Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tennis Dopes

It's hard to believe that I am scooping amateur on doping news. But here it is: in the past two days, two separate stories have appeared about doping offenses in professional tennis.
The one that seems more credible--or rather with the least amount of unknowns--is the case against Mariano Puerta, 2005's French Open finalist. This is his second offense and has warranted an 8-year ban by the ITF--a light sentence given that it could have been a lifetime ban. Either option ends his career however as he is 27 and the only 35-year old playing today is Agassi and Puerta is no Agassi.
According to reports, Puerta ended up with the banned substance, etilfrine, in his system because it was in his wife's medication for hypertension. But it was such a trace amount that it could not have enhanced his performance--and he did lose to Nadal after all. So many questions still though. Why is Puerta's wife on hypertension medication anyway? Is there something about being married to Puerta that causes high blood pressure? These are the questions that come to my mind immediately whereas others are probably more interested in the sentence, the substance, and Puerta's doping history. Frankly, not as interesting to me, especially given that Puerta is a clay-court specialist who is not a big name on the tour. But I think it's interesting that it seems to be these lesser known specialist types who are getting caught versus bigger names.
This leads me to case number 2, which was actually reported first. Sesil Karatantcheva, another teen (almost) phenom also tested postive for a banned susbtance (nandrolone) at this year's French Open where she lost in the quarters. This story seems to have mutiple sides and many confusions. It isn't clear whether Karatantcheva has appeared before any governing organization to answer to the charges. So clarifications should definitely be forthcoming. Most interesting to me, who predicted a skeleton would come out of the closet this year (of course it was Henin's not Sesil's), was that the excuse offered was that Sesil was pregnant during the French Open but later miscarried. Allegedly a pregnancy test on her urine sample was negative however.
The whole situation is weird. What will be seen as the worse offense: doping or a 15-year old pregnant professional tennis player? Craziness.
I wonder though if this marks a watershed moment in doping on the tennis tour. Rumors have abounded for years and I personally was a little suspicious of Jennifer Capriati's much improved physique during her big comeback year. But apparently I was the only one thinking that. Doping though won't become big news in the tennis world until a major player tests positive. We'll see what 2006 brings!


Amateur said...

Well I will let you get away with that comment, but you will see both stories in the sidebar of my main page if you have javascript enabled ... or at least they will be there until they are pushed off the page by newer allegations!

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these stories is that drug testing is now under the auspices of the ITF, whereas before it was conducted by the ATP -- which is more or less the players' union, right? There is a sense among the anti-doping zealots that the ATP has been sweeping the worst offenses under the carpet and that the ITF is now going to clean house.

The story about the pregnancy is indeed bizarre, though!

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