gullible (seems so - bend over backwards towards the players apparently imo), is enough testing being done (absolutely no as the lack of blood tests or real out of competition tests and high number of missed tests - all evident in the ITF report on last year's tests which they pulled from the website and the tennis steroids site has and posted here as a screen shot etc).

I don't know what to think about the change in procedure - most of us have the benefit of living in legal systems which operate under the principle of innocent until proven guilty (ie the old procedure) whereas under the WADA rules where positive tests are announced right away, there seems to me to be widespread assumption of guilt. I don't like that. Of course I think most athletes who test positive for peds did indeed use them and protest with ridiculous stories (I love the Contador "I ate bad meat" one - must have eaten a whole cow as one dr said...). But there do seem to be the odd miscarriage of justice where athletes get labelled quickly and there is in fact some explanation. I think Ruth mentioned the Canas case as one of those possibilities and there was that terrible case of a gymnast who lost her gold medal because it turned out they had taken cold medication ... So on the whole I wonder if the "old" pre WADA principle of confidentiality until the end of the investigation wasn't better.

Another long one! Your turn again, Hart...

Posted by loreley 11/04/2010 at 05:01 PM

Great writing. Thank you.

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 05:02 PM

There is one way to get the pressure off of Nadal (if he is in fact innocent).

Demand the release of the doping doctor (Fuentes) list.

Funny how Nadal, and his fans have never demanded this, if it would exhonerate him.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Dear Wayne is Free,VamosWayne 11/04/2010 at 05:10 PM

slice No way ok

I want you on the add side

Casse closed

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 05:15 PM

Agassi tested positive for a banned substance. The results was never made public by the tennis authorities.

Whether you call it a cover up or not, it points to the fact that the tennis authorities ARE NOT transparent. They do not publicize missed tests, and they do not publicize failed tests if an excuse was believed (and some of the excuses accepted are obviously false - like the Nadralone excuse of tainted supplements).

When an institution is not transparent, it leads to wild speculation (much of the speculation would be false). The tennis authorities have no-one else to blame for this speculation, however, due to their lack of transparency, and their weak out of competition testing regime, and not asking tough questions to national sports authorities (ie. El Puerto).

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 11/04/2010 at 05:15 PM

That's the spirit, Aussiemarg. I'm sensing good chemisty already! ;-b

Posted by The Hawk 11/04/2010 at 05:19 PM

As a tennis play, physician and careful observer, there is, in my mind, no doubt that illegal substances are in use by many players. Privately, more than one top player has offered opinions to me based on close up observations that there are many players cheating. In many cases, the evidence is plain to see--just look at some of the bodies, the changes in performance and other signs and it is pretty clear. Players have told me of other things they have seen in the locker room. The "debate" is irrelevant--in time the truth will be told and those who say it isn't so will learn the sad truth. Does anyone doubt that cycling is dominated by drugs? Bodybuilding? Do many football and baseball players cheat? Even though the "proof" is still spotty, the answers are clear and obvious. Tennis will have its day...unfortunately. Face it. Denying it, doubting, covering it up, hoping that it ain't so isn't going to change a thing.

Posted by Glenn 11/04/2010 at 06:36 PM

Hi Y'all !

This is my first post since the US Open (needed a break from tennis).

Steve and Kamakashi, I loved the format of the discussion. Keep it up!

The whole timing of this Rochus thing is really interesting for me personally, because I read his comments(i forget where), played three great sets of tennis, came back home and turned on the TV and watched ESPNs documentary on Marion Jones.

I think that the issue of whether Rochus needs to show proof is a bit specious. He obviously wants to bring attention to the issue but doesn't want to out anyone in particular.

My view on athletes using drugs has been that they should be allowed to do it. Everyone is always looking for an edge. Why do we draw the line at drugs? Is the next step taking whey protein shakes away from athletes ?

I think drugs are banned for three predominant reasons.

a) The issue of fairness: The drugs are expensive, so only those with enough wealth can afford them.

b) The health risks: protecting the athletes from potential risks.

c) The fear of what message this sends to children.

My answer to these concerns is to take 80% of the considerable money spent on drug testing and make a stipend fund for tennis players ranked from say 50-200. This stipend will last for a period of 18 months, and can be used on anything( Hotels, Flights, Meals, Drugs, Hookers.... ;).

You'd probably have to throw in an income level requirement as well.

As for children, take 20% of the current drug testing money and spend it on programs educating children athletes about the real risks using drugs.

As for the athletes' health, Their Body==>Their Choice.

Posted by Glenn 11/04/2010 at 06:44 PM

AM: Matt Cronin writing about the Woz Vs Cli match had interesting points to say about the closed stance forehand vs the open stance.

I know you're a scorpio, so happy birthday for any of those days :) !!!

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 06:44 PM

I just want to say THANK YOU for letting us discuss this issue.

There has been very tight censorship on this issue in the tennis forums, until now.

Posted by Lake 11/04/2010 at 07:19 PM

There was no censorship whatsoever on this issue in the tennis forums. Everybody has been blabbering about it since forever, freely, ignorantly and libellously, just like here.

But do carry on.

Posted by VH (thinking about something witty to put here) 11/04/2010 at 08:13 PM

This is one of those highly controversial subjects where, since there is no smoking gun, most of the fans are biased towards whatever they want to believe but I think most of us would agree that the following two points can be considered facts:

1) The sport has become extremely physically demanding in a short period of time. Long matches have been always played but never at the level of intensity we see nowadays.

2)Current testing wouldn't be able to catch high end PED users. As Hart explained it would require obscene amounts of $$$ and resources to constantly test all players.

The rest we can discuss here are mere speculations and launch accusations based on opinions and observations.

That being said I do have a theory on how you could level the playing field to the point that the incentive of using PEDs to become stronger and fitter wouldn't be so attractive: ban the poly strings and make all players use natural gut.

Just humor me for a bit here. One of the main reasons why tennis pros need to be stronger and fitter than ever before is because the poly strings allow players to swing harder while putting more spin on the ball thus keeping it in the court. The string also allows the pros to use light rackets originally designed for recreational players with shorter swings (Agassi was the first I ever saw use oversize rackets with poly strings). The drawback is that you need to be very fit (for the longer rallies as more balls keep coming back) and very strong (to hit winners)to take advantage of the combination of the light racket and the poly strings.

The amount of control and spin that the pros get from this combo (light racket + poly strings) produce longer rallies but also require a lot of strength to hit winners (specially from the baseline). I believe that if tournaments enforced the use of gut string (the rackets can be left alone) being abnormally strong would not be such an advantage, also points would be shorter as the balls would be more difficult to control thus having Contador-like endurance would not be a requirement either.

I also believe that this rule would reduce the number of injuries but one of the negative consequences would be that we would not see many of those magnificent 40 stroke rallies (the impossible angle shots would probably be gone too)

Posted by Don Kiddock 11/04/2010 at 08:49 PM

I have two friends who work with and worked with very high profile players over the last five years doing strength and conditioning. ALL of these players have taken and still take PED. Not your typical steroids, these are PED's to aid recovery, reduce muscle fatigue and increase appetite for muscle growth. For any of you who actually work out for muscle mass, you'll all be aware that gaining any type of muscle mass whilst performing aerobic exercise requires masses of calories even for one pound of lean muscle. It's very hard to increase size and stamina in thes short periods of time but several pro players have done it in months. Even natural body builders who want to gain muscle have to eat extreme amounts of food to gain just seven lbs of muscle over a period of many months with very little cardio. For all you doubters, hit the gym and see if you can do it whilst training, traveling and playing. Ever seem strange that some pro's take these breaks, come back stronger and fitter, then disappear again? This is a business, first and a sport second. Tennis is no purer than any other sport, the purist's just want one to perceive it that way.

Posted by Lake 11/04/2010 at 11:03 PM

And I have two friends who work with salsa dance beginners in retirement homes and on cruise ships. Honest!

Posted by Sea 11/04/2010 at 11:32 PM

From Lake :

"There was no censorship whatsoever on this issue in the tennis forums. Everybody has been blabbering about it since forever, freely, ignorantly and libellously, just like here."

I have had numerous threads deleted, and warnings from MTF for making the same types of comments I have made here (no mentioning of players names). I have heard the same from other "adults" (not adolescent trolls) who have attempted to discuss PEDs in tennis.

Although TW is somewhat more open, many posters have complained of deleted posts, even though the posts had no player names in them.

Posted by An Old Man 11/04/2010 at 11:44 PM

This may be an interesting point. Those stiff strings demand that the player swing hard in order to develop pace and to keep the ball in play. Combine swinging hard with long side to side rallies and the player has put great strain on his/her body. Something has to give. Injuries and with certain players, doping. I think it is naive to think that tennis is the only clean sport. Catching players is another matter. Some women players, the Williams sisters, Justine, Kim are said to use only gut. This would give them more power, but less control. They also use a more all court game. All this would give them less reason to use drugs.

Posted by AB 11/05/2010 at 02:14 AM

Steve and Kamakshi, thanks for allowing discussion on this very important topic and for setting the thoughtful tone in your format.

Your post and some of the comments have helped me to gain some clarity of my own over the issues of PEDs in sport and society.

If you haven't already, please read this excellent series in SI:

Steroids in America: The Real Dope

*Warning* long post.

If you look at human culture as one vast organism, then the various groups that have long been using PEDs; athletes, actors, transgendered people, performers, rappers, and now it seems Baby Boomers who do not want to grow old, are testing mechanisms for the validity of body modification's role or place in society.

Homeostasis is the norm for a system so change agents introduced to it will be controversial and fought against. This is healthy so that new things can be tested and re-tested before being incorporated as the new default.

I totally support anything that shines a light on the topic of PEDs and allows for healthy discourse. I think criminalizing substances before there is full medical knowledge about their effects is short-sighted, stifles research, spreads misinformation and harms society.

Unfortunately, we have gone that route in the US and in doing so we have pushed these easily obtainable substances underground, crippling our ability to grapple with their pervasiveness in so many areas of our culture and sent the wrong message to young people.

However, PEDs have no place in sport. They do, however, have legitimacy as medical treatment and for rehab and we need more clarity to draw firm lines between injury treatment and performance enhancement.

I don't buy Glenn's argument because the whole point of sport is that there are rules that govern play. In turn, each professional association has rules that govern participants' behavior and not one has decided PEDs are allowable. Nor will they ever. No rules equals no sports. You just end up with a pharmaceutical free-for-all arms race that will be unwatchable and unsustainable.

That said, I disagree with one statement in Pete's post and one statement that Kamakshi made in this one.

Pete said that players would tell on each other because it's like taking food off your plate (not to). I think you need to go deeper into that and realize that if you blow the lid off you may first be harming the sport, thereby decreasing the advertising dollars and your own potential prize money. I think the hypocrisy Rochus mentioned is that he believes there's been willful inaction on the part of the professional associations so as not to taint the sport and lose money.

They're caught in a trap of their own making without more transparency, as advocated by many in this forum, esp. JK.

Kamakshi mentioned the tennis loner culture, lack of sophistication and lack of access to be barriers to a systemic problem with PEDs in tennis.

Without consistent off-season blood testing for HGH, this statement is simply not credible.

On WADA's website, there is information about Canadian HGH testing of a university football team. Of the 62 players tested, 9 came back positive for a banned substance, *but* they mostly tested for steroids with urine kits. Of the 20 blood samples tested for HGH, 1 came back positive. The HGH test kits used can only detect it if injected in the last 24-36 hours.

There's a good chance that many of the players sampled *thought* they bought HGH through the internet, but ended up with something else. So I believe that the 1 of 20 positive for HGH would be much higher but with no controls, and limited test efficacy because of timing, there's no way to know.

This is a podunk university in Canada that has probably never sent anyone to the NFL, maybe Canadian league or Europe and the school had to suspend the entire football program for one year because it was so tainted.

The HGH kits used in Canada cost about $1,200 and can be used for 12 samples. The problem with tennis and all other off-season testing is mainly logistics which drive up cost and has been explained in detail by Hart and JAL.

Players associations in pro football in the US and pro baseball say they're open to HGH testing, but claim that collective bargaining by the players unions make it difficult to contractually agree and enforce the testing and its consequences.

I think tennis should take the lead on the issue, clarify medical treatment use, and then for the next 2 years test the Top 100 in the ATP and WTA at least 2 times each for HGH in the off-season and enact a permanent ban for a positive test. 4 missed tests equal a positive test with permanent banning the consequence. Random testing after the first 2 years for all players in the top 250.

It sounds harsh, but that's the quickest way to chase away any clouds, clean up the sport (if it needs it) and send a strong message to anyone contemplating using PEDs on their way up.

The consequence has to off-set the reward to sufficiently deter use. And the testing has to be robust and transparent. This is not that hard to coordinate, especially since the player's have to provide 1 hour out of each 24 where they will be available, for a full year.

It *is* very intrusive, but there is so much at stake, that everyone who makes a living from the sport should put up with it for a couple of years so a baseline of knowledge can be taken.

Right now there are too many unknowns for anyone who follows the sport to say with confidence that PEDs are not a problem. Human nature being what it is, there will always be people looking for an edge and no horror stories about long-term consequences will deter them. There are many motives, too, and money is just one of them. I think Ego is even a stronger motivation than money.

We can't control the pervasiveness of the very human desire to be stronger, faster, more ripped, have more energy, maximize performance, rid ourselves of aches, pains and injuries, but we can as a society say that taking PEDs in sports is cheating and will not be tolerated.

There should be no debate about finding out how widespread PEDs usage is in tennis and the only way to do that is to do blood testing in the off-season based on the tournament scheduling of each player. There are known protocols for effective doping and the random testing can take that into account.

HGH is commonly used with just enough testosterone to stay under acceptable levels per WADA rules. There is open PED doping in our society which can be seen by anyone whose eyes are not squeezed shut. Wayne Odesnic is comfortable buying HGH off the internet and carrying it through customs. The ITF has to stop making excuses about the issues with the test. The only acceptable excuse is if the test had an unacceptable level of false positives. That is not the case.

ITF, what are you waiting for?

Posted by habrow2 11/05/2010 at 02:25 AM

I can believe that everyone in the performing arts dopes, or that no one does. What choice makes me happier? Or makes you happier? It's as simple as that. There are no, or little data, and little real importance. Your choice.

Posted by AB 11/05/2010 at 02:57 AM

Forgot to mention 3 other PED vectors in the US:

* criminals
* law enforcement
* armed forces

Posted by Twi 11/05/2010 at 06:26 AM
The true story of doping in tennis, translated in italian from Michael Mewshow...

Posted by Henry P 11/05/2010 at 09:37 AM

Good discussion – mostly – thank you. I´d like to add still few comments.
Doping is very negative concept. Enhancement would be better. And enhancement of human capabilities is done gradually all the time through science: better reconstructive surgery (e.g. Tiger Woods eyes), genetherapy, better nutrition. According to Wada doping is defined as the occurrence of one or more of the
anti-doping rule violations. This means that you may enhance yourself if you do it by not breaking anti-doping rules. So you áre allowed to use coffeine today (but it was forbidden for a while) and you may use creatine and you may heel your knees with blood platelets if you do not use your one blood as a raw material. Rules are manmade and they change along the science and there has never been and never will be a clear border between enhancement and doping.
Lurker said that doping can be utilized only temporarily or max about two years. In East Germany there were Olympians who participated in four consecutive Olympics and heavily doped each time. Of course steroids are taken in weekly cycles and you cannot use them all the time. East Germans eased their use between Olympics and doped heavily for the Olympics. Epo came to market over 20 years ago and there were many deaths among cyclists before the use of the new substance was learned. Now it is microdosed and I´ll bet it can be used deliberately during the whole career.
A lot of talk about the tests. Epo and HGH are still very difficult to test. Epo was totally “testfree” until 2002 and first HGH positive was announced in late 2009. According to some anti-doping officials one third of the people have such physiology that they leave always a clean urine test from epo. Cycling teaches us that tests are a threat and they change the use patterns. But they do not clean the sport. And ITF is miles away from the cycling in testing.
We live in a world where it is possible to use forbidden substances also in sports, including tennis. And there are few sports with higher motivation for the use of forbidden stuffs. Rochus is only one whistle blower as it has been told here. Time for tennis journalists to take a note. Thanks for Steve and Kamakshi for a good start.

Posted by bobby 11/05/2010 at 10:18 AM

It is pathetic that there are many people with middle age mentality in modern world.From history,we know that during middle ages people were burnt accusing them as witches without having any basis.I thought that in modern ,civilized world we have civilized ethics.Like,innocent until proven guilty.It seems like any one can accuse someone on the basis of distorted perceptions alone.I think it shows the lack of emotional intelligence on the part of people to accuse others without having any proof or basis.Should these people call themselves civilized?.

Posted by CPM 11/05/2010 at 12:58 PM

I have to confess that the more I think about the issue of PEDs of all stripes, the less obvious the rationale for their prohibition becomes. In a sporting culture where even the cleanest athletes have to train so comprehensively, to regiment their diets so rigorously, and to dedicate themselves so fully to the particular demands of their sports, I find the bright line drawn between 'natural' and 'artificial' enhancements difficult to maintain.

To take cyclists as an example: in order to be even marginally competitive, they must make their bodies into nothing more than optimized bicycle engines. Even if they take no PEDs, what on earth is *natural* about what they do?

In the case of tennis, even naively assuming a level of cleanliness that probably hasn't been present in a long, long time, the gulf between the amateur incarnation of the game and its modern version is already vast. The discovery of widespread use of PEDs might highlight this difference; I'm not sure that it would meaningfully add to it.

There are other grounds to question the moral case against PEDs; I think the more attractive one finds the luck egalitarian position (roughly stated, the belief that the effect of unchosen differences on morally relevant outcomes ought to be diminished as far as possible), the less compelling the case against PEDs is likely to be. And the rule-breaking argument is perhaps question-begging: if the rule itself is irrational, this fact at least partially vitiates the blameworthiness of breaking it.

I'm not saying I wouldn't be disappointed to learn that my favorite tennis players used PEDs; I almost certainly would be. I'm just not sure that's a reasonable response.

Posted by Sea 11/05/2010 at 01:04 PM

When the circumstantial evidence rises to a certain level, people in a free society HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE SKEPTICAL. Without this right, corruption will grow until the system collapses.

Many people were skeptical of Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, Flo Jo, Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Big Pappy, Many Ramirez, Carl Lewis, Valverde, Contador,.... If people were not skeptical of these CHEATS then they would have gotten away with cheating. The "clean" athletes would have felt more pressure to cheat as well. The cheating would have grown, until the problem couldn't be fixed.

Right now, the circumstantial evidence that PEDs are rampant in tennis is VERY strong (weak out of competition testing, lack of transparency, rumours of silent bans, players with suspicious physical talents, players rebelling against a tougher testing regime,...).

If we lived by the rule that "don't make any accusations, until you have iron clad proof", then those cheats that have been caught, would still have the prestige THAT THEY DON'T DESERVE !

I suspect that you are agitating against the accusations not because you think your favorite player is innocent, but that YOU suspect that your favorite player is guilty, and you don't want people to dig further. If he/she was innocent, the accusers would find nothing.

Posted by Sea 11/05/2010 at 01:12 PM

The reason older people are more skeptical is that WE HAVE SEEN THIS PATTERN BEFORE. We have "perspective" that only comes from experience.

The same things that are happening in tennis today have happened in the past in baseball, cycling, track and field, powerlifting, and other sports. It is VERY easy to see from the patterns in tennis today that there is a problem. Superhuman physical feats in strength, speed, and endurance, complaining about out of competition tests, weak testing regime, lame "excuses" for unusual performances, body shape changes concurrent with performance changes, ...

To us older people, the young appear blinded by their adoration of their favorite players. No matter what the circumstantial evidence, you will NEVER admit that your favorite is likely doping (even though you fear it is likely true).

Posted by rafafafafa 11/05/2010 at 05:40 PM

Hiya all! 1st, this was verygreat topic, i have seen lots of great posts...,like i can see, like everywhere this site has(like every others) fanslovers/haters...
Cannot belive, SEA do u think we r all blind???? Rafa hater/Fed hater...
Ok, u r here 2 promote Djokovic,ok but stop with ur foolish nonsense "arguments"...

Posted by Valevapor 11/05/2010 at 08:04 PM

If Fed and Rafa are ever proven to have used PEDs I will officially retire from tennis fandom forever. These guys have massive integrity and I do not believe for one second that they would ever do such a thing. Most of the athletes guilty of drug abuse are self-serving toolbags. Not only are Fed and Rafa simply better than everyone else, they are also very scrupulous. At any rate, tennis is a highly-nuanced and strategic sport and PEDs will not benefit tennis players as much as runners and cyclists, for example, whose entire performance is based on stamina. Tennis is so much more complex than those sports and drugs will never enable a player to perform smarter or more efficiently. Endurance and strength, yes, but those qualities only get you so far in the pro tennis world.

Posted by Glenn 11/05/2010 at 09:48 PM

AB: I have no problem with your argument that rules govern play. The issue with PEDs is that they have nothing to do with the rules governing play of them game.

PEDs are used in the preparation for the game.

If a player is cheating by calling a ball out that is infact in. I have a problem with that. I had a problem with Gonzales not admitting that the ball touched his racket during the Olympics against James Blake.

If a player's boyfriend hires someone to take out the knees of her opponent before going out to skate(Tonya Harding/Jeff Gilooly), this is truly criminal behavior, and there are laws to deal with this.

PEDs are here to stay.

Posted by tennis roids 11/06/2010 at 12:20 AM

Just to comment on the "fodder for conspiracy theorists" reference (assuming THASP is who this is referring to). There were 7 players with positive tests for Nandrolone. No evidence was ever shown that the Nandrolone positives were due to a "sports drink", as was claimed by these unnamed players and Rusedski later on. The "sports drink" in question was tested and not found to have Nandrolone. That was 7 "top players" who tested positive for Nandrolone, were never named and never gave any real evidence for why these tests should come up positive. That is a conspiracy, not a conspiracy "theory". Sorry, but facts are facts, no matter what the man behind the curtain wants us to believe.

Posted by I Come From Anon 11/06/2010 at 04:32 PM

I didn't realize there were still people who didn't have the brains to see that increase in endurance and strength boosts mental performance as well. Haven't you guys ever played tennis in the hot sun and realized after a while that you were making some of the stupidest mistakes because of the fatigue? Imagine if you were free from physical fatigue... how much more focused would your strokes be. Why do you think it helped Mardy Fish surge a few months after he got fitter? Or Andy Roddick?

Posted by The Hawk 11/06/2010 at 05:51 PM

What a remarkable series of comments from so many intelligent and well informed writers! It seems that many of us realize that the sport is tainted. What a shame! The organizing bodies and the "business" interests will keep this from becoming generally known as long as they can. Someday--and it won't be long--the names of some of the top male and female tennis players will be as well known as Clemons, Bonds, et al and for the same reasons!

Posted by Nye 11/07/2010 at 04:01 PM

I just came across this blog and read each post with an increasingly sinking feeling. What depressing reading. I know it goes against the tenor of everybody elses opinion, but I cannot help but feel that this whole post is terribly misguided. Nothing which I have read begins to add up to proof. At least half of the posts mention players, using ridiculously dubious reasoning (Nadal recovered too quickly from the Verdasco match in the Australian Open, Djokovic came back from toilet breaks revitalised, Federer has never been seen tired or out of breath.) These accusations/insinuations are inevitable whenever the issue of drugs in tennis is raised without concrete evidence.
Should concrete evidence be found then that is another matter, but until such time, surely the best thing would be to ignore this topic and concentrate on the wonderful world of tennis. Why sully our enjoyment of top class tennis with seemingly unfounded (and certainly unproved) suspicions?

Posted by Sea 11/08/2010 at 08:17 AM


Whatever you say Bodo .

Posted by Tennisshop 01/09/2012 at 03:14 PM

Rochus Pocus is a very good player.

Posted by andy roddick 01/09/2013 at 03:00 AM

Nice discussion, it's a good post, i like it. very useful info and hope to see more posts soon, keep it up.......

<<      1 2

We are no longer accepting comments for this entry.

<<  Reading the Readers: Clean Edition The Homestretch  >>

A Little Less Life and Death
Playing Ball: Good Luck to a Partner
Playing Ball: Losing Them All
Keeping Tabs: August 8
Quick-Change Artists
Hard Landing
Part of the Action
This blog has 1484 entries and 99623 comments.
More Video
Daily Spin