Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Reading the Readers: Fluff vs. Substance
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Reading the Readers: Fluff vs. Substance 11/11/2010 - 3:05 PM

Nd Nice stuff from Michael Llodra today, eh? Unfortunately I missed most of it, but I did see his reaction at the end. The French players age about as gracefully as any, and Llodra adds a lot to the game. Has fast-court tennis turned a corner in Valencia and Paris?

Well, we’ll get to that subject another day. For now, I’ll deal with what’s been going on on this blog recently.


Just to comment on the “fodder for conspiracy theorists” reference. 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 roids

Kamakshi Tandon wrote the “fodder for conspiracy theorists” line in our Rally post last week. She was referring to the case of seven ATP players who tested positive for Nandrolone but were never named. Here’s Kamakshi’s response to the comment above:

Independent lab testing eventually established that it's possible for nandrolone to spontaneously form in urine, and re-testing of some of the samples indicated that the mass of trace readings during this period (7 enough for positive tests, several dozen others below the 5ng/ml limit) were due to this previously unknown reaction. A test has now been developed to tell the difference, so now those cases would not count as a positive test.

No one is quite sure why this started happening when it did and why it showed up in tennis more than any other sport, but those involved on the testing side have suggested it's because labs can now detect smaller levels of nandrolone than previously possible, and because tennis players compete
for long periods in extreme heat (the conditions required for this phenomenon to take place).

You can't completely rule out that there's some link to performance-enhancing activity, but apparently this process destroys testosterone, which if anything would hurt athletic performance. Combine
that with the sheer number of players all at the same time, and all the well-respected external and internal anti-doping officials involved, and a conspiracy seems pretty far-fetched.

That's ultimately the problem with the approach taken by this site [Tennis Has a Steroid Problem]. From what I've seen of it, I actually think it gives a pretty decent articulation of the worst-case scenario. But it cherry-picks things to support its particular theory, and ignores things that don't fit. What you get is a
possible scenario, but not a likely one.

Take Wayne Odesnik getting caught with HGH at customs in Brisbane. What's more reasonable -- saying it's proof the whole sport is dirty, or also noting that it's the first time it's happened even though players travel all the time, including to Australia?

The one reservation I have about the way the ITF runs its program is that it's more like a bureaucratic department (checks, quotas, procedures) than an investigative unit (innovation, sense of purpose). It's a
very respectable system, but I still think there are ways to improve the balance between monitoring and invasiveness, and detection of cheats vs. protection of innocent athletes. But that's another, complicated topic

I watched Ramanathan Krishnan play though not at his peak. His backhand was a thing of beauty, he could do almost anything with it effortlessly, he lost twice in the semi’s at Wimbledon. His son Ramesh was no less a magician, his serve though was an apology stating that he is starting the point (John McEnroe once complained “what can you do with his serve when it is at 5 miles per hour!”)Ramana

McEnroe was tortured that day by Ramesh, at the ’81 Open. He actually admitted that he “underestimated the guy” coming into the match. You don’t hear that from the players too often, especially today when there’s such a stigma about appearing unprofessional in any way.

There are certain players I’d love to see tapes of: Ramanathan Krishnan, Rafael Osuna, Manuel Santana, Tony Palafox, all of the old amateur stylists, basically. I’ve seen very little of those guys, but I remember loving to watch Ramesh Krishnan as a kid. Very unique and unlikely game. It surprises me that India hasn’t produced a line of top-level ball-strikers through the years. Maybe the game just moved too far in other directions.


I’ve read “A Handful of Summers” three times now, and get more from the book at each reading.
Has there ever been a better title for a tennis memoir? And nothing captures the wonder/sadness of top level tennis players, knowing that they have nothing but ‘a handful of summers’ to ply their trade.roGER

I never thought of the title that way, but you’re right, it really is a good one, and does the book justice, which is saying something. I would put it up there with the best sports books ever written, by player or non-player. Chalk another one up for the amateur era, that it could inspire such a poetic memoir.


Steve, I’m surprised you say Ferrer is part owner of the Valencia Tournament—would have thought “owning” would make you ineligible to play due to conflict of interests and staff bias? Do other active players own tournaments?Jodiecate

I knew that Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero had an interest in it (10 percent each?), but it still rang a little strangely in my ears when the Tennis Channel commentators brought it up. Djokovic and his family own the Belgrade event as well. But I would think, or hope, that’s in the interest of those guys to go out of their way to make players and fans and media believe in the integrity of their tournaments.


“There were two tell-tale signs to me that Djokovic would lose this battle. The first was when he applauded one of Federer's winners late in the second or early in the third. It’s nice and all, but I think he saps his own competitive energy when he visibly appreciates Federerd

Djokovic’s intensity and level of competitiveness rise and fall more than Federer’s or Nadal’s. They can even rise and fall a few times over the course of a single set. You can see some days he doesn’t quite have it in him, other days he’s so intense he almost hyperventilates. Against Federer, he seems to need to convince himself he can compete with him as the match goes on. As many times as he’s beaten him, it's still easy for Djokovic to go back to believing he can’t do it on this particular day.


Steve, I for one really enjoyed reading your picks. It’s not about being right or wrong... at least IMHO. Something tells me that you would have a lot more people quibbling on this excellently (as usual) written piece if you included your picks. Please start doing it again for the WTF in a couple of weeks!Sam

The picks will return. I didn’t do them for Paris because the tournament was already into the second round by the time I got to it, and I really couldn’t see any clear choices or even interesting choices to make.


What is the difference between a guy like Berdych who is a slacker, but also a clear choker too (Gasquet is like this too)? Is choking part of slacking?petewho

Now we’re getting to the deep questions. Choking is just part of tennis, period. You might say that slacking is a way to avoid choking—you don’t put yourself on the line as much. I didn’t include Berdych among my underachievers yesterday, even though for much of his career he has been one (not this season, of course), because he doesn’t have a style of play I particularly like to watch. I’m amazed by his game at times, certainly, but there’s something about the styles and personas (personae?) of Gasquet, Gulbis, and Nalbandian that's more enjoyable to me. It’s hard to define why you like a certain player, but you know it in an instant, don’t you?


This time you've done Gasquet type of article: all fluff but no substance. The build-up (or maybe better the prop-up)and the structure (or effort) were impressively amusing; almost a Murray style weave, but not quite there.noleisthebest

Noleisthebest, you are a tough critic, but you may have found me out here. I had high hopes for the underachiever piece, but it never quite came together the way I wanted it to. I couldn’t find a summary observation for the whole thing. Sometimes you just have to start, not knowing where you’re going to end up. But I thought it had some good individual lines, and I wanted to get the Matt Dillon quote in there. That’s the good part of doing this thing five times a week; you live to post another day.


Another argument against Nalbandian being an underachiever is the fact that he has done rather well against the very best, Federer and Nadal: 8-10 and 2-2 respectively. This is includes the fabulous come-from-two-sets-down five-setter win against Roger in the 2005 Year-End Championship final.Abraxas

Can we statistically decide who is an “underachiever”? Of course it’s all relative—Nalbandian has had a great career, and I hold nothing against him. Like I said, getting up every morning to hit a thousand more forehands would drive me nuts. But to me his records against Federer and Nadal are the main reason I do think of him as an underachiever. Against them he shows us what he’s capable of. But while they own 25 majors between them, he’s got none.


FEDtards are biter loosers and HIPPOCRATIC DIFFIMATTORS

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what FEDtards are for the longest time, and I have to say, I think you've hit the nail on the head (even if it is your own).


Posted by naughty T....urbane gentleman 11/11/2010 at 03:24 PM

Berdy goes into London having won exactly zero titles this year... his claim to fame is that he put out a decidedly fuddering Fudd at Wimbledon... don't see how this season is a vindication of his talent... today was more typical of his state of play if you ask me.

Posted by Thomas Christiansen 11/11/2010 at 03:28 PM

"But to me his records against Federer and Nadal are the main reason I do think of him as an underachiever. Against them he shows us what he’s capable of. But while they own 24 majors between them, he’s got none."

25 actually...

Posted by Thomas Christiansen 11/11/2010 at 03:32 PM

That's insane btw.
The Federer/Nadal have won 25 of the last 30 slams, and 21 of the last 23!

Posted by Steve 11/11/2010 at 03:37 PM

does nadal have 9? thought he had 8.

yeah, we might as well not even mention anyone else to win a slam for the time being.

NT: wimbledon final, french semi, two wins over fed, wtf appearance. as good as year as you can expect from him, i'd say, despite the second-half debacle

Posted by skip1515 11/11/2010 at 03:39 PM

Nalbandian. Underachiever = overeater. Sorry, but it's true. As I see it, his loss against Murray was due as much to his running out of gas (or, to Murray's being tremendously fit, take your pick) as anything else.

Or, perhaps to the match's being best of 3 and not best of 1. Or 1 and a half.

Accuracy and crispness go first as one tires. Yes, Murray moved his positioning forwards (as Hawkeye showed, and that was a great use of technology) and got more aggressive in how he struck the ball, but Nalbandian went off the boil as they say, and it's hard not to chalk that up to too many hours at the dinner table.

Of course, given Argentinean food and wine that might be understandable.

It is glorious to watch him when he's sharp though, *really* glorious.

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

nT - More than one victory over Fed this year :P Berdy did also beat Novak at Wimbledon in the final and beat Murray on his way to the semis for the French. There's also a MS final in there. He's crazy erratic, but he's managed a couple of top ten wins this year.

Posted by RobinDAMAN 11/11/2010 at 03:51 PM

Well done as usual Steve.

Please return to the picks, I miss them. Don't worry if people insult your choices, we all know its impossible to predict these things in tennis( I for one predicted Murray winning the US Open this year and look how that turned out).

Berdych annoys me more than other slackers because he is, more than a choker or a slacker, A QUITTER. Despicable third set against davydenko today. I mean, 6-0? REALLY??!!!!

Posted by Steve 11/11/2010 at 03:51 PM

right, he does have 9. i still had him at 4 French. already has five of those, wow, impressive

Posted by ranjolie 11/11/2010 at 04:25 PM

I am a proud FEDtard and a DIFFIMATTOR, whatever that is...

Posted by tina (ajde, Novak: handsome and talented Balkans #1, world #3, Davis Cup hero, AO 2008 titleist, reigning USO finalist, cutest butt in tennis, rapper, the face of Belgrade t-shirts, Novak water and Restaurant - don't u wish your polyglot was hott like me) 11/11/2010 at 04:38 PM

I remember Ramesh Krishnan as a player nobody wanted to face, as he could positively humiliate top guys with his lack of rhythm and every time I see mention of "moonballs" on here, he's the guy that comes to mind.

Yes, the Djokovic family brought an ATP tournament to Serbia, a good move by the ATP. I saw him win the inaugural tournament in 2009 and many people on here (myself included) assumed he'd win it for a few years running. This year, he went out early - but the Americans who lost to Serbia in DC were enticed to play in the ATP event there, so it was considered a very good tournament even without Novak hoisting the trophy.

I definitely agree with Novak's tell-tale sign - which is either applauding his opponent, or letting his opponent take a point on a questionable call, which drives me crazy! I think he's trying to be friendly, but to me that shows a lack of killer instinct. I don't think I've ever seen anyone cede points to opponents as often as he does.

Posted by naughty T....urbane gentleman 11/11/2010 at 04:45 PM

I still say .. zero titles

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

The 2005 Year End final that Nalbandian won over Fed was made a lot easier by the unfortunate fact that Federer had badly sprained an ankle just seven weeks before the event during practice. He was on crutches for 2 or 3 weeks, hadn't been able to train, and had begun to get back to running just a couple of weeks before Shanghai. He commented to a an ATP physio, toward the end of the match, that he 'had nothing left in his legs.' The ankle brace he wore was still on at the 2006 Oz Open, and I think he wore if for a while. After that mishap, he started taping his ankles. As I recall, it was a tight last set; the crowd in Shanghai went crazy trying to urge him over the finish line.

Posted by BrooklynNY 11/11/2010 at 05:41 PM

Llodra is a stud.

Hello?!?! people have been losing slam finals to Federer and justify it by saying they lost to the GOAT. If that doesn't show a lack of competitive fire over the last 7 years, I dont know what is.

It shouldn't take Nole applauding a Federer shot to see that all of Federer's opponents have way too much respect for him. Who is going to be the modern day Greg Rusedski and come out and say that Federer is a step slower than he used to be? Even Rafa beats Fed down, and says Fed is better than him. Humble, but hilarious. If I beat my brother twice as much as he beats me, I believe I am better than him.

Posted by FoT 11/11/2010 at 05:54 PM

BrooklynNY - don't you think the way the players act towards Roger says a lot about his character? I mean, for all those fans who (by the way probably have never met the man), come out on these blogs and say how 'arrogant' he is, blah, blah, blah... YET, his peers (the ones he beat down through the years; the ones who beat him down - like Nadal) - all of these players have nothing but respect for him (too much respect - as you say). To me it shows that they know a lot more about Roger's character than we fans who have never met him before think we know. Otherwise, maybe they would be ready to bash his head in and talk smack to him. But no - they like him. He's a likable guy. Remember the line Roddick said "Roger, I'd love to hate you but you're just too nice", or something like that. So don't get on roger for being what he is - evidently a very nice guy that people hate it when they beat him. lol!

On that - the look I will never forget is when Safin beat Roger during that epic AO final in and at the end it looked like Safin was so sad because he beat Roger. He gave him a pat on the back like "I'm sorry I beat you Roger". That, along with the player's voices tell me so much about Roger (the man) that I just laugh when some fans on tennis blogs come out and talk badly about Roger as if they really know him! lol!

Posted by CWATC 11/11/2010 at 05:56 PM

I agree that Nalby is an underachiever overall, but I do think that his "good record" against Fed gets exaggerated.
8-10 sounds good but the fact is that Nalby won 5 in a row before Fed was TMF so to speak. After that Fed took 8 of the next 9 btwn 2003-2006, in his prime and what should have been Nalby's prime as well. The one match Fed lost he was struggling physically. Yes Nalby also lost one at the FO where he was leading initially and got injured midmatch. Still overall the truth is that Fed played Nalby quite often during those years and consistantly came up ahead.

Nalby did get back on the board w/ the two indoor wins in 2007, but has been winless since.

So since Roger fully got his game together the H2H is 3-10, which doesn't sound quite as great.

Posted by Abraxas 11/11/2010 at 05:59 PM

“Can we statistically decide who is an “underachiever”? Of course it’s all relative—Nalbandian has had a great career, and I hold nothing against him. Like I said, getting up every morning to hit a thousand more forehands would drive me nuts. But to me his records against Federer and Nadal are the main reason I do think of him as an underachiever. Against them he shows us what he’s capable of. But while they own 25 majors between them, he’s got none.”

Steve, I like your answer; like a cunning politician you have managed to turn around my argument on its head and totally distort its logic. That’s impressive but wide off the mark!

I was comparing Nalbandian’s match record against Federer and Nadal as it relates to other top players’ record against Federer and Nadal. Nalbandian’s record is much better than his peers’.

I wasn’t comparing Nalbandian’s achievements against Federer and Nadal achievements as a measure of underachievement as you have done because such comparison simply demonstrates Federer and Nadal greatness.

Using your twisted logic you end up with true but absurd results. For instance:

“While they (Federer and Nadal) own 25 majors between them” ALL other active players (and there are thousands of them) own only 7 majors between them!

Hence, using your logic, ALL active players would be colossal underachievers!

…Well, maybe they are.

Posted by CWATC 11/11/2010 at 06:04 PM

Just checked the Nalby-Nadal record and one can say there's a similar pattern there as well; Nalby won the first 2, but has lost the next 2, once one can arguably say Nadal had matured more as a hard court player.

Obviously 4 matches is alot less data to draw on than the 18 Roger/Nalby have played.

Posted by Steve 11/11/2010 at 06:07 PM

but abraxas, not all players have the kind of record nalbandian does against fed-nadal

Posted by FoT 11/11/2010 at 06:14 PM

I don't think people will be remembering the 'record' Nalby has against Fed/Nadal. I think he'll be remembered as someone with a lot of talent who NEVER WON A SLAM. (just my take).

Posted by CWATC 11/11/2010 at 06:14 PM

As I explained above Nalby's record against Fedal isn't as great as it first appears.

A player who truly has an impressive record against them and yet holds no GS is Andy Murray. But he's young enough to stop underachieving (at GS)eventually . . .

Posted by Ruth 11/11/2010 at 06:37 PM

Abraxas: I think that an underachiever is a player wo shows, over and over, that he has the goods to be great but who, over and over, fails to brings those goods to important times. In my dictionary, there's a picture of Nalbandian next to "underachiever."

(And, for some reason, I like the guy!)

As for Berdych, when he "plays" the way he did in that final set today, even the TW nickname Charlize, that he was assigned years ago, is too good for him.:)

Posted by Abraxas 11/11/2010 at 06:42 PM

“but abraxas, not all players have the kind of record nalbandian does against fed-nadal”

That is exactly right, Steve, and that is the reason I brought up his record against them in the first place. To me his record demonstrates that Nalbandian has heart and doesn’t shrink when playing against the very best. Collapsing against the best is something typically done by underachievers who, in spite of their vast skills, can’t rise to the occasion.

My main point is that Nalbandian never had the natural talent and skill of Monfils, Gasquet, Baghdatis, Soderling or Berdych. So, compared to them (not to Federer and Nadal), Nalbandian is not an underachiever. They are.

PS: I may disagree with you on this one, but I still love your writing. So keep it up.

Posted by random 11/11/2010 at 06:46 PM

this article shows a vague but interesting way of showing the dominance of Nadal and Federer. you should check it out

Posted by tennis roids 11/11/2010 at 06:56 PM

To Steve Tignor,
Are you trying to say that the Nandrolone "spontaneously" formed in the urine at a high enough level to give 7 positive tests (this is a yes or no question)? Can you provide a link to this piece of "science?" It is hard for me to respond further without that. Almost every positive drug test that comes up, the player in question will invent a rationale. This has been going on in tennis, cycling and many other sports for years. "Tainted sports drink" is at the top of the list. It has been used by several tennis players and continues to be used by athletes (most recently mountain biker Roel Paulissen a few days ago). You have Alberto Contador saying he had "tainted steak" a few weeks ago. You have Gasquet saying he kissed a girl with cocaine on her lips last year. Perhaps you should take it up with conspiracy theorists at WADA, because they didn't buy the Nandrolone story either (link here: The reason it suddenly happened to so many tennis players at once is probably quite simple: The test for Nandrolone got more sensitive and they were caught with their pants down (no pun intended). This is the same thing that just happened to Contador with Clenbuterol.
I am not putting forth the worst case scenario, I am putting forth the most likely (by far). You seem to be saying that if any rationale can be invented for why a test will come up positive, it should be accepted no matter how far-fetched it is. I choose to go with Occam's Razor. The simplest, most likely explanation is the truth unless there is some compelling reason to believe otherwise. In order to believe your version of events, you would have to believe that there is something inherently different about playing tennis versus, say, cycling, that would cause this "spontaneous" creation of Nandrolone in the urine at high levels. I have a medical degree, by the way, and I often discuss these issues with other doctor friends, who find this kind of "science" rather amusing. I spent my residency listening to heroin addicts tell me it was poppy seeds and methamphetamine addicts tell me it was cold medicine, so perhaps I am a bit jaded, but I strongly suggest you take this up with a physician. Let me make a few other points while I'm here: What is the basis for withholding the names of these players who had their urine innocently, spontaneously form Nandrolone? Positive tests are supposed to be made public, then the player is given a chance to defend the positive test. Are there other players who have also had things spontaneously form in their urine to explain positive tests that we never heard about? The revelation about Agassi suggests that it is probably quite common. And of course, can you or someone who has the ITF's ear ask them why they allowed half their top players to miss one of their two out-of-competition drug tests in 2009 without ever having to make it up? They still aren't answering my e-mails.
Let me also mention one thing about the Wayne Odesnik case, since you brought it up. Before he was caught with the HGH, people were saying that HGH did not enhance performance. That was the primary rationale given for why players were unlikely to be using it and why it did not need to be tested for. And lastly, for goodness sake, just look at some of the players on the tour. They are putting the East German women's swim team of the 1970's to shame. How farcical are you going to let the sport get before accepting the obvious?

Posted by pegofmyheart 11/11/2010 at 07:22 PM

I am one of these old fans who date back to when the Open was called the Nationals and I always loved the players who had an original and intuitive game they seemed to call out of nowhere. I was at that match where John got into Ramesh's mind with that 5 mile a serve remark.I miss Santoro who I could watch forever. Nalbandian will go down as the most talented guy not to win a major. He has an innate course sense and can hold shots on his racquet until the last moment. He scares everyone who plays him but they know the mental part drifts.Gulbis has it if he wants it but I walked out of the match with Chardy at the Open where he behaved like a spoiled brat.If he ever pulls it together(I think I said this about Safin who he seems bent on emulating) he will be a real threat.

Posted by Abraxas 11/11/2010 at 07:23 PM

@Ruth, I fully agree with you but I don’t think Nalbandian is it, at all. As I wrote before, I think that Nalbandian never had the natural talent and skill of some of his peers and yet he has managed to win against the best, while his peers haven’t.

Nalbandian is still one of the few players to have reached the SF or better in all majors (W at Tour final, F at Wimbledon, SF all other majors).

Look at Nalbandian’s career titles comparison against some truly very naturally talented players and tell me again what you think:

Nalbandian 11
Rafter 11 (W US Open)
Phillippoussis 11
Gasquet 6
Tsonga 6
Soderling 5
Berdych 5
Baghdatis 4
Monfils 3
Gulbis 1

Contrast that list with the overachievers. I would definitely put in my list players like Davydenko and Kudnetzova. The all time overachiever’s list would be headed by:

Chang 36 (W RG, F Wimbledon and US Open)
Kafelnikov 26 (W Wimbledon and RG)

And naturally,

Nadal 43 and counting. Winner of everything!

Posted by Hank Naib 11/11/2010 at 07:41 PM

Steve (or Kamakshi),

"The one reservation I have about the way the ITF runs its program is that it's more like a bureaucratic department (checks, quotas, procedures) than an investigative unit (innovation, sense of purpose). It's a
very respectable system..."

I'd like to know what evidence you have proving that the ITF has a rigorous anti-doping program. Just as many journalists write that allegations of doping without evidence is groundless, I think that you must provide evidence to back-up your own point of view. And really, how much evidence do you have that the ITF's anti-doping program is getting the job done? Is it the lack of positive tests? Is it the number of out of competition tests? Is it the data the ITF publishes regarding missed tests, therapeutic use exemptions, and adverse test results that didn't result in an anti-doping violation? Is the amount of EPO and HGH testing that goes on?

I fail to see how you can so easily dismiss claims of potentially widespread doping in tennis out of hand while at the same time simply asserting that they have a strong anti-doping program. I want and hope tennis is clean, but I am not convinced at all that the ITF is doing the job.


Posted by Vie 11/11/2010 at 08:14 PM

Abraxas, Nadal's accomplishments are prodigious.

Posted by Andrew 11/11/2010 at 09:19 PM

ranjolie @ 4:25pm. I don't think you can just be a DIFFIMATOR. You have to go the whole nine yards and be a HIPPOCRATIC DIFFIMATOR. I think it sounds like something J K Rowling would dream up: "Harry Potter and the Hippocratic Diffimators."

Anyone who puts Rafael Nadal into a list of Overachievers is seeing something I haven't. Nadal may have been the one of the 3 best ATP players in the Open Era as a teenager, with Borg and Wilander: by 2006 it was obvious that he was a threat to win majors on all surfaces: by 2007, it was clear that he was peerless on clay, so much so that his main rival, one of the all time great players in the sport, always started matches on clay with a 1 in 4 chance of winning, at best. If his subsequent career is overachievement, I'm a DOPPING HIPPOCRATIC DIFFIMATOR.

Posted by crazycaro21 11/11/2010 at 09:37 PM

Steve: to answer the question about Ferrer, him, JC Ferrero and Conchita Martinez each hold 10% of the shares of the Valencia Open.

Posted by ladyjulia 11/11/2010 at 10:07 PM

""The one reservation I have about the way the ITF runs its program is that it's more like a bureaucratic department (checks, quotas, procedures) than an investigative unit (innovation, sense of purpose). It's a
very respectable system...""

The question it adequate? What does respectability have to do with anything?

When a tennis player gets caught by custom officials with 7 vials of HGH in his bag, i doubt if the ITF program has any respectability.

And money is just an excuse. If tournaments have millions of dollars to give to top players for just making an appearance in their tournament, the ITF can figure out a way to siphon some of that money for use of testing, especially out of competition.

And another argument against the "respectability" of the drug testing program are the remarks of numerous players. Santoro, Bhupathi, Jim Courier and I forgot the names of the others.

Posted by Yawn 11/11/2010 at 10:22 PM

Just a week or two ago, the head of ITF anti-doping told you that the "In the past, Miller has said that cost is an impediment to doing more blood testing out of competition. The ITF’s anti-doping budget last year was $1.5 million, which makes it impossible to test everyone, everywhere, in every way they would like, but that they are always trying to expand the program and get more money for it."

What's next convincing us that the CEOs of companies which represent players, own tournaments and elite training centers would never bet on matches using company money and inside info gained from players ?

Posted by Syd 11/11/2010 at 10:54 PM

Kamakshi Tandon

The Royal Society of Chemistry ran a small article addressing Rudeski 's (and others) positive test for nandrolone. They state that the samples in question were unstable and that chemical changes led to the formation of nandrolone AFTER the urine samples had been taken from the competitors.

This is slightly, but crucially, different than saying "it's possible for nandrolone to spontaneously form in urine..." A statement that seems to suggests than nandrolone forms in urine whilst still in the body.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 11/12/2010 at 12:39 AM

Ahh..... "A Handful of Summers" the one thing that it, and "Too Soon To Panic" capture is one of the singular characteristics of playing tennis well. Only golf compares.

The better you are at tennis, the more you can partake of the lifestyle of the upper class. This is not necessarily true in other sports. Win Wimbledon and you become a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. Win the world cup and you may go back to being just another multi-millionaire footballer -- Wayne Rooney was recently called a "chav" by one of his own teammates! (you can take the boy out of Croxteth but you can't take the Croxteth out of the boy). But you will not automatically hang out with the upper class.

Gordon Forbes' memoirs ring so true, even more so in the amateur days, but still true now. If you have not read these books do so, this holiday season at the latest. I will not spoil the pleasure by talking about the content any more. Either of these books would make the perfect Xmas present for any Concrete Elbow aficionado.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 11/12/2010 at 12:40 AM

But read "A Handful" first. :)

Posted by tennis roids 11/12/2010 at 01:25 AM

Dunlop Maxply,
You are posting what appears to be a speculative study from 2004, not peer reviewed and, even if you accept the hypothetical possiblity of 70 percent increase in Nandrolone, that would not explain the 7 positive tests (or Linford Christie for that matter). It might explain some of the other 40 that were high, but not in the positive range. Again, the most likely explanation for a positive drug test, is that he player was imbibing the drug. The rest is the kind of stuff a defense attorney puts out there hoping his guilty client can be "exonerated." The fact that sportswriters seem to be acting like defense attorneys is a bit surprising to me. I'm guessing Contador is about to be "exonerated" for the "tainted meat" and Gasquet was "exonerated" because he kissed a girl who used cocaine. It just doesn't have anything to do with whether they actually took the drug. It has to do with big monied interests keeping their pockets full.

Posted by Lin 11/12/2010 at 03:45 AM

I totally agree with Hank Naib's comment above. It is NOT ENOUGH for journalists to throw out lines about how rigorous or thorough the drug testing regime is, when they have NO PROOF to back that statement up. You simply can't claim it is rigurous when you look at the very statistics that they provide (and the fact that many of the other facts are NOT revealed, ever). You can't dismiss the IDEA that there isn't a drug problem in tennis on the one hand, while claiming something that you can't prove on the other. Cuts both ways.

Posted by Lin 11/12/2010 at 03:48 AM

that should be: "You can't dismiss the iea that there is a dug problem in tennis on the one hand..."

Posted by CWATC 11/12/2010 at 05:59 AM

tennis roids,
I am not familiar w/ the nandrolone case but I did read all the court decisions in the Gasquet case. They state that all the experts agreed that the amount found was miniscule (less than a grain of salt) and relatively unmetabolized meaning it was recently imbibed; ie it wasn't the leftover of a larger quantity consumed. Therefore, all the experts agreed that there was no reason to think it was intentionally consumed given the teeny quantity. Who knows how it got in his system; maybe from a contaminated glass or sth at the club, but the girl kissing explanation is not crazy as the girl in question tested positive as a habitual user (and Gasquet tested negative).
Do you think all the experts in this case were mis-stating the science, even those hired by the ITF??
Makes no sense given that the ITF was pushing for a two year ban DESPITE the above evidence by laughably saying it was all Gasquet's fault for being so negligent as to let himself be kissed or present at that club. Given that they were trying to suspend him, wouldn't they have tried to show he'd intentionally used cocaine if they possibly could?

When people like yourself point to this case as evidence of coverup it lessens your overall credibility in my eyes.

Posted by bobby 11/12/2010 at 06:19 AM

This tennis roids is just an attention seeker who hopes that repeating the same rubbish for thousand times will make people believe in his stupidity.he just tries to make some articulated talk which is not any where near evidence.His theory goes like,elephants,hippo,rhino,buffalo,giraffe ect are vegetarians,so unless they are on drugs they should not be that big!!!.This analogy may look absurd.If a rational person goes through his theories,it seems as absurd as the above statement.

Posted by Texastennis 11/12/2010 at 07:50 AM

Tennisroids may emphasize the worst case scenario but it's beyond dispute that tennis journalists always emphasize the sunniest possible take on these issues - just as journalists did in many other sports for years where we know now ped use was rife. The "proof" Steve gives here is a a perfect example of the general tennis media angle - that there is little use of hgh because only Odensik has been caught. Perhaps he was caught because he's an idiot and other people are smart enough, you know, to have a prescription with them when they travel to explain what they have in their bags. Or they only use it at home. Whole teams of cyclists have traveled (and apparently continue to - see Contador who by the way I do not think will get off) across borders for years with all kinds of ped paraphanalia...

CWATC - Various non ITF experts aka scientists were highly skeptical of the explanation accepted in the Gasquet case. I find it hilarious but I don't care because cocaine is his only problem, not the sports like peds. That whole thing is a distraction as far as I'm concerned because cocaine certainly isn't the problem.

I've no idea of the true extent of the problem in tennis, but logic makes me doubt we are the only clean sport.

Posted by disgruntled commenter 11/12/2010 at 07:58 AM

"This tennis roids is just an attention seeker who hopes that repeating the same rubbish for thousand times will make people believe in his stupidity."
No, the tennis roids guy is an thoroughgoing idealist with a conspiracy theorist streak and a bunch of disciples (fans disguised as "real tennis fans") abusing his initial intention.
But the reality is different and harsh.

Posted by Kim 11/12/2010 at 08:06 AM

He is the only one raising and speaking up about the possibility.
Look at the history of other sports.... why are you so sure tennis is different?
Someone needs to raise questions because for every "conspiracy theory" there are four reasonable sensible questions that require answers. We have not received them from the ITF or the journlists who are paid to write about this sport.

Posted by Syd 11/12/2010 at 08:39 AM

Hank @ 7:41 agree totally.

Posted by CWATC 11/12/2010 at 08:49 AM

Those scientists were probably asked sth like "do you think you can test positive from cocaine from kissing a girl" and thought that was funny.

The facts remain that regardless of how it got in his system it was a miniscule trace amount that no one in their right mind would ingest on purpose as you wouldn't be able to feel it.

To me the public reaction to that case is an example of "if you're accused of sth you must be guilty"; no one bothers to read the facts, and even him being cleared by several courts seems to make no difference. I find it disgusting.

About PEDs in tennis in general, yes I like many reasonable people am skeptical that it would be the only largely clean sport. I would assume that if some top players are using PEDs they all are, but we just don't know at this time.

Posted by Steve 11/12/2010 at 09:42 AM

Roids and others, I'll let kamakshi field your comments if she wants to. she wrote the response in the post about the nandrolone case and the itf's testing, as i made clear above.

as for her comments about the itf's system, i know she wouldn't say it was pretty good (though could be better) if she hadn't looked into it and believed it

Posted by PJ 11/12/2010 at 09:50 AM

"Take Wayne Odesnik getting caught with HGH at customs in Brisbane. What's more reasonable -- saying it's proof the whole sport is dirty, or also noting that it's the first time it's happened even though players travel all the time, including to Australia?"

Agree with most of your points about doping, including the nandrolone case. But I think you miss the point about Odesnik: The key point is that he got busted for HGH by the police because he was very stupid and just tried to carry an illegal substance through customs.
But despite his apparent stupidity he did not get busted by the drug testers! In fact no-one has ever been busted by drug testers for HGH. What does it say about their abilities to catch dopers if random police forces are having more success than they are?

Posted by pov 11/12/2010 at 10:22 AM

While I enjoy RtR a lot, it just occurred to me that it also makes your writing life much easier - at least for that day. Instead of having to generate an idea yourself and expand it out into a full-fledged article, you can just cherry-pick through the comments and write quick responses to which ever ones you like.

A win-win.

Posted by Texastennis 11/12/2010 at 10:25 AM

CWATC - perhaps only a trace showed up because he had ingested it at some point earlier. I'm not saying he didn't kiss her and she hadn't done coke:-) Agassi only had a trace left in his system by the time they tested him. Hingis had a trace when she tested positive. (And although Contador is only a totally different track, because he was doing peds - he only had a trace too.) I don't think the trace amounts means they didn't do it...

I agree though on the assumption of guilt being a problem - this is one reason I don't like the new (post WADA) sytem of announcing positive tests before the investigation. I prefer the old pre WADA procedure where test results were confidential until after the investigation (the Agassi and nandrolene cases were handled that why). Most of us enjoy being in legal systems where you're innocent until proven guilty. However I know some people (tennisroids above all) find initial confidentiality to be proof of conspiracy! I'm on the skeptical side re what's going on that's not being uncovered, but I feel concerned about that due to the very unusual cases (imho) where the substance is ingested accidentally.

Again though I find the Hingis, Agassi and Gasquet cases to be distractions because for they involve rec drugs. Too much talk about those and not enough - as someone noted above - pressing the ITF for answers to sensible general questions, repeatedly posed on this board recently, they currently refuse to answer.

Posted by tennis roids 11/12/2010 at 10:34 AM

Texas Tennis,
The "miniscule amount" defense is also used all the time (as Contador just did). It is only miniscule because you have already passed most of it out of the body before you were tested. You could have been flying on cocaine a few days before the test and by the time it is tested, you will have just a "miniscule" amount in your system. To assume that the miniscule amount is representative of the original dose taken is more fantasy from defenders of dopers. In Gasquet's case, (and believe me, you will have a hard time finding a doctor who is going to buy his "kissed a girl story" which is absolutely implausible and ridiculous, in my opinion). That said, I'm not a big moralist in terms of recreational drug use and he had already withdrawn from the tournament, so although I think he had some fun, I don't think he intended to be coked up for a match. Nevertheless, that very scenario seems to be what Rochus recently implied, that a player went to the bathroom and snorted something (?cocaine?) and was reenergized and had a bloody nose.

Posted by Anna 11/12/2010 at 10:40 AM

Steve, I loved your underachievers post and agree with your comments.
As you hinted, Safin is in my view at the very top of the list, even though how can one call a two time grand slam champion an underachiever. But to me, he could have been in the Federer category, not the Hewitt one.
Baghdatis is also Nalbandian like- slacker and underachieving at the same time. He still has time, I hope he can turn things around, although I highly doubt it. I think he will be the perpetual 10-25 ranked player

Posted by Anna 11/12/2010 at 10:51 AM

I do not want to believe the assertions by "tennis roids", but clearly the ITF is trying very hard to avoid the isue. As PJ wrote, the ITF failed to catch even someone so unprofessional and stupid as Odesnik, how would they ever catch a player who has a whole scientific team behind them?
The ITF mentions the expense of blood testing out of competition when someone is in remote places etc. There have been a lot of assertions about Nadal. Couldn't they test him this week, when he withdrew from Paris? he was right there, labs are right there. I am not saying Nadal does drugs. I am a fan of his. But it would do his reputation and the sport's reputation plenty of good to get tested and test negative

Posted by CWATC 11/12/2010 at 10:52 AM

tennis roids,
Pls re-read my post. The experts found that not only the quantity was miniscule, but it was virtually unmetabolized, meaning it could not scientifically be the residue of a greater dose.

Again, this was the conclusion even of experts on the side that was arguing FOR suspension of Gasquet.

This is all explained in the court judgement.

Posted by CWATC 11/12/2010 at 10:57 AM

Whoops, Texastennis, I missed your post, but I see you and roids made the same point, which I addressed above.

Posted by Texastennis 11/12/2010 at 11:00 AM

Tennisroids - we agree! That's exactly what I meant by a miniscule amount not being evidence of anything, certainly not of the person not having ingested whatever substance. So as I said, I presume Gasquet did kiss the mysterious Pamela and she may well be a cokehead but he must have done something else earlier as well to have that trace ... I did read a scientist on Contador though who said he'd have to have eaten a whole tainted cow to show even that much of the substance. Perhaps that boy has a big appetite:-)

I am skeptical of the rec drugs during matches - you can't play many points coked up, methed up or whatever else up very efficiently. (Agassi's own pattern in 1977 shows that to be very counterproductive for good tennis...) If there's a player doing that during matches, he has way way way more problem than trying to get a bit more energy midmatch.

Plus I think (no big insight here except to tennis journalists) most athletes are trying NOT to get caught - and they're surprisingly good at that as evidence from many sports shows. (Doing it during a match is a good way to increase your odds of getting caught.) Much better than testing is at catching them. So I think players who use rec drugs are probably keeping the likely testing timetable in mind to calibrate their usage - just as ped users are. I think I recall that Agassi said this pretty explicitly in an interview last fall - he had enough of a grip to keep in mind not to do it at or just before tournaments although obviously either he misjudged once how long it took to clear his system, lacked a bit of caution on that occasion, or was tested when he didn't expect to be. As if a player did a rec drug in a match, a player who had sufficiently lost their grip to do it at a likely testing time has way more problems and definitely isn't going to be winning many matches by that means.

Posted by km 11/12/2010 at 11:10 AM

Steve, if the ITF still only test the top players once or twice a year and those top players are still skipping one with no follow up after a missed test and if there are still no blood or epo tests done out of competition then I'm sorry but I really don't see how anyone "looking" into the situation can honestly say everything is A-OK.
It's RIDICULOUS. Those are the STATS. Those are the FACTS. They are NOT GOOD ENOUGH BY A COUNTRY MILE and leave the sport wide open to exploitation by those competiting and suspicion by those watching.

Posted by km 11/12/2010 at 11:10 AM

by once or twice a year, I mean out of competition.

Posted by Texastennis 11/12/2010 at 11:25 AM

Anna - the ITF's own testing results for 2009 (which they pulled almost immediately after they posted them on their website but which tennissteroids did a great service by saving a screen shot of) show there was almost no blood testing in tennis last year in any location.

Posted by CWATC 11/12/2010 at 11:43 AM

Hey Texastennis,

Not sure if you missed it but above I addressed your point on the Gasquet case.

It couldn't have been a trace from and earlier ingested larger amount due to being fairly unmetabolized, according to all the experts on the case.

Posted by Michele 11/12/2010 at 12:40 PM

This line has been brought up by many posters: "The one reservation I have about the way the ITF runs its program is that it's more like a bureaucratic department (checks, quotas, procedures) than an investigative unit (innovation, sense of purpose)."

Reminds me of how the investigative detectives on the Wire were always trying to solve cases by any means necessary but kept hitting the bureaucratic wall of quotas, statistics and politics. Sometimes you have to go rogue to find out the truth, so I imagine this issue isn't going to get solved by the ITF.

And, not to be a jerk, but how do you forget how many Slams Nadal has won?

Posted by Only required field. 11/12/2010 at 05:48 PM

"noting that it's the first time it's happened even though players travel all the time, including to Australia?"

That's a ridiculous argument since athletes getting caught by border police hardly ever happens even in sports that we know for sure are dirty.

I can only think of cycling masseur Willy Voet (1998), cyclist Raimondas Rumsas (2003?) and cross country skier Nikolay Pankratov (2010).

Posted by Only required field. 11/12/2010 at 05:53 PM

The block of text below outlines just how rigorous drug testing is in tennis.

"Drug testing in tennis

2009 testing statistics

Urine: 1749
Blood: 157 - Only done at slams (one at each for top players).
EPO: 21 - 4 at Roland Garros, 15 at Wimbledon (green clay? ), 2 at the US Open.

Urine: 154 - At least 61 of these so called "out"-of-competition tests were actually carried out at tournaments. An additional 49 missions resulted in "no sample being collected". No player was tested more than twice (and even that is a rarity).
Blood: 0
EPO: 0

As you can see, there are very few blood and EPO tests, no blood or EPO tests done OOC and very few OOC tests altogether.

I will leave it to Victor Conte of BALCO fame to explain why this is a big problem.

It is important to understand that it is not really necessary for athletes to have access to designer anabolic steroids such as THG. They can simply use fast acting testosterone (oral as well as creams and gels) and still easily avoid the testers. For example, oral testosterone will clear the system in less than a week and testosterone creams and gels will clear even faster.

Many drug tested athletes use what I call the “duck and dodge” technique. Several journalists in the UK have recently referred to it as the “duck and dive” technique. This is basically how it works.

First, the athlete repeatedly calls their own cell phone until the message capacity is full. This way the athlete can claim to the testers that they didn’t get a message when they finally decide to make themselves available. Secondly, they provide incorrect information on their whereabouts form. They say they are going to one place and then go to another. Thereafter, they start using testosterone, growth hormone and other drugs for a short cycle of two to three weeks.

After the athlete discontinues using the drugs for a few days and they know that they will test clean, they become available and resume training at their regular facility.

Most athletes are tested approximately two times each year on a random out-of -competition basis. If a tester shows up and the athlete is not where they are supposed to be, then the athlete will receive a “missed test.” This is the equivalent to receiving “strike one” when up to bat in a baseball game. The current anti-doping rules allow an athlete to have two missed tests in any given eighteen month period without a penalty or consequence. So, the disadvantage for an athlete having a missed test is that they have one strike against them. The advantage of that missed test is that the athlete has now received the benefit of a cycle of steroids. Long story short, an athlete can continue to duck and dive until they have two missed tests, which basically means that they can continue to use drugs until that time.

EPO becomes undetectable about seventy-two hours after subcutaneous injection (stomach) and only twenty-four hours after intraveneous injection.

"What people fail to understand is that by increasing production of red blood cells you are transporting more oxygen to the muscles and you are also removing carbon dioxide, ammonia and lactic acid, all the byproducts of exercise. EPO is a recovery drug. It's a training drug."

What people don't understand, and we'll talk specifically about anabolic steroids, now, is that you perform far better when you're a couple of weeks off of steroids than you do when you're on steroids. The reason is that steroids work through a process called 'Cell-voluminaztion.' So it makes you pumped, and you give yourself more nutrients and fluids inside of the cells. And it helps you to grow and it helps you to become stronger, but it also makes you tight. You lack in flexibility and speed. If you taper off of steroids for two weeks, you can regain a normal water balance and you are faster and more powerful than ever.

The ITF refuses to test for banned erythropoietic-stimulating agent, CERA.

La CERA, EPO troisième génération, ne sera pas recherchée pendant Roland Garros. Selon la fédération internationale
de tennis (ITF), elle n'est pas utilisée dans ce sport. L'Agence française de lutte contre le dopage (AFLD) souhaitait
pourtant la rechercher durant la quinzaine parisienne. Pierre Bordry, président de l'AFLD, n'a pas souhaité commenté
cette décision. "La collaboration avec l'ITF est très claire et donne satisfaction" a-t-il tout de même déclaré.

CERA, the third-generation EPO, won't be searched for at Roland-Garros. According to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), it is not in use in this sport. The French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) wanted to test for it during the two weeks in Paris. Pierre Bordry, the president of the AFLD, did not want to comment this decision. He said however that "The collaboration with the ITF is very clear and satisfies us"."

Posted by jackson 11/12/2010 at 10:27 PM

Lin at 03:45 AM "I totally agree with Hank Naib's comment above. It is NOT ENOUGH for journalists to throw out lines about how rigorous or thorough the drug testing regime is, when they have NO PROOF to back that statement up."

The sad thing is that you don't even realize the irony of what you're saying. It's not enough for journalists but it is enough for anonymous posters sitting at their computers in their mother's basements to throw out lines and accusations about tennis players with NO PROOF?????? Got it.

Posted by Lin 11/12/2010 at 11:09 PM

Not everyone is throwing out accusations.
Many people raising their concerns are not talking about invididual players. We are saying that the sport is absolutley ripe for drugs and therefore the worry or idea should not be dismissed as ludicrous.
The MERE THOUGHT that some people are expressing "that there could easily be and very well might be a PED problem in tennis" is labelled as "conspiracy theorist", because they "have no proof that there is", according to many involved in tennis as well as journalists and fans. I'm saying that you can't throw that line out there while at the same time doing the same thing. Stating something without proof. Eg that the drug testing program in tennis is rigorous. The people claiming that have no proof to back up their statement, and in the next breath they will critise people who are raising the issue because "they have no proof". They are being hypocritical.

Posted by Hank Naib 11/15/2010 at 11:15 AM

Here's some information for you all (like jackson at 10:27), but also for Steve and Kamakshi:

The following stats are from the WADA annual anti-doping report ( )

International Tennis Federation (ITF)
Total Anti-Doping Rule Violations: 4

International Dance Sport Federation (IDSF)
Total Anti-Doping Rule Violations: 4

International Baseball Federation (IBAF)
Total Anti-Doping Rule Violations: 10

International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)
Total Anti-Doping Rule Violations: 11

International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS)
Total Anti-Doping Rule Violations: 11

International Basketball Federation (FIBA)
Total Anti-Doping Rule Violations: 12

Fédération Internationale des Luttes Associees (FILA, Wrestling)
Total Anti-Doping Rule Violations: 15

International Cycling Union (UCI)
Total Anti-Doping Rule Violations: 64

Who here seriously believes that such lucrative atheletic pursuits such as Table Tennis and Roller Sports have more widespread PED use Tennis? What's your explantion for the disparity in anti-doping rule violations? That there are bigger incentives to cheat in Table Tennis and Roller Sports than tennis? Do those sports have better testing than tennis? I look forward to your response.


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