It’s the topic of the week, not just in tennis but in all of sports. But is the drug problem now spreading into tennis? After the Viktor Troicki suspension and allegations that Marin Cilic has also tested positive plus the Miami clinic report this past week, attention to PEDs in tennis is getting more traction.
Given the advancement in medicines, regardless of penalty dopers will to continue to exist in every sport in which there’s big money to be made. There will almost always be those players willing to take that risk. But in tennis is doping really that much of a problem or even an issue?
The case for:
* Lack of funding $$$ means fewer, maybe inadequate, amounts of testing during tennis season and little blood screening.
* Use of PEDs applicable in tennis: could increase endurance, quicken recovery, add speed/power, ability to train longer, etc.
* Lots of diversity in locker room with players from all over the world, many from poorer countries, all looking for that “edge”. Who isn’t in pro sports?
* Cheaters are always ahead of the testers. Newfangled drugs like HGH are tougher, more expensive to test for and new, some undetectable drugs hit the market all the time.
* Possible cover-ups by tours: a star testing positive would have a massive negative impact on the sport. (Agassi meth case)
* For lower ranked players the money isn’t great and tennis pros don’t have a long playing career anyway making doping that much more inciting. And with money increasing at the top only adds to the reward.
* Among other matches, the 2012 Australian Open final, a near 6-hour marathon won by Djokovic over Nadal left some viewers with at the least the thought at one point during the match.
* Players in just about every other sport are doing it, must be true in tennis as well!
The case against:
* Where are the positive results? Few top 100 players have ever tested positive; Puerta, Gasquet, Hingis, Strycova recently. (Troicki never tested positive)
* Players are tested randomly both in competition and out of competition during the season. According to ITF data, not including the Olympics Novak Djokovic was tested 7+ times during events and 1-3 times more out of competition in 2012. Nadal, who missed the last half of the year, was tested 1-3 times at tournaments and 7+ times out of competition.
* Significant deterrents are in place. Unlike team spots, tennis players can’t hide or maintain their playing contracts upon return from a ban. Tennis players lose points, prize and rankings making it extremely difficult to regain their position in the sport.
* For many a 1-year ban in tennis, which is a first offense, would be a death sentence in the sport.
* Given the one-on-one nature of tennis, players could easily and anonymously rat an opponent out to the media if there’s suspected doping going on, but we never hear of it unlike cycling where many accusations fly from competitors within the sport.
* Olympic results last year mirrored normal tour results; doubtful IOC would aid in any “cover up” conspiracy. And unlike other individual sports such as track, weightlifting, cycling, boxing, skiing and wrestling, no tennis player has ever tested positive for PEDs at the Olympics.
* Top players have been outspoken in their support for better testing, use of blood passports, etc.
* For the average or even many players, the added endurance/fitness/strength that PED usage may provide isn’t going to take a player to that next level and so it may not be worth the risk. PEDs won’t directly help with touch, technique, shot placement, mental abilities and footwork, all assets needed to be a great player.
* Marathon matches aren’t something new to tennis, they’ve been played for many years and won by many players without suspicion. Were Becker, Lendl, McEnroe, Lendl, Edberg, Sampras, etc also doping since they too have been involved in and won marathon matches?
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