A while ago,it seemed tennis was going to need a whole new tour to accommodate some players left out in the cold. After the ATP and the WTA,this one would have gone by the acronym of INMD (I Need My Dope),and at last count,it looked like the attendance would’ve been rather healthy.
But the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) have finally come down hard,and according to their latest rules aimed at making tennis squeaky clean,athletes must report where they are for one hour of each day for the whole year so that investigators can call at any time,unannounced. Anyone who misses three tests in an 18-month period could be suspended for up to two years.
The stipulations have been termed “draconian” by Briton Andy Murray,unusually verbose when giving his thoughts on the topic,and even world No 1 Rafael Nadal has rued his “lack of privacy” and said the rules make him feel “like a criminal”.
At the meeting to announce the new rules in Melbourne during last month’s Australian Open,ITF representatives were jeered as they explained the new measures,and one extremely miffed player even staged a walkout. Serena Williams has also added her voice to those unhappy with the situation.
But all facts considered,grabbing the doping monster by the scruff of the neck had become the need of the hour. Before sport is fought solely with the help of performance enhancing pills and injections,something concrete has to be done. The list of tennis players banned in the past is already long enough to fill a tournament draw Martina Hingis,Greg Rusedski,Marcelo Melo,Guillermo Coria,Guillermo Canas,Mariano Puerta,Karol Beck,Filippo Volandri,Alessio di Mauro and Juan Ignacio Chela are just 10 better-known names on the list.
Former world No 1 Roger Federer’s opinion differs from the angry pack. “You’re not going to catch players by ringing up and saying,’Look,I’d like to test you maybe in two days’,” he says. “The guys are cheating and they’re smart,right?”
Closer home,Mahesh Bhupathi echoed similar sentiments,saying repeated instances of cheating by players had allowed things to come this far. Out-of-competition dope testing is a requirement in WADA’s dope code,and the players will just have to grin or grimace,as the case appears to be and bear it.
If tennis wants to be known as “the purest sport out there”,as Serena believes it is,it will have to prove itself.
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